Tuesday 8 January 2013

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins by Rupert Everett

We fancied a bit of an autobiography in my book club - a fun, holiday read, nothing too heavy. But it had to be written by somebody who'd been around long enough to have an interesting life - not a five minute celebrity who'd just won a talent contest. And they had to be able to write, because we didn't want to be cringing over our Christmas cake. Hmm, we're a demanding lot, but we thought we might have found our salvation in Rupert Everett.

Now, Rupert has just brought out Vanished Years, the second instalment of  his autobiography, but we decided to begin at the beginning and opted for Volume One Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. It was published to great acclaim in 2006 and I was looking forward, as the reviews inside the front cover promised, to an extremely well written wild see-saw ride of stardom.

So did Rupert and his book live up to the hype? Well, I would say, not quite. There's no doubt he writes very entertainingly and his character sketches of present-day icons such as Madonna and Julia Roberts are brilliant. He's adventurous in both his career and personal life - I was amazed to discover the roll call of the famous (of both sexes) that he's slept with. The problem, I suppose, is that I was expecting (as the blurb on the back cover promises) a combination of Evelyn Waugh and Noel Coward, if such a thing can be countenanced. And it's not really Rupert's fault if he's not quite up to that accolade.

It's very enjoyable, let's get that straight. And fascinating to see how the other (rather well-bred) half lives. Rupert seems to have connections everywhere and his version of being broke is not, like mine, surviving on half a mug of rice and an Oxo cube (in student days I hasten to add!) but rather having no money, but still being able to jet round the world courtesy of family friends and doss down for a prolonged period at Tony Richardson's villa in the South of France. His road to discovery up to Another Country is absorbing, but after that, he glides from adventure to adventure, project to project, and I'm afraid I rather lost track. The chronology of the various episodes became a bit confusing and in all the gloss what I missed (with one or two exceptions such as Roddy Mcdowall or  Paula Yates who emerges as a tragically vulnerable figure) was a depth and introspection, an evaluation of the meaningfulness (or otherwise) of his many relationships with family, friends and lovers, the ramifications of being an openly gay actor and the years of drinking and casual drugs. The shadow of AIDS in its infancy lurks in the background so perhaps that's why, when I'd finished the book, despite all the hilarity and high living, I felt somehow saddened.

I saw Rupert Everett on stage years ago in The Vortex, and found him rather impressive. I'd love to see his current performance as Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss, which I missed on its pre-West End run in Bath. As I was reading the book, I noticed he was on TV in St Trinian's 2, playing an oddly underwhelming headmistress (Bertie Carvel have no worries). He is one of those performers who can be incredibly good but also profoundly bad - perhaps this is what was meant by the wild see-saw?

All in all, I get the feeling I'm being over-analytical here. He can write. It's great fun. And I expect I'll read the next volume.

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