Many Many years ago an old friend, long since dead, living alone in London, phoned the Savoy Hotel.
He asked to speak to Betty Davis who was performing a play in London at the time and was residing at the Savoy.
He never dreamed he would actually get put through to het suite.
An assistant to Betty David answered the phone.
'Miss Davis suite - Can I help you ?'
' Oh yes please' - he answered - shocked to have actually been put through - ' I saw Miss Davis's performance last night and wondered if she would sign my programme from the evening ?'
'Hold the line.'
He held onto the phone with trembling hands - absolutely convinnced the phone would just be hung up and that would be that.
A moment later the assistant returned
' If you are free to come by the Savoy Hotel tomorrowe afternoon at 3pm. I will see what I can do for you. What is your name ? '
He gave it, thanked her and hung up.
'Oh My God' - he thought to himself... 'Oh My God.'
He spent the next hour bouncing around his flat - feeling sick one minute and laughing out loud the next,
He phoned half of London - ( well - all his friends ) - who were all somewhat doubtful and didn't really believe a word he had said, knowing what a huge fan he was of Bette Davis.
He didn't sleep a wink that night.
Turning up at 2.45pm at the Savoy Hotel, he asked at reception for Miss Davis's room, and once again was gobsmacked when they phoned through to her room to announce him, and then told his which suite to go to.
With trembling hands and a dry throat, he banged on the suites door and heard footsteps behind and was eventually opened by a middle aged women who invited him in and told him to take a chair in this rather plush lounge. They chatted for a few minutes and she took the programme from him and left the room saying
'I shall see if Miss David will sign this for you.'
His throat dried. He swallowed a couple of times. He pinched himself a couple of times to make sure he was awake and that this was really happening. Was he actually going to get an autograph from his idol ?
Was he actually sitting in the very suite where she spent her time while in London ? Was this the very room she entertained friends while in town ?
As the thoughts raced through his mind he hardly noticed as the bedroom door opened and in walked Betty David herself, with his programme in her hand saying in that brash voice she was so famous for -
'So what did you think of my show last night ?'
He stood, shaking like a tree in a storm - and she continued
'Oh relax - you look scared to bits. I don't bite, in fact, I'm really quite friendly.' - She looked him up and down and continued - ' Would you like to join me for tea. It's such a nice Britich thing to do at this time in the aftrenoon, don't you think, and this hotel certainly knows how to do it to perfection ?'
To cut a long story very short. She was lonely. She told him how everyone adrored her, sent her flowers and all sorts, double ovations every night and then, home alone to her suite at the Savoy where people were scared of her and so, left her alone, and she was lonely.
He stayed and chatted over tea and she quickly realised he was gay and told him outright that -
' Hollywood is run by queens dear. Absolutely run by them. It's so nice as then you don't have to jump on the casting couch and fuck some asshole producer .'
This was a Monday night and as there was no performance that night, she asked if he would like to stay and have dinner with her. Which he did.
They chatted the afternoon away - had dinner, and she kept him there until around 10pm when she said she was tired and going to bed.
He thought to himself ...
' I wonder if I have the nerve... oh why not...'
Then asked if she would like him to show her Londoin while she was here, as it was a beautiful -'
and she cut him off with her brisk wave of her hand and her hard voice saying
'You know - That would be wonderful. I know absolutely no one here and I have another 6 weeks of shows and I would love to spend some time with you - yes, indeed, that would be very pleasing.'
They arranged to meet the next afternoon around 1pm and he left - somewhat is a haze, somewhat shell shocked and somewhat in disbelief of how the afternoon had played out.
Decades later when he related the story to me from his old peoples home in Guernsey, he told me how lonely she was and how they had spent almost every day together - showing her London,. meeting his friends ( who couldn't believe she was sitting in his lounge in his small flat in Pimlico -) and they wined and dined, toured the city, and became friends.
When she left for the USA at the end of her run, she insisted they keep in touch and they did. Christmas and birthdays - she always sent cards - she would phone from America sometimes to catch up with her British friend - and they remained friends until her death decades later.
Now I have reported it as he told it to me many moons ago - ooo - MANY moons ago - and I am sure there was a lot more going on than I have said here, but one thing was certain, fame set her apart from people who admired and loved her but were scared to approach - and scared of her.
Fame, like many things, can set anyone apart from others and as much as they want, something puts people off approaching and getting involved and they can remain lonely.
I remember in Paris when I was a teenager with my Bluebell Girl Dancer sister - Dash - where we were in a night club together, overhearing 2 guys talking about my sister saying -
' Wow what a beautiful girl. I wouldn't dare ask her for a dance.- I bet she has loads of rich boyfriends.'
but she was gagging for someone other than her gay brother to dance with and would have loved someone else to chat and laugh with, but her stunning looks frightened men off and it took a pretty brave man to approach her, and this was to be a life long problem for her... she scared men off while desperately wanting someone, anyone, to befriend.
I was told in my teens that I looked unapproachable - and it was only because in those days I was very shy.
Many people are scared of others while all the while they are only human an can always say ' no thanks'-
So take a chance. Be brave. Say hello - start a conversation, they can always say no thanks and they can always walk away and if they do, then it is their loss.
Loneliness affects us all at some time in our lives and esp[ecially as w eget older - do not work - have retured to the front lounge and the telly every evening and see few people.
So never stop talking and laughing and sharing and as we come out of lockdopwn, where MANY have been isolated and l;onely, you have the perfect in troduction to a cobnversation in asking how it has been for them.
Bette Davis or the person next door, makes no difference, as being lonely in the Savoy is the same as being lonely in a council flat anywhere - and only you can stop yourself being lonely.
John Bellamy. BLOG HOME PAGE