Stalin, Dietrich and the Porno Star – Part 1

by Shamus on June 19, 2018

Well, I don’t know if any of you have been to Eastern Europe. As most people seem to have computers, microwave ovens, dvd players, two or even three cars and a TV in every room, including the toilet, I guess I’m pretty safe in assuming that you’re largely a rather well heeled lot, probably well travelled too. Anyway, I did quite a few gigs – I use the term loosely – out in Poland, Hungary and Romania back in the seventies. This was before the punk rock thing, when directing large doses of rancid phlegm and/or projectile vomiting over performers hadn’t quite become standard procedure at concerts on the south bank and other sorts of cultural venues. At the time, I was being managed by a very unusual gentleman who went by the name of Konrad Klebb. He told me he was from Tunbridge Wells and that his father was a baronet. Apparently they had a country seat somewhere out in the shires, although he was strangely secretive about all this. Anyway, he told me that his London office was in North Kensington. Although I wasn’t sure where North Kensington was exactly, it sounded posh. When I eventually found it, it turned out to be this decrepit, rat-infested bedsit in the arse end of Ladbroke Grove. But, he did say he’d be taking a suite of offices in Regent Street, just as soon as he’d completed some deal or other with this Bulgarian yoghurt exporter.

Yes, he was quite a guy. He was short; not just short in the ordinary way, but very, very short and always wore a pin-stripe suit with the tightest trousers you’ve ever seen. But the most remarkable thing about his appearance was this huge great handlebar moustache. It must have stuck out about half a metre each side of his face and looked a bit like a propeller on a Messerschmitt 109 or something. And his hair was the most full, luxurious barnet you can imagine. There was so much of it, even Dusty Springfield would have been jealous – Bridgitte Bardot too, I dare say, although come to think of it, they were both blondes. Well, I think they were – sometimes of course, it’s difficult to tell the real colour of someone’s hair unless…. well anyway, I thought it was a wig at first, until one day we had a serious argument. I forget what it was about now, but anyway, I picked him up by his hair and spun him around my head a few times at very high speed, so unless he was using superglue, it was real enough.

But the most amazing thing and of course, unknown to me at the time, was that he was a spy. Of course he had the perfect cover as a theatrical agent, sending artists and whatnot over to the communist bloc countries to perform at their summer music festivals. Who would have ever guessed that this guy was working for British intelligence? I assume it was for them, but of course it could have been for the Russians, or maybe both – a double agent, as they say; and if my memory serves me correctly, he did appear to have access to an unlimited supply of Hungarian Bull’s Blood wine, which was as nasty as it sounds, although I grew quite fond of it after a while.

Ah yes, those summer festival singing competitions. Well, they were held in obscure places, Black Sea and mountain resorts you’ve never heard of and that kind of thing. Most of the soviet countries used to take part and they’d sometimes allow the odd jerk like me to enter – a sort of token west European. Of course, I always came last, but that’s politics for you. The ridiculous thing was that everyone sang in English. Or, I should say they tried to sing in English. There were one or two who were OK, but most of the singers didn’t speak a word of English and must have learned the words to the songs phonetically. I know we’re very lazy here in the UK when it comes to learning other languages, but honestly, some of the accents were just atrocious. There was one guy, really huge, covered in hair from top to toe and wearing a kind of pink smock, edged with glitter. He looked like a cross between Demis Roussos, Barbara Streisand and John the Baptist. Anyway, he sang Delilah, you know, the old Tom Jones hit. So you had this huge great orchestra doing a completely over the top introduction, then he came in and sang “ I SAW THE LIGHT ON THE NIGHT THAT I PISSED BY HER WINDOW”. Just one syllable wrong, but what a difference! I’d love to have seen him do a Royal Command performance in front of the Queen at the London Palladium. I think Prince Philip would be tickled….

By the way, in case you’re wondering why the title to this blog is called Stalin, Dietrich and the Porn Star, let me say that all will be come clear in parts 2, 3 and 4.

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