The Ingrid Pitt column: The stars come out

Ingrid's yearly fan-club bash is always a starry event that keeps outgrowing its venues...

It’s amazing how the last 12 years have vanished and the only stable event to mark their passage is the annual fan club reunion. We were at it again last weekend. When the idea of a fan club get-together was mooted back in 1996 it was really meant to be a one off. Simple formula. Find somewhere to pig out, send out invitations, meet everyone and then drop it. It hasn’t turned out that way.

The first meeting was in a cellar in Shepherd’s Bush. Not the most auspicious of starts. I didn’t have a lot to do with the planning so I slipped up to town in the afternoon for a spot of shopping. On the underground I was confronted with a bunch of busking musicians. For some reason I thought they were Spanish. So I chatted to them in Spanish – as you do. There seemed to be some sort of regional accent barrier but I did manage to convey to them that I would like them to play for us at the reunion. What I didn’t know was that Tonio had already ordered a band. What he didn’t know was that the restaurant came with band attached.

Came the evening. Loads of people turned up. Among them Robin Parkinson from ‘Allo ‘Allo, Garfield Morgan from the Sweeney, animator extraordinaire, Ray Harryhausen, and the woman who did my stunts when I was feeling fragile, Dorothy Ford. I had opted for Polish nosh as I wanted to get a bit maudlin. After a lot of churning around and snogging with old friends we settled down to the long table that was the best the venue could offer. I sat with my back to the wall with Dorothy by my side. Soon found out it wasn’t the best place to be. Down the steps came the musicians laid on by the proprietor. I wasn’t having that. I struggled around the table and told them I didn’t need them. They argued, I got hot under the wimple, stamped my little foot and made a general prat of myself until they left. A few minutes later, the blokes Tonio had hired shuffled in and started to play. Before I could give a repeat performance, Tonio quietened me down. I realised it was probably best to keep stumm as the lot I had accosted on the Tube hadn’t turned up. Even as I thought it, they filed down the stairs.

Tonio realised he wasn’t going to get his way, after all it was my birthday and I was a spoilt brat. So he thanked his band and paid them off and my group took over. I found out that the fundamental problem when I had spoken to them that afternoon was that they were Romanians. But the good thing about music is that the language it is played in doesn’t matter. And they were good. Which, unfortunately, wasn’t the case with the accommodation – which was a shame because the food was excellent. I found out that even Michael Winner had given the place a good report.

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By the time we had struggled through the meal several of the guests were ready for a visit to the comfort station. Most of them, who were sitting with their backs to the wall, struggled past the backs of the chairs and around the end of the table. Not dear old Dottie. When she needed to go she just stood up and walked along the table. Dorothy was a ravishing red head with a figure to match. Ravishing, not red! Her cakewalk was much appreciated. It is still fondly remembered by some of the guests who turn out for this year’s party.

We tried the same venue the following year. A big problem! We had twice as many guests but still the cramped accommodation. By this time I had quite taken to the idea of a fan club reunion combined with my birthday so we looked for another venue and found the Lowicsanka Restaurant in the Polish Club at Hammersmith. We have been there ever since.

And this year it was the 12th reunion. The format has become established. We eat the same delicious Polish grub every year swilled down with endless bottles of wine; I do a long rambling speech and try to mention everybody who is there and what they do; then we have a general melee and chat about what we have been doing before shuffling reluctantly off at around one pm. Another established part of the formula is that I invite some of my thesp friends to come along. We’ve always had a good response. Other than those already mentioned we’ve had Doug (Pinhead) Bradley, Caroline Munro, Valerie Leon, Maddy Smith, Janina Faye, best selling author, James Herbert, Lord Tom Pendry, former Hammer Chairman, Larry Chrisfield, Kate O’Mara, Britain’s top stuntman, Peter Brace, Anthony Bate and many more.

This year I thought we were probably not going to be able to coerce anyone into coming. The date set for the reunion clashed with several conventions and festivals. Luckily, two old friends, Celia Imrie and Damien Thomas didn’t let me down. Although they were both working, their schedules made it possible for them to turn out. Happily, Pat Lasky, widow of that great Hollywood writer Jesse Lasky Jnr, (Samson & Delilah, The Ten Commandments, etc) and a film and TV writer in her own right (Marlowe – Private Eye, Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense), managed to get back from a trip to California where she is proposing to live with her husband, cartoonist Peter Betts. We’ve been friends for more years than I like to count and I’m not happy to lose her. I pick out diabolical stories from the newspaper and tell her about the fires raging in California. She still insists she is going but I think I detect a little less enthusiasm.

I was also lucky to get gorgeous ex-Vogue model and racing driver, Maureen Barrymore. Maureen has had a glamorous life. One of the top models in the sixties and seventies, she mixed negotiating the catwalk with driving saloon car races. She was hot stuff and frequently beat the men. Which didn’t make her very popular in certain quarters. Now she is a top fashion photographer and has published a book with Seventies fashion guru, Mary Quant.

It was a great evening but I am a bit worried we may have to find a new venue. The reunion is becoming so popular that it is difficult to squeeze everybody in. I’d be reluctant to move location as it is the perfect venue. Great food, beautifully decorated, wonderful staff and near to where I live. Another problem is that it will be the 13th reunion next year. And you know what that means in the Horror Business

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Read Ingrid’s column every Tuesday at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.