Yesterday we lost three great men from the world of entertainment. Ron Moody was a tremendous character actor of many decades’ standing, best-remembered for his performance as Fagin in the 1968 musical ‘Oliver!’ Ornette Coleman pretty much invented free jazz in the 1960s, and is as towering a figure in the field of jazz as Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s and Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. But the loss I feel most deeply is Sir Christopher Lee. In a film career spanning over 60 years, in extreme old age he reached a new generation as Count Dooku and Saruman: but or course he is, and forever will be, the quintessential Count Dracula. His tall, spare screen presence and rich, resonant voice have never been matched: for me as a child, he was the embodiment onscreen of all I thought a man should be. May all their dear souls be bound up in the bonds of life eternal.
Cecil Rhodes said: “To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life.” This is often seen as an expression of gloating triumphalism: but I would rather view it as a precursor of a well-known arachnid-related character’s catchphrase: “With great power comes great responsibility”.
So I was very depressed to see the harmless telly of the 1970s disembowelled by the sneers and exaggerated shock of a bunch of young whippersnappers in ‘It Was Alright In The 1970s’ (Ch4, 16th & 23rd Nov). They even managed to parade a couple of chaps who had actually been in the 1970s progs to shamefacedly condemn them, like Western hostages of the IS about to be beheaded.
The 1970s was the time of my teens and young adulthood. It was a golden era of galloping progress: we looked back at the war and the 1950s and saw how far we had come in terms of free speech, mod cons and technological development in every sphere. Everything seemed possible. I was looking forward to a life where I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to and might actually have a rich and enjoyable sex life, rather than the pre-60s norm of one fumbling and awkward shag leading to a couple with nothing in common being chained together for a lifetime for the sake of the child.
Didn’t quite work out like that, did it? Today the universe of public discourse seems to be hurtling back to a pre-Enlightenment mindset, where the rational separation between words and actions is being erased. We seem to have lost all psychological robustness.
I was much happier in a world where I could be unthinkingly happy to be male, heterosexual, British and white(-ish). I shall check my privilege when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.