British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan caused a stir when his memoirs were published a few years back, and revealed him to be a spanking fan of pretty voracious appetite. The lurid details have led to a drastic reappraisal of his influence, and I doubt that his name features too highly on many English syllabuses at the moment. When I was at university, he was a well respected figure and something of a hero to anti-establishment types who hailed him for being the first person to say the f-word on British Television.
Tynan was infatuated with 1920’s film star Louise Brooks, whose beauty and smoldering stage presence can be seen here. He considered her to be “the most sexually attractive woman who had ever illuminated the screen”.
In 1978, he discovered that she was still alive and living as a recluse in Rochester, New York. He persuaded The New Yorker to commission a profile and spent three days interviewing her. A play by Janet Munsil entitled Smoking with Lulu tells the story of their meeting.
It has never been widely performed, and I look forward to the day when a film or TV adaptation is made. When they met, Brooks was in her seventies, bedridden with osteoarthritis, but Tynan remained haunted by her youthful screen presence – hence the existence of a third character in the play called Lulu. With trademark bobbed hair and a variety of silk knickers, she is the embodiment of Tynan’s fantasies.
In a 2000 production of the play, Sophie Millett played Lulu. Her silk knickers were not constantly on display however – she also dressed in Ziegfield plumes, and as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz – prancing provocatively around the stage while footage of Brooks’ movies flashed behind her.
OK I’ve set it up for you. One of the most notorious career spankos of the 20th Century confronted by his lifelong fantasy woman, dancing provocatively around him. What happened next? Well the answer will be provided in an exclusive illustration from the play, which I will post at a later date if there seems to be much interest in this type of stuff.