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Rupert Everett’s Flabby Bottom

I’m currently devouring Rupert Everett’s delicious second volume of memoirs Vanished Years, straight after finishing the first, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. Though it should probably be read slowly, reclining on a queen-sized bed in a silk dressing gown and slippers – as if you were eating very expensive, very naughty bitter-sweet chocolate liqueurs.

It’s scandalously funny. Everett writes like a dream, damn him. It’s always so annoying when people who have lived a full life doing something much more useful and lucrative than writing finally turn their hand to it and are seemingly effortlessly brilliant.

But it’s his candour not his skill that makes his memoirs so hilarious. He says all sorts of things that he definitely shouldn’t, which is what proper memoirs are for of course. And you can tell he gets a big kick out of doing it. When he recounts his last ditch attempt at resuscitating his Stateside career (sent into intensive care by The Next Best Thing) with a TV pilot for an ill-fated sit-com called Mr Ambassador, starring Everett as the UK ambassador to the US and Derek Jacobi as his PCB assistant (an alternative Vicious?), he really lifts the lid on the always-smiling horror of Hollywood and what’s called in showbusiness ‘the process’ – of getting fucked, no Vaseline.

You also get a sense that his friendship with female stars like Madonna and Julia Roberts was probably always based somewhat on the appeal of his ridiculously posh and sensationally sharp English tongue. Bitchery always sounds better delivered regally. They enjoyed, I’m sure his hag faggery, but also that exhilaratingly tart honesty. (Apparently either Roberts or Madonna, or both, I can’t remember which, always smell ‘vaguely of sweat’.)

Disarmingly, Everett is most candid about himself. Recounting an early 90s, pre-HAART relationship with a beautiful Italian bodybuilder called Alfio who was also HIV positive he spares himself nothing:

‘During our late-night calls from the station in Turin I began to disengage. I couldn’t, wouldn’t deal with the very real problems that Alfio had. Finally he cracked one night as a train to Viareggio was delayed, and shouted at me down the line. He accused me of playing with him, of being utterly selfish, and finally of being a typical Catholic, all noise and no compassion.

He was right.’

Everett is also painfully candid about his limited acting abilities and his unlikely leading man appearance. In Red Carpets he admits that he’s far too tall, a huge head on a long neck atop no shoulders to speak of, and talks about how, pre LA gym makeover, when he was playing some highly miscast swashbuckling role in the 1980s he had to have some rubber foam bits made to fill out his costume and give him the appearance of shoulders – and an arse. Vanished Years is also movingly honest to the point of morose delectation (a Catholic bad habit) about ageing, loss, and death.

His ad for Millicano coffee currently airing on UK TV, in which Everett in a silk dressing gown (looking oddly like Peter York) reads a scathing review of a performance of his, calling for him to retire from acting, very cleverly plays with all these themes and is as much an advert for his memoirs as gritty instant coffee. The punchline about his ‘flabby bottom’ (at least he has one now, even if it is gravitationally challenged) is funny but also perhaps aimed at gaining sympathy from (a presumed female) target market, mocking as it does Everett’s mortal flesh in the way that women stars are more traditionally used to.

There has been a rather fetching, doomed quality about Everett since his breathtaking performance as a doomed young Guy Burgess figure in Another Country – his first and still his best film. It was a role too perfectly suited to him, and at the height of his strangely compelling youthful beauty. It propelled him into stardom, but he never quite got over it.

But then, who would get over spending the night in Cary Elwes’ punt?

Another Country

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12 thoughts on “Rupert Everett’s Flabby Bottom”

  1. Paul: I haven’t read Burton’s memoirs, but I shall add it to my list.

    I agree that AC is like a prequel (or two) to An Englishman Abroad. But I think both should be watched together with Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, which is set in a grammar school, ostensibly in 1983, but which could easily be 1953. (Bennett himself is a 50s grammar school boy.) Grammar schools in England were based on public schools – but for swotty members of the middle classes.

    I think part of the appeal of Communism for bright and queer members of the English upper classes was precisely the way that it seemed to continue the idealistic homoerotic tradition of public schools – in comradely struggle. That and the fact that posh chaps loved trade.

  2. “Another Country” should be seen in sequence with the Alan Bennett teleplay “An Englishman Abroad” (from whence I suspect the movie derives it’s title) wherein Alan Bates plays the aging, dissolute Burgess bitching to Coral Browne about the fact that there were no comfortable shoes to be had in the Workers’ Paradise. The Bennett play came out first, though I don’t think the order matters.

    So interesting that the cadre of Fellow Travelers in the UK was comprised of disaffected homosexuals, and in the U.S. it was quite the opposite: Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy, Mary Hoover. It’s as if Red-bating was the way these girls expressed their disdain for ‘pink’.

  3. Mark, another actor who was appallingly eloquent and erudite was Burton. Part of that is due to the fact that the ‘writer’s voice’ is, well, Richard Burton’s.

  4. Mark S.: Yes, it took me longer to figure all this stuff out, having been to NYC private school (nothing whatsoever like Brit public school) and then an Ivy League university that thought of itself as Oxbridge-like, but wasn’t, in the 1970s.
    So my point is, having discovered the beauty and passions of (young) men who love men in 1976 or so, I was still reeling with the excitement of this whole new way of understanding men as … men when i saw AC.
    To see Everett/Burgess as head boy in school, “top” of the world, bringing his beloved to meet his mum and expecting or hoping it will all work out; and then to have his notorious spy career explained as the result of rejection for being too openly gay by the homosexual establishment of upper-class English institutions was just … radically fabulous. (From across the Pond.)

  5. Ann: I saw AC just after leaving boarding school, still nursing a crush on my own Cary Elwes and burning with resentment against the world. The film’s extravagant aesthetics probably seem absurdly unrealistic to some, but when it came to the heartbreaking beauty of young men and their hothouse passions it was faithful documentary.

  6. Graham: ‘ve not seen that filum. Mr Everett seems to be in his post-LA gym buffed prime in it. I’ll have to give it a vada later.

    Stephen: I have no idea what they’re singing about in that clip, or even much idea what language they’re using, but with those visuals – who cares?

  7. Thanks Mark for giving this superb, candid, funny, sentimental, callous, witty and moving book a kick up the Amazon charts. Heartless and heartfelt; it is one of the best celebrity memoirs you’ll ever read.

  8. i must read that..banana skins was great…i loved the scene of him and the girl breaking into the then shut down deco argyle hotel on sunset,chillin and a druggin from the desolated penthouse balcony.

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