Tom Hollander

The summer of love

On Costard the Clown and a half-forgotten showbiz dream

[Getty Images/iStockphoto]

Last time I was allowed to write a story for The Spectator, I managed to get away with a frankly smutty and boastful piece about sex. Well, it’s been a while, so… I do hope nobody minds if I do that again.

If I’m honest, when young, one of the reasons I decided to mortgage my life to showbiz was because I thought that if I did, I would get more than my fair share of bedroom action.

Hang on. Sorry, not more than my fair share. (I must stop putting myself down.) Firstly, as we all know there is no such thing as fair in these matters; very attractive women regularly confound the rest of us by sleeping with people everyone thinks are ghastly. And secondly, even if they didn’t I am perfectly capable, on a good day, when not overwhelmed by various complexes there isn’t space to describe, of actually being quite reasonably charming. But anyway, aged 21, I was entirely sure being in showbiz would definitely tip the scales in my favour. Think of the scenes of mass hysteria that greeted the Beatles. People actually threw their sodden underwear onto the stage. Not just the Beatles, David Essex, probably even Cliff Richard. OK, mostly pop stars rather than classical theatre actors, but come on, how many employment sectors can you think of that involve that sort of thing as even a remote possibility? The medical profession I grant you, out of necessity, and politics, for reasons which baffle everyone, But for spontaneous pants removal as an expression of sheer joie de vivre, it’s got to be either sport, or for arts graduates, Lady Showbiz.

Twenty-five years ago. 1989. The beginning of the end of the ‘second summer of love’. The sap was high. Beautiful young people were driving round the M25 on ecstasy, dancing in fields till dawn, But I wasn’t part of that.

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