THE ORSON WELLES DIARIES V

Orson Welles Diaries

 

October 1st, 1966

I was in London seeking financing for my one man production of 12 Angry Men when I caught sight of a disheveled Dick Burton struggling to urinate up a Mayfair telephone box. He caught sight of me staring at his public display and immediately staggered across the road with arms held high ready to embrace me. Unfortunately he had forgotten to pop his appendage back in his trousers and so for the third time in my life I found myself bear hugging an indecently exposed drunken Welshman in a crowded street.

I was due to fly back to New York later that afternoon but Burton insisted I have one drink with him in his favorite tavern and so with gay cheer we jumped into a taxi and made our way into the dark heart of London’s Soho.

October 2nd, 1966

I awoke on a park bench around midday to find a confused Burton attempting to remove the cork from a bottle of wine by beating it repeatedly with his own shoe. Unable to entice the cork out he proceeded to smash the neck of the bottle against the bench and pour a generous measure into his shoe which he devoured like a dehydrated Frenchman on Bastille Day. He then kindly refilled his shoe and offered it to me but I politely refused, saying that my father told me to never drink wine out of another man’s shoe but if he didn’t mind decanting the vintage into one of my own boots, I’d gladly partake of his generous offer.

We then proceeded to perform a spontaneous production of Waiting for Godot which received a rapturous round of applause from the gathered park patrons and a 5 star review in the Evening Standard.

As the night air drew in, I insisted that I return to my hotel so I could bathe and re-book my flight and Burton agreed to guide the way, as long as we could swiftly pop into a public house on route to see a ‘man about a dog.’

October 3rd. 1966

The man, as it turned out, was a young British actor called Oliver Reed, a fiery Sherman tank with an eye for the ladies and a supernatural capacity for alcohol. Somewhere around the 10th pint of Guinness Burton snatched an entire jar of pickled eggs from the bar and suggested that the chap that ate the most eggs would not have to buy another drink for the rest of his natural life.

Usually I refuse such high risk bets when I’m not fully in control of my faculties but full of beer and bravado I plucked my hand in the jar, popped the egg into my mouth and swallowed it whole. Half an hour later Reed was passed out on his chair, a ghoulish cocktail of stout and yoke frothing from his mouth but Burton and I were down to one egg each, winner takes all. Trembling I placed the egg on my tongue but I was unable to swallow it which gave Burton the opportunity to take the glory.

Fortunately as he was about to chew his way to victory, Elizabeth Taylor appeared from behind him and swung her handbag at his head causing the egg to fly from his mouth and explode onto the sticky hardwood floor. Apparently Burton had forgotten to do the washing up before he left and Liz berated him for being an inconsiderate lout. Anyway, after a few rounds of coarse profanity from both parties Liz calmed down and agreed to join us for a drink and a groggy but jovial Reed awoke from his temporary coma to join in the festivities.

As Al Mcguire once said “The only mystery in life is why the kamikazi pilots wore helmets” and before these three days of grotesque mischief I would have agreed  but now a second mystery has entered the fray. The vexing and extremely maddening mystery of what the hell became of the dog Burton was meeting Reed about.  

 

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