The Royal Shakespeare Company’s U.S. Tour – Robert’s Diary Chapter Two

Jan. 19th: (We are living on the hotel is on Nob Hill). At the Exploratorium (Presidio district) there was a young Asian demonstrator (explainer, I see they are called), showing a group of children the interior tissues of a cow’s eye which she had dissected; the transparent gel of the ball, the hole to peek through of the pupil; very plain, factual, with no disgust. The electrical effects of sweating were demonstrated elsewhere, with an exegis on how this phenomenon was applied in lie detectors, claiming that a habitual or practised liar could beat the machine by controlling his anxiety and, therefore, responses. Interesting that this idea should be perpetuated in a supposedly factual science park, since European workers in the field throw great doubt on the consistency of any research results; a political bias, presumably.

Telephoned in my room, p.m., from New York by Bob Fennell, press rep., asking me to appear in a television interview, locally, this coming Sunday! George Burns will be a hundred on Saturday. There is not the same anti-English ‘schadenfreude’ here as I found in New York; reminded by trail on public radio of compilation of music, etc. of material regretting loss of Empire and glory first hint of interest in such a topic. (Service is called National Public Radio; run by subscription and through sponsorship, I seem to gather; subtitled ‘information’ radio).

Jan. 20th: Had heard that first hard evidence of a Jupiter sized planet had been detected (by the perturbations caused) orbiting Pegasi 51(?), 42 million l. years distant. Today followed up by news of two more possible planets, one in Virgo and one in Ursa Major, some 35 million l. years away.Jan. 21st: Following a ‘phone call from Bob Fennell our New York press rep. I was picked up at the hotel by Kee Omee(?), a Japanese American lady, our local press rep. (working for Brown, Zuko) and driven to some nearby television studio for a 9.25 p.m. interview on Bay TV.

The hostess was Jan Wahl, a stout, ebullient fifty-ish lady, a theatre and film enthusiast who also writes a column. The subject, ostensibly, was sex and Shakespeare but turned out to be more wide ranging the theme of the evening was sex in the performing arts (preceded by Richard Harris, her favourite actor, bussing Sophia Loren). There was a floor manager, but no operators; just two fixed cameras at right angles apparently shooting through what appeared to be some kind of screen on which we could see ourselves in performance! Otherwise, a small table and a tiny backing screen behind Wahl. Reminded me of the only TV spot we got in New York for ‘Fearless Frank’ where we sat in folding canvas lawn chairs and the host only dressed, presentably, from the waist up; wore bashed jeans and seedy trainers below. That was up some fire escape stairs in an exwarehouse with a cable subscription of 25,000. Here was a little bit better, with perhaps six million possible viewers. Pleasant and jolly time; got in a bit about ‘Too Close For Comfort’ and how that came about.

Jan. 23rd: N.b., returning from Yosemite I came across the first petrol pump, in Oakland, where they take your money before you serve yourself with gas. (The local press rep.’s name is Kiyomi Emi, according to a notice on our board).

Jan. 25th: The woman (black) driver of the number 21 trolley bus which took me to the de Young Museum had a good, bantering, helpful relationship with her passengers, some of whom were clearly regulars, all the way to Golden Gate Park. She picked us up in Market Street still finishing off some kind of wrapped, snack meal; later greeted two elderly (Asiatic) nuns with ‘Hi, girls!’. Reminded me of a (even more vocal, male) driver who masterfully handled his huge local bus through the narrow streets of Old Cairo). Passed a shop on the way signed ‘Nomad Body Piercing Salon’. It looked closed for good.The de Young has some very good American landscapes and was pleasant altogether. Attached is an Asian Art museum with stunning objects (apparently collected by Avery Brundage). Recalling the stuff at the Met., one wonders if there can be enough material left to furnish a decent display anywhere else on the planet. (Nice bronze group of the head of Cervantes with Quixote and Panza kneeling to him in homage. Also, an extraordinary vase ‘Poème de la Vigne’, left over from the 1890s exhibition).

Jan. 28th: After the ‘Dream’, went to see ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’ at the Club Fugazi in Green Street, 7p.m. Its speciality is hats; outrageous, gigantic, topical. An excuse for non-stop, exuberant, loud routines with a mildly satirical slant of the button pressing kind. Snow White looking for a prince, who turned out to be Elvis (still alive!). The links reminded me of a preface to an Ovid ‘s Metamorphoses I’ve just finished reading, pointing out how perfunctory his links were between one myth and the next he wanted to deal with. Sometimes just one word like ‘twined’… i.e. ‘…in his arms twined’ and ‘also twined was the vine…’ The links in ‘B.B.B. had the same effrontery, cheek, often a simple pun; an excuse for a ‘show’ number. The finale super hats were of the San Francisco skyline and a wedding cake with animated figures of a couple (Snow White and Elvis) on top and the seven dwarves inside. The overall flavour was sweetness. The club looked like an adapted small swimming pool or music hall. Apparently the queen had been confronted with a hat with her family in it. The show’s been running for twenty one years, constantly changing – it’s begetter, Steve Silver, has just died aged only fifty one of A.I.D.S.?

Jan. 30th: Returned to Legion of Honour Art Gallery, to take a proper look at the seventeeth century and medieval stuff and the prints. Two lovely Gaspare Traversi of a group ‘merrymaking’ and another fortune telling. (Did I say the gallery reminded me of the Burrell, for quality?)

Found a charming German immigrant at the Drama book shop, where I bought several plays. Passed a man standing in the doorway of an apartment block stroking a large, green gecko (a lizard like creature, anyway) on the way back to Gr. House. Beast was a good three feet long, counting its tail.Peter Dennis and Diane there to greet me as I was making for the stage door and the hotel bus. They were here to see John Kane and the show. Had no idea I was in it. Now live in L.A. and, on diffident enquiry, Peter indicated he was making a tolerable fist at a living Diane, though, has given up her very successful (in England, anyway) picture framing and is just being…Diane Dennis.

Read Chapter Three of Robert’s RSC US Tour diary. 

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