Wednesday, 20 May 2015

LAMBERT & STAMP: TERENCE STAMP SPEAKS

I resisted the urge to rush and see it up west, as we were waiting on a special guest.
Terence Stamp delivered, with a one-off Q&A following the screening at our swish new local cinema, East Dulwich Picturehouse, about his brother Chris - who, together with the fearless Kit Lambert, discovered and developed the raw material that became the Who.
It's a must-see flick if you've any interest in the band, Mod culture and the Sixties - if only for rare early footage and a plethora of candid interviews, in which intrepid Oxford-educated Lambert lords it as the multi-lingual adventurer and bon viveur, while Chris Stamp effs and blinds blithely, the East End boy made mogul.
They met randomly, and gelled, sharing chemistry from the first moment. They decided immediately to join forces as film producers-directors, even though they both lacked any kind of experience in either discipline. Recognising the emergence of rock'n'roll as the new currency, they set about finding a likely band on which to cut their teeth. Inspired to sign themselves up as the band's managers, they would film the process of themselves discovering, on the job, how to BE managers. The footage of their experience, and whatever the band became, would be their movie.
Wildly extravagant ideas never pan out quite as planned. But this was a dangerous, dare-devil pair, and anything could happen. Most of it did.
Flamboyant trouble-magnet Lambert died of a brain haemorrhage in 1981, aged 45. Chris Stamp passed 2 years ago, aged 70. Terence came down to speak for both of them, and to shed a little light on how the brother from nowhere came to collide with the man from everything.
'I credit my mother, Ethel, for Chris's and my success,' said Stamp, an unconvincing 76.
'She was such a forceful woman. She worked as a barmaid at night, to keep food on the table. She instilled in us this belief that there was no THING we couldn't do. No THING we couldn't become, if we wanted to. As for our Dad, Tom, a real alpha male who shovelled coal most of his life, he told Chris, "You're not frightened of anything. There is no one in the world you need be afraid of." We never knew fear. It gave us an inner confidence. I came to understand this only much later. It's a case of, when the iron ore is in the furnace, it thinks that it is being tortured. But when it realises that it is, in fact, a samurai sword, it regards the furnace rather differently. You with me?'
Er.
'We were always beautifully turned out. perfectly dressed, pristine clean. Nobody ever knew how hungry we were, or how our clothes were so mended. To my mother, keeping up appearances was everything. This stayed with Chris and me all our lives.'
The result was that Chris and Kit believed they could be anything and do anything at all - without any reason on earth to believe so.
'"Let's form a group, and make a film about the group", was the original ethos. Chris was a bit cautious at first. I remember he even told Kit, "We don't know anything about managing." "That's ok,", said Kit, "I've looked into it. NOBODY does!"
'No one ever impressed them. Kit had grown up at Covent Garden, for Chrissakes, his father was the composer Constant Lambert. Chris had grown up punching people out when he didn't like the cut of their jib. Imagine the pair of them. Each as fearless as the other.
'I like to think I facilitated things a little. I'd been to drama school - my audition was Romeo's death speech, with me playing Romeo as a Cockney barrowboy, for which I won a scholarship. I had a union ticket for the stagehands' union. I gave it to Chris and told him to leg it up to Sadler's Wells and blag himself some work backstage.They were doing ballet AND opera, so the palette was broad. Within 6 weeks he was no longer a part-time stagehand, he was running the show backstage. He was like 16 or something. That was Chris. And that attitude set the template for his entire life.
'I had very little to do with Chris, Kit and their various groups,' Terence admitted. Presumably because he was too busy being one of the most desirable sex symbols of the Sixties and early Seventies. A brooding, moody pre-George best-type, he George Clooneyed around with the world's most glamorous women. With early supermodel Jean Shrimpton, he was half of one of the highest-profile power couples of the day. When movie goddess Julie Christie (with whom he starred in Far From the Madding Crowd) dumped him, he headed east in search of his spiritual self.
'I did go to the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969 with them, to meet Bob Dylan. The Who were supporting him, and Keith Moon was utterly mad,' he recalled.
'And I used to go sometimes to the Saville Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue with them on a Sunday night, when they hired out the place to put acts on. I rocked up one night and saw Jimi Hendrix for the first time. There was a party at Eppy's (Brian Epstein's) after. Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, they were all huddled together in a corner, looking strange. Chris said to them, "Don't worry, guys, there will always be work for good white guitarists!"
In the early days, Terence lived with with Michael Caine, with whom he appeared in 'The Long and the Short and the Tall.'
'Caine became, in truth, my first guru,' Stamp admitted.
'I was from the East End, he was from the Elephant. Working class. Getting away with it. Doing it. A real example. There was nothing I couldn't turn to him for. Nothing. We lived together intensely for 3 years. He gave me very profound advice. About choice of work, women, the lot. Then he'd go out himself and do the exact opposite of what he'd told me! Have I seen him lately? No. We haven't spoken for 40 years. Why? Because there's nothing left to say.'
His brother and he were always drawn to 'big people', Terence agrees.
'We were always learning from the best, although we didn't know it at the time.'
The blossoming, during the Sixties, of East Enders in the Arts, he believes has ended.
'What happened with us, we got lucky. Right place, right time. It was the writers first - Harold Pinter, Wolf Mankowitz. They started writing a new kind of theatre, and didn't want toff actors from RADA and Central. They wanted actors who were just like them.'
What goes around.



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