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Tony Stratton-Smith

[ Vivian Stanshall | `Legs' Larry Smith ]

Hoopoe's Tales by Vivian Stanshall

Extracts from Vivian Stanshall's eulogy on The Famous Charisma Box

Strat's dictum: "Anything good of its kind".

It was my birthday, March 21st 1980, and Strat thought it appropriate to pop a bottle of Tizer or three to celebrate "Would you care to make a film, dear boy?" Silly question! A joke? Three weeks later I was purred out at his country home near Lambourne village bashing out the screenplay.

Afternoons bedizzened in sumptuous dressing gown: the gentlemanly beslippered Strat would appear, chuckle at my first drafts, smile encouragement, nod to his beastly collection of Bratbys, make a mysterious encoded phone call to his bookie and vanish, and leave me to it. He did never censure - I was utterly free.

The film - Sir Henry At Rawlinson End - went into production that early summer. Strat had been quite serious and he backed the film with all the vigour and enthusiasm with which he backed his horses. We neither of us won really but we won prizes and the fun of it - the doing of it.

1968. Touring America. Strat, then manager of the Bonzo Dog Band, roughed it with the rest of us, staying in wretched hotels and food. He didn't need to, of course but he thought it improper if he did not. We lived on a dollar a day: that's a burger and a beer - just. But Strat too contrived to introduce me to dry martinis at the Algonquin: Dorothy Parker, Benchley, Kaufman. We were in New York, for Christ's sake! It would be improper if we did not. "Anything good of its kind, dear boy!" Similar? No thanks, I'll have the same again.

Tony Stratton-Smith was a gentleman and an adventurer. He was a very rare man.

Tony Stratton-Smith by `Legs' Larry Smith

From the booklet with The Famous Charisma Box

The eloquence of this man - the generosity - the breathlessness - those deep brown eyes - glazed with the tears of helpless, hopeless, hysterical laughter - tears that would run down Wardour Street and then flow up three flights of stairs into the La Chasse most every night.

If I recall, we went to the movies twice, once in New York and once in Leicester Square.

Bonzo Dog was in New York and Tony (our beloved manager) spent at least 10 minutes convincing Vivian Stanshall and myself that the recently-premiered and much acclaimed Lola Montes would not wait a second longer and simply had to be seen. It would be a cinematic event extraordinaire he assured us - and of course we believed him.

We duly arrived, following on from the usual liquidous lunch and flopped into our seats. In minutes, soothed by the air-conditioning (and Lola's lowly voice), the fat boy was asleep - blowing bubbles and gently nodding into his lightweight panama.

Needless to say, the film was appalling and we left him to it.

Whatever Lola Wants - Stan Getz.

However, the Leicester Square event proved much more rewarding for all of us. The year was 1968 and once again under Tony's suspcious gaze, we marched into a screening of Mel Brook's utterly brilliant movie The Producers. It was finally a goosestep in the Reich direction and a film that assuredly changed my life - and I thank the dear boy for that - from the bottom of my jackboots.

I thank Tony Stratton-Smith for a great many things; he had vision, compassion, he listened and he bloody well cared.

Tony Stratton-Smith 1933-1987


Lola Montes

From Halliwell's Film Companion:
Lola Montes (1818-1861) - Maria Dolores Eliza Gilbert - was a Scottish-Creole dancer who became world-famous as the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
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