by Elizabeth Wyndham

Quentin and I first met in 1956 when I was modeling at St. Martin’s Art School. He invited me for a lunchtime coffee and sandwich at the French, a tobacconist/café in Old Compton Street, Soho. It was very friendly and he knew all the regulars. After this first meeting, we went every day for lunch. In the evening, we often met at the Nucleus, a basement all-night café frequented by six-foot transvestites, pimps, prostitutes, lorry drivers, a few insomniacs and us. While he played chess, I painted my fingernails and made several visits to the ladies’ to check on my beehive and stick in a few extra hairpins.

He invited me to 129 Beaufort Street when I was living at the Chelsea Studios in Fulham Road. His room was very cosy, and while he ate Complan I perched on his bed, drinking tea and listening to his views on life—if the Bomb dropped it would solved the problem of ever having to work again; his allergy to all music; the wonderfulness of Miss Davis, miss West and Miss Crawford. I was shown the photographs taken of him when young by Angus McBean. We often went to his local cinema together. We saw Borsalino twice, being both infatuated with Alain Delon.

Some evening he would come to dinner at the Chelsea Studios and play chess with an elderly friend of mine who wanted to marry me. Quentin advised marriage immediately, as I would never have to work again and it didn’t matter a bit that I wasn’t in love. He told me he had never wanted to live with anyone because it would be a strain trying to please them all the time. He thought the idea of two men living together was ridiculous.

When he went to America, which was his El Dorado, we spoke occasionally on the telephone, the last time being on 24 October 1999. He was due to perform his one-man show near Brighton, and we arranged to meet for dinner on 29th November. Alas, he died eight days before our reunion.

He was a very generous, charming and original friend.

Text copyright © Elizabeth Wyndham and Paul Bailey. All rights reserved.
(Taken from the book The Stately Homo, edited by Paul Bailey.)
Photograph © by Reed Massingill. All rights reserved. Used by permission

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