John Lahr

John Lahr is the author of Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh.

Goldfish are my homies

John Lahr, 22 October 2020

Isurround myself​ with fish: the brown and white aboriginal angel fish in my bathroom, the carved turquoise and yellow Zuni salmon in my study, trout decoys in the conservatory, at the bottom of my garden a pond filled with tangerine-coloured koi. In the unbearable holiday of lockdown, I spent a lot of time by the pond, sitting in the dappled light, letting the burble of the artificial...

Of​ the many remedies Cole Porter used to kill pain – boys, drink, luxury – the most powerful was song. In October 1937, at the age of 46, out for an early morning canter at the Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, New York, Porter lost his stirrups when his horse spooked at a bush and fell on him, crushing both his legs. He gave his crippled legs nicknames: ‘Josephine’...

Her Haunted Heart: Billie Holiday

John Lahr, 20 December 2018

‘I’ve been told​ that nobody sings the word “hunger” like I do. Or the word “love”,’ Billie Holiday says in her memoir Lady Sings the Blues (written in 1956 with William Dufty and now reissued). Like Kafka’s hunger artist, Holiday let song make a spectacle of her deprivation. ‘I don’t need a friend/My heart is broken, it...

‘I love​ the con, crises are my fuel. It’s the best high … and anaesthetic,’ Clancy Sigal wrote in Black Sunset, a memoir of his Hollywood hustle as an agent in the mid-1950s, representing the interests of Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Joseph Cotten and many lesser lights in the studio firmament. Those of us who knew Clancy –...

With her​ high cheekbones and her flaxen hair, Joni Mitchell emerged in the late 1960s as some kind of hippy Venus with an overbite. She was the personification of the New Woman, liberated by the pill and by her talent to take ownership of her body, her art and her destiny. She was thoughtful, feisty, free-wheeling, ‘open to experience and in touch with the miraculous’, as she...

To spend time​ with Tennessee Williams – for months on end in the case of Elia Kazan, the director who put his plays on the stage in the 1940s and 1950s; 12 years in the case of his...

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Skating Charm: Kenneth Tynan

James Wolcott, 13 December 2001

Kenneth Tynan smoked like a maestro, an aficionado of his own smooth technique. As the stripper sings in Gypsy, ‘Ya gotta have a gimmick,’ and photograph after photograph shows Tynan...

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Here to take Karl Stead to lunch

C.K. Stead, 30 January 1992

I first saw Barry Humphries on stage in the Phillip Street Theatre in Sydney in 1956 or 57, and got to know him in Auckland in the early Sixties after we had both come back from our first visits...

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The Story of Joe

Craig Raine, 4 December 1986

When Joe Orton was in Tangier, he noted down the following exchange: ‘You like to be fucked or fuck?’ he said. ‘I like to fuck, wherever possible,’ I said. He leaned...

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The Fame Game

Alan Brien, 6 September 1984

Steven Aronson’s Hype, a guide to the latest techniques of mass manipulation, may have less impact on British readers than it has had on American. The word is a recent coinage, but since...

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