AN EVENING WITH MR. LEE
by Colin Bushby
An unforgettable evening
started with an unforgettable morning. We decided to travel down to London
by coach because it was too expensive to go by train, so you can imagine the
great relief when we heard the train we could have boarded, crashed!! There's
been unconfirmed reports of many deaths and injuries. If we did not get on that
train, all the remaining schedules were canceled in and out of London to
Newcastle for the next few days, so we could not have made it, this is what we
thought all the way down to London.
Right, skip the next few hours and cut to the Barbican. We had arranged to meet Juan, Jacob, Joakim and Oscar (Juan's brother) at about 6pm somewhere inside. We arrived about 5.30pm to have a look around and kept an eye out for the others, baring in mind I did not know what any of them looked like apart from one picture of Jacob with an axe in one hand and a chain saw in the other, make of it what you will but I had that image imprinted in my brain all day. So we spent 30mins looking around for this group of people lead by a "mad axe man" who later become a great friend.
"There he is" shouted my son, "who" I replied, "Jacob" I turned round and there he was just like the photo minus the weapons, to my relief. I dashed straight over to him and introduced myself and family. "Jacob, I'm Colin, this is my wife Janice, my son Christopher and daughter Nicola....pleased to meet you" to which he replied " I would never have recognized you, in your photo on your web site you had a mustache and long hair" I was clean shaven and almost bald! I turned to the next man and said "Juan?" "No Oscar, Juan's brother" came the reply. "Pleased to meet you" I turned to the next "Juan?" "No, Joakim, I'm the one you were going to get the book signed for" came the reply. At this point may I add that Joakim`s English was better than mine, he sounded as though he was educated at Oxford! I turned to the next and said "you MUST be Juan", and in that all too familiar voice I've heard through Pal talk he said "yes, I'm pleased to meet you at last Colin" The way he pronounces Colin is great, its a sort of Choliiin, I love it, although my pronunciation of Juan and Joakim was diabolic I think, but they didn't seem to mind. Then I noticed a young lad who had been wandering around looking lost like us and realized it was Gregg, so I introduced myself.
So we chatted about the days events and how excited and nervous we all were, smoking loads of cigarettes as though there was no tomorrow, well I was. Juan said I had the biggest grin he had ever seen on anybody, I said nearly as big as yours. Then we headed for the screening room.
You could cut the air with a knife, the atmosphere was so tense, we were only in the foyer, that's when we saw all the books lined up like soldiers all waiting to go into battle, and unknown to me there were not 1 but 2 books on the great man himself Mr. Cushing. I felt sick to the bone knowing that I could only afford the one book on Mr. Lee. And chatting with the lady selling the books, I found out that the author of one of the books was here for the screening!! I could not even pay with my credit card. Thoughts popped into my head on how I could make a few pounds, selling my new coat, auctioning off my kids, you know, little things like that. So I came to accept the fact I could not get one.
Then unknown to me Miss Lee, Christina, had turned up with her father, and Juan promptly introduced her to me "this is Colin" to which she replied " Ah Colin, I'm pleased to meet you at last, that drawing you give my father was wonderful, he really appreciated it", I think those were the words, I was very nervous at that point, and mumbled something back which was supposed to sound like " I'm pleased to meet you Christina, I'm glad Mr. Lee liked it" but came out "please....Christina.....he like it" I was so very nervous, my stomach was rumbling and my hands were shaking, and I hadn't seen Mr. Lee yet!. Christina was great, she kept asking if we were all right, if we were been looked after, very friendly. Then we started on the group photos each taking photos of each other and Juan taking a group photo for the fan club. Then to the screening room.
This is where we split up, Juan, Oscar, Joakim
and Gregg went to their seats and Jacob with us to ours, because I booked a seat
for Jacob a few weeks earlier as a favor for him, he had no choice but to sit
with us. Front row seats no less! 2 seats were already on the stage where Mr.
Lee and the author Mr. Rigby were to sit later. To get some idea how close we
were to the seats, imagine your computer screen from you, multiply it about 5
times and you have it. It was close. All I kept thinking was Mr. Lee is going to
sit there right in front of me...right there! Jacob and I were chatting
intensely, comparing each others nervousness. By this time I had completely
forgot all knowledge of my surroundings, even my family, who I think I never
spoke to again until it was over. Then a man came to the stage and announced the
film was about to start.
He also said in the upcoming weeks there will be other screen talks on Val Guest, Milos Forman and some Swedish Director I personally have never heard of but recognized his films when they were read out. The lights went down. We also had a treat...about 5 minutes of The Devil Rides Out, now I cant remember if this was before or after the man came on stage. Then a small interval in which Jacob shouted "there's Vicky" another fan club member, she came over and had a chat. Then the lights went down for a second time and the film started.
I won't talk about the film because it is well documented and there's loads of reviews out there, I will only say that it was a very convincing and genuinely moving piece of acting by Mr. Lee, who later in the interview said he was not acting when he cried in the final scene!! Neither was I. The film finished with a resounding applause from the audience. The lights went down again, and another treat! A scene from The Man With The Golden Gun...and finished on the lines "He has just resigned!!" Then a voice over said "Will you give a warm welcome to.....Christopher Lee and Johnathon Rigby..." A few of us stood up and clapped, looking around for Mr. Lee.....then he came into view.
This was it, this is what I have waited for about 25 years, actually seeing my all-time "hero" the one I named my son after, the one I had drawn so many times, the one I have seen on my TV all those years. Mr. Lee walked straight passed us, still clapping as though our life depended on it, we stood there for some time until he give a gentle sign for us to sit, I wanted to be the last one to sit and clap for some strange reason, so from behind I must have looked like a Jack-in -the-box going up and down waiting for other people to sit, I think my son actually was the last one to clap, because we have played that game for years, no matter where we are we try to out do each other for a laugh and he knew what I was up to, the little sod! So we sat down. And what followed was the best and funniest interview I have ever seen. He first talked about some bad press he is having at the moment, then onto Jinnah, some very funny anecdotes, poor Mr. Rigby could not get a word in, once Mr. Lee started he would not stop, keep going off track onto other stories and apologizing for talking too much.
I could have stayed there all night listening to him, he was great. Words fail me to describe his presence. A true gentleman. Then it was over....1 whole hour was gone in what seemed like 15 minutes. Mr. Lee rose out of his chair to a raptous applause that lasted until he was out of the room. Then to the book signing
This was the only pitfall about having the best seats in the house.....last to leave.....back of the queue. I sat down away from the crowds to compose myself with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, waiting for the queue to go down, it was moving very fast and rapidly emptying. I joined the queue when there was about 20 left. Juan and Christina were next to Mr. Lee taking photos of us who were in the fan club. My daughter was queuing with me, all the time saying "are you going to tell him who you are, the one who gave him the drawing of Peter Cushing" yeah, right, I do not know if I can manage a simple "hello", by this time I was a bag a nerves and kept saying to myself, calm down or you'll make a fool of yourself.. My daughter kept saying over and over again "go on say who you are, and give him the new drawings " (I composed some miniature drawings of Mr. Lee his family and some of his friends and put them in a frame with little windows in it, hoping to present it to him) I said "I cannot ,I'm too nervous." We are about 5 behind now and had a great view of him. My daughter said "if you don't tell him, I will" "don't be stupid" I replied, to which she went off in the huff!. I gave her the drawings and said hold onto them, I'll give them to Juan or Christina later on to give Mr. Lee it. Then it was my turn.
A lady took the book off me, opened it to the
appropriate page and passed it on to Mr. Rigby. "Name" he said, now I
had to think about this one almost to the point of him asking again
"Colin" I replied, and he signed it and passed it onto Mr. Lee. Gulp!!
"Hello" he said "hello, I'm pleased to meet you Sir" and
offered my hand to which he obligedly shook to my relief, flashing of cameras
going off all around me, I turned to my wife and the rest of the group and
smiled , which must have turned into the biggest grin since the Cheshire Cat. My
nervousness seemed to have vanished, it was over, I did not make a fool of
myself. I felt on top of the world. I went over to my wife and chatted, then
Juan and Christina came over to talk and asked why I had not given Mr. Lee the
drawing, at that point taking it out and looking at my drawings saying it was
beautiful and that I should present it to him. My wife said that I was too
nervous to which I held my hand out for the drawing but had to withdraw because
it was shaking so much. Then, to my horror I was tapped on the shoulder, turned
round and came face to face with the film crew who had been making a documentary
about Mr. Lee. "Would you like to be interviewed about the film?" A
man said, "no thanks" I replied, "would you?" Looking at my
daughter, giggling she replied "no" then back to me " are you
sure? I see you have been talking to Christina" "yes" I replied
to the talking to Christina bit, then the lights went on, camera rolled, a big
hairy gofer, the boom I think it is referred to was thrust under my chin.
"what did you think of the film?" Was the first question. Now bearing
in mind this was the first time in front of any film crew of any description,
what followed was utter gibberish.
"I thought the film was excellent" phew, that wasn't so bad. "Some people say it is his finest film he has ever done, do you agree?" A resounding "yes" came my reply. "Why?" He said. I'm not sure why I said what I said next, but I replied "er..um..well its the best thing I have seen him in, but I haven't seen many of his films......not many at all......you're asking the wrong one" hoping he would GO AWAY. He didn't. I could feel everybody looking at me, the center of attraction, even Mr. Lee, but I hope to God he wasn't. "Before this film, do you think Mr. Lee was typecast" "on the contrary, he's had such diverse characters throughout his career" at last something that sounded half intelligent. " what's your favorite movie, how many have you seen?", "The Wicker Man is my favorite, I have seen....." Then I give him a list which must have made him think ...wait a minute..didn`t he just say he hasn't seen many of his films. Then it was over. He said " would you please tell me your name and phone number, so if we want to use this interview I can get in touch with you and ask your permission to use it. So I told him. Lights out. Good-bye and thank you.
Off they went to interview Mr. Rigby I think, who might have been slightly better than me. This is when I was introduced to Rita from Ireland, another fan club member, She was going to spend some more money on cd`s, she said she could not do enough shopping and went.
"Colin, come over here a minute" I heard, not sure who it was. There standing next to Mr. Lee was Juan. "Come here Colin, give this to Mr. Lee" he was holding my drawings out. I very nervously went over to Mr. Lee, looked him straight in the eyes, he smiled, I smiled, Juan said "Colin has got something for you" as he handed my drawing to Mr. Lee. Juan took it back off him and said "you give him it" I took it off him and kept hold of it as though it was my last possession on earth, " you can give me it now" Mr. Lee said, I handed it over to him. He said "thank you, I will open it later" Juan explained I was the one who gave him the Peter Cushing drawing for Christmas, to which he replied "ah yes, Colin, that was a wonderful drawing" something along those words, I cant remember exactly because I was so nervous. Now my reply to Mr. Lee will go down in history as the most indistinguishable piece of garbage ever uttered by a human been since the Neanderthal tried to communicate to one another, it was a cross between Martian and the mating call of a grizzly bear....in reverse. All I wanted to say was thank you, it was my pleasure...so simple now writing about it. But Mr. Lee kindly held out his hand and I shook it so firm and for so long as though I was trying to tell him telepathically what I really wanted to say. Then my wife said to Mr. Lee "it's a few more drawings' to which he replied "you'll have to speak up, I'm a bit deaf" lunging forward towards her, she recoiled, and repeated what she had just said. I don't know what she was thinking when Mr. Lee went towards her, but she looked a bit worried. That's it really It was all over. Book signed and not one but two handshakes. What a night! I will never forget it for as long as I live. I have missed an awful lot out, like spending 1 hour looking for the hotel in the pouring rain and getting lost after the event , walking the streets of London at midnight looking for something to eat, a couple of idiots at the screening, one who insisted they should be playing a Hammer film and telling everyone, even Christine, and the other who insisted Mr. Lee was born on the 13th over and over again in the interview.
Colin Bushby 2/3/2001