AUTHOR-TRAVELLER COMES TO LIVE NEAR EVESHAM
Did you know that American audiences are extremely interested in descriptions and pictures of the Vale of Evesham; that the most popular star in America today is a ventriloquist’s doll; and that the recent floods in Hollywood were of a magnitude that was never realised from the reports that reached this country?
These are a few of the interesting things that were imparted to me by Mr V C Buckley, author and traveller, who has come to take up residence at a picturesque little thatched cottage in the village of Wickhamford near Evesham.
Mr Buckley claims amongst his various accomplishments to have been round the world five times, visiting practically every country, become personally acquainted with numerous well-known Hollywood stars, and to have written three widely-read books.
He received me in his cosy little sitting-room one evening this week and, after the conventional conversational opening, I asked him to talk on various aspects of his colourful career while I took notes and put in occasional questions.
I think it must have been the very intriguing photographs which he showed me, in which he was portrayed in the company of various famous film stars, that led me to urge him to talk about Hollywood first, and I only regret that space prevents me from writing everything he told me about that city of fantasy.
FILM CITY THREATENED
He started on the subject of the recent great floods which seriously threatened the whole of the film city and which did more damage than was ever realised from the reports that reached this country.
Three days of continuous torrential rain led to the flooding of the three rivers which flow down from the mountains to the Pacific, and before long a terrific torrent was formed which swept everything in its path.
Fortunately the flood did not sweep through the centre of Hollywood and Los Angeles, but devastated the outlying areas. Houses, trees, cars, etc were carried away bodily and many people lost their lives. A number of film stars lost valuable property, expensive beach residences being destroyed. The greatest loss was sustained by Ralph Bellamy, a personal friend of Mr Buckley, whose bungalow, complete with all its furnishings, including many irreplaceable treasures, was swept down the mountainside and completely wrecked.
There were fears for the big dam at the back of Hollywood, Mr Buckley continued, for, if it had burst, it would probably have wiped out the whole film colony, but fortunately it withstood the strain.
At the time of the disaster, Mr Buckley was marooned in Santa Barbara, all communication with Los Angeles being cut off. He was due to give a lecture in Los Angeles and, of course, it had to be cancelled, much to his hostess’ disappointment. When he eventually got through, in one of a convoy of 18 relief buses, he was met by the most extraordinary scenes of devastation, acres of debris being seen, coated with thick layers of mud.
NIGHT LIFE OF HOLLYWOOD
I then questioned Mr Buckley about the reputed “wild night-life” of Hollywood, and he gave me a very intriguing account of his visit to the Jockey Club ball, one of the most fashionable social events of the year, held at the Ambassadors’ Hotel, Los Angeles, to celebrate the end of the season at the Santa Anita race track. Admission was by invitation only, but the guests each had to pay 25 dollars. Over 600 people were waiting in and around the entrance hall of the hotel to see the famous stars, and many of them stayed there throughout the night. Dancing took place to three bands, and a magnificent floor show was given in which the following stars took part: Bing Crosby, Connie Boswell (who, by the way, is a cripple), the Yacht Club Boys, Ben Blue and “Charlie McCarthy”.
Mr Buckley surprised me at this point with the information that the most popular star in America today is “Charlie McCarthy”, who is a mere ventriloquist’s dummy, operated by a gentleman called Edgar Bergen.
“His popularity has swept through the country like Mae West’s,” he remarked.
“My impression of Hollywood,” I said, “is that it is a city in which immensely rich people walk side by side with others who are almost starving. Is that true?”
“You are right about the wealthy folk,” Mr Buckley replied, “but no one can starve there. I talked to several down-and-outs and they told me that when they are down to rock-bottom they live on oranges which grow everywhere and sleep on the grass in the public parks.”
He went on to tell me many more side-lights of the film city and its inhabitants, but they are too numerous to be printed here and many readers will probably be more interested in other angles of Mr Buckley’s career.
BOOK SELECTED BY QUEEN MARY
His five trips round the world have been partly for pleasure and partly with a view to gathering material for his books, of which the titles of those published at present are: “With a Passport and Two Eyes”, “Tickets, Please!” and “Stop and Go”. In the last mentioned he deals in details with Wickhamford Manor and its history, and he had the honour of having this work chosen by Queen Mary as one of a list to be autographed by herself and sent to Queen Mary’s Nurses’ Home.
At the present time, Mr Buckley is writing a book on Scandinavia, whence he recently returned by air. He left Oslo at 9 am about a fortnight ago and, passing over Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Holland, arrived in London at 6 pm the same day. Thence he motored to Wickhamford, arriving at 10 pm. He had thus been through six countries between breakfast and tea-time!
Mr Buckley has carried out two lecture tours in America, the second being completed in April this year. His subjects included, “The Ancestral Homes and Gardens of England”, in which he featured the Vale of Evesham. His audiences always showed great appreciation of his description of the Vale and of the scenes shown on the beautiful lantern slides he possesses. They were extremely interested in Wickhamford and became very excited about Wickhamford Church, which contains the tomb of Penelope Washington.
AN INTERESTING OFFER
At this point Mr Buckley made an offer which will doubtless be of interest to many people in the locality. He states that he is willing to give one of his lectures to any local organisation or social club which may be interested, and asks for applications to be sent to him.
Well, we talked on into the night and I took copious notes of what he said. But I have been told not to “overdo” it, so I must wind up this article as best I can.
He told me of Russia and showed me a book from the Tsar’s library which he recently purchased; we discussed the international situation and he gave me his impressions gained from first-hand information; and we conversed on the customs and artistry of many and far-flung territories.
When I eventually came away I was charged with a feeling of envy intermingled with one of admiration for one who has made the most of the facilities he has had for seeing the world. And as one whose little world is normally bounded by the Cotswold Hills I look forward to meeting this interesting man again and being carried away over the seas to other lands on the flow of his conversation.