EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Royal writer puts curse on Michael Grandage’s ‘Backstairs Billy’ play ahead of its opening night
When Backstairs Billy opens in the West End on Tuesday evening, its celebrated director, Michael Grandage, claims the play will ‘look at a pivotal moment in the 50-year relationship between the Queen Mother and her loyal servant William ‘Billy’ Tallon.’
I hear that the real drama is, however, off stage.
Tallon’s biographer, Tom Quinn, is furious about the comedy at the Duke of York’s theatre, which stars Dame Penelope Wilton as King Charles’s grandmother and Luke Evans as her Coventry-born manservant.
Quinn is considering taking legal action over the production, which, he claims, uses information from his 2015 book without attribution or payment to him.
‘I’m convinced there’s no way they could have produced it [the play] without the book, as I’m the only one who has written a detailed book about his life,’ Quinn tells me. ‘To not consult it at all doesn’t add up.
Backstairs Billy opens on Tuesday in the West End, but Richard Eden hears that the real drama if off stage
Backstairs Billy focusses on the relationship between the Queen Mother and William ‘Billy’ Tallon
William ‘Billy’ Tallon, seen here with the Queen Mother, was a loyal servant but his biographer claims that the West End play uses information from his 2015 book without attribution
‘They [the producers] are a bit silly because they could have just rung me up and said, ‘We had a look at it, do you want to be a consultant – can we have a chat about it?’ But to deny there’s any connection makes me cross. That’s why I refuse to go and see it.’
Quinn confirms that his publishers wrote to the producers. ‘They [the producers] said basically, ‘It’s a work of the imagination’. They would say that, wouldn’t they?
‘To pretend there’s no connection, on what I spent years of researching, it’s just very naughty. Without me – the play is rubbish. I knew William Tallon – I messaged him several times when I was writing books on other aspects of the Royal Family. Some of the information is only what he’s given to me or to one of his oldest friends, who I interviewed at great length in my book.’
He adds of the comedy, which is set in Clarence House in 1979: ‘I’m going to put a curse on the play, and it will shut in two weeks.’
A spokesman for the producers declines to comment.
Wedding list (of sorts) for Clare Balding
Charles Darwin once made a list of pros and cons for marriage, with the pros including, ‘Constant companion (& friend in old age)… better than a dog anyhow.’ In the cons was ‘less money for books’ and ‘terrible loss of time’.
Clare Balding’s wife, broadcaster Alice Arnold, are a methodical match
Clare Balding’s wife, broadcaster Alice Arnold, seems to have been equally methodical. BBC star Balding says Arnold had a list of reasons not to get involved with her pinned to her fridge. ‘It was quite harsh, and it wasn’t really fair,’ Balding says.
‘I only had one question for her, ‘Can we get a dog?’ That was my big request and, luckily, she said yes.
Jack’s girl Roxy shows who’s mama
Six weeks after giving birth to her first child with comedian Jack Whitehall, Roxy Horner is already back at work.
The Essex-born model, 32, was keen to announce her status as mother of Elsie in a T-shirt saying ‘Mama’ at the launch of Get A Drip health clinic in the King’s Road, Chelsea.
Six weeks after giving birth to her first child with comedian Jack Whitehall, Roxy Horner is already back at work
Jack Whitehall and Horner welcomed their first child in September
Marlborough College-educated Whitehall, 35, recently joked on stage about his own snooty father, ex-theatrical agent Michael, explaining he is ‘the biggest snob in the world and four weeks ago he was the grandfather to a f*****g Essex girl’.
New gambit as Simpson’s sets up for a comeback
Here’s some appetising news for lovers of traditional British fare: Simpson’s in the Strand, which fed Sir Winston Churchill and was a favourite of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is to be revived by Jeremy King, who co-created The Wolseley and put The Ivy and Le Caprice back on the map. Declaring it will be a ‘big theatre brasserie’, King says it ‘will very much hark on its tradition’.
It was founded as a chess club in 1828 and carvers originally sliced meat at the tables so as not to disturb anyone playing the game. King adds: ‘I want people to walk in there and say, ‘Oh, good, they haven’t changed it’ , although it will have changed.’ It stayed open in both world wars, but shut during the Covid lockdowns.
Ellie’s outfit is a little gem
As a self-confessed ‘nature nerd’, Ellie Goulding appears determined to emphasise her eco-credentials through her fashion choices.
Ellie Golding sported a £650 Leaf Tie-Up Strap top from Acne Studios while in Milan
For her performance at the Fabrique Club in Milan, the Love Me Like You Do singer, 36, appeared on stage wearing what looked like a big piece of lettuce on her chest.
The bizarre design piece was a £650 Leaf Tie-Up Strap top from Acne Studios… it needs a little dressing.
Publishing grandee Gail Rebuck shocked friends yesterday by revealing that the grave of her late husband, New Labour strategist Philip Gould, had been desecrated at Highgate Cemetery in North London.
Philip Gould was an influential player within the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair
Baroness Rebuck gave news of the vandalism on the 12th anniversary of his death from cancer at the age of 61. She did not give more details.
A source at the cemetery, where others laid to rest include Karl Marx, pop superstar George Michael and writer Douglas Adams, confirms the incident. Lord Gould was one of the chief masterminds behind Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide victory.
Carly Simon reveals the tapes were rolling when Sir Mick Jagger snuck into a Soho recording studio in 1972 and joined her on an impromptu version of Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
‘We had a big bottle of Courvoisier on the top of the piano,’ recalls the U.S. singer, who has rediscovered the tapes. ‘I think it would be great played over a scene in The Crown,’ she suggests.
Simon’s big hit You’re So Vain (with Mick on background vocals) would work for many of the royal drama’s characters.
James Blunt is a small man, but that didn’t stop him from winning over Sofia Wellesley
Soldier turned pop singer James Blunt, who’s 5ft 7in, admits: ‘As a smaller man, I always struggled to try to find ways of attracting the opposite sex, so I had to try a number of different things. I’ve got a socking great motorbike to try to be as manly as I can on that. I’ve got a uniform from joining the Army, and then I’ve taken up the guitar and become a singer.’ Looks like his wife of nine years, aristocrat Sofia Wellesley, was suitably impressed.
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