Archive for June, 2009

Caxton Hall in Westminster and the marriage of Diana Dors to Dennis Hamilton

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
The marriage of Diana Dors to Dennis Hamilton at Caxton Hall, July 1951

A very happy looking Diana Dors with Dennis Hamilton at Caxton Hall, July 1951

Diana Dors, the so-called English Marilyn Monroe, isn’t much mentioned these days and I suspect most people under the age of thirty hardly know who she is. Perhaps it’s not that unsurprising as it’s now over 25 years ago since she died. However for much of her life, in one way or another, the Swindon-born actress whose real name was Diana Fluck, was easily one of Britain’s biggest stars.

She married her first husband, Dennis Hamilton, at 3rd July 1951 at Caxton Hall registry office in Westminster. She was just nineteen and already a film star.

Her parents, not over-enamoured with the proposed union, decided not to come, and Diana, who was still under the, then, legal age of 21, had to forge their signatures on the form that gave permission for their daughter to be married.



Caxton Hall, 10 Caxton Street today

Caxton Hall, 10 Caxton Street today

Caxton Hall, now a redeveloped apartment and office block, wasn’t just a registry office favoured by celebrities, it was also the location for some fascinating political events in its time. The first meeting of the Suffragettes in 1906 was at Caxton Hall and it was often used for their rallies due to its close proximity to the Houses of Parliament and no doubt plenty of railings. Caxton Hall is now a listed building mainly because of its Suffragette associations.

A fearsome looking bunch of Suffragettes at Caxton Hall in 1908

A fearsome looking bunch of Suffragettes at Caxton Hall in 1908

Caxton Hall was also the scene of the assassination of Michael O’Dwyer by Udham Singh on March 13 1940. Tipperary-born O’Dwyer had been the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab at the time of the infamous Amritsar massacre of 1919. Brigadier General O’Dyer, with O’Dwyer’s full connivance, ordered soldiers to open fire on a crowd of 20,000 Indian Independence supporters.

It was said that over 1,500 rounds of ammunition were used in just 15 seconds. The obvious result of which meant hundreds of protesters died in cold blood. Unfortunately for O’Dwyer, one of the victims was Udham Singh’s brother.

The day after the massacre the Brigadier received a telegram from Governor O’Dwyer which said:

“Your action correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.”

I’m not entirely sure the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold” exists in the Sikh language. It probably does, because over twenty years after the massacre, Singh pulled out a Smith and Wesson revolver at a meeting in Caxton Hall and fired six shots, two of which hit the former Punjab Governor, killing him instantly.

Udham Singh leaving Caxton Hall after his arrest, March 14th 1940

Udham Singh leaving Caxton Hall after his arrest, March 14th 1940

At his trial, Singh, not overly contrite, explained to the judge:

“I did it because I had a grudge against him, he deserved it.”

Truthful it may have been, but unsurprisingly his statement didn’t particularly help his cause, and on 31st July 1940 Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison. Maybe sooner than he would have expected, India gained independence seven years later.

As I mentioned earlier, Caxton Hall was the location for many a celebrity wedding during the fifties, sixties and seventies…

19 year old Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Wilding in 1952

Peter Sellers and Anne Howe, 15th September 1951

Peter Sellers and Anne Howe, 15th September 1951

Billy Butlin marrying his late wife's sister in 1959.

Billy Butlin marrying his late wife’s sister in 1959.

Wendy Richards marrying the business man Leonard Black in 1972

Wendy Richards marrying the business man Leonard Black in 1972

Roger Moore and Luisa Mattioli in 1969

Roger Moore after marrying his third wife Luisa Mattioli in 1969

Robin Nedwell and Jenny Handley in 1973.

An extraordinarily and unbelievably lucky Robin Nedwell standing next to an extraordinarily and unbelievably beautiful Jenny Handley in 1973.

Elizabeth Taylor back at Caxton Hall for the marriage of her son Michael Wilding jnr. in 1971

Elizabeth Taylor back at Caxton Hall for the marriage of her son Michael Wilding jnr. in 1971. He seems to be some kind of goth before goths were invented.

Back again. Peter Sellers leaving Caxton Hall with his third wife Miranda Quarry in 1970

Back again. Peter Sellers, looking disgustingly happy with himself, leaving Caxton Hall with his third wife Miranda Quarry in 1970.

Orson Welles marrying his third wife Paula Mori in 1955

Orson Welles marrying his third wife Paola Mori in 1955

The Caxton Hall wedding between Diana Dors and Dennis Hamilton wasn’t the smoothest of affairs. Before the ceremony the couple had posed for pictures outside (Hamilton had tipped off the press) but eventually the registrar tapped Hamilton on the shoulder and asked for a quiet word. The official discretely told him that he had received an anonymous phone call with the information that the marriage application had been forged.

Hamilton, furious, grabbed the registrar by the throat and shouted:

“You’ll marry us, all right, or I’ll knock your fucking teeth down your throat.”

The registrar decided to accidentally forget about the phone call and in the end officiated over the ceremony. Diana hadn’t seen the bullying side of Hamilton before but was now quietly impressed with his, what to her, seemed a rather exciting criminal glamour.


They had met just five weeks previously after Dennis had chatted Diana up when asking her for a light. She was instantly charmed. Although Diana already had a boyfriend, a man of dubious morals named Michael Caborn-Waterfield, Hamilton sent her flowers almost daily. Unfortunately, Michael went to prison for a fortnight after one too many shady business deals and Dennis pounced. He proposed to Diana at the end of June 1951 and they became Mr and Mrs Hamilton just four days later.

Dors was in the middle of working on a film called Godiva Rides Again so there was no honeymoon after the wedding, just a meal in Olivelli’s in Store Street. The guests all paid for their own meals.

Lady Godiva Rides Again 1951

Lady Godiva Rides Again 1951

Diamond City, 1949

Diamond City, 1949

A Monroe-esque picture from 1950. Five years before the famous Marilyn Monroe picture.

A Monroe-esque picture from 1950. Five years before the famous Marilyn Monroe picture.

Diana in Folkestone the same month she married Dennis Hamilton

Diana in Folkestone the same month she married Dennis Hamilton

By the time of her wedding she had already been a contract girl for J Arthur Rank for five years and had made some fifteen films including a role in David Lean’s Oliver Twist.

She was certainly not untalented but had always struggled to find real noteworthy roles and a rather turbulent private life certainly didn’t help her cause. She had been renting a small flat off the Kings Road from 1949 for six guineas a week but was eventually thrown out after complaints from the neighbours for the endless parties, late nights and loud music. The nights must have been very late and the music very loud because she wrote in her first autobiography in 1960:

“I didn’t realise it but the cute flat was slap dab in the middle of one of the worst areas I could have established myself in, for Chelsea in those days, just after the war, was much wilder than it is today.”

In 1950, while seeing Caborn-Waterfield, she also had a traumatic illegal abortion, performed on a kitchen table in Battersea, for ten quid.

The ‘interesting’ private life didn’t disappear now that she was married to Hamilton. Not long after their wedding he introduced her to, what were basically, sex parties.

Dors and Hamilton in Cannes,1956

Dors and Hamilton in Cannes,1956

Just a few months after Diana and Dennis’s wedding, Bob Monkhouse, then a 24 year old up-and-coming script writer, was invited to one of their parties. The lights were very low when he got there with almost the only lumination coming from a 16mm projector showing hard core porn (stag films or blue movies as they were known then) and there was a faint smell of Amyl Nitrate in the air.

Monkhouse was quickly invited to bed by a very attractive and comely young dancer. It was a little too quickly and he soon realised that something wasn’t quite right. After his eyes adjusted to the darkness he saw that there was a false mirror on the ceiling and the other party guests were watching behind it. Furious, he stormed out of the room, with the ‘dancer’ shouting, “I think he’s a homo”. He was met by Dors in the hallway who said:

“Some people absolutely adore putting on a show, they come back to my parties just to do that.”

Bob Monkhouse in 1954

Bob Monkhouse in 1954

The following year Monkhouse and Dors met again at a Sunday evening radio show and they had a brief affair. Diana lied that her husband was in New York to lower Monkhouse’s guard. Eventually Hamilton found out about the affair and threatened Monkhouse with a cut-throat razor screaming at his face:

“I’m going to slit your eyeballs!”

Monkhouse only escaped by kneeing Hamilton in the groin and running away, but he once wrote that he had spent the next six years continually looking over his shoulder. He only had to worry for six years because in 1959 Dennis Hamilton suddenly died. His death was initially blamed on a heart attack but the day after the funeral Dors found out that he had died of tertiary syphilis. It never came to light, despite many autobiographies, whether she had contracted the disease herself.

Diana Dors made one acclaimed film in the fifties called Yield To The Night – a movie that was loosely based on the Ruth Ellis story but it’s not entirely unfair to say that she starred in some of the worst films ever made. After an unsuccessful foray to Hollywood (a public affair with Rod Steiger and and an incident where Hamilton beat up a photographer unconcious didn’t help), her film career, despite the very early promise, never really took off.

Dors would later complain that while Marilyn Monroe was making How To Marry A Millionaire in Hollywood, she was up in Manchester making It’s A Grand Life with the alcoholic northern comedian Frank Randle. Diana Dors was always a household name but it was her television guest appearances and roles in saucy sex comedies such as The Adventures of a Taxi Driver and Swedish Wildcats, that eventually kept her in the public eye.

She became the diet guru on GMTV in 1983 – where apparently she would weigh herself with all her heavy gold jewellery so it would look like she lost weight the following week. She died of protracted cancer the following year in 1984.

A year after Dors’ and Hamilton’s wedding back in 1952, the jazz drummer Louie Bellson (Duke Ellington called him the greatest ever) married the black Broadway star Pearl Bailey at Caxton Hall after a four day whirlwind romance. They came to London convinced that the wedding would attract less racial bias than back in New York, especially as Bellson’s father had said publicly that he “would have nothing to do with them if they go through with this”. The couple remained married until Bailey’s death in 1990.

By all accounts the wedding was a joyous affair, and if you listen to Bellson’s Caxton Hall Swing from his Skin Deep album released in 1954, I think you can tell.

Louie Bellson and Pearl Bailey outside Caxton Hall, November 1952.

Louie Bellson and Pearl Bailey outside Caxton Hall, November 1952.


Louie Bellson – Caxton Hall Swing

Diana Dors – Roller Coaster Blues


Buy Louie Bellson’s Skin Deep here

Buy Diana Dors’ Swingin’ Dors here

Buy the DVD of Yield To The Night here

Buy the DVD of It’s A Grand Life here


The London Spy: A Discreet Guide to the City’s Pleasures

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


In 1966 Anthony Blond published a modern London guidebook edited by Hunter Davies * called The London Spy: A Discreet Guide To The City’s Pleasures. An updated version was published in 1971 but despite trying, The London Spy just couldn’t shake off its very ‘swinging sixties’ feel. As a guide to the capital city the book has dated hugely.

The chapters about meeting the opposite sex are pretty amusing reading today but also a little bit frightening and seedy. They do, however, give us a chance to see the appalling prevailing sexism of the time, and it’s worth noting that the chapter with tips for men is over sixteen pages long, whereas the chapter advising women (on how to meet a man in the capital), lasts just over one page. The main advice from which, essentially, is to remind women to avoid pubs if they are alone, saying;

“You may be thirsty, but nobody, nobody will believe you.”

The last advice it gives to women is:

“Finally, don’t lie down in one of the parks in your bikini. Men will swarm like flies at the merest glimpse of your delicious body.”

The author even suggests that he has known men with children to send a child over to a sunbathing woman and get them to say:

“Daddy says, he is sure you would like an ice-cream.”

Office girls in St James' Park in the early seventies

Office girls in St James' Park in the early seventies

I have now, believe it or not, covered the entire chapter for female readers, so I will now offer some excerpts from the chapter aimed at men, which is entitled;

Women for Men, 1: Pulling

So here is a chapter of practical counsel on how and where to make the acquaintance of willing young ladies – a useful art henceforth referred to as ‘pulling birds’.


The traditional place to get your eye in is down the King’s Road. Arm yourself with a pint or a Pimms or a Pernod and position yourself on the pavement outside the Chelsea Potter or the Markham Arms.

You know what you’re there for; they know what you’re there for. King’s Road birds are used to being accosted every 30 yards they walk. So, if a tasty one sails past you and she is still alone, you’re backing yourself to succeed where up to 15 other fellows have already failed that morning.

Boutique shopping on the Kings Road

Boutique shopping on the Kings Road



Not that all King’s Road birds are groupies (girls passed around like a joint between members of a pop group). But they are wary. So have a few shapes by all means to get your chat flowing. But don’t be discouraged if you draw only blanks.

Now let the pulling proper begin, and, if you are still intent on sniffing a swinger catch a cab up to Kensington High Street. Here’s where the dolly birds shop.

In the old Biba’s, a gentleman, feigning short-sightedness or absent-mindedness or both, could wander downstairs and through a plush curtain. Bang into a huge roomful of up to 100 darlings, most only in tights and chattering like monkeys, as they tried on the gear. Regretfully the writer cannot personally endorse the new Biba in this respect, as he is barred.

A woman changing at Biba, note the two look outs watching for the author of The London Spy

A woman changing at Biba, note the two look outs watching out for the author of The London Spy

How to pull in Kensington High Street? There are as many well tried appraoches as there are for the act itself. Of course purely in the interests of the standards of the game you will do well to try to be slightly original. Invitations for a coffee ten to be reather dreary. ‘Haven’t I seen you dancing on Top of the Pops?’ is a stopper. ‘Can I do your washing for three weeks?’ had its vogue a while back.

The only grotty cliche which never dates (feminine vanity being what it is) is the ‘I’m a photographer…’ ploy. And a golden rule is. if she’s carrying anything (a hold-all, a Biba’s bag), take it from her firmly and continue walking in the direction she wwas heading. So she has got to tag along and listen to you unless she’s willing to resort to an actual scene, which would be uncool.

Don’t just snatch in the streets. Put yourself about in the shops, where the shopbirds have to stand around all day and get bored. They welcome a bit of action. So if you see one even vaguely showing out, interview her on the merchandise and follow up with your pitch. Specially recommended stores include Fenwicks, Bond Street, Simpsons, Piccadilly and Peter Robinsons, the Strand (remember a bird in the Strand is worth two in Shepherd’s Bush).

Carnaby Street 1967

Carnaby Street 1967




As for the offices, be sure to visit J. Walter Thomson in Berkeley Square. This American-owned advertising agency is famous for recruiting spectacular birds, presumably to keep the clients calling. March purposefully into the main entrance and wander around with a brief case. Here’s where you will find the account executives’ secretaries. They are awfully keen if they think you are important.

A chair with matching secretary. How on earth did that go out of fashion?

A chair with matching secretary. How on earth did that go out of fashion?

If you have a fancy for Miss J. Hunter-Dunn and have the necessary gear and talents, get up to Campden Hill Tennis Club, Aubrey Walk, W8. Before 18.00 hrs. there are loads of birds and very few fellows. And they are friendly if they think you are the right sort – particularly the tasty mums. Or if the sun is shining proceed to the Serpentine Lido. Again its great for mums.

Cooling down in the Serpentine, 1969

Cooling down in the Serpentine, 1969


Once a chap has mastered the arts of pulling by day, when a certain amount of front is needed even in swinging London, he’ll be able to pull at night with his eyes shut.

First there are the DISCOTHEQUES. You’ll find them all over the West End and in clusters in Earls Court, Swiss Cottage, South Kensington and Streatham. Young Ladies go to all these places with their mates in twos and threes and fours and fives and will deem it an unsatisfactory evening if they leave with their mates.

Where you will very definitely can pull are less way out scenes like Lulu’s, Young Street, W8 (nurses and secretaries), Die Fledermaus, Carlisle Street, W1 (Au Pairs), La Cage d’Or, Broadhurst Gardens, NW3 (Golders Green teenyboppers) and the 007 Room at the Hilton (hairdressers).



" really are on my list of things to do tonight."

"Hello! remind of an aspirin...I'd like to take you every four or five hours."

"I must say, you remind me of an aspirin...I'd like to take you every four or five hours."

But before the discos were the DANCE HALLS. Great British institutions where males and females go roughly in even numbers. Which are full every night of the week. In this respect we British don’t appreciate how lucky we have been – and still are.

The greatest of them all, where every puller worthy of the name has been and seen and conquered – the Hammersmith Palais. that brilliant pasticcio of neon, tinsel and plush. Evocative scents of hair lacquer, gin and Bodymist. And close on teh Palais’ patent leather heels – the Lyceum in the Strand. The Royal, Tottenham High Road, N17. The Orchid Ballroom, Purley. For the veteran puller, the magic of these names. And how bitter sweet the names gone by. The Locarno Ballroom, Streatham. The Atheneum, Muswell Hill.

The overseas puller in particular is exhorted to visit a real British dance hall. You’ll see darling birds in plenty (be careful about schoolgirls through – in their dolly rocker dresses it’s very hard to tell).

Hammersmith Palais in 1971

Hammersmith Palais in 1971

Pulling by night, part two, concerns the PUBS. Much cheaper than the discotheques, obviously, and even cheaper than the dance halls. Because all you need to work yourself into a striking position is a half pint of bitter in your hand.

Pubs are particularly good places for pulling middle class birds. Probably because these particular young ladies come from a back ground of scrimping and scaping on pleasures and comforts to pay for school fees. So they are perfectly happy to tag along on a date that costs the price of a few half pints of bitter. Yes, they’ll even drink beer too!

Notable pubs offering the above facilities include the Windsor Castle, Camden Hill Road, W.8, The Sun in Barnes, The Dove in Hammersmith, the Harrington Hotel, Gloucester Road, SW7. Pullers interested in the arty, purple-toenailed variety are advised to visit Henekeys (now the Earl of Lonsdale), Westbourne Grove, W11 and Finch’s and Queen’s Elm both in Fulham Road, SW10.


"Does yours keep offering you a half pint of Watney's Red Barrel? "


Where else in the world could a sportsman sniff out a darling from Dallas, a teenybopper from Tokyo, a raver from Rotterdam and a wobbly one from Woggawogga – all in one afternoon?

The interesting feature of recent years has been the upwards progress of North Americans to a position comfortably above the line. It appears that the old ‘hands-off’ line, ‘American boys like their goods freshly wrapped’ is no longer a totally inhibiting consideration. Nevertheless international golden rules should be borne in mind irrespective of race or creed. In particular remember,

‘you’ll never score with a schoolteacher, but always with a nurse.’

French tourist at Trafalgar Square

French tourist at Trafalgar Square


Swedish tourist at Biba in Kensington. Patently unaware that she's only encouraging the London Spy author.

Swedish tourist at Biba in Kensington. She's patently unaware that she's only encouraging the London Spy author. Barred or not.

"Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I wish I was a teacher."

"Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I wish I was a teacher."

There used to be a specialised scene for sniffing out Aussies – the Overseas Visitors’ Club in the Earls Court Road. Regretfully this now appears defunct. But you’ll find them quite easily in pubs in the Earls Court and Notting Hill areas. Look out for strapping big birds swilling pints and shaking with laughter. These are Aussies. Many of them are highly tasty. In the Surrey, Surrey Street, WC2…you’ll find not only birds but Fosters Lager too. What more could any man ask?

The Overseas Visitors Club in Earls Court

The Overseas Visitors Club in Earls Court

Au Pairs are pulled in discotheques designed for the purpose, which advertise ‘continental ambiance’ or sometimes even ‘stim-mung’. Above all remember the golden au pair rule – find where she’s living first. Many’s the unwary puller who’s found himself driving through the night to locations verging on the outlandish. Forest Hill. Watford and Camberley to name but three.

Well, there it is, puller. You’ve been reading long enough. Now stiffen your sinews, lick your lips, adjust your dress and go out and get ‘em.

The London Spy - A Discreet Guide To The City's Pleasures

The London Spy - A Discreet Guide To The City's Pleasures

If you need to brush on your pulling techniques or perhaps need to learn how to protect yourself, second hand copies of THE LONDON SPY can be bought here

Hunter Davies the original editor of The London Spy went on to write one of the greatest books ever. You can buy The Glory Game here.

The O’Kaysions – Girl Watcher

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – I Can’t Take My Eyes Of You

Frank Sinatra – What A Funny Girl You Used To Be

Moments and Whatnauts – Girls