Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013
Compiled By Dana Cook
A Memory for Faces, 1932
SOUTH CAROlINA— Winston Churchill and his daughter Diana came for a brief visit. They had been vacationing in The Bahamas, where Diana picked up one of the earlier Calypso songs which she chanted. The weather at Hobcaw [Baruch’s estate in Georgetown, S.C.] was bad. I invited in a number of Georgetown’s leading citizens and other noted South Carolinians. Several times in later years Mr. Churchill would ask me about some of the people he had met. He had forgotten their names but would ask, “What has happened to that little storekeeper with the bald head?”
—BERNARD BARUCH, FINANCIER
MY OWN STORY (1957)
Opportunity Lost, 1936
LONDON— I had a rather droll experience with Churchill…It happened a day or two after I had flown from Vienna to london to give an uncensored report on the Anschluss [annexation of Austria by Nazi germany]. CBS, for which I was a correspondent in europe, asked me to get Churchill to broadcast on the crisis, but it would pay him only fifty dollars, which was a ridiculous sum. From the way he talked I concluded he would accept five hundred dollars. But William Paley (see this column, the head of CBS, FH 147) was adamant. He would not pay more than fifty, and we lost the broadcast.
—William L. Shirer, Writer and Historian, A Native’s Return (1990)
Schoolboy Naughtiness, 1938
CHARTWELL— I spent a good deal of time in Mr Churchill’s painting room [Chartwell studio]. His enormous appetite for life included an appetite for visual sensations and he put down what excited him with more gusto (in the modern sense of the word) than discipline….He would emerge about lunch time and waddle down to his heated swimming pool, of which he was very proud. He had been up till two or three in the morning dictating one of his histories. Once or twice I had a room over his study and, waking in the night, heard the peculiar rise and fall of his voice droning as he dictated to some wretched secretary. When he writes in the Gibbonian manner I do not admire his prose, but his conversation was not at all like that because, however high the balloon of his historical imagination might rise, he was always ready to puncture it. Next to his warmth of heart, this vein of schoolboy naughtiness was the most endearing thing about him.
—Kenneth Clark, Art Historian, Another Part of the Wood (1974)
Panda Approved, Late 1930s
LONDON—At the Zoo we had just acquired our first giant panda. It was still held in quarantine in a large cage inside the lion House….We were invited…to meet Winston at lunch and take him privately to see the extraordinary creature. Winston, not then in Cabinet, entertained a curiosity….He gazed long at the animal, lying supine and unaware of the honour done to it. Churchill shook his head approvingly, saying: “It has exceeded all my expectations…and they were very high!”
—Julian Huxley, Biologist, Memories (1970)
Missed the Bus, 1939
LONDON— I took a chance and sent over a note of introduction to which Mr. Churchill immediately replied by inviting me to his table for a drink. I went over, shook hands with both Churchill and his wife, and explained that I was acting as “confidential postman” for [American editor and journalist] Herbert Swope. Mr. Churchill mumbled affection for Herbert and gave instructions about where to bring the envelope next day. He then began a long and amusing monologue that touched on a dozen now forgotten subjects. I remember, though, that he was fascinating—and Mrs. Churchill was charming. He would have gone on and on had I not felt it tactful to return to my hosts….I thanked him, bade them both good night, and thought to myself what a shame that this brilliant old guy had missed the bus with every chance he’d had. I now agreed he seemed too old and politically “done for,” with hardly any useful future in sight. even so, I was immensely glad to have met him.
—Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Actor, The Salad Days (1988)
Double Take, 1940s
DOWNING STREET— When we got past the guards and entered the prime minister’s house, I saw Churchill shaking hands with a line of VIPs….I held out my hand to Churchill. He took it, looked a bit doubtful, and started away. Then he turned back and did a fast British double take. Two things must have gone through his mind. One, I’ve seen that face someplace before; two, this fellow must be harmless—no self-respecting spy would ever wear a nose that obvious.
—Bob Hope, Comedian, Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me (1990)
Mr. Cook ([email protected]) has widely published collections of literary, political and show business encounters, including this column, which began in Finest Hour 147.