UNITED STATES—EVERYONE knew Kitty had slept with Jimmy Hendrix. It was common knowledge. No one mentioned all the others she’d slept with out of the bands that played down the Chislehurst Caves. She was even crowned Groupie Queen for years in a row by her mates, all having a laugh on the other patch of green across the road from the May Queen crowning ceremony. Kitty was born and bred on Kemnal Rd and, while her three brothers went to posh boarding school she was sent to the local schools, she grew up different from them. From Mead Rd to the Gordon Arms she spent her formative years. She was always finding the fun. Always having a laugh unlike her brothers who seethed like red, hot lava just below the surface.
Kitty’s three brothers: Daniel, Nigel and Andrew were tall. She referred to them collectively as ‘The Brothers’ and individually as Brother Daniel, Brother Nigel and Brother Andrew as they had all been sent to Catholic School run by monks. It was one of her many idiosyncratic private jokes. Two of these brothers are 1%er wannabes and the other works for British Gas, a top tier management position shuffling allegiances between various overseas groups. Chislehurst back then, in the late 60s and 70s was a rough diamond. Rough, tough, and territorial. It wasn’t just the young boys that got into regular fights. Those schoolgirls were often a tough act. It was opposite to how it is now: An estate agent’s Hidden Gem with the developers snorting in the wings impatient to pounce, once the elderly population have passed on. It has a slightly more eclectic, heavyweight British history than the usual outer London suburb: Protected oak trees listed in the Doomsday book, Napoleon Bonaparte had died in Chislehurst then there’s the guy who invented DST, William Willett and there’s Malcolm Campbell and Son with the outstanding Bluebird and their record breaking speeds on both land and water. The cream of the crop in this story though, has to be all the magic making musicians that still pass through when playing at the O/2. It’s more Chizzlehurst than ever before.
Kitty was enjoying her trip to New York filling her case with ‘authentic’ tee shirts that blazoned ‘New York’ and ‘Brooklyn’ across the chest and sometimes the backside. She always had a good time at her brother-in-laws. They all did.
Walking down Ave B from 14th Street on her way to visit her eldest daughter Lula, Kitty passed Tompkins Sq Park on her right and looked left down the leafy street that lay claim to Merry-Jade’s first New York apartment. She had no idea what had happened in that building just before Merry-Jade and Dice moved out.
One of the more transparent incidents, when they began, individually to suspect that they were Cleaners was back in 2006. In this, their 9th St apartment between B & C, all the blood gushing from Merry-Jade’s womb onto the bathroom floor. All the blood that ran out of her vagina, overflowing the toilet and leaving the bathroom floor two inches deep, in blood and clots. She went back into the main room and said: ‘You guys better come and help me out here.’ Dice and her friend Eeny went to help her clean that bathroom floor with mops and buckets. It was now three inches deep in blood and clots. The crackling, dark atmosphere lit up with electricity like any one of those early eighties shooting gallery in Alphabet City, reflected. All those bloody syringes, shared. Rolling the dice. Louis, the Super, said that a white man had held two young Japanese girls tied up in that apartment for a week, as his sex hostages. They went back to Japan. He went to jail. Merry-Jade & Dice cleaning an overload of negative energy stuck and fit to burst full of pain. It was close to the bone, and in all appearances extremely shocking as their good friend Eeny had witnessed. At certain times, exorcising someone else’s violent negativity involves zero physical pain for the Cleaner and this was one of those times when just a flushing was in order. And now, years later Kitty, Merry-Jade’s mother was admiring the pretty houses all, ripe and jolly with freshly oiled original floorboards, paisley patterned chintz and brightly wallpapered nurseries. The Hystery involved. There was always cleaning to be done somewhere: People, places and things.
Merry-Jade and Dice moved to Grand St, into one of those tall project buildings gradually filling up with artists who were at an age and stage that they could begin to afford a mortgage. The stress of what had occurred in their last apartment was showing and they fought a lot, manifesting the early stages of Signing. Merry Jade starts banging things down and picking things up, little detail things, the stuff most people don’t notice, the everyday…moving his stuff. Putting her toothbrush in his place or something, he comes into the bathroom and changes it around…then she moves it further, countersigning with a block using another object that he doesn’t pick up on. Then she notices he’s taken out her perfume and placed it upside down, next to the now dirty washcloth that has some of her hair entangled. With a sweeping gesture she clears the air and solidifies her position with his razor trapped between two halves of soap.
Before returning to London, Kitty and her two daughters went to Soho House on 14th and 9th. Both daughters are members, Dice and Kell were joining them later for dinner. In the lounge area an unkempt woman with presence walks by, everyone notices and is pretending not to. There’s a cool stiffness hovering in the smokeless air, a clatter of teacups breaks the near silence and people resume their murmur. “Who is THAT?” Kitty asks, “Oh you know her mum, from years ago, I think you met her when my show opened on Hackney Rd back in 2000. She’s still trailblazing and collecting more baggage. She’s the reason the airlines started charging for extra luggage…one of them plans to make a killing when she finally steps aboard…dead or alive! Lula’s mother makes a face “Oh mum, come on, its a joke.”
Behind them on another sofa two ladies looked up from their laptops. Oh look there’s Christobel I haven’t seen her for years. “That’s not Christobel come on, into the poolroom, I need to call her, I think she’s in London: “Christobel! Darling, I’m here with Mindy, yes at the Club. Mindy thought she saw you just now, when are you coming over?” She listens and then puts her hand over the phone as if it’s the old two-way. Whispering to Mindy she says “Next week, the Stones are playing the Staple, she’s stopping off in New York first.” A small sound exhales from inside the phone: “I can hear you…” “Sorry darling, one two many. I’ll put you on speaker: “Hi Mindy! Hi Christobel!
“Stop! What, right now, can you see her? What’s she wearing? I heard she’s out of Prada and in Target, what do you think? Does that look about right?”
‘She’s doing that pretending no one can see her with her eyes again. And yes, the ensemble is Target, the Meroni & Denizen collections.’ Vanessa turns to Mindy: “That’s how it begun, she lowers her eyelids as if to say ‘I’m invisible.’”
Mindy said: “I thought it was because her family told everyone she’s autistic?”
“Oh, THAT part…the sisters were spying on her while she was over here in 2012, plotting her downfall, something about a real estate deal they wanted to cut her out of, they were hoping to get her committed but she outsmarted them.”
Simultaneously, a whispering near the bathrooms “…Yes, and now what’s causing all the latest, is that she knows that we know that she knows, I hear that they have Nichol Kidman pegged for the part.
“Perfect, she’d be so good. What a great part for her.”
“An Oscar nomination right there!”
Oh stop! You’re killing me! It’s too much. The Invisible Secret… I’ve got one…’I always get hit on by the Help!’
“Classic.” That’s been written into Brian’s script, aren’t they about to go into production? I wonder if that’s been cancelled too. So many studios having problems, it’s another happy day for the lawyers!”
“And that LOOK she gave Russell. Heart stopping! He said he had no choice but to pass her in the corridor from the garden restaurant. Oh my god. He said it had him feeling Afraid of Valerie Solanas.”
Under another blue sky in East London, two ladies are enjoying the sunshine on the 6th floor of Shoreditch House: “A Sighting! Isn’t that Christobel Churchill?”
“Where…oh yes, she has to be one of the most brilliant women around, she’s hysterical.”
“Correction! She’s a Hystery!”
“I stand corrected.” Both laugh loudly.
The two women having drinks after work fall silent, as they each think thoughts about the extraordinary Christobel Churchill. The one on the left is first to speak: “She knows everyone and none of them know her, brilliant PR.”
“I KNOW! How is that even possible?”
“It’s ALL about the client. That’s why she ends up repping everyone. No, none of them know if they’ve ever met her. She gets the biggest kick out of that.
“I thought she was in AA, why is she drinking?”
“Well it’s sad, no tragic really, she went to AA for years then there was this whole incident with her sponsor, her therapist, some AA buddies and a termination. The day after the abortion her sponsor turned round and said…according to Donna, the sponsor said in a triumphant tone: ‘Now YOU’RE the baby.’ Can you imagine? How cruel. What a bitch. Apparently, Christobel said it was the coldest, lonliest moment of her life. She knew she had made a terrible, irreversible mistake made worse because she realized her first mistake had been to listen to these people who were supposed to be supportive. They’d all egged her on to terminate, goodness knows why, can you imagine the horror she felt when her sponsor turned around and said ‘now you’re the baby?’ On top of that, the others just kept saying afterwards ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda.’ Horrifyingly cult-ish. She doesn’t go now, she said to me: ‘Life’s short, why hang a plaque around your neck declaring ‘I’m an alcoholic’. If you can’t grow out of that shit with everything else on offer these days, then you’re an idiot’.. And what’s with the perpetuation of referring to everyone else in the world, as ‘Civilians’ was that even a joke when it started?’ I mean its not everyday one can get pregnant…its so sad. She said it was the worst thing she had ever done in her life, she felt totally suicidal, couldn’t sleep or eat for thirteen months and her nervous system was frying in the pan. I don’t think she’s very happy below that bubbly.”
At that precise time in the New York House a couple were on their way to the spa and were heard saying ‘Some are getting very nervous about it all, its gone on way too long. She’s a Dorian Grey with a Collective and now everyone seems to be playing them selves out, falling like a house of cards. Everyone is astounded! No one thought she was this smart or intelligent. She really IS good! Oh this IS going to be good…I want to follow her, does she twitter?
David and David ran into each other on Hollywood & Vine they chatted for a while under a big billboard that read: Competition for the 21st Century. Rename: ‘The Zeitgeist’. Win $800 million in cash and zero taxes. There was a small photo of Prince winking underscored by a line of $$$$$$$$$$$s.
“I see Natalie’s in town. What happened to her hair?”
”She’s bitter because no one wants to show or buy her work.”
“Why? I hear it’s quite good and still relevant.”
“It’s just easier to pretend and continue. Maybe she’ll give up making art or kill herself like a real Tortured Artist. Ha Ha, did you hear about that one?”
“Oh, I forgot you’ve been away for so long, the managers in LA got quite anxious when she showed up for brunch the following day after their big ‘IN’ joke, the New Year’s Eve party 2015. She was brilliant in her deductions. You should have seen their faces. It was hilarious. AWKWARD!
Near Liverpool St station, along Bishopsgate, EC1, there’s a sign on a double door spilling onto the street, three feet above the ground: ‘Keep Clear Doors Open without Warning.’
“Soho House? Oh darling, no one who’s anybody nowadays goes there unless it’s hired out for a party. Not since Ron turned it into the Sainsbury’s of supermarkets. It’s like the ghastly Guggenheim franchise or that dreadful Gagosian chain. You know what they say about a sailor in every port, unless of course, you like to go slumming. A private club stops being a private club when the management insist upon remaining clueless and careless about their members, however many they have. What’s that? Yes, you’re right, some of the locations are an exception. T & P darling T & P.”
Somebody else was jamming about The Tortured Artist. Ever since the West Hollywood Halloween party that name had stuck and was ringing throughout the Houses from Dubai to Toronto. ‘What was it? It happened years ago, back in London in the late 80s. I think her brother and one of her friends actually concocted it something about her family was so ashamed of her being a junkie, there were all sorts of rumors of her being a prostitute, living with one of Lucian Freud’s seeds then she went to prison for a few months because he set her up…’
Christobel finished the call: ‘I’ve got to go now darling, I’m on my way to get the lawn mowed”
What are you talking about, you live in a flat?”
“Facial threading darling, full, facial threading.” Her iphone purred.
Christobel was walking fast she enjoyed the exercise. Running was not for her, ‘chiropractic patients in training’, was what she called joggers. She was thinking about what one of the artists had said to her last night at the opening:
“I stopped dead in my tracks along the Grey’s Inn Rd under a bright crystal sky when a vivid thought entered my head, I was a spirit that had come out of a painting. No kidding. What an odd feeling to have thought of such a thing. Where on earth did that come from?”
1998, Los Angeles, the lobby of 9200 Sunset Blvd:
‘Snookered into a corner she spoke an aside to Andy:
“Sometimes the fox goes underground and lives off the smell of an oil rag.”
‘Still missing the pick up she left her case by the roadside and walked back inside
“I’m putting you on a promise” Andy called “Don’t let me down.”
“Who are you quoting?”
“It’s in this short film program that’s playing at the Vogue tonight.” David handed the program to his friend David.
Look for the Book, on its way: ‘Pianos from Heaven.’ (Working title)
By Jane Gang