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Hussey's Riot: Forgive me Viv



In which Hussey plays a Gallic ponce then rows with national treasure Vivienne Westwood...

I get up and hit the shower, after all it's Saturday morning and I have a Manifesto to read! Yes a manifesto and about time too! Never a good one since the Commies!

I run out the door, hair still wet, making my way to the Wallace Collection. Vivienne Westwood is officially launching her 'Activeresistance' manifesto there today and I will be taking part. Billed as a Socratic dialogue with Viv herself playing the main role, me and twenty two other randoms will be filling in the other parts.

What was I letting myself in for? From what I had read in the press no one was sure. Viv seems to feel society is consuming too much. There in only one answer. Art. We must study it and when we become all arty and deep must impart our wisdom to humanity. Art, the manifesto states, will save us all.

Sitting on the tube I scan my script for my lines but too soon the doors crack at Bond Street. When I skip up the stairs of the lovely old building that houses the Wallace a PR type grabs me. She ushers me downstairs and into the lecture hall where I spot Jerry Hall and her cherubic daughter. Georgia May Jagger,all blond curls and luminous youth, is the star turn, reading the voice of Alice in Wonderland.

Us unfamous readers, all twenty or so of us, sit bemused in the front two rows of the lecture hall. Assistants scurry and the public chatter, locked as they are outside.

Vivienne appears, accompanied by a slight, actorish type in a tweed jacket and bright red wool hat. He looks like an intellectual Papa Smurf. The assistant cries...

'Do we have a Hitler?' A blonde man stands up and confirms he is reading that part.

'Ok great.' says Candida or Angelique or whatever PR types are called.

I examine the copy of the manifesto in my hand, perusing the cast of characters cherry picked from history and culture - Pinocchio, Alice, pirates and Diogenes amongst others. As my fellow readers nervously wait I ask about. Who is playing Diogenes? No one owns up, which is not surprising if you read his lines.

Shhhsssh! A hush comes over us as Viv stands up. Jerry beams at us all and Georgia May shuffles.

'Well let's have a read through. I suppose the most important thing for me is to understand the manifesto then you can read it.' Viv pauses and pushes her square glasses down her nose to look at us.

Hitler makes a small, affirming noise.

'The most important part is here.' says Viv, encouraged by Hitler's support.

She talks on a while, spouting vague notions of art and technique and how they make everything better. Sometimes it is inclusive, sometimes snobbish. It occurs to me there is a grand notion behind all this, the problem is neither us nor Viv has a clue what it is.

Just as she sits down and a goblet of mineral water is passed to her she says something.

'You see the artist is a freak don't you think? I think so. Mozart arrived from the desert? Where does that come from?'

Yes it's a commonplace about the rogue nature of the artist but for a moment the image invades me. The wigged genius trudging over dunes. For a second I begin to believe. And then...

'You see this is how we are going to save the world. Avoid the catastrophe, the environmental disaster.'

Have we slipped into fashionable green? I am unconvinced again.

The doors open, Bertrand Smurf declares he is going to read the Whistler part in an American accent. Viv tells him to do what he likes. The arty audience troop in, all scarves and liver damage. Jerry's smile goes mega-watt.

We are off. Viv stands and waffles charmingly in her Hovis accent. She begins to narrate. Often she breaks from the script to explain what she is getting at. As our parts come up we readers stand and annunciate, trying to work round Viv's ramshackle ad-libs.

An old man, dishevelled and Jerome-ish, stands.

'I shit and wank in front of people in the street like a dog:I am the cynic!'

Well said Diogenes!

Soon all the characters have their say. Hitler, child slave boy, Aristotle all come and go and suddenly it is my turn. I am a French professor of anthropology and my two lines require an accent. I stand, my best ' Allo' Allo' poised.

'And Man came out of Africa 180,000 years ago. And the best thing is he ended up in Paris.'

At the last moment my guts flee and I say it in my normal voice, sort of an RP moo. For a moment I feel I have let Viv down but then it is over and the audience burps a slew of toady questions.

One makes the statement: 'You have really...well you haven't blown my mind but...well isn't it for the kids? For the children?'

I sink into my chair, ashamed of us all. It isn't really Viv's fault, more the daft audience but at that moment I set my cap to be awkward in the press conference.

Someone has to burst this bubble.

Everyone files out including Viv who I follow to another chamber, one with a big round table and waiting journalists. Some ask their over gentle questions then it is my turn. Right I think.

'Do you worry you are a celebrity Messiah and that your manifesto fails intellectually?'

For good measure I point out a philosophical quote she misuses.

Viv looks shocked then suddenly she gathers herself and glows like lava. You might expect her to be impeccably dressed and she is, in a stylish button up number and neon hair she looks great but something else gets my attention. Above either temple, between her lifeboat coloured curls, jut two metallic stubs.

'Well actually I don't see how my manifesto intellectually fails. You haven't given me an example yet.'

I hadn't noticed them before but as she turns her head they glint.

Horns. She is wearing petite, golden horns.

I swallow and realise I am having an intellectual bust up not just with the fashion icon and national treasure Vivienne Westwood but, quite possibly, with a faun from beyond.

'Well actually I have. I think you use the Protagoras quote 'Man is the measure of all things.' wrongly. You say it means knowledge is...er...objective when actually it means the opposite'

Viv screws up her face as the brimstone drains from her eyes. Suddenly she doesn't seem the stooge of evil nor the Zoolander philosopher. Rather she's adorable as Alan Bennett in drag, just an aging human trying to say something before her time.

She looks confused, as if mists of sadness have rolled across her mind. Then in that Bennetish drawl she says...

'Oh. I didn't know Protagoras said that.'

That seems odd to me, seeing as she uses the quote. Still seeing her vulnerable and sincere I begin to feel guilty for having called her a b-list Jesus. I mumble that there is something about her manifesto I like. Beyond the intellectual holes (so many that and S. Wonder could drive motorcades of bendy busses through them) there are moments to catch the heart, to make you think.

But too late! Like a boxing referee the curator of the Wallace Collection steps in.

'Vivienne we really must go to the photographers now.'

Muttering something about 'all the answers' Vivienne looks tired and hurt as she is swept from the room. All the journalists pause a second then look at me, some are still scribbling. I want to say 'What??!' then nut a couple but rather I pause a second to adjust my scarf (a stripy thing, tied in that last year, Mourinho way) and quietly leave.

Later I see Viv having a quiet coffee with the curator in the glass roofed courtyard of the Wallace. I wonder if she thinks I am a nasty fool and consider touching her on the shoulder. She is after all (and like us all) unconvincing but beautiful and in the end I am not sure about her manifesto. It may be naïve, at best well meaning nonsense, but if you really are honest that is all anyone can hope to utter.

But against her manifesto, against my urge to say hello and fix her dying eye to mine I leave her to obscure thoughts and orange blossom tea.

On to the next adventure I think, slipping by her, out into the West End herd...

Next week Hussey goes to a Hoxton dinner party!