Tomorrow (30th May 2012) marks the eightieth anniversary of the cocktail party that Elvira held at William Mews ( see http://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/elviras-cocktail-party-a-reminder/).
According to Peter Cotes the couple stayed in bed till noon, having attended a party on the previous night (Sunday 29th). They had rowed on the Saturday about Michael’s gambling but were friendly enough on the Monday and had lunch in the West End (possibly at the Park Lane Hotel) accompanied by a fair amount of alcohol. They returned to the Mews to prepare for the party and Michael rang a number of people with last minute invitations. It was, for them, a fairly normal day.
In the wider world, the Bonus Army was gathering in Washington, giving the American government its first large-scale confrontation with the issue of mass unemployment and introducing the term “Forgotten Man” into popular culture. In Germany, Heinrich Bruning resigned as Chancellor and the Weimar Republic effectively entered its final phase. It is unlikely that Elvira either knew or cared about either event.
She is more likely to have followed the aftermath of Amelia Earhart’s transatlantic solo flight. Earhart had landed in Derry on May 20th after a 15 hour journey and the papers were still full of images of the intrepid aviatrix. Or maybe, Kate Meyrick, who had received her last custodial sentence earlier in the month, and having promised to have nothing more to do with night-clubs returned in triumph to the “Bunch of Keys” (the old 43). Like every English newspaper reader, she would have been amused by the continuing coverage of the disgrace and downfall of Harold Davidson, the Rector of Stiffkey, whose exploits dominated the popular press that year.
Larry Gains signing a contract at the Piccadilly
The big sporting event in London on May 30th was the fight between Primo Carnera and Larry Gains. Both were feted by West End society, Carnera as a Soho night-club regular and Gains, the first boxer to challenge British boxing’s colour bar, as an associate of Ernest Hemingway and the Parisian set. Gains’ “training camp” was often at the Piccadilly hotel and several fashionable folk went to watch him there before dancing to the Hotel’s chic cabaret (Syd Lipton et al).Leonie Fester told the police that Elvira and Michael attended boxing matches together. I’d put money on the Gains-McCorkindale fight at the Albert Hall in january 1932 (which broke the colour bar ruling) as one. The occasion was one that resonated with many a Bohemian and socialite, who were there in surprising numbers. Boxing and boxers were great favourites of the fast set, Gwen Farrar, Dolly Wilde and friends were listening to a title fight when Ruth Baldwin, an attendee at the Mews party, overdosed and died.
Gains won on points. In the light of the events of the early hours of tuesday morning, Michael and Elvira might have been better off vicariously enjoying violence rather than engaging in their own deadly combat.
Michael Scott Stephen died at 4.45a.m. on Tuesday 31st May.