Jonathan Fryer

The Oldie British Artists Award

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 16th October, 2012

Earlier this evening I joined other contributors to and staff of The Oldie magazine, including Editor Richard Ingrams, at Dartmouth House (headquarters of the English Speaking Union) to celebrate the inaugural Oldie British Artists Award. Many other people from the world of the Arts were present, as well as a good contingent from Soho, about which I wrote a book some years ago. The Oldie Award was won by 93-year-old Donald Zec, for his drawing of a gaunt, bearded old man. Amazingly, Mr Zec has only been working as an artist for five years; he turned to this after his wife died after 66 years of married life, as a tribute to her. He gave an extremely witty acceptance speech at the party, in mock imitation of the Hollywood Oscars ceremony, saying that as he had no art teacher to thank (as he never had one) he must thank his cardiologist, opthamologist and urologist instead. He claimed that he felt nostalgia ‘for an age at which I was only senile’, the main joke being that he was considerably more on the ball than some others much younger who were present. I settled in a corner with Elena Salvoni, who was a fixture at Bianchi’s Restaurant in Soho for many years, especially when it was the (reasonably priced) haunt of writers, artists and bohemians. What I didn’t know until she told me this evening was that her house in Islington (in which she still lives) is next door to the building in which Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell lodged and they used to come over regularly for a cup of tea and a chat and to use her phone. Halliwell of course murdered his lover in August 1967, a night Elena will never forget.

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