Kirk Douglas, art, producers
My early-morning meditation sessions in the immense pyramid of steel and glass in our grounds can often generate bizarre ideas. The space within is so peaceful, and my mind can relax so completely, that many of my most creative concepts start there. And the thought that struck me a few weeks ago was: am I getting younger in here?
By the time I hit my twenties and was enjoying life as a model, I’d discovered that lots of girls went for a boy with cheekbones, not biceps. But in school I was convinced a real man had to be able to balance a starlet on each shoulder.
Shipi and I were starstruck when we spotted Kirk at a studio in Los Angeles in 1974. You don’t often find my brother-in-law in front of a camera, but I just couldn’t keep him out of this picture. He hasn’t changed a bit, by the way.
I was in LA for a talk show — I think it was Merv Griffin’s, which was a big deal at the time. But beside Kirk’s supernova status, my stardom was barely a twinkle. Though he was polite and seemed genuinely impressed when I bent a spoon for him, he exuded a menacing energy. If he was an animal, Kirk Douglas would be a lion… fierce and strong enough to take your head off with one swipe.
Years later, we met his youngest son, Eric, in Israel. Kirk’s family was Jewish — his real name is Issur Danielovitch Demsky — and Eric took his faith seriously. He was intensely concerned about his little dog, and couldn’t stop talking about it. I’m a dog fan, and I like doggie people, but it was easy to see that Eric had an obsessive and probably addictive personality. We were sad to learn, a few months later, that he had overdosed and died in his New York apartment. He was 42.
Eric’s death shattered Kirk, I discovered this week, when I read the latest instalment of the great man’s autobiography. It’s called Let’s Face It, and what Kirk is facing, with characteristic courage, is death. He’s clear-headed and healthy, but as he says himself: “When you’re 90, you’re living on the house’s money.”
His matter-of-fact humour reminds me of my mother, who passed away when she was 91.
It’s an inspirational story, and I’m delighted to see that, in his tenth decade, Kirk has no intention of retiring. He suffered a stroke 16 years ago which affected his speech, but he’s fought his way back to physical fitness and he’s even talking of another movie role. “Trouble is,” he says, “there aren’t many roles for an old man with impaired speech.”
Someone better hurry up and write one, then. There’s millions like me who would queue to see it.
It’s hard to find time for all London’s art shows, and I’ll be cutting a corner this week by staying away from Anthony Gormley’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Its central feature is a box full of fog.
I’ve been living in Britain for more than 20 years now, and I know what fog looks like. Israel doesn’t get a lot of pea-soupers, and it was a bit of a shock, the first time I saw it — I looked out of a fifth floor hotel window and thought the building was on fire.
Hanna was thrilled. To her it looked like a Sherlock Holmes movie. I was less thrilled — I had a lunchtime TV interview, and by the time I reached the studio my bouffant Eighties hairdo looked like a heavy metal fan’s wig after a long night’s head-banging.
The idea of art imitating weather isn’t new — I loved Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project at the Tate Modern, where he filled the building with artificial sunshine. If I ever get the chance to design an installation for the Tate’s turbine hall, I’m going to call it Ã¢â‚¬ËœOld-Fashioned English Summer’.
Watering cans will sprinkle showers over visitors, and sudden gusts of wind will send sheets of newspaper racing up the building. Bucketsful of pollen will make everyone sneeze. And for five minutes every couple of hours, the sun will come out.
Because if the worst predictions of the climate change scientists come true, we’re all going to be very nostalgic for that kind of summer.
Jason Figgis, the guy who directed my TV special on the dark side of Venice, dropped by to chat about his latest project, and I suggested we should take a photograph together. He waved the idea away: “You’ve got plenty of pictures with me,” he said. So I checked my file, and found this. That’s Jason on the right — but who cares? Doesn’t Twiggy look fabulous? We bumped into her and her husband, the actor Leigh Lawson, when we were in Venice.
By the time you read this I’ll be flying off to Amsterdam, for the launch of a movie called Staya Erusa. It’s the brainchild of Ronald Heijn, right, and his friend Harry Beckers, left, a man with incredible psychic abilities. The film is setting a world record by becoming the first ever to be released simultaneously in the cinema, on DVD and as an internet download. I’ll tell you more next week.
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