EncountersDid you ever encounter Oliver Reed? If so, then why not share the experience by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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15 Mar 2008
We meet again! To continue my encounter from 12th March 08 I will first clarify some minor mistakes, I have just dug out from the chest in our attic my Grandfathers Paperwork, in these papers I found his Business Card from way back in the 1960s. The store was in fact called..... W.& H. GIDDEN LTD EST:1806 (not Giddon as I had put) the address was 74 New Oxford St, Bloomsbury, London, WC1, the then telephone number was LANGHAM 2666 Life has a strange way sometimes of hitting you straight between the eyes when you are least expecting it, if any of you have Evil Spirits, the definitive account of Oliver's life by Cliff Goodwin, turn to page 135 paragraph two................I am wholly convinced that this was the day in question, the dates, times, all seem to match! and Lord Beaverbrook would most certainly been a customer of Giddon's! his grandson and granddaughter almost certainly pointing Oliver in the right direction. Many years passed, my Grandfather retired and I joined the local Youth Theater, I had more or less forgotten about my impromptu meeting all those years before, one lunchtime I strolled out to the shops to get some lunch and as I passed the local book store i glanced in the window as usual, there to my utter surprise and on its own glass shelf was the book that would catapult me back into the past, and (although I didn't know it then) my future. Oliver Reed, "Reed all about me" read the hell raisers own account of his boozy, brazen life, or words to that effect! that was it, I had to have it! I returned the following week when money would allow and eagerly purchased a copy. It was a revelation, and like many that read it I suppose, gave them an insight into their imagined perception of the man, not all was comfortable reading, Oliver when drunk could, and did, display a particularly unsavory side to his character, more often than not aimed at woman that simply did not conform to his somewhat macho outdated views, at other times it was the mix of drink, boredom, and insecurity's that led him to turn on friends and lovers alike. However, there was something generally endearing about his character, he was charming, mischievous, loyal, intelligent, and above all professional, he seldom mixed work and pleasure and at times displayed a tender and vulnerable side to himself that few saw. Within a few nights I had read and reread my favorite parts of the book over and over, one particular paragraph stood out amongst all others, that of the mystical Blarney Stone, said by Oliver to be on the roof of his house Broome Hall. If my memory serves me correct, Oliver challenged anyone who chose to visit him to drink from a lime encrusted goblet whilst perched precariously over the edge of the parapets, it was like a red rag to a bull! the very next sunday I got into my car armed with a map and a copy of the book and decided to drive down to Broome Hall to hopefully meet the man, get my book signed, and of course challenge Oliver to the fore mentioned drinking contest! He would remember me from all those years before wouldn't he? (God only knows what I was thinking, who the hell did I think I was?) suffice to say, I was young, occasionally reckless, and utterly full of myself. A couple of hours later I was at the top of a country road, high up on the surrey downs and outside the entrance to the great hall itself, I remember sitting there thinking, well, what now? it was one thing to get there, quite a different thing altogether to actually go up the long winding drive and knock at the front door! I decided to park up the road a bit and go back on foot, (actually I was doing anything to stop myself going through the now ludicrous situation I found myself in) I tiptoed up the drive, got half way up, then came down again, I must have done this half a dozen times or so before I heard the sound of a vehicle coming, panicking i pushed through some trees and shrubs on the right hand side of the drive just as a Mercedes sports drove by, I peeked out lying flat on my belly and to my surprise saw Oliver and another chap glide past, I distinctly remember he was wearing what looked like a cricket jumper and was sporting a rather unkempt beard, Excited but also disappointed i lay there for what seemed like ages, when I did get up i found i was in a enclosed part of the garden which ran down the side of the driveway, it was a sunny morning and through the trees and bushes I could see the magnificent house in the distance, I pulled the book out of my pocket and compared the black and white pictures to what was now right there in front of me! Glorious, but what was I going to do now? it was pointless going up to the house, I had just seen the man leave and had know way of knowing when he would return, there was nothing to it, I would have to come back another time, throughly despondent i returned to my car and headed back off down the hill. In order to get to the main A24 and then on home (there was no M25 in those days!) one had to pass through the village of Ockley, as I rounded the bend in the road retracing my previous steps, I passed the village pub on my right, there at the front of the car park was the same Mercedes car I had seen earlier, I couldn't believe it, Oliver had been on his way to the pub, where else! this was too good an opportunity to miss,I did a quick U turn and parked up quietly in the far corner. After what seemed like ages and going over in my head what I was going to say, I plucked up the courage, got out of my car and strode towards the entrance. (To be continued)
16 Mar 2008
It's now or never! As i pushed open the door to the pub and stepped inside i had one of those thoughts that always come to you a bit too late! Caught up in the moment I had only just realized that other than Olivers and my own car, there was just one other vehicle parked out there! I was going to be very conspicuous. I heard him before i even saw him, there was no mistaking those vowels, although not speaking loudly it seemed to fill the space in what was a very empty pub! looking at my watch and hastily making for the bar i could see it was not long past midday, as i sat on one of the stools at the end of the bar i could clearly see the back of his head and shoulders, along with who i now know to be Bill Dobson his long standing friend and gardener. Here i was, a 20yr old part time amateur drama student and would be musician, about to ask one of England's greatest actors (In my opinion)to sign a copy of his Autobiography and maybe have a chat! what was i thinking!! The barman came over and took my order for a half of cider, "its a lovely day out there" he said, "sure is" i replied, whilst thinking how can you be so casual when you have one of the greatest characters of our time sitting in your pub! Oliver and Bill kept on talking, occasionally laughing out loud together, while i tried looking every which way but their's as i sipped my drink. One thing was for sure, the Blarney Stone caper was definitely off the menu! how i didn't just turn and walk out of there was beyond me, i had never felt so nervous in all my life. Finishing my drink and buoyed up by the fact that more people were now arriving at the pub I decided to make my move. I checked my jacket pocket, pulled out the book and strode down towards Oliver and Bill, out of the corner of my eye i was conscious of the barman watching me, knowing my intention and probably thinking "here comes trouble" That walk to where he was sitting seemed to take an eternity, i look back now and can almost see myself in slow motion doing it! in actual fact it only took a few seconds and i found myself standing just to the side of the great man himself, i remember Bill looking at me as if to say "what's going to happen here then" (he must have seen this situation countless times before) I opened my mouth and after what seemed like a lifetime said, "Excuse me sir"..................Nothing!!! not a thing, Oliver just kept on talking not even acknowledging i was there, i hadn't bargained on him blanking me and desperately tried again, "Eh,Sorry, Excuse me sir"...........this time he stopped talking mid sentence and i knew in that split second that i was in trouble, he turned slowly and looked at me, not a glimmer of friendliness on his face, "Sir,... Sir," he said menacingly in his trade mark hushed voice, he stood up slowly, "Do i look like your F***ing school master boy?" those piecing blue eyes boring into me, along with everyone else's within ear shot no doubt! Quick as a flash and in a last second somewhat brave attempt to diffuse the situation, i replied "yes, you do actually Sir, my old science teacher Mr Rawlings" Oliver stood looking at me,his face betraying not the slightest show of humor, i could see Bill over his shoulder, taking a sip of his beer and eying Oliver up, trying to gauge his next move. Oliver bought his face level with mine, never losing eye contact and said........."well, he is a most fortunate man then" a smile broke across his face, he put his arm around my shoulder, squeezed it tightly and said, "What can i do for you dear boy?" The next hour or so was just a warm blur, and something i will never forget for the rest of my life.We talked about my Grandfather, the day i fell down the steps at Giddens in front of him, he talked about his horses and the House,I was introduced to Bill along with various other friends and associates that lunchtime. Oliver signed my book, actually included me in rounds of drinks, (although the barman took no notice whatsoever when i protested at him pouring me pints instead of half's) "If Ollie's buying them, you drink them" he said. I tried in vain to return the gesture but he just waved it away, "Fred, don't take his money" he said to the barman (I use Fred as i simply cant remember his name) I watched Oliver hold court that day, true, he was in familiar surroundings and probably knew most of the people there, but he was charming, polite, generous to a fault,and utterly riveting. As friends around him chatted and laughed i just looked on in amazement, nobody, and i mean nobody! was going to believe this, i hadn't even bought a camera with me (the one thing to this day i regret more than anything else!)In between all the chat, jokes and laughter, Oliver found the time to listen to what i had to say with (what appeared to be) genuine warmth and understanding. On my intention to become an Ac-Tor (his pronunciation) he said...."Only do it if you are sure in your heart that it will make you happy, it is not the same out there as it once was, your life and how you live it is far more important than any part you may or may not get!" "one other thing boy" (he never called me by my name that day for some reason)"Enjoy every minute you have on this earth as if its your last, because one day it will be!" then, smiling he winked at me and seated himself back at the bar, "David"..........he boomed as another friend entered the bar............................... All too soon the lunchtime session came to an end, Oliver was surrounded by lots of people by this time and i was feeling a little bit tipsy to say the least. Upon the bar stood three undrunk pints of cider! As Olivers group were leaving one of them came up to me and said, "We are all going back to Ollie's for a bit, I'm sure he wont mind if you come you know, leave your car here and jump in with us if you want" I looked from him to Oliver and back at the three pints on the bar again, "No,I'm fine, Ive had a great afternoon, I better not, its a long walk home" "Well, nice meeting you, come again, he's always in here you know" and with that they were gone. I followed the group out into the car park just in time to see Oliver being driven past, he saw me standing there and put the window down on the car, he pushed his upper body out of the window and did two or three funny little bows to me as the car disappeared up the road. I walked back into the pub and sat down in the corner, as I was leafing through my book and admiring the inscription from Oliver, the barman walked over to collect some glasses, "Got what you came for?" he enquired, a smile on his face, "you were lucky, he doesn't usually allow outsiders into his group, must have been one of his good days" "Oh yes" i replied, "I got so much more than i could ever had hoped for" my inscription read..............."Do what you must, but do it well, above all enjoy yourself!" Oliver Reed 1979. I returned to my car reclined the seat and slipped off into a blissful sleep for the next few hours, when i awoke the car park was empty, the pub was closed and the sun was starting to set on a beautiful Surrey evening, as i drove off the afternoons events overwhelmed me, for some strange reason i cried, I had never been happier..............God bless You Oliver.
In 1984 i auditioned and won a place at The Mountview Theater School in Crouch End London, I graduated, met some fantastic friends for life, did a Fuji Scholarship film, directed some plays and have since traveled the world and met some other Famous and not so famous people, I have other stories, some just as fascinating, but none as personal and heartfelt as that of 1979.
Mark Anthony Robbins. March 2008
13 Oct 2009
I was just a babe at the time, so sorry for the 2nd hand information. My late father met Ollie many a time in Wimbledon Village. No one has yet mentioned "The Castle" pub in SW19, which Ollie frequented quite a lot I used to hear. He either had his own room there, or he owned the place, one or the other. It was a dive, but sadly is now gone and I believe turned into a "gastro pub". My father said he always knew when Ollie was there since his white Rolls Royce was parked outside. What a character; irreplaceable.
Great website; keep up the good work.
19 Oct 2010
The Duke of Hamilton
As an American I frequent the Duke of Hamilton pub in Hampstead and my first encounter with Ollie was on a Sunday in the late 1990's (probably 1997). I arrived on a Fairly busy Sunday afternoon when most of theta attention was on a rugby match on the tellie. But something else was happening so I went over to find out what was going on. In a semi-quiet corner of the pub I found two men lying on the floor arm wrestling. Both seems to be cheating by raising their elbows as high as possible. I figured someone needed to make sure it was a fair match. I bent over and grabbed both hands and said "Time for a fair start". They both looked up at me and told me to bugger off. One was a former British heavyweight champion boxer, the other was Oliver Reed. I buggered off.
I drank with Ollie and Josephine a couple of times over the next week while he was filming in the area. A great memory.Davy
15 Jan 2012
I met Oliver on the set for Dantes Inferno, I was 9 years old. I was playing a would be step daughter to Rossetti. I was in the film through my Father and Uncle, Tony and Douglas Gray, (Albert), who were also in the film.
Oliver was utterly charming towards me and my brother; he played a great game which involved throwing half crowns onto the lawn and letting us keep as many as we could pick by the time he counted to twenty!!
He also took me punting on my own and made me feel like such a lady. I always remember him with the highest regard as does my Dad, Tony. He displayed such a generous and gallant spirit.
30 Jun 2012
Charles (Jim) James
Last night in Chichester I had the pleasure of watching Rob Crouch in his performance of Oliver Reed in Wild Thing. This is a most impressive show and to me brought back many schoolboy memories.
From about 1951 until 1954 I shared an old fashioned double desk with Ollie at Ewell Castle School in Surrey. Obviously we became quite close and I formed a close relationship with him as a good friend and sometime protector from other aggressive boys, fights were not uncommon when school masters were not about. I was a day boy at the school and Ollie and his brother David were originally boarders but later became day boys, probably due to the starvation rations they had to endure at the school in those post war years. For some strange reason Ollie took a shine to me and everytime we moved class I would once again find him sitting next to me. He certainly was no academic , neither was I. He would never attempt do do his Prep (Homework) When we arrived at school in the morning he would say " What's for Prep Jim ? Grab my exercise books and quickly copy all my work into his books. The word dyslexic was not recognized in those days but I understand that he did suffer from it. He excelled at English Literature which bearing in mind his later profession was no surprise, was useless at everything else. He was a wonderful mimic and used to have the whole class in stiches mimicing the masters and of course our cinema heroes at the time such as James Stewart, Robert Mitchum etc. No doubt he met some of them in real life later on.
Ollie was a superb athlete, an excellent long distance runner and a boxer at school as well. I spent many hours cross country running with him but invariably I would not be able to keep up the pace with him. He really was a strange mixture in many ways, he was a cultured boy but could be cruel on occasions. he had quite a reputation at school as someone to whom you showed the utmost respect. I suppose I was fortunate in being one of his close acolytes whilst at school as nobody messed with Ollie. However I remember on one occasion a volatile Scottish boy who also demanded respect, flattened Ollie with a punch to his head when Ollie made a disrespectful remark.
On another occasion he took bets off us all that he would not jump into the school's open air swimming pool with all his clothes on. We all agreed and I believe I bet sixpence that he would not do it. Needless to say he did and was caught out and severely caned by the headmaster. Reluctantly, he had to return all his winnings as well.
We had to sing hyms at morning assembly which Ollie did not appreciate. We always stood together during assembly and Ollie would "Jazz Up" the hyms whilst singing them in a loud voice. He would insist that I did the same and invariably an eagle eyed master would witness our behaviour and we would both appear before the headmaster for six of the best with his vicious bamboo cane.
In our lunch breaks we would wander together in the grounds or the adjoining park and he would talk about his family. Sometimes his charming brother David would accompany us. We had to attend school on Saturdays but used to have Wednesday afternoons free. Ollie and myself would occasionally go to the cinema together, but he never discussed any acting ambitions.
I left the school when I was sixteen as I did not look likely to achieve anything by way of examinations. Ewell Castle was not renowned for a high level of educational standards in those days. In fact many of the masters were old boys of the school who were taken on as teachers when their war service finished in 1945.
Olllie was still there when I left in May 1954 to join the RAF as an Apprentice. The last time I met him was in 1959 when i returned for a school sports day and Ollie was also there. He told me that he had just started work as an actor on TV. A group of us including him went for a drink to the Green Man in Ewell Village.
I did see him occasionly many years later when he lived at Broom Hall Ockley when I was driving to London through Ockley and he drove past in his old Rolls Royce.
I used to stop for a drink at the Kings Arms at Ockley but never saw him as I believe he had been banned.
I would be pleased to hear from anyone who remembers those Ewell Castle days with Ollie
Charles (Jim) James Ewell Castle 1946-1954
Aldwick, Bognor Regis West Sussex