So, farewell, Harold and Yella Gal


Perhaps the strangest thing about Harold Pinter’s obituary in the New York Times (the playwright died in London on Christmas Eve) was noting it was co-written by Mel Gussow who passed away in 2005. The other strange thing was the gaudy ad for the 20th anniversary Boston Wine Festival 2009 (“the nation’s longest running food and wine pairing series”) on the same page. Could this be “the weasel under the cocktail cabinet” Pinter said his plays were about?

pinter So, farewell, Harold and Yella Gal

But no surprises really as Pinter was a famous wino – as the Guardian obit put it he “loved poetry, wine, bridge-playing and just about every kind of sport, but most especially cricket.” Internet ads are popped up by sophisticated algorithms that attempt to offer goods and services the reader might be interested in. But who popped up the wine ad – Harold or I? A Pinteresque predicament, indeed.

My favourite Pinter anecdote comes from a 1999 interview in the New Statesman. “Harold can sound rather pompous. Nor does he lack amour propre (although he has sedulously denied that he once tried to elicit Tom Stoppard’s support for a plan to rechristen the Comedy Theatre the Pinter Theatre; whereupon Stoppard suggested that he changed his name to Harold Comedy).

Gay icon and “the oldest sex kitten in the business” Eartha Kitt died the next day and her obituary was beneath his. The daughter of a black Cherokee sharecropper ma and white pa, she was brought up black but her adopted family thought she was too white and called her “yella gal.” Eartha herself was more into terroir. As she was quoted in her NY Times obituary “I am a dirt person. I trust the dirt. I don’t trust diamonds and gold.” A change of mind from her 1962 hit diamonds are a girl’s best friend.