Sunday, 23 September 2012

Maurice Keen

Marlene Dietrich
Maurice Keen
The news yesterday of the death of Maurice Keen hit me disproportionately hard. Maurice was a young don at Balliol in the mid 1960's, and he was one of two or three guests at a 'dinner party' two flatmates and I attempted to throw in our attic flat at the top of a large detached house on the Banbury Road in Oxford. We were, by definition I suppose, on the brighter side of average intelligence but we hadn't the faintest idea how to cook or plan a meal. We decided - insanely - to attempt roast duck with peas and possibly potatoes. Our batterie de cuisine consisted of some tiny cheap tin saucepans, dented and (I assume) a roasting tin. We had virtually no money. When our guests arrived, our tiny duck was hardly even hot let alone crisp. We had no table or chairs. I seem to remember that we sat on the floor, which was covered in very uncomfortable matting. We had bought a bottle of the cheapest red wine we could find and my goodness it was nasty. Maurice and another guest, Luis de Sanjurjo, an exquisitely-mannered Puerto Rican,  - there may have been a third, if so I forget his name, was it the Greek icon painter? the biker? The man who inherited the rights to Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap? the American who knew Marlene Dietrich? - were the soul of discretion and tact. Maurice's lifetime study, aptly was 'chivalry'. Thanks perhaps to the red wine that is really all I remember of the event. Luis was the first man I knew to die of Aids, in 1987 by which time he had worked for the Civil Rights movement in the south of the US, investigated the activities of the FBI, been right hand man for a while to Warren Beatty and, at the time of his death, was a literary agent in New York, representing Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Arthur Kopit and others. Vanished days.

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