Or, Watch Out Gracie
Well, darlings, what an exhausting time up Capri! All day at Gracie Field’s little old swimming pool camping our tits off with the jolly Americans and laughing like rather shrill drains at the day trippers from Blackburn and Accrington who’d just come to see “Our Gracie”. Poor loves, they’d queued all the way from Sorrento that morning on the paddle-steamer, fought for a hot and sticky twenty mins for the funicular up to Capri – standing all the way — then caught buses out to the Piccolo Marina and off to the Canzone Del Mare, Gracie’s place (the Song of The Sea-ee, it’s luvly). Doesn’t that Italian sound like camp polare? I thought I was in Berwick Street Market on a Saturday morning!
Well, where was I? Oh yes – the Piccolo Marina’s absolutely THE only place to go on the island. The other beach – the Marina Grande – is a bit naff. So we went to Gracie’s bit of the Piccolo Marina. Well, she and Mr. Boris run this lido place which is a series of rather sweet terraces with a pool, bars, restaurant and one or two dolly men. The whole place is laid out on the edge of the sea in case it’s not quite as clean as it should be. That’s not funny some days with Naples round one corner (apparently the sea is now a definite health hazard – now nearly combustible – oops! I love that dinky word!) But seriously, though, Jackie and Aristotle appeared one day and stayed for three, leaving a wake of rubbish which meant the pool was an absolute must – they always are dear for me – you should see my Esther Williams act where I shake my hair out in the sun.
Oh – we’re not getting very far on the more pouffy side of things are we? I know the sort of things you’ll be wanting to hear! Darling, the place was crawling with them – well I was alright, but Hubby (he’s a dear about these things) he just sat and moped. You see, up in the town they have this square and it’s so tiny they have to do shifts at swanning. It’s a bit like Chelsea Arts Ball holding a bring and buy sale at the Kings Road on a Saturday – that goes on from early arrivals back from the beach until bed-time – which is usually from five to five. Not that there’s much to do but swan. Italian women are very good at it – they always remind me of giraffes, they have such long necks and they sway a bit when they walk. They wear all their jewels at once too poor loves (and that’s from the beach – surprised they don’t get rusty – come to think of it some of them look a bit rusty!) Mind you they’ve got their work cut out – all day long there’s queens everywhere – some like Douglas Fairbanks Jnr in his pirate king outfit, bandanas, earrings and all – Queens in long see-thru Indian cotton caftans with an apology for swim-trunks underneath, one had obviously come out in such a hurry he’d forgotten to put on any knickers under his tight thin cotton faded red trousers – and it showed! There were lots of rather self-consciously butch numbers with aggressively feminine women in tow, often wearing those beach fashions you thought only existed in Sunday Colour Supps – you know – those darling impractical tinkly bits that are all cold when you wear your navel jewels? Well they exist on Capri – I’ve seen them.
All this was going on while there were perfectly innocent people trying to cross the square – porters with suitcases, laundry maids with bundles, barrows piled with fruit etc., and of course our beloved Day Tripper in his khaki shorts, vest, shirt and pullover and camera and pink wife and several sulky kids – it was really quite entertaining, for a few hours. It is then you realise what is wrong.
It’s the good ole Dolce Vita again – without the Vita. The whole object of the exercise would, you would think, be to attract people enough to make them want to make a pass or something. But it was about as easy as a night out in one of our wonderful gay clubs – a wonderful place to swan if you’re in a camp mood, but how long does that last? Mine’s gone already.
There are two ‘gay’ clubs. There’s a dance floor and a reasonable group at one but men are not allowed to dance together. I know — we tried. The other place was similar but that waf already full of middle-aged tourists of the Day Tripper-type listening to execrable music of the Neapolitan-type (if you don’t know what that is like you’re lucky!) So there was just the trolling.
Well of course this is what you’ve all been waiting for you’ll say. To be truthful I must say I thought it would be more fun than it was. That’s the whole trouble – it never is more fun for me than I think it’s going to be and it’s very often less.
Past the Hotel Quisisana, from which Wilde and Bosie are popularly supposed to have been asked to leave in 1897, there is a street which runs downhill, out of town towards the beach, on the Piccolo Marina. There, along the pathway with the hair-pin bends, were a series of groups of men admiring the view, pulling at cigarettes, or themselves, or walking about soundlessly as if they were trying to be invisible. It’s funny how much scenery one can find to look at in Capri at four in the morning with no moon out, isn’t it? Some gentleman obviously thought I’d got a better command of the view than some of the others as he kept standing behind me to look. There was a dearth of quality so I chose quantity – which was lucky – it belonged to the gentleman who’d come to look at my view. I knew what I was getting as he was one of the gentlement I’ve been talking about before – who habitually wore thin pants with no knickers. After a few minutes we were joined by others who were just passing by and thought they’d admire the view, which proved anything but exciting -I seem to have chosen the only gentleman who washed regularly! I was contemplating – a bit difficult with your mouth full – leaving these other gents to it, when a car approached the bottom of the hill. I stopped contemplating, and I left them while I composed myself. How very inconvenient it had been. As far as I knew there was just a path to the beach – the car stopped, the people got out and walked up the hill.
I made my way home. What an unsatisfactory sort of experience – so hit-and-miss – so very little contact except genital. I felt rather ashamed of myself. But what other way of meeting in congenial surroundings was there on this GAY island? As far as I could see there was none whatsoever. Obviously the people who flock from all over Europe to camp it up for a few brief weeks and then go back to their double lives still haven’t got it together enough to work out how to meet each other – if you like someone you meet this way who becomes a friend that’s fine. I should have had the strength of mind to go straight home when I discovered there wasn’t really anyone I would really like to make friends with afterwards.