Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chelsea, Peter Osgood and Swinging London

As an armchair Chelsea fan (though I was there when we drew the FA Cup final in 1970) the advent of Gullit and Vialli and "sexy football" seemed like a restoration of the natural order of things. Chelsea should be a glamour club that wins a cup now and then. The subsequent Premierships under St Jose were something quite outside the expectations or experience of the club's fans.
I once wrote. To which I can add today: under AVB, Chelsea are pretty much back where they belong.

Just how much of glamour club Chelsea was in the sixties was made clear in a Jewish Chronicle article by Greg Tesser a few weeks ago:
Chelsea were London's glamour club at the time, attracting a host of celebrity supporters. People like the actor David Hemmings, the photographer Terry O'Neill and, on occasion, Hollywood stars like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, would regularly lunch at Alvaro's on the King's Road before making their way to Chelsea's ground, Stamford Bridge, to cheer on Osgood and company. 
I was an occasional guest at Alvaro's, and had struck up a friendship with O'Neill, who, along with David Bailey, was the most fashionable photographer in London and the former husband of the actress Faye Dunaway. 
It was not long before the national press cottoned on to the idea of footballers as celebrities and Osgood, playing for a club with so many glamorous supporters, soon became a glamour figure. When the Hollywood actress Raquel Welch was interviewed in The Times and (thanks to a little bit of Terry O'Neill persuasion) informed the world that she really admired Osgood, interest in him and Chelsea mushroomed.
Tesser goes on to describe a successful attempt to persuade Welch to attend a game - the straitlaced Chelsea manager Dave Sexton was against the idea, but Jimmy Hill smoothed things over and she was seen at Stamford Bridge.

Welch did not attend what he calls the post-match "tea room" at Stamford Bridge, Tesser says, but she was about the only celebrity of the day who did not:
Regular visitors convening for refreshment after matches included Michael Caine, John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Tom Courtney, Michael Crawford, Leonard Rossiter, Dennis Waterman and even United States Secretary of State and Nobel Prize-winner Henry Kissinger. They were all, as Osgood used to say, "Blues nuts". 
Another fan was the Jewish comic actor Marty Feldman. Marty lived above me in Wellesley Court in Maida Vale and I introduced him to Osgood. I do not know which of them was more starstruck. Feldman at the time was one of the most sought-after comic performers in the country, but even so I remember him saying wistfully to me: "I wish I had Osgood's talent".
Those really were the days.

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