The Shell Oil heiress Olga Deterding was known as the Mad Millionairess. For several years she lived like a louche socialite in a glossy white penthouse with realistic sculptured sheep nibbling at the grass coloured carpet. Her partners included television personalities Alan Whicker and Jonathan Routh and she was friends with restaurateur Peter Langan, the original “enfant terrible” of gastronomy. Langan once bet her £5 that she would not sit naked all afternoon by the street window of his restaurant – but she did.
Olga Kurylenko NOT Olga Deterding
Routh was one of the stars of Britain’s version of Candid Camera
Candid Camera was launched on an unsuspecting public in 1960 and became an instant success with viewers, who relished the misfortunes of Routh’s hapless victims. In the first programme he pushed an engineless car into a garage and told the mechanic that it had just broken down. The garage man opened the bonnet to find nothing there. Routh played dumb. Utterly bewildered, the mechanic then looked under the car and in the boot before summoning his mates to see if he’d missed something. Eventually, one of them pronounced to general astonishment that, indeed, there was no engine.
On another occasion he posted himself from Sheepwash, Devon, to the offices of the Daily Mail in Fleet Street, claiming that he was too scared to go to London on his own. As “livestock”, parcels had to be accompanied at all times, he was put in a postman’s care for the duration of the journey and delivered for £2. The postman was silent throughout. Routh thought this episode demonstrated the height of English tolerance and good manners.
Postman found here
Routh also discovered a talent for naive painting. He restricted his subject matter principally to Queen Victoria and nuns because, he said, “faces, arms and legs were beyond me”. For Victoria he created imaginary journeys that she undertook to exotic places such as Jamaica, where Routh eventually settled as a semi-recluse.
Nuns were depicted drinking Coca-Cola, bouncing on trampolines, being shot from cannons, driving racing cars, flying balloons and picnicking in the jungle. The pictures were incorporated into a succession of children’s books, including The Nuns Go to Africa, The Nuns Go to Penguin Island, and Jamaica Holiday: The Secret Life of Queen Victoria. There were also a number of Mona Lisa paintings, showing her naked, drinking tea, smoking a cigarette and holding a tin of spaghetti.
Olga and Peter Langan shared a love of fine wine and whiskey.
His creation was food-as-theatre; when you stepped into Langan’s cream-painted Mayfair restaurant with its black-clad staff and exotically-dressed patrons, it was as if you were stepping on to a West End stage. In Langan’s Brasserie, everyone was a star.
Langan by Richard Young
An irate patron once brought him a cockroach she had found – Langan laughed and swallowed it with a swig of champagne. The designer Emillo Fiorucci came to dine, bringing his dog. Langan, not liking the dog’s looks, got down on his hands and knees and bit it.
Wayne Sleep, Peter O’Toole, the actresses Deborah Kerr and Jill Bennett and doyennes of bad behaviour such as Molly Parkin were regulars.
Wayne Sleep, at the height of his celebrity, reciprocated Peter’s gift of a case of chilled champagne after a Covent Garden first night by dancing naked across the Odin’s tabletops, startling the occupants of a nearby nurses’ home
One day he was told that Princess Margaret was dining in the restaurant with her cousin, the Earl of Harewood ‘Oh, is she now?’ he asked puckishly. ‘And what did she eat?’ On being told it was merely a coddled egg, he approached the table, not entirely sober. ‘And how was the ******* egg then?’ he inquired solicitously ‘I’m amazed you’d be bothered to go out, just to eat one of them. Don’t they know how to do them at the Palace?’ Staff say he had to be physically restrained from goosing the princess as she left, but it was Langan’s unique talent to act and speak offensively, yet not cause offence.
Margaret became a regular.