oh olga

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.

Jonathan Routh

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.

Molly Parkin

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.

Princess Margaret by Lord Snowden

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 6:53 am  Comments (36)  
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36 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh I like these folk, they sound like fun! And though I’m no fan of royalty, that’s a very lovely picture of Princess Margaret.

    • It’s a beautiful photo isn’t it?

  2. Nuns being shot fron cannons? THat’s something I would pay good money to see.

    I see that poor Olga died choling to death on a piece of meat. Such is life…

    • Yeah, and not even the right kind of meat…..

      • At least she can swap notes in heaven with Mama Cass.

  3. I dunno why but when i hear the name Olga i think of Frankenstein….

    Anyway i find it a bit ridiculous that a millionairres would take a bet of 5 pounds just to sit naked by a window! I mean if i didn’t care for money i would make the bet more interesting like the loser would have to streak accross a highway butt nekkid or would have to perform a striptease in a wallmart or something :p

    Oh and any idea where i can get my hands on this Nun series? Sounds fascinating

    • Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein features a maid named Olga

      • Oooh, oooh! ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ is one of my favourite examples of great beauty juxtaposed with great grossness, each emphasising the other. I do so like contrast.

  4. Hahahaha I love all of your images this time. Now, I finally get Mono Lisa’s smile.

    It is indeed a rare and valuable talent to be able to act and speak offensively, and yet not cause offence. Although I often try, I can’t pull it off.

    • I think Langan pulled it once too often

      • Billy Connolly is a master of the art.

  5. The thing that is so ghastly about Langan’s Brasserie is that its infamy (notoriety?) attracts many hard-working ordinary people to spend a lot of money there on what they hope will be a great meal. They are frequently disappointed, because boorish service and moderate food don’t make a great occasion.

    • Have you read this brilliant review by A A Gill?

      “It was the first modern, really glamorous restaurant in London. Owned by Michael Caine, the chef Richard Shepherd and the amazingly louche, late immolated and mercurial Peter Langan. A head waiter once found him eating a lady guest on the bar.

      There were one or two brilliant dishes on the original menu: a light pastry boat with a mushroom duxelle and mollet quail’s eggs covered in a light hollandaise that was elegant and delicious, and a green spinach soufflé with anchovy sauce. They’re both still here, but the quail’s eggs are now sandy suppositories smothered in a clammy, savoury custard on a thick mire of sodden portobello mushrooms. The Blonde’s soufflé had been cooked too fast. It had a leathery skin and barely enough spinach to fleck the anaemic dried egg. The anchovy sauce was a gloop of puffin bile.”

      • Yes, I have read it – a purler! AA Gill writes some of the most acerbic reviews going….terrific writer (imho).

  6. What Olga Kurylenko is doing over there?

  7. Routh would have gotten along along well with some of my theater friends… a few of whom i’d like to ship parcel post to places far, far, away (perhaps “Sheepwash, Devon”)

  8. There are some restaurants I would streak in/around if I knew I’d be getting a degustation meal for my efforts.

  9. I do remember watching Jonathan Routh ….. nice to get some info on what happened to him ….

  10. There’s a fair bit of nudity going on amidst this social set – something I’ve never had to consider (thankfully) within my own circle of friends!

  11. Well, suitably regaled and amused, I can now go out to hoe the garden with plenty of things to think about and images to beguile me. Thanks, nursie.

  12. I seem to be the very antithesis of Langan. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, I’m sure.

  13. Yay! You know how I love all things “Candid Camera!”

    Routh makes Peter Funt seem like a tool…

    *awkward silence*

    ps. I don’t think I’ve ever told you this before, but I adore your use of adjectives. Today’s favorite: “Louche”

    • I wish I could lay claim to some of these adjectives, but they all belong to other people…..

  14. Funny the Nuns never went to Vegas.

    OR did they and not write about it??

    • I work with a couple of nuns…… I’ll ask and get back to you

  15. America might have come up with Candid Camera, but the Brits perfected it with Trigger Happy TV.

    • Gee those Brits love their animal costumes don’t they?

  16. I love the postman story. Only the English!

  17. i think we can all agree that’s not a cigarette mona’s smokin’! 🙂

  18. He certainly attracted all the lookers, whatever his antics. Margaret and Olga look so stunning.
    But imagine being the heir to Shell Oil – you know, the whole ‘hell on earth’ thing….

  19. Man, these stories always make me wish I was more bohemian

  20. These are people I would have hung out with. With caution but I would have enjoyed the company.

  21. Routh’s version of candid camera sounds much more fun. Loved the story of him sending himself through mail!

  22. Love lord snowden’s photos.

  23. I feel old. I remember Routh’s trick with the car from the original screening. The interesting thing is that at the time he was presented as the actor and not the brains of the jape.

    And for the one and only time I suddenly realise what Anthony Armstrong-Jones saw in Princess Margaret.

  24. What a fun, naughty atmosphere. I know some cockroaches in Jersey he could eat . . .

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