Sunday, December 15, 2013



(Seventh in a series of tales told out of school, both literally and figuratively, how my Swiss Cheese brain remembers such events which may or may not be accurate at all. Preface: I attended a girls' private prep school in the 1960s with a student body who often mimicked the creativity of that era with its own high spirits, a pendulum reaction to the heavy course load and voluminous homework from which many of us still haven't caught up on lost sleep some forty-plus years on and from which many of us still retain permanently stooped posture via carrying heavy textbooks. Well, it's not like there existed alternatives to those heavy textbooks. We didn't have personal home computers because no one on this particular planet in this galaxy had them yet. So let's roll back the roiling mists of time to The Pleistocene of my youth.)

Today brought news of the death of rightfully acclaimed, international stage and screen actor Peter O'Toole, aged 81, and with it wistful memories circa 1962/3 at my prep school. For those were the salient years following the release of David Lean's epic film Lawrence of Arabia starring the young and then unknown O'Toole. The above photos from our 1963 yearbook chronicle the immediate fad of Arabism blossoming at alma mater solely due to the O'Toole charisma, what with wearing of keffiyeh headgear and bernooses galore to class amidst much quoting of T.E. Lawrence' "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom."  

Why?  Take a gander at yon vintage heartthrob below left, all Valentino eyes and exotica. 
Left, Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia; right, the real T.E. Lawrence
The Lawrence portrayal with all his intensity, otherworldliness and youthful tall, blond, blue-eyed great looks may have launched a sixty year career of the RADA-trained actor inclusive of many a lively period piece like Becket and The Lion in Winter, but his later canon excelled as well. 1982's My Favorite Year with his comic turn as a soused Errol Flynn-alike on a 1950s variety show and 2006's study of the complexity of elderly emotions in Venus remain personal faves. 

Bonus points: his father was an Irish bookie named Spats O'Toole; his first wife Sian Phillips often specialized in acting roles of delicious wickedness, as in her Livia of I, Claudius and Anne, wayward wife of George Smiley in the Alec Guinness series ("love to Anne. Everybody's love to Anne!") 

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