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December 9, 2008

Claus: Not the Santa but the Theater Critic

Sunny von Bulow's death has triggered various disconnected memories. The night after I heard the news (on the Internet; it was in the papers the next day) I ran into Alexandra Isles, the actress and now acclaimed documentary filmmaker, who had played a key role in the Bulow trials and whom I once knew and liked and whom I hadn't seen for years. That reminded me of my one encounter with Claus von Bulow (whom Jeremy Irons nailed in the film "Reversal of Fortune"; asked how perverse he/Bulow really was, Irons replied, "You have no idea," in a line reading that has become classic Hollywood).

Ten or fifteen years ago I was on the train/bus from Victoria Station to Glyndebourne, and a friend introduced me to von Bulow, with whom I then had a long conversation. (The friend kept calling him Hans, the cuckolded conductor who championed Wagner and gave up Cosima to him, which finally prompted a gentle correction from Claus.)

I found him saturnine but charming in his way. In her ArtsJournal blog, Drama Queen, Wendy Rosenfield has jokingly suggested parallels between von Bulow and Ben Brantley, since von Bulow has been writing theater and other arts reviews in London. His father was a theater critic and playwright, as well.

Anyhow, von Bulow said he wrote his reviews for a Catholic monthly, I think it was. He added without encouragement from me that he enjoyed stressing the kinky sex angles in the plays he saw. I asked him if that posed any problems with the priest who edited the journal.

"Oh, no," he replied, or words to that effect. "He thinks that letting me get away with that proves how progressive Catholicism has become."

December 9, 2008 8:17 AM | | Comments (1)

1 Comments

Thanks for the recognition, and that's certainly a revealing and interesting anecdote.

But just to be clear, I wasn't singling out Mr. Brantley. We're all--and by we, I mean theater critics--just a little bit von Bulow. (I think I hear the makings of a musical!)

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