“Therefore I appeal… to your experience Age, whether these Nocturnal Assemblies have not a bad Tendency, to give a loose turn to a young Lady’s Imagination. For the being in Disguise takes away the usual Checks and Restraints of Modesty … and I am apt to think too, that the Ladies may possibly forget their own selves in such strange Dresses, and do that in a personated Character which may stain their real ones.”
– The Guardian, 1713
“As leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, I am a very influential and respected man.”
“Do you mind if I join you?”
Signor Ferrari sits down at our table. He is tall, slim and genial with grey hair sticking out from under his Fez. He chats for a bit – the music, the business at Rick’s, the good food at the Blue Parrot – and then he cuts to business.
“Are you looking for exit visas?”
We nod yes.
“Five of them?”
Yes. I note that my lover, Nikov, has been taken ill. He cannot continue the journey with us. He’s watching Take Me Out in his track suit bottoms in Battersea.
“Look, there is something I want. Have you seen Miss Marie? Beautiful girl – dark grey skirt and jacket, long, curly black hair, a little hat with a flower, just here,” he gestures at his forehead, “She’s a lovely girl – romantic. She is passing on lovers notes. She carries a black bag – in it she has a necklace – a gold charm on a gold chain,” he smiles, “I would like that necklace. Get it from her, I will get you the exit visas. You seem like a persuasive gentleman,” he tells Alfie, “find a way. Enjoy your evening at Rick’s.”
Within an hour Alfie has lured Marie to our table and I have bargained away my family heirloom – a snake ring with emerald eyes – for her necklace. Ferarri has procured the visa. Alfie and Claire met Ugarte in the casino and took his winnings when the cops marched him out. Laszlo is being marched out of the Blue Parrot, and four hundred of us are singing the Marseillaise in an east London cinema.
Just your typical Sunday night, really.
* * * * *
One of my favorite things about visiting Britain is a seemingly national fondness for costume parties. That the Guardian Saturday Magazine includes ‘fancy dress costume of choice’ among only a couple dozen questions for celebrities – right up there with ‘what are do you most fear?’ and ‘what makes you happy?’ – says it all.
Future Cinema is an outcropping of this, and a very elaborate one at that. Run by the people behind Secret Cinema (which is, incidentally, coming to New York), Future Cinema calls itself “live cinema.” It creates experiences based around a film, which sounds better for some movies than others (I am glad, for one, that I picked Casablanca, not Shawshank Redemption). A cinema emptied of seats and filled with cabaret tables, Morrocan food, casinos, live arrests, Sam tinkling the keys, “Knock on Wood,” champagne cocktails and four hundred people in full costume.
I may be much mistaken. Perhaps there are places in the States where this kind of thing happens. But if so, I have never heard of it.
After the closing credits (“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, thunderous applause) Rose and Jenny head for home and Claire, Alfie and I grab a glass of prosecco and dance in our fedoras and pearls until its time to go back into the chilly night and hurry down some backstreets to Shadwell for the last overground out.
“Now who’s lucky?
Just how lucky?
Well smile again and once again lets
Knock on wood!”