19 NOVEMBER 1994, Page 68


Presents for the Cabinet

Alistair McAlpine

ust occasionally a sale-room has a run of sales that break away from their normal activity of selling money for more money- Bonhams has such a run in the last week of November and early December. Not a sign of an Impressionist painting for sale, no important offerings of jewellery, no grand sales of fine French furniture or English 18th-century furniture with impressive provenance offered, either. Not even the hint of an Old Master scheduled for sale in those happy weeks. Bonhams' offerings of November and December are all great fun: a delight. Sat- urday, 26 November is the first such sale, of rare records. As well as the sound archive of Radio Luxembourg's DJ, Tony `the Royal Ruler' Prince, a collection of 1,030 rare collectable rock and pop 45 r.p.m. DJ demonstration copies and acetates from the Fifties and Sixties has been put together. As a small boy, I used to listen late into the night to Radio Luxem- bourg, huddled close to a transistor radio under the sheets of my boarding school bed. At the time, due to this late night lis- tening, I was well versed in pop


while my Latin grammar suffered irrepara- bly. Now to my horror I cannot remember either my Latin or the pop songs. I have absolutely no memory of Tony 'the Royal Ruler' Prince. I can only suppose that he worked the day shift while I listened to the night shift. How I wish now that I had paid more attention to Tony 'the Royal Ruler' Prince and as an adult had rushed out and bought a copy of the Beatles 1962 single Love Me Do', which would have cost me six-and- nine-pence. The copy in this sale is expected to fetch £10,000. Indeed it may Very well fetch twice that sum. Few invest- ments can have equalled this one. My Latin master never gave me such sound financial advice.

On 1 December, Bonhams will sell the studio of Miguel Canals. No relative of Canaletto, indeed a 20th-century master in his own right. Bonhams describes this gen- tleman as the master copyist of Barcelona and points out that his work is still holding its price in the market place; which I sup- pose is a polite way of saying that the work of those he copies — Renoir, Degas and Modigliani — do not. Lest my enthusiasm for this sale and the work of Miguel Canals be misunderstood I must point out that the Pomposity of the art market needs to have a little needle every once in a while and that is what, intentionally or not, Bonhams is doing. Should any of my close relatives Who are in the habit of sending me a little something for Christmas inadvertently read my words, I must make it quite clear that I do not want an example of Sefior Canals's Work, even as a gift, despite Bonhams alert- ing us to the high quality of his produce, with prices ranging from £50 – 11,000. On 7 December, Bonhams have a sale from which almost any lot would be wel- comed by me. At 2.00 p.m. they will sell items from the worlds of film and enter- tainment. Why they describe the worlds of film and entertainment separately is a mys- tery to me. Are not films entertainment? In any event the complete script library of Frankie Howard's television and film shows, many of them written by Eric Sykes and annotated in Howard's own hand, is a lot I would give my eye-teeth for. This lot also includes a collection of Howard's per- sonal correspondence. Stan Laurel's bowler hat and a cane autographed by Charlie Chaplin are offered later in the sale. I can- not believe that this cane is the only one on which this great genius wrote his name. About this time I usually begin to con- template items for those who wish to give Christmas gifts to the Cabinet. Some peo- ple like to buy their gifts and allocate later, others make a list and endlessly tour the shops trying to fit the goods for sale to the names on it. Billie Ritchie's clown outfit would be an ideal purchase for shoppers Who use the former method. There can barely be a member of the cm-rent adminis- tration whom it would not suit. There are ventriloquists' dummies in profusion in this sale, not to mention Max Miller medals. How convenient to be able to do all your Christmas shopping in one afternoon. On the same day, Bonhams are selling the archive of Billy White, who was both a jazz aficionado and a talented professional pho- tographer. This includes 15,000 colour trans- parencies featuring all the jazz greats of the post war years. Bonhams are also offering real ale and live jazz during the evening sale, no doubt to help the bidding along.

On 16 December, Bonhams have a sale of fountain pens, useful for thank-you letters after Christmas. Any of these will, I have no doubt, make a welcome gift. Bonhams invented the selling of pens at auction and these implements now enjoy a brisk market. Christmas toys, dolls and teddy bears are to be sold on 20 December. Bonhams rec- ommend for the Christmas stocking a silver C.I.J. tin plate clockwork P.2. Alfa Romeo, estimated at £600. Take care with this item for in the season of good will jokes are not always considered funny. If you intend to give this toy to your wife or girlfriend be sure to have the real thing parked in the drive, or you may not have as happy a Christmas as Bonhams intends.