Magazine article The Spectator

A Star at Christmas

Magazine article The Spectator

A Star at Christmas

Article excerpt

Having toured all over the East Coast of North America for the past four and a half months, I am more than a touch jetlagged, but incredibly impressed with the modernity, beauty and excitement of some of these US cities.

Although Toronto is not in the US, it still is to me American in flavour (although I'm sure I'd be lynched there for saying that). In the seven weeks that Legends played there, we stayed in a divine section known as Yorkville.

This area has an eclectic selection of chic boutiques, cafés and restaurants to rival St Tropez, Covent Garden and New York City's Village. Not only was it a pleasure to browse and dine there in fabulously balmy autumn weather, but there was no graffiti to be seen anywhere, the streets were litter-free and the citizens seemed less stressed, and better dressed, than in the UK. In fact, Toronto is one of the most beautiful cities I've visited, and its modern infrastructure and buildings blend in perfectly with their older counterparts. Truly the city planners knew their onions when they designed it. The only strange thing about Toronto is that during the entire time I strolled the city streets, I saw only one child, and that was in the building we were in. I wonder where they keep their tots?

Philadelphia is another spectacular city, with more great shops and restaurants.

The women were also all extremely well dressed, almost Parisian, in fact, and the city possesses a trove of museums, cultural centres, parks and squares; also very Parisian. In fact, our favourite hangout (and that of the rest of the denizens of the filial city, it seemed) was a Parisian-style bistro called Rouge. All it needs is some civil unrest and it could easily be mistaken for Paris.

ABroadway icon died while we were in Philadelphia last month, and The Great White Way dimmed its lights for one minute in memory of the dazzlingly talented and adorable Betty Comden. I first met Betty with her writing partner, the legendary and hilariously witty Adolph Green, and no Manhattan or Hollywood party was ever complete without the two of them performing some of the numbers they wrote for Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Bells are Ringing, On The Town, Wonderful Town -- the legacy of classic movies and theatre productions is endless. Adolph died four years ago, so now they both will be sorely missed.

Of course, few beautiful cities anywhere in the world can beat Washington, DC. It's as imposing and breathtaking as ever, with the White House seemingly painted and powdered to a shimmering glow. The mighty Potomac bisects the city, with ample parks and greenery on its shores, and the Washington Monument rockets up in twotone glory, aspiring like the hopes of a new nation, while, bridged by the gap of the reflecting pool, the Lincoln Memorial stands solid and stately on the other side, mirroring the man who held this nation together with iron will. (Pity they don't have one now. ) And on top of it all, the streets are festooned with exquisite Christmas decorations. We took a tour of the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery and admired the vast collection of portraiture and art it has amassed, including the Hall of Presidents where I was told that a few hours earlier Dubya had been making an ass of himself in expected fashion while being consulted on his own portrait. I was thrilled that my son Sacha Newley has an entire wall of the museum to exhibit his full-length portrait of the late Christopher Reeves, who sits impassively, like a man of steel, in his wheelchair. …

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