Chris’s Debut on the Small (and Smaller) Screen

High tea

As most folks know, before there was A Butler’s Manor, there was a butler…Chris spent some twenty-plus years “in service.” It isn’t a common way to make a living, and until the Internet, most of those who did so worked in relative isolation from one another. (This, by the way, was the employers’ preference, to prevent their butlers from both comparing notes on issues like compensation, and being poached.) It is, I think, an interesting way to make a living, which is why I wrote A Butler’s Life: Scenes from The Other Side of the Silver Salver a number of years back. The confluence of these two disparate points is that when someone Googles “butler” for some reason, between that book, Chris’s memberships in the few butler/household management/domestic staff [groups] and connections with the few schools worldwide, and A Butler’s Manor, chances are good that the name Christopher Allen comes up.

Which is what happened when Scott Ross, an entertainment reviewer for NBC, decided that it would be an interesting idea to have a real butler comment on the recently released remake of the 1981 classic “Arthur,” now starring Russell Brand. Tracking Chris down through A Butler’s Manor’s, he invited him (us!) to join him at a pre-release screening of the new film in New York City. What fun!

The original of course starred Dudley Moore in the title role. Sir John Gielgud, as Arthur’s butler Hobson, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the role. I found this particularly apropos because, when Chris and I first met back in 1986, one of the things that captivated me was that he looked rather like a cross between Davy Jones and Dudley Moore, and he could (and can still) do a perfect “Arthur” imitation.

So two weeks ago this Tuesday, we met Scott near Rockefeller Center and walked over to the Warner Bros. screening room where we joined some 50 other viewers, mostly journalists. Scott had said in his email that it would be especially appropriate to go out afterwards and discuss Chris’s reactions over afternoon tea. (Chris joked that, the movie in question being Arthur, we should really discuss it at the nearest bar.) “Tea and a shoot,” Scott had written, which Chris interpreted as maybe a photo to accompany Scott’s blog. Hah!

Following the movie, we took a cab to Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon  in Gramercy Park area, a lovely old residential building that is also an inn, and were shown to a small private dining room where a table was set for two…surrounded by a camera, lights, and a videographer. Eeeek!!! Scott interviewed Chris for perhaps forty minutes, which like anything in television was slated to be edited down to a few good sound bites. You’d never know by the video clip that Chris didn’t dare sip his tea during the interview, for fear of exposing his shaking hands!

Afterwards, we all had the wonderful high tea: salmon, egg salad, cucumber, and cream cheese sandwiches, mini scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and a yummy cake made with what seemed like two dozen layers of crepes spread with Bavarian cream. They brought the latter out with a candle in it, as it had been Chris’s birthday the day before. It was everything Hobson would have approved of; a class act.

Believe me, we had a more Arthur-appropriate beverage once we got home, as Chris was still shaking!

Oh, and is the new Arthur worth seeing? The short answer? Nah — wait for it on Netfliks. However, the original version is available in our video library, for your enjoyment on your next visit…

Quote of the Day: “I’ve taken the liberty of anticipating your condition. I have brought you orange juice, coffee, and aspirins. Or do you need to throw up?” — Sir John Gielgud as Hobson, Arthur, 1981)

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