Sunday, March 16, 2014

Random Excerpt

 From Syd Chaplin: A Biography by Lisa K. SteinMcFarland, 2011
Sydney and Gypsy's first visit to Charlie's new residence in Vevey, Switzerland occurred May 22, 1954 & pretty much every day thereafter for a week. Subsequent visits occurred in August and then for the next few months, with the Charlie Chaplins often meeting them for dinner at their residence, the Montreux Palace Hotel. Thus began a sort of tradition of Sydney and Gypsy visits, ones that their nieces and nephews remember with great fondness. Geraldine remembers that her aunt and uncle arrived usually in the early afternoon and stayed then for dinner, with lots of performing (usually skilled magic tricks) and joke-telling in between, for the benefit of the children and often to Charlie's horror: "They always arrived in Sydney's incredible cadillac, which was an enormous thing. The biggest latest model. He would drive it so slowly, you wouldn't believe it--about 30 kilometers an hour [Michael recalled that you could see a long line of cars snaking through the Swiss countryside following Syd's huge car.] It had these two things coming out of the bumper with rubber on them that looked like breasts and Sydney would say, "These are my Marilyn Monroe's." Sydney's jokes were similarly off-color, probably the reason they were so enjoyed and remembered. Geraldine remembered one such joke, not because it was funny or because she even understood it, but because she and her siblings didn't understand what a "waffle" was--a word important to the punchline. They thought it must have some sexual connotation and was therefore all the more valuable for it.
Syd and his second (and last) wife, Henriette (aka Gypsy), c. 1956.
(Source: Syd Chaplin by Lisa K. Stein)
More than that, Sydney was just generally funny and always on the lookout for some way to entertain the kids. Michael Chaplin recalled that "once, in Switzerland, out in the garden where my parents used to dine, I was with Josephine and there was a black cat that jumped on the dining room window. Josephine threw a stone at the cat and it smatshed through the window into the dining room. Sydney, in the dining room, fell off his chair as if he had been shot. I guess Gypsy bawled him out, because he gave her a terrible fright, but we all thought it was hilarious." 
The children thought of Sydney not only as a humorous and entertaining guy, but as a gangster of some sort. He pasted his hair down with dressing, smoked big cigars and drove the huge cadillac. He had a wife, Gypsy, who spoke with a foreign accent, wore Chanel suits and was adorned with gaudy jewelry Sydney had picked out for her or had acquired cheaply at the Nice pawnshops that served largely the casino clientele. Gypsy was not the only recipient of Sydney's generosity, however. Oona received her first 16mm movie camera from Sydney and the children were overloaded with gifts. Josephine, for instance, received "a beautiful gold heart with a square emerald & two tiny emeralds & diamonds. It's supposed to be for her charm bracelet but I think it's too nice and should hang on her neck on a chain....The stones came from some ring Syd had picked up cheaply long ago. Then a Nice jeweler made it and it has quite a sparkle. [Oona Chaplin to Betty Tetrick, Feb. 1961]"
Charlie and Syd juggling for the home movie camera

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