Saturday 27 June 2015


On 4 July, I will be taking part in 'Alice's Day', Oxford's annual event held in celebration of that day in 1862 when the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) took the three daughters of the Dean of Christ Church on a river picnic during the course of which he told the girls the story of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. 'Alice's Day 2015' will focus on the 150th anniversary of the first publication of the book that was destined to bring fame to Alice and her storyteller...

The Lewis Carroll Society is presenting a trio of talks at The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AQ. Will Brooker will be speaking on ‘Alice and Popular Culture’, while Franziska Kohlt is presenting a talk entitled ‘The use of a book with pictures and conversations: Victorian Children’s Books and their Illustrations’. My own talk, ‘Alice in Cartoonland', celebrates a century-and-a-half of cartoonist's interpretations of Alice and her world.

The event is free and begins at 10:30 am

Thursday 25 June 2015


The ultimate Disney collectable ––– DISNEY!

Some people are happy with a stuffed toy of Mickey Mouse, but if you crave something more memorable – something that is totally, utterly and ultimately DISNEY – then this, surely, is it! 

Pop along to the upcoming Hollywood Extravaganza Famous Movie Props and Costumes auction on 27 June, at Premiere Props, 128 Sierra Street, El Segundo, California, USA, you have the opportunity to bid on the chance to have a legendary movie-maker living in your home!

Here's what the catalogue says about this unusual auction item...

This one-of-a-kind life-size piece was made by famed wax figure artiste Madame Katherine Stubergh, likely in the 1950s. Stubergh was a celebrity in her own right and it was considered a huge honor to be immortalized in wax by her.
This figure, which stands 5'9" (exactly Disney's height), was sculpted by Stubergh herself using an actual life mask cast from Disney's face. (Fans have been desperately searching for a life mask of Disney and now at last it has been found.) After the mold was pulled from his face, Stubergh used all her skills to recreate the studio mogul in exacting detail.
Once the sculptures were finished and approved, Mr. Disney sat live with the artist in Stubergh's Studio as she meticulously painted the face and hands to exactly match Disney's skin tones, then hand-punched the exact shades of human hair one at a time into the wax head to complete the sculpture. 

Estimated Price: $20,000 - $40,000

And everyone always used to say Disney was frozen! Ha!

Prospective buyers click here

Tuesday 23 June 2015


Here, in addition to the photos previously published on this blog, are a few more pictorial memories of our recent stay on Kalymnos (and, specifically, in Emborios) taken (mostly) by David Weeks and (by kind permission) Sheila Shrigley, with the odd one or two by yours truly.

So, now that's sorted, back to reality...




Saturday 20 June 2015


I've long been fascinated with magic in the movies and recently had an opportunity to write something on the subject for the June issue of The Magic Circular, the magazine of The Magic Circle. 

It feels like there's a book in there waiting to get written: I wonder if I can convince a publisher that I'm right?

Meanwhile, depending on the efficiency of your eyesight, here's the preliminary version (click on individual images to enlarge)...

Thursday 18 June 2015


My 1998 BBC six-part radio series, Disney's Women, celebrating Walt Disney's leading ladies which I originally co-presented with Walt's daughter, the late Diane Disney Miller, is currently being re-broadcast as three one-hour programmes on BBC Radio 2.

Diane and I discuss all those famous Disney heroines – Snow White, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Ariel and Belle (oh, yes, and not forgetting Minnie Mouse!) – as well those wicked queens, cruel stepmothers and other menacing villainesses, such as the dalmatian-fur-obsessed Cruella de Vil! The series also explores the importance and influence of Walt's mother, Flora Disney, his wife, Lillian and their two daughters.

In addition to my co-presenter, many of those whom I interviewed for the series are, sadly, no longer with us  which gives it an added poignancy to the programmes as well as providing a remarkable archive of the women (and men!) who were responsible for the memorable female characters in Disney movies: among the role-call of the departed are artists and animators, Marc Davis, John Hench, Joe Grant, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Disney executive, Roy E Disney and biographer Bob Thomas and my dear friend and most intuitive of Disney historians, Robin Allan.

The series – produced by my good pal and colleague, Malcolm Prince – examines the work of artists Mary Blair and Alice Davis as well as featuring the work of the singers and actresses who gave voice (and sometimes provided live-action inspiration) for the Disney ladies from Adriana Caselotti (Snow White), Ilene Woods (Cinderella) and Katherine Beaumont (Alice and Wendy) to Jodi Benson (Ariel) and Ming-Na Wen (Mulan). There are also contributions from Richard M Sherman, who with his late brother, Robert B Sherman, wrote the songbook of '60s childhood and, of course, Dame Julie Andrews who sang some of their most famous songs!

Disney's Women is being broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on Tuesday evenings at 10:00 pm and episodes are available afterwards on BBC iPlayer for 30 days.

You will find current listening details here

A common comment that I receive when an old programme of mine such as this gets repeated runs along the lines of: 'More cash rolling into the Sibley coffers, courtesy of the BBC!' Oh, if only they knew: this series would not normally carry any repeat fee, but – on this occasion – only because I had to go into Broadcasting House to record updated the opening and closing announcements, I will be getting the princely sum of £200!

Ah, well, never mind, at least it's nice to know that people will get a chance to hear again what was once a regular radio voice...

Wednesday 17 June 2015


There's a vacant chair on the beach today...

Tuesday 16 June 2015


Time to go...

The condemned man ate a hearty breakfast...

Monday 15 June 2015


Our last day and look what's just dropped anchor in Emborios bay....

The 'Mayan Queen' is a 92 meter motor yacht, built by Blohm & Voss and delivered to her owner in 2008. She is designed by Tim Heywood, while her interior is designed by Terence Disdale Designs Terence . She can accommodate 16 guests and 24 crew. The yacht has a cruise speed of 20 knots with a top speed of 22 knots.

She belongs to Alberto Bailleres, owner of one the largest mining companies in the world. Through his private holding firm Grupo Bal he holds the shares of Industries Penoles, the second largest mining company of Mexico, producing 25,000 kg of gold and 2,5 million kg of silver annually. Bailleres also owns a chain of department stores, 'El Palacio de Hierro', a high end retailer with brand names like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Prada.

We're waiting to see if they're going to come ashore to join us for dinner...

Saturday 13 June 2015


Musmula fruit (known here by its local name 'zanara' and elsewhere in Europe as a 'medlar'): not especially attractive to look at but a fleshy, plum-like fruit with a large shiny stone (not dissimilar to that of a lychee) and with deliciously sweet and slightly fragrant taste...

Greek biscuits: they are drier than you expect, but are often hiding a soft, chocolate filling...

And ice-creams that you won't find on the seafront at Brighton or Blackpool...


One of the joys of foreign travel: the chance to taste dishes authentic to the region... the case a breakfast cereal you won't find in your local UK supermarket.

But 'why?' you can't help wondering: did they do some selective consumer research and discover that the Brits just weren't up to dark chocolate on their corn flakes...?

Thursday 11 June 2015


I consider myself fortunate to have so many personal memories of the late Sir Christopher Lee – mainly through our joint association with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies: a mere handful out of his astonishing 206 movie appearances...

We first met in 1973, when I was a guest of Peter Cushing at Pinewood Studio where he was filming Nothing But the Night with Diana Dors and Christopher Lee. I remember Peter introducing me to this imposing figure who was as austere and as intimidating as you might expect him to be from so many of his roles.

Not long after, my best friend and I (confirmed film nuts) bought tickets for a BAFTA award ceremony at the National Film Theatre and found ourselves sitting behind Christopher. Eager to impress my chum, I accosted the actor as we were getting up to leave the theatre and sought to remind him of our meeting at Pinewood. Of course, he had absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the occasion and I should have let it go at that, but – in a vain attempt to prolong the non-conversation – I stammered: 'So, how is Peter Cushing?' Raising his busy brows and giving me a withering look, he replied snappishly: 'We don't live together, you know.'

When, many years later, over lunch at my then London club, I plucked up the courage to recount this exchange, he was graciously penitent about the put-down. Another memory of that lunch was listening to Christopher, an exceptional linguist (who had just been quoting J R R Tolkien to me – in Elvish), conversing with the club's Cypriot maître d' in both Greek and Turkish. On that and other occasions, he shared his seemingly inexhaustible fund of anecdotes including personal memories of Tolkien and two other shared literary heroes, C S Lewis and M R James. 

One prickly encounter occurred at Cannes early in 2001, where the preview footage of The Fellowship of the Ring was being screened. I was showing the proofs of my first Official Movie Companion to members of the cast for them to check the biographical details. Having read the entry on himself, Christopher looked up, frowning: 'I don't believe I have actually played Dracula as many times as you say here.' Standing my ground, I replied: 'I think you did...' He glowered and, handing back the proof, said: 'Well, even I did, I don't think we need to say how many, do you?' So, of course, we didn't!

Then there was Dominic Monaghan's 26th birthday party (coinciding with the December 2002 premiere of The Two Towers) at an expensive restaurant in Paris. Cast and other talent were present and I was seated with WETA Workshop's Richard Taylor on one side and Christopher and his wife, Gitte, on the other. After the first two courses, Christopher and Gitte decided to slip away, in order to be rested for the following day's premiere exertions. Getting up from his seat, Christopher murmured: 'Settle up what we owe when the bill comes, there's a good fellow and I'll sort it with you tomorrow.' I had what was an anxious hour, uncertain whether – if I ordered desert and coffee – I would have enough euros for the Lees' dinners and my own! Mercifully, when the bill did arrive, it was instantly snaffled by producer Barrie Osborne, who paid for all present.

I spent a good number of hours interviewing Christopher for The Lord of the Rings DVD bonus discs, invariably getting into trouble from Gitte for keeping him too long in front of the camera; although, in truth, I was never to blame since, whenever I made an attempt to wrap the interview, Christopher would always embark on yet another round of stories. 

Our most memorable interview, however, was a remote one, via telephone. It was 2008 and David and I are having lunch in our local pub when my mobile rings. I answer and hear the familiar basso profundo tones: 'Is that Brian Sibley?'  

'Hello, Christopher.'

'How did you know it was me? I was disguising my voice!' 

He has just finished reading my biography of Peter Jackson in which PJ relates a story about directing Christopher's death scene as Saruman in The Return of the King. Pete had asked Christopher to give a great scream when Grima stabs him in the back, but Christopher had explained that somebody stabbed in the back would never cry out, but would simply give a sharp exhalation of breath. So, PJ wanted to know, how come Christopher knew this? The answer: because he had been in the Special Air Services (SAS).

'Peter,' says the voice on the phone, 'was incorrect in telling that because I was, in fact, in the SAS Reserve.'

I apologise: 'I should have checked with you...'

'It's alright,' he replies, 'I have spoken to the Head of the SAS this morning and explained the situation and that you are not to blame.'

I am then treated (not for the first time) to a detailed analysis of why Peter was wrong to have cut the aforementioned scene from the theatrical release of The Return of the King ('Saruman has been established as a nemesis for two movies and then simply disappears?!') This complaint, in turn, prompts a tirade about the fact that his recent appearance in Tim Burton's film of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd has also been cut. The intention had been for the film to begin with Christopher singing the musical's opening song, 'The Ballad of Sweeney Todd', which, in the stage show, establishes Todd's character and the narrative style.

'You know the number, I presume?' he enquires, but before I can reply he has launched into the song with great gusto. I thought to myself, I will never forget this moment: I am sitting in a pub, eating pie and mash, while Christopher Lee sings Sondheim to me down the phone!

He was, of course, noted for his idiosyncratic discography: from Mussorgsky's 'The Song of the Flea' to Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' – not forgetting his memorable Heavy Metal version of 'The Little Drummer Boy'! A pity then that the world at large was denied his screen rendition of the Sweeney Todd song, but I can hear it still...

That marathon telephone conversation (though it was more of a monologue than a conversation) ran for over an hour, until the 'low battery' warning on the phone was flashing with increasing rapidity. Just before finally defeating my Nokia's endurance levels, Christopher made a surprisingly unguarded comment about someone connected with The Lord of the Rings and, when I laughed, added sternly: 'And you will not repeat that, Brian Sibley, do you understand? Remember, I still have a number of very good friends in the SAS!'

Farewell, Christopher, the world is an immeasurably duller place for your passing...

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee

Caricature by Bast

Wednesday 10 June 2015


Was reminded of Edward Lear's lines (from 'The Dong with the Luminous Nose'):
When Storm-clouds brood on the towering heights 
Of the Hills of the Chankly Bore

With no sun on sea and sand, today, it's a good job we hired car in order to do a little touring – hopefully not of the best rainy spots of Greece!

Sunday 7 June 2015


My faithful best friends and constant companions...

Photo © David Weeks 2015

Saturday 6 June 2015


Photo © Brian Sibley 2015

Tuesday 2 June 2015


The absolutely ONLY way in which to eat that otherwise most unpleasant vegetable, the aubergine: slice it, batter it, deep fry it and serve it with Kalymnian honey and cinnamon. Perfect!