Christmas 1962. Noel Coward was having a star-studded house party in wonderfully neutral Switzerland.
After dinner, the double pianos were enchantingly taken over by Coward and Kay Thompson (you know, Liza’s godmother; the fab woman who wrote Eloise and sang “Think Pink” in Funny Face).
As a guest tells Sam Irvin in his new book about Kay:
“Sitting in the corner looking bored was Marlene Dietrich — and she eventually disappeared because nobody was paying any attention to her.
“Unfortunately, sometime later, she came back and in her hand she had some records.
“She interrupted the evening we were simply adoring to say, ‘Here, you must play this. These are my applauses.’
“Records of applause! There was no music on them. Just the applause!”
Irvin reports that Kay Thompson called that night “wet-blanket time” and added, “Marlene could be a most humorless human being.”
Which is why I always keep all the records of my applauses to myself.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 23, 2010