Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Curious Case of Godfrey Winn

Auberon Waugh's diary entry for the 27th of November, 1973, finds him reading Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart's Diaries, which he is reviewing for (the late lamented) Books and Bookmen. After passing on a few titbits (including the startling claim that 'Professor Joad, the notorious sexual braggart, was impotent'), Waugh declares that 'by far the most important revelation is on the delicate matter of Somerset Maugham's sex life. "Maugham has had relations with women," claims Sir Robert, who goes on to reveal that "because of his homosexual nervosity he could not perform alone. The liaison was à trois. The third was Godfrey Winn."'
 'What an august sandwich!' remarks Waugh. But who was Godfrey Winn? A footnote identifies him curtly as 'a journalist'. I have faint memories of Winn (known to some as 'Godfrey Winsome' or 'Winifred God') towards the end of his career, when he was a minor celebrity and a regular feature writer in my mother's women's magazines (the diligent study of which made me the man I am today). While Beverley Nichols took care of cats, gardens and whimsy, Godfrey Winn was more of an all-purpose showbiz hack, recording his meetings with the stars – hence the picture above, with the Beatles, and below, in one of the more bizarre encounters in showbiz history, with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
  The careers of Beverley Nichols and Godfrey Winn are, to an extent, oddly parallel. Both began with early promise – Winn's first novel, Dreams Fade, was published when he was 22, and he continued to turn them out, along with biographies and volumes of memoirs, to the end – and both went on to became mainstays of the women's magazine market. However, Winn in the post-war years was far more of a celebrity than Nichols, making frequent radio and television appearances, judging Miss World contests (yes, really), and even taking a few small film roles – the last of which was as 'Archbishop of All England' in Up the Chastity Belt (hard to imagine Beverley doing that. Actually it's quite hard to imagine Godfrey...).
  Winn was also more of a seasoned journalist than Nichols, working as a war correspondent after being invalided out of the Royal Navy. He was reputedly the first British war correspondent to cross the Maginot line, and he survived the terrible fiasco of the PQ17 Arctic convoy (24 out of 35 merchant ships lost), subsequently writing a book about it. It seems there was a good deal more to Godfrey Winn than that august sandwich and those star-struck showbiz interviews.
(Yes, that's Jonathan King on the left.)

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Used to really like Winn, but had no idea of his "bottom", so to speak! Great chap! And "I have faint memories of Winn (known to some as 'Godfrey Winsome' or 'Winifred God') towards the end of his career, when he was a minor celebrity and a regular feature writer in my mother's women's magazines (the diligent study of which made me the man I am today)." Love it!

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  2. Thanks Bootless - good to hear from you...

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