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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 7 August 2009
Ian Wilder
Ian Wilder
Battler on the end of the line

IT’S strange that although I never actually met Ian Wilder I feel as if I knew the inner man.
I began to get to know him two or three years ago when he started ringing my office and asking for me.
From then on he would ring about once a month championing some West End cause or other with the kind of intense fervour and honesty that, I began to realise, made him stand out as a Westminster councillor.
His calls would come at any time from the afternoon to evening, weekdays or weekends, and each time I felt it strange that I was talking to a councillor calling from a sickbed 3,000 miles away.
Lately, he became a great defender of the eastern part of Oxford Street, afraid that predatory commercial interests wanted to turn it into a copy of the other part of the street which is dominated by the big chains.
It was only after some time that he began to tell me that he was ringing from his bed at a cancer specialist hospital in Houston, Texas, where he was being given the very latest in
hi-tech medicine that was not available in Britain.
He told me a consultant at a London hospital had only given him a few months to live, and that he had turned to the Houston hospital famous throughout the world for its cutting-edge treatment of cancer.
In the past year he would begin his calls with a description of the latest treatment with a matter-of-fact tone.
Though he clearly differed with some of the policies pursued by his Conservative colleagues on Westminster Council, I soon noticed he had a sense of political honour and would never betray confidences.
The last time he rang, about a month ago, he told me that the doctors had warned him that if their last-resort treatment didn’t work it would not be possible to save him.
I was afraid the treatment failed because the calls came to an end – and last week, with great sadness, I discovered he had passed away.
For some reason we had taken to each other and exchanged the kind of family confidences you only share with someone you have known intimately for years.
From the first time we met, over the phone as it were, I knew here was a man with special qualities.
His death leaves a great vacuum.

Dad’s Army and real soldier Lem

PRIVATE letters of a young First World War soldier killed in battle will be retold on the West End stage this autumn.
My Real War 1914-? reveals the brutal conditions of the trenches as seen through the eyes of 2nd Lieutenant Havilland le Mesurier interspersed with rare moments of comfort, such as when “Lem” is stationed in a French mansion with an incredible wine cellar.
Strangest of all, Diary has learned that had the young le Mesurier survived the war, he would have been the uncle of John le Mesurier, the actor best known for his role in the war-time comedy Dad’s Army.
Philip Desmeules plays Lem in the show, at the Trafalgar Studios from October.

Man in the hat borrows a book store

IS Bell Street set to become the next Portobello Road?
That is the rumour after one of the world’s most celebrated film directors dropped into a bookshop in the quiet Marylebone road last week.
Filming scenes for his next London-based movie, Woody Allen chose Stephen Foster Books – called The Zodiac Bookshop in the film – as the spot to shoot his leading lady Naomi Watts meeting her love interest.
Remind anyone of a blockbuster movie starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts? Of course, the film was Notting Hill, and the bookshop in question still gets regular busloads of tourists turning up to gawp. Diary hears Mr Allen spent a couple of days in Marylebone and also filmed some scenes in the dining hall at St Edward’s Royal Catholic primary school in Lisson Grove. He is shooting more scenes in Cleveland Terrace, Bayswater, today (Friday) and next week.
Other big names in the movie include Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin and Frieda Pinto.
While the bespectacled pensioner’s unprepossessing presence left some questioning his star quality – Mr Allen seemed to go out of his way to go unnoticed, hiding behind a sun hat during cloudy days – one onlooker felt very differently.
Film fan Laurence Baroini was overjoyed at the sight of her Hollywood hero outside her front door.
“To wake up and see him out of my window, I put my clothes on – I didn’t even go to the toilet – and went straight out with my camera,” the 33-year-old photographer said.
“I didn’t ask for an autograph,” she added. “For me what matters is seeing him there and seeing him quiet and working.”
Estate agent Lewis Genney told Mr Allen he looked like his Dad and shook his hand. “He was a very small, lovely guy,” he added.

Selfridges’ birthday bash goes on...

DIARY has no problem with extended birthday celebrations, but an eyebrow must be raised in the direction of luxury department store Selfridges.
The Oxford Street institution has been celebrating its centenary since the beginning of May – and the festivities are set to continue until the end of August.
Following two months of recreating famous past window displays, the shop has spent the second half of its mammoth birthday party looking to the future, with events taking place every weekend.
After four months of partying, Diary dreads to think what the hangover will be like.

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