In Memoir, Antonia Fraser Implies St. Louisans Are Baseball-Loving Philistines


Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter: They were in love, God bless 'em.
  • Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter: They were in love, God bless 'em.
Unless you're living under a rock, you've undoubtedly heard about Lady Antonia Fraser's new memoir -- the one about her life with playwright Harold Pinter. These two commenced an affair back in 1975 London, when she was a well-known historian and the (married) mother of six and he was the (married) greatest living English playwright.

Unlike most couples who begin under such circumstances, however, these two actually made it work. Thirty-four years of bliss! Marriage recognized by the Roman Catholic church! Really lovely true love! The book, Must You Go?, is seriously an inspiration.

It contains, however, one of the least flattering (and perhaps most accurate) descriptions of St. Louis we've read in recent memory.
Now, it's not that Lady Antonia hated our fair city. (She doesn't really venture to describe it as a place.) No, it's more the anecdote she shares about our citizenry.

In the book, Fraser describes how, after years of focusing on writing and directing, Pinter decides return to his roots as an actor and star in a production of his classic play, Old Times, with Liv Ullman. The play is going to tour Los Angeles and San Francisco -- but first, there is a tryout in St. Louis.

This might not be such an unflattering detail (what better place to try out a play than in this theater-loving city?) -- but for the fact that it's October. Of 1985.

If you're a Cardinals fan, and the name "Bret Saberhagen" means anything to you, you might guess what's coming next.

As Lady Antonia writes:

Unfortunately, Harold trod the boards officially for the first time in seventeen years on the night of the World Series in which the St. Louis Cardinals were featured. Unhappy husbands listened to the results on headphones during the performance, having been dragged to the show by their culture-conscious wives. While these same wives put on expressions thought suitable for Pinter: wistful ennui just about sums it up. There were sudden eruptions of violent unlawful sounds from the headphones.
For the record, Fraser also provides a lovely anecdote about visiting Tennessee Williams' grave at the Catholic cemetery here -- a final resting place that RFT staff writer Aimee Levitt wrote a bit about here. Hers is a wonderful, generous memoir overall; our only beef might be that its portrayal of St. Louis men in the post-season hits a bit too close to home.


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