I am writing this just after watching a programme called High Society’s Favourite Gigolo originally broadcast on Channel Four (UK) back in Novemeber 2008. The Documentary tells the story of Leslie Hutchinson, Britain’s fist black superstar entertainer. Watching the programme I was not surprised I had not heard of him, like so many individuals of colour who had made significant contributions to this Country in one way or the other. Even he and other black contemporaries made such significant contributions to the war effort of the Second World War, it is again not surprising that Dame Vera Lynn is still warmly thought of while people like Hutch don’t even get a mention.
One could argue that he was hardly discreet in the way he went about his personal business. What works in mainland Europe (in his case Paris,) doesn’t work here in the UK as former England National Soccer Team Coach Sven Gore Ericksson found to his cost. He certainly lived a life but I wondered if he had declined Edwina Mountbatten’s offer/proposal to move to London, would his life have been far different? I would most certainly say so. We are talking about the 1920/30s here where the lot of the very small black minority was far worse that anything my generation encountered while growing up. Still he was shielded by his high society patrons, however despite his good looks, talent, his indescretions especially with ladies of the aristocracy proved to be his ultimate undoing. Yet somehow he managed to survive it all but sadly the post-war years saw a radical change and he found himself out of step in this new era.
He lived a good innings, did what he wanted to do and enjoyed his life to the full. Sadly it was at the expense of his wife and the children he had by her and other women. They were the casualities but like so many children in such circumstances they managed to rise above it. I take my hat off to them.
In the times we now live in it is not asking too much for history to be taught properly and to give credit where credit is due to those unsung heroes and entertainers of yesteryear. While I find them interesting, I am more than a little tired of finding even now in middle age of discovering documentaries that prove my comprehensive eductation was a travesty, a betrayal by the State and education establishment. I would contend while I had the prvilege of being educated by some very good and wonderful teachers during my childhood, both they and myself were let down by an establishment that (even today,) is still in denial about the contributions many people of colour (citizens and subjects of the British Empire/Commonwealth,) have made to the rich heritage that is the essence of Britishness. Someone like ‘Hutch’ should have more well known for his contributions to the war effort if nothing else. He was certainly a colourful character and I wonder in light of this documentary whether some entertaining film producer might not take a risk and make a biopic of this man, his life, and his carrer. His life is after all a lively, interesting but cautionary tale about a black enterainer in Britain.