Lydia Lova, a beautiful and exquisite woman, whose life story was “Beyond Belief”.
Lydia Lova arrived in London on the 3rd of July, 1963. We had booked a suite for her at the Mayfair Hotel and on the following day we held a press reception. Brian O’Hanlon, who was our PR at the time, pulled all the stops out. She was in every single paper in England and her story was syndicated throughout the world. Lydia was ecstatic about the results, and so were we. Rehearsals began on the 5th of July and went really smoothly. Up until her opening day and between rehearsals she was being interviewed all the time by various member of the press.
Her story was so intriguing. This young girl had been in the French Resistance during the War and had been captured and sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She had finished up in the experimental wing of the camp, where they tried out all manners of vile tortures. She was injected in November 1944 by Dr.Hans Gerhart, one of the camp’s butcher doctors. When she asked what it was for, she was told not to worry, and that she would find out in about 20 to 25 years. This was the inhuman way the Germans treated their prisoners. The miracle was how, through all that she had endured, there emerged this glamorous and charming lady who wowed the Press with her Parisian style and elegance.
Lydia’s act was a smash hit. We staged it so that she appeared onstage between the covers of her book, “The Naked Heroine.” She sang, danced and finally stripped with such elegance that even the most prudish would have found her performance enchanting.
The three weeks just flew by, but during that time we had become firm friends and she left with the promise that whenever she wanted to come to London she would come and stay with Ray and myself at Marston Close. The house was quite large and she would be a welcome visitor.
One Sunday later that year when she was staying with us, Lydia and I were lounging around the house. Ray had gone off in the car with his mother to see her mother and sisters so that she could boast to them as to how well her son was doing.
We had a manservant at the time called Carl Coffee who was a wonderful cook and a very amiable person. I couldn’t understand why he was not around pottering in the kitchen. I said to Lydia, ‘I suppose he’s been out on the tiles and stayed with friends. He’ll most probably be back soon.’ So I thought nothing more about it and we had our breakfast. A little later the doorbell went and there on the steps were two uniformed policemen. The first thing I thought was that there must have been an accident. ‘Does Mr. Carl Coffee live here?” asked one of the officers. ‘Well, yes,” I asked. ‘Why?’ ‘I’m sorry to inform you that he is dead,’ he replied. ‘As you were the last person to see him alive, you must come and identify him.’ I nearly shat myself.
Apparently Carl was in a cinema in Edgeware Road for the last performance. When they played ‘God Save the Queen’ and the audience stood up, Carl was the only one sitting! I began to think quickly. I had never seen a dead person. I really had no desire to see a corpse. I thought that maybe I could palm the task off on Ray when he got back. I told the policeman that I had no transport, but he informed me they could take me in the police car. I didn’t like the idea of that. It was bad enough that the neighbours knew that Ray and I owned a strip club. God alone knows what they would think if they saw me being dragged off in a police car. After I explained that I couldn’t leave the house until later that afternoon the policemen agreed to come back at 3p.m. I breathed a sigh of relief and shut the door.
I turned to see Lydia, who had heard the conversation, standing there ashen and shaking. I said to her, ’Why are you shaking? You must have seen loads of dead people in Ravensbruck.’ When I added, ‘ As a matter of fact, you know what Carl looked like, you can go and identify him!’ She nearly fainted. I was trying to palm it off onto anyone. To cut a long story short, it was decided that I would go, if Ray hadn’t returned in time. Of course, he didn’t, but I made Lydia promise that she would come with me and stay outside whilst I was in the mortuary.
The police car came back right at 3p.m. When Lydia and I got into the car, a few of the neighbours were hanging out their windows. Oh the shame! Lydia and I sat in the car not uttering a word. It was all a bit of a haze thanks to the half a bottle of whisky we had got through while we were waiting. All I remember of the mortuary was that it was freezing cold. There on a slab was poor Carl. My eyes really focused on the label that was hanging from his toe. After I had identified Carl’s body, the police thanked me and buggered off, leaving Lydia and I to find our own way back to Swiss Cottage. So much for helping the police out!
Ray and I would see Lydia whenever we were in Paris which was very frequently and she also spent Xmas and New Year with us in London in 1964.
A favourite restaurant of ours in Paris was Au Mouton de Panurge, which was an old monastery, were the waiters dressed as monks. One of their specialties was a garter that they fitted on all the ladies. It was all great fun and the food was excellent.
The last note I received from Lydia was at Xmas in 1965.
At the conclusion of the “The Naked Heroine,” John Izbicki wrote, “The effects of the injection which she was given in Ravensbruck have yet to make themselves felt. What they will be, no one can guess. Doctors have examined Lydia thoroughly but they have been unable to make any conclusive diagnosis. But until then, Lydia Lova will go on dancing and praying and living with her memories-the memories of a Naked Heroine.”
THE GOOD DIE YOUNG.
We lost a wonderful friend, and a beautiful spirit, but the memories will always stay with me.
You can read the full story of the Casino De Paris by clicking on the following link