Indian Brave, Courtesan, Slave and the World’s Loudest Snore: MANY LIVES: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY STEPHANIE BEACHAM


Indian brave, courtesan, slave and the world’s loudest snorer

MANY LIVES: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY STEPHANIE BEACHAM (Hay House £15.99)

Spiritual Side: Actress Stephanie Beacham

It takes a while to get into this book as first you have to navigate through a prologue and not one but two forewords, the first from the author’s 11-year-old grandson revealing that Stephanie Beacham turns green at 4 a.m. without makeup. has skin, witchy hair and gives him nightmares. But it’s well worth the wait because, uniquely for an autobiography, you don’t just get a lonely life, but a whole lot of it.

Stephanie is one of those people (mostly old actresses living in California) who have lived before. A visit to Versailles recalled her time as a courtesan there during the ancien regime; as she traveled through Egypt, she remembered that she was an Israelite slave. In the Wild West, she was an old Native American woman with sore feet. Once, when she took mescaline, she looked in the mirror and saw her previous incarnation as a South American Indian.

She has always had a spiritual side. At her convent school in north London, little non-Catholic Stephanie spent so many hours staring at a statue of the Virgin Mary that the teachers contacted her parents and suggested she was ripe for conversion.

She has also had her share of what might be called paranormal experiences. After one surgery, she was “dead” and found herself floating above her bed and then led into a bright light by four Franciscan monks. She was revived but found herself minutes away from a permanent ostomy bag. Fortunately, a friend advised her to imagine an injured kitten in her tummy, which did the trick; Stephanie passed the wind and the bag was not needed. Relief!

Another time, while trying a “personal healing, diagnostic, and wellness system” derived from unearthly, she had a vision in which she was prodded by a French doctor who looked a lot like Hercule Poirot.

On stage in “Masterclass” with Maria Callas (“What David Beckham was to football, Maria Callas was to opera”), the dead diva appeared next to her and began babbling Greek in her ear. Stephanie was so shocked that she couldn’t speak for two days.

Unhappily—or perhaps eerily—Maria chose her left ear. Stephanie has always been deaf in her right, a handicap she bravely battled against to become a leading stage actress, as well as appearing on TV in Tenko, the Colbys and as another notch on Ken Barlow’s bedpost in Corrie. She also appeared on the big screen opposite Marlon Brando in his worst movie. Apparently Brando was excited about mouthwash. On Celebrity Big Brother, her snoring was so spectacularly loud that it was sold as a ringtone on eBay.

Stephanie is a postmodernist writer, who eschews a conventional, chronological account of her 64 years and leaves the reader the puzzle task of randomly putting together dotted – and dotted – facts. She attended RADA, married actor John McEnery, had two daughters, was divorced and lived as a single mother on poached eggs and spinach.

This would make the perfect Christmas present for someone who loves books of amiable and toned old actresses, but who already has the full work of Shirley MacLaine.

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