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Indian brave, courtesan, slave and the world’s loudest snorer: LOTS OF LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY STEPHANIE BEACHAM

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


Spiritual side: actress Stephanie Beacham

It takes a while to get into this book because you first have to navigate through a prologue and not one but two prefaces, the first by the author’s 11-year-old grandson, who reveals that at 4 o’clock without makeup Stephanie Beacham green has skin, witch-like hair and gives him nightmares. But it is worth the wait, because unique for an autobiography you not only get a lonely life, but also a lot of them.

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

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

She has also played a significant part in what can be called paranormal experiences. After an operation she was ‘dead’ and noticed that she was floating above her bed and was then led to a bright light by four Franciscan monks. She was brought back to life, but found she was minutes away from having a permanent colostomy bag. Fortunately, a friend advised her to visualize an injured kitten in her belly that worked; Stephanie went through the wind and the bag was not needed. Relief!

Another time, when she tried a “personal healing, diagnostics and wellness system” from non-terrestrial beings, she had a vision in which she was poked by a French doctor who was very similar to Hercule Poirot.

On stage in the “Masterclass” that Maria Callas played (“What David Beckham was for football, Maria Callas for opera”) the dead diva popped up next to her and started clattering in her ear in Greek. Stephanie was so shocked that she couldn’t talk for two days.

Unfortunately – or perhaps spooky – Maria chose her left ear. Stephanie has always been deaf in her right, a handicap she bravely fought to become a distinguished actress, as well as in the lead role on television in Tenko, the Colbys and as another notch in Ken Barlow’s bedside post in Corrie. She also appeared on the big screen opposite Marlon Brando in his worst film. Apparently Brando was enthusiastic about mouthwash. On Celebrity Big Brother, her snoring was so spectacularly loud that it was sold as a ringtone on eBay.

Stephanie is a postmodern writer who shuns a conventional, chronological report of her 64 years and leaves the reader the puzzle task to bring randomly dotted – and pointed – facts together. She went to RADA, married actor John McEnery, had two daughters, was divorced and existed as a single mother on poached eggs and spinach.

This would be the perfect Christmas gift for someone who loves books from dear and batty old actresses, but who already has the full work of Shirley MacLaine.