He recorded the radio play over three days in a London club, Gerry’s, a favourite haunt of Waterhouse, where Bernard worked as a barman during the six months he gave up alcohol. “I remember him complaining how bored he was.” It is a brilliant tour de force. “The nice thing about radio is you can make it so personal, which you can’t on stage, and the sound is different to that in a studio.”
Even though it can’t be seen, he performed the Waterhouse “egg trick”, where a biscuit tin lid is placed over a pint glass of water, an egg is balanced on the sleeve of a matchbox, and the lid is hit with a shoe so it slides away and the egg plops into the water – or soaks onlookers in yolk.
“I did it twice at the recording and it worked both times. You could have knocked me over with a feather, I tell you. I thought there might be a hell of a mess.
“Jeffrey made a life choice and was very much a character of his period. Now it would not be acceptable. No one drinks so much. People don’t give in to temptation and everything is controlled.” He mourns today’s lack of adventure, reliance on market research, petty bureaucracy, timidity, and he’s surprised actors employ publicists to sanitise their image.
Peter O'Toole in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
“Society is much more homogenised, and we’re all supposed to conform. People are censorious but the pendulum will swing back, as it always does. There were difficulties in those days, obviously, but life was more fun. We’ve become obsessed with the dangers of alcohol – you get newspaper articles that are entirely over the top. There’s political correctness as well. I wonder who instigated that. Where does it come from, and who says what is or is not politically correct? And as for the way you have to treat women these days…”
You can’t make a pass in case it’s harassment? “Yes indeed. I don’t know how you ever make a date. On the internet? Oh my God, I’d be sunk. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘The only thing to do with temptation is give in to it.’ I’ve been known to do that, and at times I drank too much.”
He was married first at 22 to an actress who claimed, inaccurately, that she was pregnant; then a Texan barmaid with whom he built a mansion in Kenya too optimistically called “Wingu Kenda”, Swahili for “Cloud Nine”. He left her for a production assistant on the 1988 movie Scandal, with whom he had two sons, Alexander and Nicolas, before she went off with the gardener in 1994. For the past ten years he’s been married to actress turned-TV producer Anwen Rees-Myers, aged 59. “I’ve had a lively life,” he says wryly. “That’s a very good way of putting it.”