Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Sunday Story: Cro Meets John, and Sells Out.

In 1967 I was running a small antiques business in London's Chelsea. I dealt in rare early European wood carvings; mostly polychromed religious artifacts (that no doubt had at some time been 'rescued' from abandoned or bombed-out churches). Angels, Cherubs, Saints; all manner of imageary passed through my hands. My only criterion was that it was old, beautiful, and either French Spanish or Italian.

One lunch-time a youngish man came into the shop, gasped, gasped again, and then asked if I would kindly NOT SELL ANYTHING until he returned about an hour or so later.

I agreed to his strange request (I'd never been asked that before), and he returned as promised after about two hours.

The man was an Italianate-American, and he proceeded to buy EVERYTHING I had; it seemed as if my taste was his taste. He explained that he was working temporarily in London, and he didn't want to take money back home. He wanted to buy things... Antiques... My Antiques.

He was renting a small cottage in Chelsea, about two hundred yards from the shop. An exclusive little property in a highly desirable street. We took all his purchases back by taxi, and unloaded them into his kitchen, where, on the table I was slightly perturbed to see a Thompson Machine Gun!

I hadn't yet been paid, so I began to worry. Then a small boy entered the room (he was introduced as Nick) and asked 'Have you been shot yet daddy?'.

I became even more worried. Then the man explained that he was actually over in London making a film. I asked the obvious question, and his reply was 'The Dirty Dozen'.

He paid me in cash, and said he'd pop in to the shop again before leaving. We half-heartedly arranged to meet-up for a beer in the near future (which never happened; I was too busy), and that was the last I saw of him.

I saw the film 'The Dirty Dozen' not long after, and discovered my young Italio-American to be John Cassavetes. In my ignorance, I'd not previously heard of him.

I often wonder if he kept the antiques that I sold him, or simply cashed-in back in the US, and made a quick profit. Somehow I imagine that his son Nick still has them. I'd certainly like to think he does.

Cassavetes was a really nice guy. No airs or graces, no big movie star rubbish, just a guy who loved antique wood carvings. As for me, I had no more stock.... nothing to sell, so I quit the antiques business and went to college. I just wish I'd made time to have a few beers with him, but as he later died of cirhosis; maybe it was good that I didn't.

I don't know the date of the photo above, but that's EXACTLY how I remember him.


  1. amazing! yes, its a good thing you didn't have a drink with him. Who knows where you'd be!

  2. Well cro for you life certainly has not been dull,another great experience that you have shared.Carole

  3. GREAT story! And I'm too lazy to look up "polychromed"...? (I'm insisting my husband read your blog today.)

  4. I googled Nick, the son, and he seems to be reasonably successful himself. I hadn't heard of the son, though and he's certainly not as good looking as his father was.
    That's a marvellous experience, and what a way to have one door close and another open.

  5. Kate, I didn't see it like that at the time. In fact I was rather peeved! One day, plenty of stock. Next day, NOTHING. But I don't suppose JC thought of that.

  6. I can only echo what Linda said -'Amazing'. I hope he kept the antiques too and passed them on to his son.

  7. Cool story! I want to go watch the movie now.


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