(Tynan’s article was reprinted in the Observer, 2/21/14.)
Exit a man with a talent to amuse
One night in the spring of 1959 I sat down to dine at Sardi's, the New York theatrical restaurant. Crowded before the Broadway curtains rise and after they fall, it is usually empty in between, and was on this occasion. Suddenly I looked up from the menu and froze. Noël Coward, also alone, had come in; and that very morning the New Yorker had printed a demolishing review by me of his latest show, an adaptation of Feydeau, called 'Look after Lulu'.
I knew him too well to ignore his presence, and not well enough to pass the whole thing off with a genial quip. No sooner had he taken his seat than he spotted me. He rose at once and came padding across the room to the table behind which I was cringing. With eyebrows quizzically arched and upper lip raised to unveil his teeth, he leaned towards me. 'Mr T,' he said crisply, 'you are a cunt. Come and have dinner with me.'
Limp with relief, I joined him, and for over an hour this generous man talked with vivacious concern about the perils of modishness. ('There's nothing more old-fashioned than being up to date'), the nature of the writer's ego ('I am bursting with pride, which is why I have absolutely no vanity'), the state of the theatre in general and of my career in particular. Not once did he mention my notice or the play. It would have been easy to cut or to crush me. It was typical of Coward that he chose, with an almost certain flop on his hands, to amuse and advise me instead.