Monday, 14 November 2011

better detectives than me

There are many of them, even though you probably don't believe it. One was watching Murder at the Gallop with me the other day and where I stopped investigating shortly after learning all about Margaret Rutherford, he read the sentence about Rutherford informally adopting a guy who then had gender-reassignment surgery and he went the extra mile. That is why he is where he is and I am where I am. (Where is he? I don't know.)

Anyway, this informally adopted son became Dawn Langley Simmons. She was born Gordon Langley Hall at Sissinghurst Hall. Her father, Jack Copper, was Vita Sackville-West's chauffeur, and her mother was Margaret Hall Ticehurst, another servant.

Aged nine, Hall wrote a column for the Sussex Express and interviewed Mae West from the star's lap. I don't think it would be allowed now. He became a teacher on a native reservation in Canada, edited the Winnipeg Free Press and returned to England in 1957, aged twelve. Just kidding. He was twenty by then. The next year he biographed Princess Margaret, and followed up in the sixties with Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and others.

He made friends with a rich old painter and she left him $2m and that was when $2m got you somewhere.

He got into Chippendale and had his gender reassigned in 1968, and became Dawn Pepita Langley Hall. Everyone was called Pepita in those days. It was nothing special.

On Jan 21st 1969 she married John-Paul Simmons, a young black mechanic and wannabe sculptor, in the first legal inter-racial marriage in South Carolina. They did it in the front room because the church was threatened with firebombing. Their wedding presents were burnt in the street. They were probably plates anyway.

She had a daughter in 1971 called Natasha Margienell Manigault Paul Simmons. It seems unlikely. An intruder broke her arm and raped her, and she moved to Catskill, NY. She said this happened and it might have done. Her husband did beat her though. I think it was probably him.

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