Gielgud telephoned Simon Owers, known in the antiques world as ‘Tintin’, and instructed him to get one from Michael Winner.
Simon, alias the boy hero with a quiff, had never heard of a photographer called Michael Winner. He had not been appointed deputy editor for his knowledge of the film world, but shot off diligently to Holland Park.
He stopped at a florist to ask directions (‘Oh, you mean Michael Winner’s house’) At the mansion door he thought he was shaking the hand of Winner the photographer only to discover it was the butler.
Upstairs on being announced to Mr Winner, he tried to break the ice, by saying “You are something of a local celebrity. The florist seems to know you.” “Local celebrity”, exploded the director. “National celebrity more like!” Quick as a flash Tintin latched onto the idea. “National celebrity! International celebrity!?”
Winner’s humour was not improved by the story spreading like wildfire. Once Tintin had a good story, even if told against himself, it travelled. Under the pen name of his family daily, Phyllis Flinn, he was the magazine’s gossip columnist. From the lanes in Brighton and Alfies to Westbourne Grove, Fulham Road and Bond Street, people talked to him. He was fun and funny.
As the glory days of the antiques business hit recession he cheered people up, but not everyone… Phyllis did reveal one silver dealer’s selling technique to museum directors: he would lock the door behind them and then talk them into submission. They could not leave until they had agreed to buy.
Tintin was popular with other writers at Antique, particularly Brian Sewell.
At his leaving lunch from the magazine Brian sat beside him. On being told Tintin’s next job was as editor of the Art Quarterly, the National Art Collections Fund (NACF) magazine, Sewell let out a snort of disapproval. “Bin material!” pronounced the art critic.
“Bin Material’”, screeched Tintin, “Bin Material… Thank you Brian, that will be the first promotion. The magazine with a bin attached.”
Tintin’s next career move was even more spectacular. Backed, as always by his loving partner Frank Feehan, he revived a pub in Reach in Cambridge. His skills as an entertainer and host won the Village Pub of the Year Award for the Dyke’s End.
Sadly he suffered at the end from throat cancer.
He was a keen church-goer and his family and partner would welcome friends at St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London at 2pm on October 22.