Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Fantasy Girlfriend - Kate Beckinsale

I must confess to a bit of a weakness for the 'English Rose' type (indeed, it became a nickname amongst my friends for the girl who inspired one of the most protracted and most frustrating of my many thwarted infatuations here in Beijing; but that's another story...), and there are few more striking exemplars of this than the lovely actress, Ms Beckinsale.
I insist that I am not just jumping on an obvious bandwagon here.  Yes, of course she is now one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and, since her leather-and-latex outings in the Underworld series, establishing herself as quite the glamourpuss, almost a latter-day Emma Peel; but I knew her before she was famous; or rather, I knew of her before she was very famous.
She was an undergraduate at Oxford in the early '90s (beautiful and smart!), just at the time that I happened to be living there myself (scratching a living as a private A-Level tutor after a spell of ill health had forced me to quit my full-time teaching job).  She was a known name in England already, since her father had been a very popular comedy actor on TV in the 1970s (although he died of a heart attack while still only in his thirties); and within weeks of starting her studies, she was getting a reputation as the prettiest girl in the University.  Of course, everyone wanted to meet her (I was still in my twenties at the time, so aspiring to go out with a Fresher wasn't completely indecent).  I believe she was attending New College (not absolutely sure about that now), which, as it happened, was the place where I was hanging out most of the time (not my alma mater, but it had one of the best college bars, and I'd known all the staff there since my undergrad days a few years earlier, when one of my friends had been the Junior Common Room 'bar steward').  Thus, I thought, I had better hopes than some of achieving a fortuitous encounter with the gorgeous and talented young girl.  But alas, no.  I saw her on stage once, briefly across a crowded room once, on the far side of a busy street once - but there was never an opportunity to introduce myself and get chatting.
Ah, but then... fast forward another 5 or 6 years, to when her career in America is just starting to take off (with her appearance in Whit Stillman's The Last Days Of Disco).  I am in the throes of qualifying as a barrister.  And one of the quaint little rituals that involves in England is a short spell of 'marshalling' for a judge (basically being a book carrier: looking after all the cited authorities and passing them over to the judge as necessary).  I was lucky at least in that the judge I'd been set up with was a very smart and a very nice one (a rare combination on the Bench, I'm afraid); and the case we were hearing was a surprisingly engrossing tale about a bespoke punnet de-nester.  However.... each morning, before the main case started, the judge would have little bits and pieces of other court business to attend to: hearing submissions about upcoming cases, and delivering his judgements on cases he'd already finished hearing.  And it just so happened that one of these cases had been a dispute between Kate's stepdad, who's a film and TV producer, and a production company that had pulled the plug on a project of his.  So, when my judge gave his verdict in that case, the whole family came along to give the plaintiff moral support - including Kate.
Oh my good gracious, yes, the absurdly beautiful Kate Beckinsale was sat in a small courtroom with me, barely 15ft away.  And I'm up there in the position of power, at the front of the court, at an elevated desk, sitting right next to the judge: auspicious circumstances for making a strong first impression, you might think.  Well, perhaps if I'd been the judge!  But of course, I couldn't say a word.  I couldn't even really smile or attempt to make friendly eye contact - it would have been inappropriate to the decorum of the proceedings.  I just had to sit there, completely po-faced for 10 minutes while the learned judge explained his reasoning on the matter.  My exterior remained calm and decorous (I hope), but my head and heart were in a whirl.  I kept thinking, "Bugger me!  It's Kate Beckinsale!!"
That was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.  I mean, not that I had any fond delusions that I could get anywhere with her (she was already dating the awesomely talented actor Michael Sheen, and was, I think, shortly to have a child with him); but it would have been nice to be able to say hello.  After eight years of long-distance admiration.  Sigh.
She does have a remarkable quality about her, an inner radiance.  On that day, she wasn't dressed up or wearing much make-up or playing the star; it was just a low-key - and, I imagine, rather tense and uncomfortable - family outing;  but she was absolutely breathtaking.
Even the judge later remarked on it: "Very pretty girl, that.  The daughter, I suppose."  Of course, he purported not to know who she was.
Now, a lot of the photographs of her out there on the Web are bit too raunchy for the genteel cloisters of Froogville, but I was rather taken with this one of her wearing her spectacles.
Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses?
Pish, tosh!
I've always found glasses rather sexy.  Particularly when they're being worn by someone like Kate Beckinsale.


The Nag said...

From wikipedia: "Beckinsale studied French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford University, though she did not finish her degree." She was born in 1973 and went up to Oxford in 1991.

She had a daughter with Sheen in 1999 but is now married to Len Wiseman (married in 2004).

Re the photo, very chaste... .

Froog said...

I hope she has been happy with the men she has been with. But I naturally feel that she would have been happier with me.... if only she'd come in to New College bar at the right time.... 18 years ago.

JES said...

Every time I indulge in a fantasia like this, it ends in humiliation when I stammer something ridiculous and the young lady turns her back on me.

Back in the 1980s, I once found myself alone with Sigourney Weaver in a small room in (I think) the Morgan Library in NYC. She's always been on my list of fantasy girlfriends, and it hasn't hurt that she's actually married to someone named J. Simpson. But I could bring myself to do no more than glance furtively in her direction.

There's that line about its being better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. Same principle at work here, at least with me.

Froog said...

Oh dear, we really do have far too much in common, Mr S.

I think I have yet to share with you my friend The Arts Entrepreneur's homily on reincarnation. He shares your appreciation of Ms Weaver.