One of the briskest debates I had with fellow Columbo fans on social media recently was on the subject of which of the show’s characters we’d invite to a lavish 70s’ dinner party.
The combinations put forward made for rib-tickling reading, ranging from carefully calculated personality matches to downright lewd suggestions one step away from seven-in-a-bed romps (you know who you are, you filthy devils!). Still, it’s your fantasy dinner party, and I did canvas opinion, so invite who you will I say!
The rules are few. Simply select 6-8 guests, preferably matched to ensure outstanding opportunities for back-slapping, smugness, exhibitions of mental superiority and raucous faux laughter, and let the (imaginary) fun begin.
With that in mind, here’s my guest list. Would love to hear yours! Columbo and Mrs Columbo were invited, of course, but they have ‘an affair’ at the bowling league so can’t make it…
#1 Adrian Carsini
Top of the list, in no small measure due to his magnificent turn of phrase and impeccable manners (towards those he likes, at least). More importantly, because an exciting meal can easily be ruined by the presence of liquid filth, having a man of such discerning wine-matching skills has to be an advantage at a soiree of this calibre.
Do ask: Whether this is a Pinot Noir or a Gamay.
Don’t ask: Whether he’d like a splash of Merino Brothers’ carbonated rose with that.
#2 Ken Franklin
You want charm, wit and winning conversation? You got it with Ken Franklin, who would be impossible to beat for entertainment value. Watching ladies’ man Ken repeatedly trying to have his wicked way with every female guest would be quite rivetting. One suspects he’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
Do ask: How he’s settling in to his delightful new lakeside lodge.
Don’t ask: If he’d like more Champagne. Things might get a little messy…
“Watching ladies’ man Ken repeatedly trying to have his wicked way with every female guest would be quite rivetting.”
#3 Nora Chandler
Even if her star is waning, Nora Chandler remains a household name, a fashionista extraordinaire and cracking company, well accustomed to the sort of shallow small-talk of the showbiz world that would make her a smash hit at any social gathering. She’d be the centre of attention without a doubt.
Do ask: Where she got her fabulous octagonal sunglasses from.
Don’t ask: Why the fountain in her back garden doesn’t work…
#4 Dr Ray Flemming
The human personification of ‘highbrow’, Dr Flemming is as much at home at upper-crust shindigs as much as Lieutenant Columbo is at a greasy diner. After leading the pre-dinner parlour games, place Raymundo near Oliver Brandt at the dining table and watch the cerebral mind games kick off in earnest.
Do ask: What the fishing in Acapulco is like at this time of year.
Don’t ask: What Mrs Flemming makes of his house calls to bikini-clad redheads.
#5 Goldie Williamson
Every opulent 70s’ dinner party needs a dame of sass and personality to drive conversation and keep fellow guests on their toes. Goldie delivers both in spades, and would ensure there were no dull moments. Her end of the table would be where you’d secretly want to be sitting.
Do ask: Whether her dress is entirely made of gold. It is…
Don’t ask: What she thinks of the current Mrs Bo Williamson.
“Goldie’s end of the table would be where you’d secretly want to be sitting.”
#6 Oliver Brandt
Bona fide genius Oliver Brandt may secretly be a sensitive and troubled soul, but his outward persona is that of a gregarious and witty lover of life, who thrives on debate and public displays of his colossal brain power. As such he’d be an electric presence at a select dinner party. He almost certainly drinks Carsini wines and would be BFFs with Dr Flemming.
Do ask: Where the optimum place to keep one’s umbrella is. That’ll fuel him for 60 mins.
Don’t ask: About his weird tickling fetish…
#7 Dale Kingston
He may be a vile toad, but give Dale Kingston a couple of glasses of Champers and an excuse to exhibit his superior knowledge of art and just watch him go! In an audience of intellects and bon viveurs he’d be in his element. And even if no one else understood his high-culture gags he’d fill any silence by yelling with laughter at his own jokes. Plus CRUSHED VELVET TUXEDO. ‘Nuff said.
Do ask: His opinion of ‘hack’ artist Sam Franklin.
Don’t ask: How his lovable Uncle Rudy is faring.
#8 Leslie Williams
A woman succeeding in a typically male-dominated profession, elegant legal eagle Leslie Williams is razor sharp, supremely confident and mildly flirtatious to boot. She’d be the mental equal of anyone around the dining table and could go toe-to-toe with any leering gents (yes, you, Ken Franklin) and knock ’em for six.
Do ask: Whether she’ll take you for a joyride in her private plane.
Don’t ask: Anything about her ‘charming’ step-daughter, Margaret.
“Elegant legal eagle Leslie Williams is razor sharp, supremely confident and mildly flirtatious to boot.”
During the starter and main we’ll be serenaded by one Tommy Brown, who will play some gentle acoustic covers of his greatest biblical hits at a volume sensible enough to not interrupt conversations. He’ll be followed by the Great Santini, who’s jaw-dropping magical feats will be the perfect accompaniment to dessert, coffee and liqueurs.
With French gourmet Paul Gerard regrettably unavailable due to filming some silly commercial for ‘Bon Snax’ crackers (how thoroughly low brow), laugh-a-minute celebrity TV chef Dexter Paris heroically steps into the breach.
He’ll prove there’s more to him than just being a housewife’s favourite by whipping up a dazzling array of dishes, while also mingling and high-fiving guests before dashing off in his Ferrari 330 DTS, electric mixers safely in tow.
Two hours after dessert is served, and the scenes are chaotic. A shambling Ken Franklin is propositioning a coat stand, his cheeks glowing red after receiving multiple slaps for unwanted attention paid to Goldie Williamson, who has had enough and headed for home in her solid gold cadillac.
“Two hours after dessert is served, a shambling Ken Franklin is propositioning a coat stand.”
Dale Kingston, meanwhile, has been talking to himself about art for 40 minutes as he slops back the Champagne, sporadically roaring with laughter, apparently oblivious to the fact no one else is within ear shot.
Oliver Brandt and Ray Flemming are trying to out-do each other by working through some brain teasers in the Mensa handbook, while Leslie and Nora are seated chummily on a chaise longue debating the merits of husbands over some stiff brandies.
Meanwhile, Tommy Brown is somewhere in the garden, romping with a serving girl, but Santini vanished into thin air the moment his show was over and hasn’t been seen since.
Only Adrian Carsini stands alone. The bitterness of tobacco fumes from his fellow guests’ cigarettes have long-since ruined the exciting taste experience that was the bottle of 1945 Ferrier Vintage Port he brought with him to impress the crowd. As he surveys the scenes of debaucherous one-upmanship, he allows himself a disdainful shake of the head.
Turning to leave, he has just one thing to say to the butler as he collects his string-backed driving gloves and heads out to his waiting Rolls Royce:-
An exciting meal has indeed been ruined, for Carsini at least. He ruefully flings the now-spoilt bottle of Port out of the car window, and screeches off into the night, as credits roll…
Let me know who’d make your list! And thanks, as always, for reading.