There was an abundance of eccentric personalities in the late Seventies, and Olga Deterding, the Shell oil heiress was one of them. She wasn’t as wild as the characters in “Frantic”, my nostalgic novel about the early ’70’s (‘A lion coat clad white girl, with waist length black Japanese hair, was leaning against the stage, mouthing excruciating obscenities from her exquisitely shaped lips. …. every time this creature from a lost planet opened her shaggy lion coat, she was totally nude underneath’), but she came pretty close. Olga was an enthusiastic socialite, and at the opening party of Wedgies nightclub in Kings Road, was so sloshed like she regularly was, that she spent most of her time crawling around on the floor underneath the tables. This anti-social behaviour was regarded as the norm in those days, so nobody cared if she made a fool of herself. One person who did was a German girlfriend, who was staying with me at the time. She thought it was shocking that this middle-aged woman was making a spectacle of herself. Maybe members of café society were hesitant to reprimand an heiress, but my girlfriend had no idea who anybody was and even if she did, she wouldn’t have cared less. ‘Get up immediately! You are making an idiot of yourself. Can’t you see that everyone is laughing at you,’ my Teutonic friend barked. Olga Deterding might have been inebriated, but she actually listened and managed to pick herself up from the floor, and plonk herself down on a chair where she promptly fell of again.
She entertained lavishly in her multi-storey penthouse in Piccadilly, opposite the Ritz hotel, which was ideal for parties. She once gave an after show party for her equally eccentric crony, Quentin Crisp after his sell-out, one-man show at the Duke of York. If I recall correctly, the penthouse walls were painted a glossy white and the décor, consisting of realistic sheep sculptures nibbling at the grass coloured carpet was a topic of conversation. Olga was single (her exes included Alan Whittaker), and similar to women of ‘a certain age’ was regularly escorted by members of the gay community, which included Quentin Crisp. Olga was a louche socialite, from whom everyone ran away from when she was peaking in a fit of drunken exhibitionism. But, she possessed a heart of gold, unlike a lot of ‘ladies who lunched’ in those days. The majority of them lionised their hairdressers and fashion designers, and were committed to the art of looking fabulous. Olga was past caring what she looked like while she lurched from one party to another. At least she was dressed for dinner when she choked to death on on a piece of meat, while dining out in a club. Her premature exit made the headlines.
Copyright: Frances Lynn, 2006