Category Archives: Out of the Past

Coming Attractions: A Nice Little Start to the New Year

Stranger Things: Season 3 premieres on Netflix on 4 July 2019.


Stranger Things: Season 3 is set in 1985, and opens on 4 July 2019.

The movie Back to the Future was released on 3 July 1985.

Must be just a coincidence, right?


June Whitfield, 11 November 1925 – 29 December 2019

June Whitfield, Jennifer Saunders, and Julia Sawalha

Dame June Rosemary Whitfield, DBE, whose acting career spanned eight decades, has died in the UK, at 93. Her place in the history of British radio, television, and other media is similar to Betty White’s stature in the US. She’s probably best known in the States for her role as Edina Monsoon’s mother (and Saffie”s grandmother) in Absolutely Fabulous.

It’s difficult to find online clips of her work on Ab Fab, but you can see the much younger June Whitfield playing the nurse in this classic 1961 episode of Tony Hancock’s comedy series, Hancock. The title of the episode is “The Blood Donor”, and according to Wikipedia, “It remains one of the best known situation comedy episodes ever broadcast in the United Kingdom.”

Café Gerbeaud and the Best Desserts in Budapest

Café Gerbeaud

Café Gerbeaud

It’s possible to spend time in Budapest without visiting Café Gerbeaud, but why on earth would you do a silly thing like that? The café, dominating Vörösmarty Square in the heart of the city, is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. Long known as one of the great coffee houses of Europe, Café Gerbeaud has survived two world wars and a dismal 50-year period of nationalization. After the collapse of Communism in the 1990s, it was purchased by a German businessman and, like Fashion Street a few blocks away, beautifully restored to its former glory. There’s no better place in Budapest to enjoy fabulous desserts in a truly elegant setting.

Here’s what I ordered:

Caramel and Dried Plum Sundae

Caramel and Dried Plum Sundae

The menu describes this Caramel and Dried Plum Sundae as “Two scoops of vanilla ice cream, two scoops of caramel ice cream, dried plum ragout, caramelized hazelnut pieces, walnut croquant, whipped cream, caramel bon-bon, and a walnut crisp”, which left me unsure about the exact dfference between a “walnut croquant” and a “walnut crisp”. That uncertainty didn’t prevent me from savouring every delicious spoonful of this unforgettable sundae.

Café Gerbeaud Interiors
Images Found on the Web

The Restaurant at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with Beef Goulash and a Side of Bruegel

Since my last posting in November, I’ve been in Vienna, except for one quick sidetrip to Budapest. I’m back in DC now, and I’ll be posting some travel pictures over the next few weeks. Not too many, though, because my last visits to both cities were fairly recent—I spent a couple of weeks in Vienna back in 2014, and some time in Budapest just last year. You can find those earlier posts in the archives. Rather than rehash my notes on museums and galleries, I’ll probably write more about restaurants and street scenes.

One of the reasons I returned to Vienna so soon was that the Kunsthistorisches Museum was commemorating the 450th anniversary of the death Pieter Bruegel the Elder by hosting a massive Bruegel exhibition. Over the past few years, I’ve developed something of an obsession with Bruegel—with all the Bruegels, really, and there are about half a dozen notable artists in that one extended family.

But for the reasons I posted above, I’m not going to post new images from the exhibition.  I’ve already posted a selection of Breugel paintings, which you can see at these links from my last visit to Kunsthistorisches Museum and from my trip to Brussels last Spring. Instead, I’m going to focus on something almost as important.

The Café-Restaurant at the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Image found on the Web.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
—Attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss restaurants.”
—Attributed to Fran Lebowitz.

With some notable exceptions, “museum food” doesn’t have a great reputation. My meal at the Kunsthistorisches was not one of those exceptions. The drink and the beef goulash were forgettable at best, but I wasn’t there for the food.

I was there for the room.

The magnificent Café at the Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the Great Rooms, the kind of place that reminds you that you’re in one of the old imperial cities of Europe.

Image found on the Web.

Image found on the Web.

Pictures don’t begin to convey the breathtakingly beauty of this room.

Oh, yeah. One other thing…

I almost forgot to mention: The Bruegel exhibition?  Oh, It was glorious!

The Favourite — Official Trailer, and a Teaser, and a Snarky Comparison

The Favourite tells the story of the tangled affinities of Great Britain’s Queen Anne, the Duchess of Marlborough, and the duchess’s cousin, Abigail Hill.

Think All About Eve, or the campy catfights from primetime ’80s soap operas like Dynasty*, but with real people and higher stakes.

As the long-time favourite of Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, wielded tremendous influence over the royal household and the queen’s political appointments. But eventually, the duchess became too domineering, too distant, and too demanding for the queen.

Waiting in the wings was Sarah’s impoverished cousin, Abigail. Sarah had secured a position for Abigail as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Anne.

You can see where this is headed, can’t you? As Sarah’s relationship to the queen deteriorated, Abigail’s grew apace.

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Olivia Colman took home the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Queen Anne. Rachel Weisz plays Sarah Churchill and Emma Stone plays Abigail Hill. The current Tomatometer rating is at 94%.

The Favourite is scheduled to be released in the US on 23 November 2018.

*How can anyone maintain that the last 15 years have been the Golden Age of Television when the 20th century produced masterpieces like Dynasty? You won’t find brilliant scenes like this on Killing Eve or The Good Place.

Dynasty’s Greatest Moment
(For Those Too Young to Remember a Time When Shoulderpads Ruled the Earth)

The creators of Dynasty claimed they were inspired by Robert Graves’s I, Claudius. Graves was alive but unwell when the series began its run. Dynasty is probably what finished him off.

In the 1980s, this is what passed for high-quality TV fare. All three actors in this scene were nominated for Best Actor or Best Actress Emmy awards for their performances in Dynasty. John Forsythe, in fact, was nominated three times. The show itself got 24 Emmy nominations, including one for Outstanding Drama Series.

Dorothy Parker 125th Birthday Celebration

Wish I were in New York for this year’s birthday party! Here’s what’s happening at the Celebration.

“In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

“But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!”

—“Indian Summer” by Mrs Parker