Saturday, 26 March 2011

Chippy owner's night by the Danube with Liz Taylor


It is Elizabeth Taylor as she has never been seen before. In a plush Budapest hotel. Wearing an expensive party frock. And with a Celtic FC hat upon her film star’s head.

This wonderful image hangs in Toby’s Chip Shop in the village of Thornton, near Kirkcaldy, in Fife. It belongs to Robert “Toby” Delmaestro, who was there by the Danube on the evening in 1972 that the photograph was taken. To cap it all, said Mr Delmaestro, “that’s my hat on her head”.

Football, they say is a funny old game, and Mr Delmaestro’s story proves that old cliché. He had travelled with friends to watch Celtic play Újpest Dózsa in the European Cup quarter-final and found himself among 150 supporters ensconced in one of the best hotels in the country.

Taylor was starring in a film being made in the Hungarian capital and was accompanied by Richard Burton, a notorious drinker who was to lead the couple out on a night that has become the stuff of legend.

"It had been in the papers that Burton was staying in a hotel right by the river, and it turned out to be the one we were in," said Mr Delmaestro.

"A big Glasgow fellow just went up and chapped at the door of his suite. Burton came out and said, ‘What are you after?’ The big man said, ‘I’ve heard you can drink a bit. Well, I’m not bad at drinking either. Do you want to come down?’.”

Burton responded by putting a huge sum behind the bar — £10,000 according to Mr Delmaestro — to cover the bills for all the Celtic fans in the hotel, and saw they were well fed.

Mr Delmaestro, who has haggis puddings and chicken suppers on his chip-shop menu, remembers eating lobster, crayfish and steak; other accounts speak of caviar and champagne being shared among the fans.

Most of all, he remembers talking to Taylor. “She was a rare woman. She said to me, ‘What’s your name?’ and I told her,” said Mr Delmaestro. “She said, ‘That’s a bit of a Gypsy name’. I said, ‘Well I am a bit of a Gypsy, I’ve been travelling in Ireland’. She liked that.”

Not that Mr Delmaestro was flirting. He admired Burton — “a cracking-looking man, a big strong guy”. Burton came over to join his wife and exchanged a few friendly words with Mr Delmaestro. “He was talking to everybody.”

Margaret, Mr Delmaestro’s wife, was not so convinced of her husband’s motives in talking to the film star. “My wife found out that Liz Taylor was there and she phoned me,” he recalled. “She was a bit worried, but there was nothing to worry about.

"It was lovely, a great night. There was not one person there who got overly drunk. They were a few laddies, shouting and singing for Celtic, but people behaved really well.”

Mr Delmaestro, a lifelong Celtic fan, speaks bitterly about the way money has ruined the game. But he soon chuckles again: “That trip was £40, for the flight, the hotel and the match.” A tiny sum to invest in an anecdote to last a lifetime.



Photo by James Glossop. More at Timesonline



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