The Observer Magzine’s regular column “This much I know” interviews Harry Gabriel this week, a 72 year-old stage door keeper from London. And what a guy!
It was shocking to arrive in Britain in the early Sixties and experience the hostility towards immigrants, which was almost everywhere.
I found theatre people more forward-thinking in their acceptance of different people. This environment enables me to be without unhappiness, anger or frustration.
My reaction to seeing – on my security camera – women urinating in the doorway is to think, ‘It’s already happening, so it’s not something I can do anything about.’
One advantage of wearing a silk suit and tie to work is that you don’t have to go home and change before a party. You’re prepared.
I opted out of eating meat 20 years ago when I realised it was being contaminated by chemicals. I say contaminated because it is unnatural and unnecessary. It is poisoned.
The actor I’m most happy to have met is Jack Lemmon, who made the film Missing, about American involvement in Chile. He said that when you know people and you see what bad things they do, you puzzle why, terribly. And he had the opportunity to ask Reagan directly, ‘How could you do these things in Chile?’ But Reagan just laughed.
The best way to move on someone who is stalking an actress is to go out to him and ask, ‘Is there any particular person you are always coming here to see?’
I can’t resist intervening anywhere to beseech people not to fight. If I see a lady’s bottom slapped, I will say, ‘How would you feel if someone slapped your sister in such a manner?’
I love parties and get invited to a lot. The most lavish and enjoyable was for Miss Saigon. I rarely leave before the music stops and I’m often first on the dance floor. Luckily I’ve never, ever, smoked or drunk alcohol, so I have the health and energy to dance until 5am.
I love the rhythms of Nigerian music but ignore the words, which mainly praise politicians or God, or both. My parents were high-church Christians. When I revisit Nigeria it’s difficult for my family to reconcile that I relate to people in a Christian manner yet opted out of a belief in God.
Accidents occur during high-speed costume changes because actresses forget they’re wearing high heels on stairs. Nine times out of 10 they land on their bottoms.
Choosing years ago not to own a car put me at an advantage money-wise, but also meant I no longer had to have contact with the police, who stopped me frequently for being a black man.
The most difficult thing for me to think about is the unnecessary, tragic Nigerian civil war, which meant I lost many friends and close relations.
Rather than give money to a gym in order to exercise and lose weight, one can eat well and walk.
When your tailor retires, you can find a new one who follows instructions and does everything perfectly – except there’ll be one little problem, like a zip that’s noisy or threatens to trap your willy.
I don’t believe there would now be extreme poverty if Africa had co-operatively become a United States of Africa, as envisaged by Kwame Nkrumah. So I call myself an African, with Nigeria as my place of birth, Britain as my home and the world as my country.
I’ve never missed a day’s work through illness in 20 years on the door. But I’ll ask for a day off to attend any lecture by Noam Chomsky.