Letter from Antoinette Moat: "Gypsy Prince"
As a friend of David or Geeves – as we knew him during his time at RADA and the Old Vic - I looked up his name on the web and found this site. What a good job you have done. I was thrilled and intrigued not only at the quality of the letters written about him, but that they were virtually all written by men, and one or two by directors he had worked with. Also, they all showed a level of affection that I am enormously happy to see he warranted in his latter years. And I was particularly moved by Matthew’s account of his father’s gentle farewell. I thought I’d write something to mark my own friendship with David, because I know that we who knew him then are disappearing!
Whenever possible David wore a suit—black, I think--with a crisp white shirt on which he’d spend a lot. The cuffs had to stick two inches out of the sleeves. I used to think Geeves looked like a gypsy prince, because he was never just anyone, he had enormous presence. David was very tall. He could have been over 6 ft 2, but I have no idea. I don't remember him telling jokes as such, or puns, but he laughed a lot. David liked good looking women, blonde or brunette. His very first serious girl friend was dark.
At one time he had a room in Archway, in North London, where he lived for about nine months (in the same house as David McCallum, before McCallum became famous). David’s room was large enough for his bed. The room was tidy and completely plain, not personalised. There was a big mirror over a fireplace. He did all his cooking on a gas ring. He would eat a tin of beef stew and cook up potatoes together with sliced onions to have with it. He’d occasionally cook a steamed suet pudding which he’d fill with two lemons pierced with a fork in white sugar to the brim. When cooked the lemons would be halved and any juice left in them would be squeezed out into the syrup and poured over the suet.
One evening a number of us including David went to supper at the Savoy Hotel in London – very posh. Also there was Frederick Olsson, who was a member of the Swedish Royal family, with Tsai Chin (also at RADA, who was later in, among many other films, the Bond You Only Live Twice). When the food came, David rolled up his sleeves, grabbed his knife and fork in his fists holding them upright, his elbows on the table and exclaimed ‘Ah – lov-er-ly grub’, and tucked in! I was so embarrassed! I felt I looked very elegant that night and smoked a big fat fine cigar – to me acceptable, done with style!!! David was horrified.
The David I knew was the bundle of energy and cheek you see in Sparrows Can’t Sing. I think in retrospect that he must have found it difficult to be the son of a Salvation Army family, from grandmother to sister. He was, of course, the bad boy. He was as different from them as he could possibly be. Maybe he carried that lightly, I don’t know. I met David’s sister Jackie briefly. She was mid height, dark, a modest Salvation Army girl. I also met David’s mother. She did not speak, because a car accident had affected her brain a bit. Her second husband had been driving, which must have been hard for the family. David never spoke of the accident, but I think he was sensitive enough for his family situation to have affected him on some level.
The drink must have become a worse problem for David after I knew him, when I gather he was not always nice in his cups. There must have been anger around. It was a shame that he did have some very unpleasant friends, because he also had some very good friends.
He was clearly respected on many levels by his peers. Some time later I met a modest, intelligent young man who had been in his year at RADA, not exciting but strong, (I don’t remember his name) who said that David was one of the really interesting people in his year—special, he said, and a good man. Then about four years after RADA I was sitting in the conservatory at Forest Mere Health Clinic waiting for someone, when a red faced Alan Bates walked in, in a dressing gown straight out of a sauna. I gulped, as you can imagine, when he saw me and exclaimed, “Antoinette, fancy seeing you here!” I practically fell off my chair saying, 'But I don't know you'! (I had never met him). He came over and sat down. “I know you,” he said. “You were a friend of David Geeves.” It turned out he had been at RADA when I first knew Geeves and had then been called up for National Service and completed to his drama training later, so I had never seen him there. He clearly admired David and we spent the next half hour talking.
It was clear even when I knew David that he would love to have lots of children, so Paula gave him all he wanted. She was clearly a wonderful wife to him and saw him through the difficult years. And they must have been difficult. I sat next to a lovely man, Michael (I will not give his full name), at dinner last night by chance. 68 now in 2010, he was an actor for 17 years, then directed for the rest of his working life. He acted with David when in his early 20s and said that at the time it was an unpleasant experience and he could be very aggressive, although always attractive. Paula has clearly loved him in the way I believe he longed to be loved --for life.
It is great joy that he has been sorely missed by so many people and clearly found his way to being happy and fulfilled with his lovely family.
With my best wishes,