Little Robert of
collectable vintage dealers of Portobello Road
flea market, called Robert Gray, 'Little Robert'.
I suppose he was young and gay but not especially
little or Camp.
I adored Little Robert, who had a wonderful
stage speaking voice. He had trained as an actor
but when 'resting' would scurry around the flea
markets looking for antique collectibles to sell
to dealers like myself. He successfully found me
ventriloquist dummies as I had about 8 in my ever
growing magical collection. We would see Little
Robert without fail every Saturday. He was one of
the regular characters of Portobello.
Over a period of time he bought a small flat with
inherited money. I never saw it but he described
it in graphic detail. It was a one bedroom
bachelor flat the wrong end of Angel in Islington
on the crossroads with Pentonville Road. The
salubrious red light district area I was told.
Suddenly Little Robert stopped coming to
Portobello. Why? What had happened? I became
concerned. Silence reigned!
Many months later he reappeared severely changed.
He looked older, wiser and was obviously on
medication. Gone was the lighthearted gay Little
Robert. I demanded to know what had happened.
What a story!
One night Robert was in bed asleep. Reading
between the lines I don't believe he was alone,
when crash wallop, a black taxi cab drove into
his flat through his living room wall just like
in a Laurel and Hardy comedy film. Only it was
for real! The driver was unhurt and ran for his
life. The taxi had broken through the wall and
was wedged in front of the bedroom door so poor
Robert, apart from being in shock, could not open
it to get out and report the incident to the
This was in the early 80s and mobile phones were
not conveniently on the bedside table. Robert
pushed and pushed but at 1.00 am he was shaken
and trapped. The only way out was through his
bedroom window on the second floor. What to do?
Somehow he clambered out down a drainpipe in the
moonlight into his backyard and tried to jump
over the wall to alert a neighbour. He never
spoke about his bedfellow and I didn't dare ask.
The neighbours on hearing the resounding crash,
alerted the Police thinking they had seen a 'burglar'
escaping out of the window down the drainpipe.
The Police arrived and arrested him, not seeing
the funny side especially as there was no black
cab driver as a witness because he had scarpered
into the night. Poor Little Robert was hauled
down to the Police station in his pyjamas, to
give a statement and prove he was not a 'burglar'.
He did not want to involve his bedfellow as a
Later after his ordeal having nowhere to live
because the flat had to be completely renovated,
he had a complete nervous breakdown. He ended up
in a private nursing home, with a famous TV actor
but would not say which one. He told me he was on
the same wavelength as him. Was it Jeremy Brett
who had played Sherlock Holmes? There was a hint
it could have been.
He rarely came to visit us at Lipka's Arcade
after that. We heard he did well out of the large
insurance claim buying a bigger and better flat.
After that I had to find my own dummies until I
finally had 12 which my future husband, magical
Martin, helped me sell to Retonio, the Swiss
ventriloquist from Appenzell, Switzerland who had
opened a museum and an auction house. Martin
stated he did not want to be 13th dummy!
in front of a log fire in the lounge of the cozy
Roman Boutique Hotel, Paphos, Cyprus on 7/1/17.