Lady Berkshire

by Norman Horowitz

In 1970, Screen Gems International (Larry Hilford and I) hired Kenneth John Page, with whom we had worked at CBS, to run our European activities based in London. Larry had left the safe harbor of television to delve into the mysterious world of new technology delivery systems like the nascent home video business.

Larry, Ken and I were running around London pretending to do what we were supposed to be doing when we returned to the office to find that Larry had received several messages from “Lady Berkshire.” Not having the time to call her, Larry asked that Ken return her calls with an apology.

Ken wasn’t thrilled with the assignment but dutifully did what was asked of him and called her. She described her interest in new technologies and wanted to meet with Ken.  

Ken envisioned that Lady Berkshire would be a contemporary or a reincarnation of Margaret Rutherford, an English character actress best-known for her 1960s performances as Miss Marple in several films based loosely on Agatha Christie’s novels.

She asked Ken to lunch, but Ken indicated that he had an appointment. She insisted, so he agreed to meet her at the Dorcester Hotel at noon. Ken asked how he would be able to recognize her, and she replied that she always wore very broad-brimmed hats.

Ken decided that he was looking for a Margaret-Rutherford-type of older woman wearing a big hat. When he arrived, he looked around, and there across the lobby was Lady Berkshire. The articulate and very verbal Ken was capable when necessary of taking 300 words to describe a green salad. He told me of his first impression of an ageless Julie Christie surrounded by an intense “glow.”

They sat in the hotel lobby having a meeting, and Ken said that he was so transfixed with her that he didn’t hear a word that she said. She asked Ken to see her to her office that was very near the Dorcester. She also asked Ken not to call her Lady Berkshire. She wanted him to call her “Alexandra.”

He  walked with her up the dozen steps to her entrance and reached out to shake her hand. She kissed him on the cheek and said how much she had enjoyed meeting him. Ken described being “engulfed” by her in only a few hundred words.

Ken walked down the steps of her building in a total haze and turned to see her still standing in the entrance way. “Alexandra,” he said.

She replied, “Yes, Ken?”

Again he said, “Alexandra.”

“Yes, Ken?” she repeated.

“Alexandra.” He took a long pause, and then, “Good night.”

Immediately he realized that at one in the afternoon he had said “Good night.” He wanted to run up the stairs and retrieve his words, but it was too late. She saved the moment. “Good night, Ken,” she said.

I don’t know if he ever saw her again.

I went to Toronto to see a very sick Ken in the hospital just before he died. He was in a coma. I stood on one side of his bed, and his wife Anne stood on the other, each of us holding one of his hands. He said incoherent things from time to time, but suddenly his unseeing eyes opened and he said, “God, I am ready for you, and I will go with you wherever you want to take me.” He closed his eyes, and that was the last thing I heard him say. He died the next day.

Ken was a giant of a man: physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Truly an incredible person. I hope that he went off to meet with a Lady Berkshire in heaven if she was there because he deserved no less.