War hero and ’60s Soho doyen Bruce Copp has lived a unique life. With an address book brimming with celebrity names and numbers, he swam regularly with a James Bond, dined with Charlie Chaplin, hung out with Lenny Bruce and spent an unforgettable night with Marlene Dietrich. A reluctant hero, he served in the army throughout the Second World War where he dealt with prejudices towards homosexuality, witnessed the deaths of his comrades and tried to commit suicide by walking into enemy fire. He miraculously survived and was mentioned twice in dispatches for bravery before being transferred to British Counter Intelligence where his duties included tracking down high-ranking Nazis. After the war, Bruce went on to become an important figure in London’s ‘swinging sixties’, running a series of successful theatrical restaurants including Peter Cook’s legendary The Establishment club, which attracted such icons of the era as Michael Caine, Jean Shrimpton and the Kray twins. Out of the Firing Line … Into the Foyer is a fascinating memoir covering nearly 100 years of social history and personal experiences.
Bruce Copp is a man who has known everybody, and if he didn’t know them personally, he has crossed paths with them. In his biography filled with witty nuances, he details his personal life often breaking away from the narrative to relate an amusing anecdote, regardless if they fit into the chronology of the story or not. As the synopsis suggests, there are heavier themes throughout the book, but Copp does not dwell on them too long. He zips along with pleasantries and funny stories, which, I imagine, is his signature style. A lively book and highly readable, you will probably finish this book in one sitting.