RICHARD JOHNSON: The Queen Mother hated Pete Townshend’s hearse, which led to him writing ‘My Generation’

·5 min read

The death of Queen Elizabeth II brought back memories of the royal family’s aversion to hearses, and how the Queen Mother took action against a hearse owned by Pete Townshend of The Who.

When The Who was still struggling, Pete Townshend drove a 1935 Packard hearse. Every night, he parked it on a street where the Queen Mother would see it and be reminded of her husband’s funeral.

The Queen Mother herself made the phone call to authorities to have it towed away.

Townshend was angry. He was even more perturbed when told that the Queen Mother was responsible. That day he wrote “My Generation” as an angry song of mod angst, all fueled by the Queen Mother’s sad memories of King George VI in a hearse.

“The bill to recover the car was over 200 pounds, an absurdly large sum of money,” Townshend said. “I resentfully dedicated ‘My Generation’ to the Queen Mother.”

King George VI is the most famous stutterer in British history, and the hearse story is the inspiration of the most famous rock song with stuttering vocals.

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It took 27 years, but an Italian princess has finally beaten New York University in court for a half-share of a billion-dollar art collection.

Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale had been omitted from the fortune left by her grandfather, Arthur Acton, whose will was never found.

Arthur’s son, Sir Harold Acton, inherited it, and when he died in 1994 he left everything to NYU.

The Princess’ grandmother, Ersilia Beacci, was a secretary who was Arthur’s mistress for six decades. In 1917, they had a daughter Liana, mother to Dialta and her four siblings.

NYU inherited the Villa La Pietra, an ancient villa on a 67-acre estate, and its huge collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures.

NYU spokesman John Beckman told Anthony Haden-Guest, who writes for Whitehot magazine, “NYU has lovingly cared for La Pietra, restored its exceptional gardens, carefully preserved the artwork there, and successfully transformed it — in accord with Harold and Hortense Acton’s wishes — into a vibrant center for international education and discourse.”

But a court in Florence ruled on Sept. 8 that the princess should get half of the estate.

“We have until April to appraise the collection,” the Princess told me.

Beckman said, “NYU expects ultimately to prevail in court.”

But Princess Dialta said, “We have the rights to 50%. If I wanted to go on another three or four years I could get the hundred.”

“I’m a Florentine,” she added. “Try to fight with a Florentine in Florence.”

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Joanna Molloy, who reported for this newspaper for many years, was asked once she left, “What’s the best story you never wrote?”

It was the story of John “Chickie” Donahue, who traveled to Vietnam in 1967 to cheer up his friends with refreshments.

“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” was Molloy’s best-selling book, which has been turned into a movie by Peter Farrelly starring Zac Efron as Chickie, plus Russell Crowe and Bill Murray.

Molloy was impressed with Ruby Ashbourne Serkis, who plays Chickie’s sister with a strong Inwood accent.

Meeting for the first time at the film’s premiere in Toronto, Molloy was surprised Serkis is British, the daughter of Andy Serkis.

“She told me when she first tried to do the New York accent she sounded like Robert De Niro, like ‘you tawkin ta me?’ But they brought in a vocal coach and she really was great,” Molloy said.

Producer Andrew Muscato, who has been working on the story with Molloy for seven years, said, “Just put your head down and don’t think about what could go wrong.”

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Hey, New York, it’s time to laugh again!

With all the bad news between the Dow dropping, and crime climbing, the return of the NY Comedy Festival can’t come soon enough.

Founder Caroline Hirsch, who celebrates 40 years in the comedy biz this year, gives us lots of options to forget our troubles starting Nov. 7. Headliners Tracy Morgan, JB Smoove, Wanda Sykes, Jo Koy, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy O. Yang, Bill Maher and John Mulaney front over 200 other comedians at 100 shows in all five boroughs.

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Princess Yasmin Aga Khan hosted a kickoff for her Alzheimer’s Association benefit to be held on Oct. 24 at Lincoln Center.

The Princess’ mother, Hollywood goddess Rita Hayworth, was afflicted with the disease, inspiring Yasmin to raise over $80 million during the last 40 years to support new research.

Kennedy cousin Bobby Shriver, Sharon Bush, Muffie Potter Aston, Jean Shafiroff and Afsaneh Akhtari avoided politics at the cocktail.

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Pinky Cole, who has six other restaurants, was thrilled to open Slutty Vegan in Brooklyn.

Doug E. Fresh performed. Spike Lee was there. “The line was so long. It was our biggest opening,” Cole told me. “Now it’s time to do the work.”

Cole isn’t trying to convert every meat-eater into a vegetarian.

“My agenda is to get people interested in vegetarian options,” she said.

“We put a lot of love in the food. We want you to have a really funky good time.”

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Gwyneth Paltrow, who famously sold a candle called “This Smells Like My Vagina,” has now inspired a new rose being pushed on brides called “Purity.”

“We think of Purity as the Gwyneth Paltrow of the flower world, graceful and glamorous in a naturally relaxed and effortless way,” the David Austin company announced.

The move sparked flowerpowerdaily.com’s Jill Brooke to quip: “Wedding nights are usually a great time for sex, so linking the flower to Gwyneth is clever. Purity may be a clean look, but it’s rarely a fun date.”