Wasn’t feeling all that well before I came to London to accept an Erotic Oscar award for lifetime achievement at the Sex Maniac’s Ball, and, while there, continued to experience vague sensations of discomfort. Trying not to precipitate my condition, I was taking things very easy. No rush. No fuss, so to speak, as I wander thro’ each charter’d street. Then early Sunday evening sitting in the hotel room, after a supper of fish and chips with a half pint of bitter, together with the wife and an old friend from university days who now lives in Ealing, all of a sudden I had extremely painful cramps. In both hands, my lower back and in the rib cage of my chest. Accompanied by an almost complete inability to breathe. I was gasping. I was only half-conscious when I heard Susan scream into the telephone: “My husband is having a heart attack!” No hotel manager wants a stiff on their shift.
The next thing I knew, the small room was filled by chattering hotel managers and security types, followed closely by a man and a woman from the Ambulance corps. Dramatically, in front of many spectators, they carted me out of the Hotel Regent Palace strapped to a wheelchair and packed me into the ambulance on Piccadilly Circus. All the while I’m thinking. More fuckin’ paradox. What an anecdote. Erotic hero one night. Dead the next. This is it. That’s all, folks. Kaput. The final act. The last curtain call. And dripping with irony it is all taking place right across from the statue of Eros. The ambulance attendant, a Vera Lynn look-a-like, stabilized my condition with oxygen and chemical stuff. I felt recovered but she convinced me to go to the hospital. We sped across the West End, through Westminster to St. Thomas’ across the river in Lambeth. There they poked, prodded, pumped, had blood taken from three parts of my body. An elderly Margaret Rutherford type no-nonsense nurse scurried in and out of my cubicle. “Flex your toes like you are doing a Scottish dance,” she said. I was given an EEG, X-rays, etceteras and attached with a tube to a machine that enabled me to take a deep breath. A calm young redheaded Geordie doctor named Trevor – right out of central casting – came in from time to time and gave me more tests. In the next room I could see a tall handsome Pakistani doctor surrounded by a flock of flirting nurses. All in all, I was there most of Sunday evening until about four am Monday morning. Everyone I dealt with was friendly and competent. Before I left, the doctor gave me a handful of capsules and pills to take away. Plus a handwritten note to my doctor in Amsterdam that began: “This pleasant gentleman…”
Three cheers for the NHS. They saved my life. The only cost for all this attention was ten quid for the taxi back to the hotel. Conclusion: London is the best place to go for a near death experience…
By William Levy
Illustration Nick Victor