Monday, 10 October 2011

Kaspar's Tale (aka The Lucky Black Cat)

As promised, I now bring you the strange tale of Kaspar the Cat.

The story begins with the millionaire, Woolf Joel.  He and his brothers, Jack and Soloman (Solly), grew up in the East End but had made their fortune with gold and diamond mining in South Africa, thanks to their uncle Barney Barnato.  In 1898, Joel gave a dinner party at the Savoy Hotel, a farewell before he headed off to South Africa.  There were supposed to be 14 people in the party, but one guest cancelled at the last minute.  Although warned that to have 13 guests would be bad luck, the party went ahead.  Having to retire relatively early to be ready for his departure abroad, Joel left the table before all his guests, dismissing the superstition that whoever left the table first would be destined to die first.

Mere weeks later, in his office in Johannesburg, Joel was shot dead by a blackmailer, Baron Kurt von Veltheim.  When this news reached the Savoy back in London, they knew that they couldn't risk such ill fortune falling upon another one of their guests.  As such, whenever there happened to be a party of 13 guests, they would recruit a member of staff to join the table.  However, this set up was less than satisfactory as the party would often wish to discuss private or personal matters, in which case it simply wouldn't do to have a stranger in their midst.  And this it where Kaspar comes in...

The solve the problem, Basil Ionides, who was responsible for the redecoration of the Savoy Theatre in the late 1920s, was brought in for an extra, unusual commission - to design and craft a 14th guest who could sit in on dinner parties without imposing on the conversation of the guests.  And thus, Kaspar was born.  This beautiful Art Deco cat was carved from a single piece of plane tree.  Whenever there is a party of 13, he is seated on the 14th chair with a napkin tied around his neck and is served up every course, like all other guests.

When he's not indulging in luxurious meals, he can be found in the hotel lobby, enabling goofy people like me to pose with him...

I will return soon with more tales of my evening at the Savoy, including the architecture, the cocktails and my new favourite dress!


  1. What a fantastic story, thank you so much for sharing. And you look positively gorgeous, the dress looks stunning! x

  2. What a wonderful story about Kasper, hope you had a lovely time, you look stunning, such a gorgeous dress.

  3. What a delightful story! I love your hair and dress, simply lovely.


  4. Oh how fabulous! The Savoy!! What a sweet story about Kaspar (except the death bit, of course:)) and what a beautiful Deco carving! You and your dress are totally Stunning together, I look forward to hearing about the rest of your evening! :)

    Ps Thank you soo much for your comment on my blog it has really helped me to get out of my bad mood x

  5. Thank you, all you lovely people, for all your lovely comments!

    And anyone in London who wants to see Kaspar, you know you can just walk into the hotel and wander about. There's a small museum in there and everything. So long as you look reasonably respectable, no one blinks when you walk in.

  6. Ok! I think that we have to visit Kaspar inn December or January, for sure! A pretty incredible story. I wonder why a cat was chosen. Maybe they are mysterious and maybe can keep secrets better than dogs.I love the first photo of you bending down to meet Kaspar. Sweet!

  7. Oops, didn't keep the whole title in my head! They chose a cat because black cats are lucky. Or unlucky too. Hmmm ...

  8. Susan Janet - I will definitely take you to visit Kaspar, and to enjoy the service of the lovely lads in the American Bar ;)

    As for the lucky/unlucky black cat, in western culture they're unlucky but I wondered if they were being all dry and witty and 1930s... OR, I've just had the thought, Art Deco took much influence from Egyptian art, and black cats are lucky in their culture. So perhaps that's it??

  9. Very interesting observation to consider about the Egyptian influence with the cat. Thank you!

  10. Wowza! Your story is awesome and amazing! And of course, you look fabulous with your hair and your dress and I am sure Mister Kaspar appreciated being in your company. I would love to see him one fine day, but I am afraid I lack the funds to visit him.

    And it's ironic because my birthday is coming up next week! Anyway, cheers!