In the late 1980s, British talkshow host Terry Wogan introduced his viewers to the curious sight of ten-year-old James Harries, a supposed child prodigy “expert” on antiques.
The young Harries sported fancy dress, a bow tie and a curly bleached-blonde perm, making him look like a pint-sized Harpo Marx. However, Harries, apparently convinced of his own genius, was anything but silent, you see, and came off as an imperious, snobby and obnoxious kid to the general public, becoming one of those brats that you really love to hate. (To be honest, I can’t call to mind a similarly obnoxious kid from the entire history of American TV, either real or fictional. James Harries, as the British public were to find out, was a bit of both...).
Harries “act”—a supposed talent for spotting antiques at flea markets for a few pence that were worth thousands of pounds—was bullshit (based on a single example trumped up by his father to a local newspaper and then parlayed to televsion). The child published a guide to antiquing, Rags to Riches, and the family opened an antiques shop in Wales. As Harries got older, the novelty wore off and the family fell on hard times and lost their business.
The next time anyone heard about this strange little boy, it was in 2001 when the notorious dark lord of Fleet Street public relations, Max Clifford, whipped the tabloid papers in to a frenzy over his new client, now known as Lauren Charotte Harries. Money from the media interest is what funded Harries’ sex change. After this, with Clifford’s help, Harries went about trying to become a celebrity transsexual without that much success.
Enter comic actor Keith Allen (father of Lily) who made the 2004 documentary Little Lady Fauntleroy about Harries and her ludicrously dysfunctional family for Channel 4. It’s truly one of the most insane and riveting things I’ve ever seen. And don’t worry if you’ve never heard of James/Lauren Harries, because it doesn’t matter, you get crash landed from the very start into the world of this zany family—every one of them a “genius” with a PhD in Metaphysics from a fake university somewhere in America. They also confer advanced degrees on each other and believe themselves to be morally and intellectually superior to the rest of us, including the father, a convicted arsonist, who comes off like a caricature of a mad Tory. Allen does an admirable job of playing nice with the fucking crazy Harries family, but eventually, like the viewing audience, he just loses it on them.
You’ll be appalled, but you will watch the entire thing, I’m quite sure…
On Snag Films, so you’ll have to register first to see it:
Thank you Chris Campion!