BEYOND OTHER WORLDS
: the autobiography of Paul Korda
by Paul Korda
© 2010 Paul Korda Music
(Not to be reproduced without authors permission)


 

Due to the reality that my parents were both music artists that divorced when I was four years old, I felt it necessary to understand my situation and my nature early on. In a way, it was the best that could happen for me, for it was at the age of five and a half, I consciously decided to take my life into my own hands. Everyone is faced with that choice at some point in their life, and some seize the opportunity and there are some who never do. This beginning of the book I am writing may give you an idea of the many worlds I went through from:

                                                 BEYOND OTHER WORLDS
                                                                                                : the memoirs of Paul Korda
                                                                                                            by Paul Korda
                                                                                                        © 2010 Paul Korda Music
                                                                                         (Not to be reproduced without authors permission)


                                                                                                                
Chapter 1                                                  
                                                              
                                                                                                              TRAVELLING

 

 

When my story began it was written in particles of consciousness, bound together by light and forming an illusion of reality. From somewhere stranger than this, a space where the bonds of the Spiritual universe are severed and a part of that spirit comes to rest in my individual nature, the will behind my physical, emotional and mental self, I began to be Paul.

In 1948 Kerdang Kerbau hospital in Singapore had made the Guinness book of records for the most births in the recorded world. It would have been no surprise, if I could remember, to see a conveyer belt with babies sprawled on its rubber coated belt, howling to the tune of “I want to go home”. But anyway, this was to be my beginning. My parents, both music performers had met in strange lands while playing two separate music gigs, and in that tropical heat, they were ultimately creative. My father Tibor Kunstler had escaped the problems of his country, a stateless Hungarian, and had ended up playing the Hilton on Java, just as the Second World War had started, when the Japanese soldiers landed and interned him. This was to be yet another test of his will to survive. From what he told me, he had had to play violin for Shell Oil executives who were allowed to remain under house-arrest in their homes, while the lesser financially endowed were interned in barracks. One day whilst having dysentery, he was forced to play, and when he was too sick to, the Japanese soldiers thrust the butts of their rifles into his aching intestines. While in the prison hospital, his best friend stole their coffee business, which had helped them both survive. I believe the pain of these experiences were forever a part of his evaluation of mankind.

My mother, Shirley Green, had left Leicester at the age of seventeen, to audition at the British auditions for the US production of The Wizard of Oz, at a theatre in London, and though she didn’t get the part, another American producer who was at the auditions, chose her for the lead in his production of a musical called “Those Kids from Town”, re-writing the screenplay to fit her. She recounted to me how they had left the theatre in a cab and stopping for a newspaper at Marble Arch, the producer had picked up the newspaper seller, offering him a role in the movie. The newspaper boy’s name was George Cole, who went on to be a luminary of the British screen. From there she became Shirley Lenner, and had gone on to sing with many British bandleaders. She had ended up after the war, going to Singapore to sing at Princes Restaurant, whilst Tibor, arriving from Java, had been booked to play the legendary Raffles Hotel. He must have cut a very dashing figure with his gypsy shirt, red cummerbund, and fiery approach to violin.               

 

                                                                                                  Paul’s father Tibor Kunstler

He played much like a modern electric guitarist, spontaneously letting rip his passion and Hungarian Gypsy temperament. Also, being freed from internment must have added to his joy, when he proposed to her. The unfortunate side of his past was his ongoing statelessness, which may have played a part in his need to get a passport. Whether he was conscious of his need or not, I was on the way to being born.

                                                                

                                       
             Shirley Lenner jams with Tibor Kunstler at Raffles Hotel, Singapore in 1948


My future was being planned, in their return to London, by passenger ship, via Ceylon. Shirley’s sisters had planned to greet their youngest sister at the London Docks, in a Rolls Royce. Both Anne Lenner and Judy Shirley, her elder sisters had become well known singers. Judy, the host of Monday Night at Seven, the wartime BBC radio broadcast and Anne was singing at The Savoy with American composer and bandleader Carole Gibbons.
                      
                                      
                                                                                    
The Lenner Sisters
 


They must have wondered who this foreigner with the strange name was, who had run off with their youngest, and I imagine that Tibor began to feel an outsider from the start.

After my mother and father separated, I stayed with my mum at my Auntie Maidie and Uncle Terry's, at their mansion at Hampton Wick. Maidie, my mother’s sister had married a wealthy building contractor, and they lived close to Hampton Court, one of the Royal family’s stately homes.

                                                                 
                                                           Paul's 2nd birthday at Hampton Wick with cousin John Doyle


Their house even had its own tennis court, and I can remember one day, sitting in the garden wondering about the baby girl next door. The house next door was also mansionesque and in its garden was a tall tower with a mediaeval, round, tiled roof. The neighbor waved hello to me and said the baby girl was sleeping. I distinctly remembered a story my mother had told me a few days before, about a girl who had pricked her finger on a sewing needle, and had fallen asleep for a hundred years, and I was worried that the little girl next door might have met that fate in the tall tower.

In fact I never saw her again, as my mother had found us a bungalow on the beach in Saltdean, a few miles from the seaside town of Brighton. From there we moved to Brighton, where I attended my first kindergarten. We lived in a one bedroom flat on Norfolk Square. 

                                                                        

 

                                                                                Paul aged 4 with his mother Shirley 

I remember my mother singing me to sleep with songs she had written, telling me that the fairy Tinkerbelle had brought me the sixpence that was under my pillow, when I lost a tooth, and on my fourth birthday buying me a big red fire-engine that had a rubber ball on top, that when filled with water I could squirt my friends with the hose. This one day had prompted all my buddies to make an inspection of our penises, likening them to the fire hose. She took me to “Cinderella on Ice”, where I promptly fell for the lead woman skater, for she looked like a fairy, especially with the short skirt!
                                                   

 

                                                         Paul in Brighton. His pre-school/kindergarten (bottom row 2nd right)

My father would visit me every so often, bringing me clothes that would make me look grown-up and sophisticated. At the time he was playing a very posh restaurant called Quaglinos in London’s West End, and sometimes at Christmas I would go to the Quaglinos Christmas party and meet the children of some of the celebrities that appeared there. I remember that British TV personality David Frost was a host. My father would play his Gypsy music to the wealthy diners, and from his success there, he began to play on BBC TV entertainment revues, one time having his picture on the cover of The Radio Times, England’s TV and Radio Guide.

                                                                         
                                                                      
'Sophisticated' on the Brighton Seafront

                                   
          

I suppose the child part of my life came to a jolt when I was five. I remember standing next to the thick tall columns of the Divorce Court, surrounded by tall grown-ups whispering to each other in the echoing hall. My mother had given up her alimony for me to go to Boarding School, which my Father would pay for. I suppose that with both of them having a professional night-life, it was better that I have a regular upbringing, so at the tender age of five and a half I was going to my first boarding school.
My mother had taken me to London’s Waterloo Station, dressed in my school uniform of grey flannel blazer and trousers with pink embroidery of SHM emblazoned on the pocket in pink, of all colours. SHM stood for Skippers Hill Manor, a small preparatory school in Tunbridge Wells, Sussex. The platform was strewn with boys aged six to ten, all identically dressed, dragging their plywood ‘tuck boxes’ along the platform. Much like a small trunk, it contained the boys’ last vestiges of their home life. I remember the strange feeling, saying goodbye to my parents and waving as I left for the unknown destination. I had seemed to be traveling for much of my life so far, but this time I was on my own. The English countryside sped past the carriage windows to the clickety clack of the carriage on the rails. The schoolboys chattered, some digging into their tuckboxes to show others a new toy they had got for Christmas, or trade a soccer-player card for an old Victorian postage stamp. In all their fervor there was a distant look in their eyes that hinted the question “Was I not wanted?” In every article of clothing was stitched an embroidered name band, with our name on. Was it to remind us of who we are, in case we get lost?
Upon our arrival at the school we were all given our places, at the table, in the dormitory, for our tuckboxes, and then we were told to go play. As if all these places had nothing to do with me, I dragged an overturned tea packing case and an old cushion with me, to underneath the games hut, and sat there feeling that I now had my own place. Within minutes about fifty boys were lining up to take turns at sitting under there with me. I was home.
Skippers allowed me to get away from my parents problems and be a child. Nestled in the Sussex countryside, and surrounded by woods, I began to nurture my creative spirit, although getting to that point did take plugging myself into the mains socket. I suppose as with all children, I liked things to fit. One day, my curiosity about the big plug, I think it must have been one of those old, huge 25 amp affairs, got the better of me. I had finally found a couple of large nails that I thought would fit the two holes perfectly, so I put the first one in, and I was correct, it fit like a glove. Then as I slid the second one in, lightly brushing my hand against the first, I proceeded to be stuck to them, and a vibrating feeling traveling up my arm amid yells and screams coming from my mouth. The hallway became animated with the school nurse and other teachers rushing towards me and carrying me off to my dormitory to bed. This must have been one of life’s deciding moments, and I had survived. Other than that hair-raising experience the times I remember at Skippers Hill were my walks in the woods, climbing across fallen tree trunks with the headmasters daughter and then going with her to the kitchens and ruining ice cream by pouring vanilla extract on it, both of us spitting out the disastrous concoction at the same time giggling at what we had done. I began my idea for a musical at Skippers, for there was a piano that I would play “Heart and Soul” on, and the woods encouraged my imagination for “Do you believe in Fairies”. The story was about a young boy, who whilst out in the woods discovers a community of elves and fairies. I suppose elves didn’t get a look in on the title, for my objectivity about women was growing, and fairies seemed to be the best looking women in most of the stories I’d ever read. In the story, the young boy goes back to the village to tell everyone what he saw. Half of the village believes him, and the other half, led by the reverend Oliver Sourberry doesn’t, and at Sunday sermon sings, “He’s mad, he’s mad, everyone thinks he’s mad” Well, to save the day, out come the fairies, leaving Mr. Sourberry to learn that life is far more than Christianity.

I suppose I tried to make the best of the situation for I had little choice. The holidays would come and go, with my spending two weeks with my father and then two with my mother, depending on who wasn’t working. Always in digs that my parents had temporarily rented, so it became impossible for me to know where home was anymore, unless school was home. So from the humble beginning of an old cushion and an overturned tea chest I had become home.

 

It was at Skippers that my imagination began to grow, and in the schools tranquil surroundings I had my first “love” relationship. I remember some of the songs to this day! The wonderful aspect of creating music is its ability to give one an emotional snapshot of a period in one’s life. The contrast between the innocence of being ‘on my own’ and not growing up in the pressures of two music artists life, was very beneficial for me to gain perspective, and as I grew up, my individuality became a source for my enlightenment, as well as a source for concern for those who were unwilling to accept their own individual nature, and rather opt for the status quo. Hardness seems to be a crutch for those who are afraid to know themselves and wish to achieve more material ends.


From Skippers Hill I graduated to Neville House in Eastbourne, aged around eight. I can’t remember learning much of typical education, but the Headmaster Mr. Laming taught us by imitating life, creating a village style bartering and selling system around the bicycle track. His son was a celebrated classical pianist and I would go to some of his recitals. Also my mother arranged for me to learn piano with a rock and roll piano teacher, while my father arranged for me to take classical lessons on the Royal School of Music course to which I achieved passing four grades. After that I managed to win a scholarship when I was ten to Victoria College Jersey, in the Channel Islands off the coast of France. 
                                                   
                                

 Paul's Dad watches Shirley on TV with Paul
   Photo: Roy Woodford Paul's cousin








Victoria College present day

The past two schools were very different from what I had got myself into now. Victoria was very similar to the school in the movie “If”, a story of anarchy against restriction. Victoria College, built for Queen Victoria’s visit, at the end of the nineteenth century in those days, was a very sado-masochistic environment built around army-like behavior and repression of the weakest, which inevitably were really the strongest. I suffered much bullying, being shy and sensitive, and so I resorted to creating my own life within the confines of the granite and restriction. Of course it would get me into trouble on many occasions...........  
 

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