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Born On The Fifth Of July

Stuart Bailie

Late Show Presenter

Fans of The Great Gatsby may remember the July 5, 1922 was the date of an extravagant party at West Egg. The narrator has written down the names of the visitors and there are some amusing snapshots of the old money snobs from across the bay. That includes SB Whitebait, Clarence Endive in his white knickerbockers, the Chester Beckers and Doctor Webster Civet. Not forgetting Ripley Snell, who was so drunk that Ulysses Swift ran over his hand with his automobile.

A few local establishments have tried to put on Gatsby-themed parties, but without the resources of a millionaire bootlegger. The real deal involved a corps of caterers, a full orchestra, spiced baked hams, salads of harlequin designs, cases of oranges and lemons freighted in from New York, pastry pigs and “turkeys bewitched to a dark gold”. This is as good a time as any to recommend ‘A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties In Literature’, which puts a few rivals in the way of Jay Gatsby.

When I was at college, my lecturer supposed that July 5 wasn’t just a random date – it was the day after Independence Day – the vulgarity in the wake of the American Dream. Which may be the case, but since July 5 is also my birthday, I would always condone such a knees-up. Most of my birthday events have been muted in comparison – friends away on holiday or else myself on vacation. Happily there’s a big event tonight by the Lagan and I might just try to party lie it's 1922.

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