By Colin Hastings
It’s not the first time I’ve watched West Side Story in part or full. More likely, it’s the tenth or twelfth time, going right back to the movie’s launch in 1961 when my parents took my older brother and myself to the Odeon Leicester Square in London to be thrilled by this enduring legend of the silver screen. I was mesmerized by its exciting dancing and memorable songs, unashamedly in love with the leading ladies, and inexplicably drawn to the gang loyalties. Every few years since, I find myself returning to this amazing and ageless movie, and never fail to be captivated by its brilliance.
We talked for hours, and like many others, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts and enthusiasm for West Side Story, which seemed to delight David.
We met up on many occasions thereafter, usually at the Windsor Suites on Sukhumvit 18, where he spent his later years, and as fellow Brits became good friends. He was a marvelous talker and I was a willing listener, more than happy to sit back and be entertained for hours by his endless accounts of world famous celebrities he had known, loved, disliked (never hated) and admired during an almost 70-year career in the movie business.
His address book of A-listers is probably unrivalled. Mention any of the legends of Hollywood, and David invariably knew them, from Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen to Natalie Wood and Diana Ross, and he’d have the most wonderful anecdotes about them. What’s more, he never tired of talking about them.
We also shared our experiences in Thailand, and chatted about the many mutual friends we had here, including Lek Kittiparaporn, with whom David made his only film in Thailand, the historical epic ‘The King Maker.’
During one meeting with David, he told me that he was writing a book about his life and gave me a draft copy of the manuscript. This surprised me as it was still ‘under wraps’ and therefore confidential, but it shows how much he trusted me. Naturally enough, I lapped it up in a matter of hours. He went on to make some changes to the pen pictures – I suspect on his lawyer’s advice – and then handed me the revised manuscript which was already at the printers. Called ‘Tough Guys Do Dance’, it’s an essential read for anybody with an interest in Hollywood’s most glamorous celebrities, thanks to David’s unique inside track.
The last time we met, seven months ago, it was fairly obvious David was in poor health. He was heading to the US the following day to seek medical assistance and said he hoped to return to Bangkok sometime soon. As we now know, he didn’t make it and passed away in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 23. Tributes to David Winter have poured in since his media – and they include mine. He was the star behind the stars.