ersatz art

DESIGNED BY…HIMSELF

by Réginald-Jérôme de Mans

Even if no man walks alone, John Steed stands alone.

Stood alone, rather, the news of his portrayer Patrick Macnee’s recent death making my old memories immediate again. I saw my first Avengers episodes in France. They were dubbed and I was bemused to see Macnee-Steed addressing not Madame Peel, the Mrs. Peel even a casual fan associated with the show,but Mademoiselle King, the replacement character played by Linda Thorson in the show’s last year of production after Diana Rigg had left the show and pretty much taken its mojo with her. Macnee, of course, had been both before and after Rigg and the ineffably, incomprehensibly glorious complement in need of a strong, progressive female character – which Tara King conclusively was not. 

Still, even in the show’s messy, gaudy 1968-season decline, Steed’s unmistakably, ornately iconic character stood out. Through persistence- or inertia- I made it through a wearingly convoluted plot to the closing credits (featuring card tricks supposedly performed by Macnee himself), to one particular credit that’s stayed with me for years: “Mr. Macnee’s suits designed by HIMSELF.”

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The tea towel I stole from the kitchen to blot my watercolor brushes has unexpectedly taken on the chroma of Oz the Great and Powerful.

As Thing 1 says, “This is precisely the reason we can’t have nice things,” and “Wouldn’t a rag do just as well?" 

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