When I was twelve, my father took me to see a little film called Evil Under the Sun-- the last in a trio of tony Agatha Christie whodunit films that somewhat shaped the person I am today. The first, Murder on the Orient Express, cemented my passion for train travel and smart suits; the second, Death on the Nile, ignited a fondness for women in floppy sun hats and beautiful, wee handguns. It was Evil Under the Sun, however, that really stayed with me. Some would understandably think the reason was Diana Rigg having a field day being a classic, haughty, soon-to-be-murdered bitch, or getting to see Roddy McDowall in a never-ending series of sailor suits, but they would be wrong. Not too far off, but wrong, all the same.
It was Maggie Smith. Maggie Smith and her cocktail parties. I don't think my father had any idea what he was getting me into when he took me to see that picture.
It was a simple scene, really-- almost a throw-away, apart from firming up the tension between Diana Rigg's Arlena Marshall and just about everyone else residing at an exclusive, Mediterranean island resort. While passing around a tray of hors d'oeuvres to her guests, Smith asks the world-famous detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) if he would care for a cocktail. "Care for a cocktail, Monsieur Poirot? A White Lady, Sidecar, Mainbrace, or Between the Sheets?" Poirot rejects them all and asks instead for either crème de cassis or sirop de banane. With a bit of a sigh, she acquiesces, only to move on to offering Diana Rigg a sausage-- the one thing of which one would think she had had enough, given her proclivities.
And that was it. I followed the murder well enough, and the inevitable, intricate unveiling of who-done-what. But I kept thinking about those cocktails. As I sat in that theater, I decided that I was going to be the sort of chap who drank Sidecars and Between the Sheets while Cole Porter tunes were played somewhere out of sight on a piano. I filed their names away in my memory and bided my time.
When the appropriately legal time finally came nine years later, I unleashed my inner Maggie Smith, marched into a very (to me) upper, upper lounge in Los Angeles, and ordered a Between the Sheets from the bartender.