London Calling: Parties, Painting and Passion!
The MG spent its first 4 years in Kensington. When Rob bought the MG in 1964 he said it "had lived a hard life." It turns out, following James' research, that the first owner, Renato Fratini, was a talented character living a full life in London.
Having moved from Italy in 1959, Fratini - who didn't speak any English - quickly learned and thrived on the 60s London scene. Infamous for his love of a good party, he quickly gained a reputation as a man who enjoyed the finer things in life.
Fratini turned 27 in the same month he collected his brand-new MGA Twin Cam in 1959. By this point in his career he was earning an unprecedented £1000 per poster, making him Britain’s highest paid film artist in history. This at a time when the average British male manual worker earnt £13 a week. His MGA Twin Cam’s list price was around £1250.
A personal landmark for Fratini was a party he attended in 1959 where he met and fell in love with a young fashion designer, divorcee Georgina Eve Butler. Gina, as she was known, was the daughter of Somerset Butler CIE, a colonial service officer and the son of the 7th Earl of Carrick. Her godfather was Sir Victor Sassoon. In 1961, at the age of 29, Renato married her.
When she was interviewed by Sim Branaghan in 2003, Gina remembered Renato with undiminished affection “He was incredibly good looking, with wonderful eyes….very attractive and funny, with tremendous enthusiasms – he just seemed to be interested in everything.”
Everyone who knew Fratini in period agreed that he lived life to the full, indulging every possible taste to the maximum. Gina recalls “He loved food, loved drink, loved cigars, loved dancing….he just liked to generally live it up. He adored jazz and we were always out at Ronnie Scotts, He had great presence and tremendous passions. But really, we were very young and in a lot of ways rather immature.”
Gina Fratini went on to become a famous society dress designer. Elizabeth Taylor chose a Gina Fratini dress for her second marriage to Richard Burton in 1975. Gina also dressed British royals including Princesses Margaret, Anne, Alexandra and Michael of Kent. Other famous clients included Ursula Andress and Raquel Welch. Diana Princess of Wales wore one of her creations for a 1990 official portrait by Terence Donovan and again, in April 1991, to a ballet during an official visit to Rio de Janeiro. Gina Fratini OBE died in London, aged 85, in May 2017. Zandra Rhodes said of her “Gina Fratini had a delightful personality, she was charming and vivacious.” A selection of Gina’s dresses are on permanent display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The MGA’s first registered address was 49 Princes Gate, Kensington, SW7 and it resided there between 2nd October 1959 and the 19th January 1963. Nestling between Chelsea and Kensington, it was a short walk to Kensington Palace and Gardens, Royal Albert Hall, The Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.
49 Princes Gate, Kensington, SW7 12 Kensington Court Place, Kensington, W8
The MGA’s second registered address was 12 Kensington Court Place, Kensington, W8 and it resided there between 19th January 1963 and July 1963. Just a mile west from Renato’s first London home in Princes Gate, he was now living and working in the very heart of Kensington.
Fratini’s first studio was at 38 Harrington Gardens, Kensington and he later moved to a Victorian sculptor’s studio on Princes Gate, down the road from Kensington Court Place.
I have a romantic notion and wonder if, as per the picture below, Renato and Gina (whom he met, dated and married whilst owning the car) regularly enjoyed typical street scenes like this - appreciating to all eagle eyed viewers this is not them and its a period picture of an MGB in London!