I was prompted to write this when I first saw the announcement that zoos are going to reopen. Today marks 20 years since the passing of the fascinating John Aspinall (1926-2000).
Here are John's thoughts in honour of this fascinating and eccentric man:
"In The Gamblers, I chart out John Aspinall's extraordinary career as a casino entrepreneur in the period after WW2 in London. He was able to set up, with the support of Jimmy Goldsmith and Mark Birley (founder of celeb hotspot Annabel's), Clermont Club HQ. This reveals a lot about Aspinall's energy and profound sense of social structure and belief in survival of the fittest. There were many positives in
John's life, not least of which was the zoo at Howletts and a continued focus on glamorous entertainment on Berkeley Square. On the darker side, John was manipulative, snobbish and a believer in eugenics.
The fact that he never showed emotion about the injuries inflicted by his tigers on others suggests that maybe he saw this as the natural order of things. He was a complex figure who in many ways summed up the zeitgeist of the 1960s but will always be remembered as the man behind Lord 'Lucky' Lucan's demise. * "
* The late Sarah Maxwell-Scott confided in John (Pearson) that it was Aspinall who in the end would have given the instruction that Lucky had to die. Whether this is true remains remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the time.
If you want to learn more, I encourage watching ITV's Lucan and/or reading John's The Gamblers!