George Best: The Marjorie Wallace Affair
‘She wanted me because I was George Best and I wanted her because she was Miss World. It wasn’t exactly a meeting of minds, it was a collision of bodies.’ – George Best
George Best (1946-2005) finally walked out on Manchester United in January 1974, having done so twice before. Although one of the most gifted footballers to grace the UK, the general public had lost sympathy with him and only a month later his reputation took a further dive.
George was running a nightclub called ‘Slack Alice’ in Manchester Deansgate and received a call from a PR company asking if the newly crowned Miss World Marjorie Wallace from Texas USA could visit the club. Best gleefully accepted. So, she came along, with her representatives and met George. The two got on well, having the usual press photo’s together, Best enjoying a vodka and she a glass of champagne. The evening ended with Marjorie giving George her London number.
A few days later he rang her to say he’d be staying in London for the weekend and could he come and see her? She agreed. When Best turned up at her mews flat with his suitcase, Marjorie asked, ‘What Hotel you staying in?’ This George took to mean, he wouldn’t be staying there – so just said ‘I haven’t booked anything yet. I’ll sort it out later once I know what we’re going to do’. Best needn’t have bothered, starting almost immediately he spent the night at the apartment. George describing it as ‘a brief courtship.’
Out on the town
The next day, the Irish wizard took Marjorie to all his usual London haunts, lunch at San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge introducing her to the owners. Cinema, then Tramps night club in Piccadilly. What Marjorie didn’t tell George was she’d actually been to all these places before with tennis player Jimmy Connors and singer Tom Jones both being linked romantically to her, which George knew about, but saw it as a challenge. Marjorie first met Jones in December 1973, shortly after winning the Miss World crown being invited backstage at the London Palladium where Tom was performing.
At the exclusive Tramps nightclub, the international press photographers had gathered outside waiting on the couple leaving. Johnny Gold manager of the club offered to smuggle the pair out the back door, but Wallace was having none of it. She marched happily out of the front with George at her side, to the camera flashes and shouts of the press. The pictures, appearing in all the papers and gossip magazines. ‘She loved it’ said George. ‘It turned her on.’ Marjorie Wallace was only 20 years old enjoying the limelight, George Best was 27 and been round the media block a few times, understanding the hazards as well as the virtues.
The evening was spent at Marjorie’s flat. According to George while in bed together, the phone rang. Wallace took the call and was chatting cheerfully to the person. At the time Marjorie was also dating Formula 1 Racing driver Peter Revson, with the two thought to be engaged. Best begin to think it was his mother on the line, when he heard Wallace say ‘Oh I do miss him, you know. Tell him I miss him, I am being good and can’t wait to see him again.’ Best felt embarrassed lying next to her while she was carrying on this conversation with her boyfriend’s mum and afterwards said as much to her, which started a row. The next morning Marjorie asked Best to leave. ‘I was going to anyway’ he exclaimed. She left the flat to meet a girlfriend, leaving George in bed to sort himself out.
Inside the flat
A little later, Best heard the doorbell go and looked out of the window to see a chauffeur in a Rolls Royce car, but not who was ringing the bell. The car left. He got dressed, the phone rang – Best answered. ‘Is Marjorie there?’ a girl’s voice said. He responded ‘How can she be here when she’s there with you?’ George knew Wallace had put her up to ringing to see if he was still in the flat, later on she rang herself, to say she wasn’t coming back. This Best expected, but was now getting angry by the way Marjorie was treating him.
Best required his partners to be devoted and loyal, but that didn’t necessarily mean he needed to behave in the same manner. So, he got her diary and wrote in it a message – ‘Dear Marjorie, I realise how upset you must be that I have left. How kind of you to fit me in between the rest. I must say you showed about as much affection as a scorpion with a headache. But I suppose one f**k is very much like another. Have a nice year. Yours in sport, George.’ Then made his way back to Manchester by train.
Video: George Best recalls the Marjorie Wallace relationship (2001)
Arrested back in Manchester
In the early hours of the morning on Thursday 21st February 1974 two Policeman visited ‘Slack Alice’ his nightclub and informed him he was being taken back to London to be charged with theft. Property was missing from Marjorie Wallace’s flat namely a fur coat, some jewellery, handbag with her cheque book, passport in and some alcohol. The Police searched landlady’s Mrs Fullaway’s house where George was staying. Finding nothing. Best was shocked and livid. He ordered his solicitor to contact the press. He wanted everyone to know of this scandalous miss justice and how he was being treated. This sordid incident involving a major world football star and a Miss World beauty queen made global headlines with international TV news stations covering the event.
The Manchester United superstar was first taken to Bootle Street Police Station. Then driven back to London by two Policemen and put in a cell. In the morning he was questioned for five hours, with his lawyer present. He helped the Police by putting straight dates and times which they, on her information had completely got wrong and claiming his innocence. The Police thought the articles had gone missing sometime between Sunday 18 February & Wednesday 20 February. This was when Best had been back in Manchester. However, they still charged him.
At Marylebone Magistrates Court bail was put at £6,000. His friend and partner in ‘Slack Alice’ Malcom Wagner supplied putting his own house as surety. The Police warned Best not to make any contact with Marjorie Wallace. He went back to Manchester, fuming and hired his own private detective to look into matters more carefully. Despite Police warnings George did ring Marjorie Wallace. First in a rage and second more calmly stating ‘You must know who took the things?’ Wallace didn’t want to know. She told George she wouldn’t be turning up to the court case. And, she didn’t.
The Wallace files
George’s detective had also come up with a few things on Wallace including a number of risky relationships. Among them, she’d been seen and photographed with the married Tom Jones on a beach in Barbados. This did not go unnoticed by others. All the adverse publicity surrounding her, forced the organisers of the Miss World contest to strip her of the title on March 7th 1974, which she held for only 104 days, saying Marjorie ‘failed to fulfill the basic requirements of the job.’
Sadly, only a couple weeks later on March 22 1974, Peter Revson (her fiancé) was killed during a test session, before the 1974 South African Grand Prix in Kyalami. He died on route to hospital wearing a gold locket Wallace had given him bearing the engraving, “If not for you …” This tragedy occurred only five days before the trail was to begin, so was reset for April. Marjorie flew to America to attend the funeral, never to come back, her passport and jewellery now returned in a package mysteriously sent on March 2 to the ‘Sunday People’ newspaper. Even stranger a week later, after a tip-off, other possessions, including a tiara, were found in a London telephone kiosk.
On April 24th 1974, the judge dismissed the case against Best stating very clearly ‘George Best leaves this court without a stain on his character’. Intimating the case should never have been brought this far. Marjorie Wallace did not attend court. Best felt the missing articles had been taken back by the person who originally gave them to Wallace. He was quite prepared to back this up in court with evidence provided by his own detective. There was now no need. Case closed.
The fur coat
The mink, never turned up. Best believes the Police should have tried finding and interviewing the man in the Rolls-Royce car. But friend and business partner Malcom Wagner sensationally revealed to Joe Lovejoy in his authorised biography of Best, saying ‘George told me he threw it (the mink coat) in a waste bin. He used to do that in a fit of pique – if a girl wouldn’t go out with him, or whatever. Once when we were in Spain, he threw a girl’s handbag over a balcony, with all her bits and pieces in it, because she wouldn’t co-operate. He’d do that sort of thing. I think he used the coat like that, and threw it away, when he found out that Wallace had been phoning Tom Jones and Peter Revson.’
Wagner is considered one of George’s closest friends and confidants. Having helped the football star out of a few scrapes, in their long friendship. In his own book Waggy confirms, that Best put the mink into a dustbin ‘in a fit of temper.’ However Best did not know ‘that it contained her passport, £2,000 cash and her cheque book in the pockets.’
Suicide attempt ?
This brief fling resulted in the two going their separate ways. The ex-Miss World continuing to see Tom Jones embarking on a long on-off relationship, which Jones allegedly suspended. He was concerned for his wife Linda, when photographs appeared in the press of the couple, poolside at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Less than three months after Revson’s death on June 5th 1974. Wallace was rushed to hospital after being found unconscious in her apartment. Apparently from an overdose of sleeping pills. Some speculated this was not only connected to Revson’s death but the relationship with Jones finishing. Marjorie recovered and met up with Tom a few months later in Mexico City. In a later magazine interview, she explained ‘I was depressed and accidentally overdosed on a few too many sleeping pills. I never attempted suicide.” In 1976 she moved into Jimmy Connors Los Angeles apartment.
Have boots will play
George Best became a football maverick, with a growing alcohol problem, constantly in the press for matters outside of soccer. He once said of himself ‘I was born with a great gift, and sometimes with that comes a destructive streak. Just as I wanted to outdo everyone when I played, I had to outdo everyone when we were out on the town’. Best who allegedly, did well out of this scandal by selling his story to ‘The Sunday People’ newspaper for £12,000 near £100,000 today, continued seeing Beauty Queens saying years later in his after-dinner speeches – “I used to go missing a lot…Miss Canada, Miss United Kingdom, Miss World.”
After dinner speakers
Comicus provides several footballers, pundits & commentators who played and worked alongside George Best such as Chris Kamara, Glen Hoodle, Sir Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking, Harry Redknapp, Alan Mullery, Lou Macari,Kevin Keegan, Sammy Mcllroy, Teddy Sheringham, Garry Richardson, Jim Rosenthal among many others for speaking engagements. All recall their playing careers, stories of this football legend along with a strong insight into the modern game. Contact the office for more details 0344 800 0058 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
References & material
Much of the material for this article has been taken from George Best’s autobiographies, and authorised biographies by other authors gaining different prospective on events. Also, newspaper & magazine articles. Even so the clarity of incumbent’s stories has never been consistent. Neither coming out smelling of roses.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.