Friday, September 29, 2006

Clive James: What about Fiona?

The Indy runs an "hilarious" extract today from Clive James' North Face of Soho - Unreliable Memoirs volume IV, out next week by Picador. It has its moments.

His stories about Peter Sellers are painfully credible, such as the one about the time James' TV team took the comic actor to a hotel for an interview. Sellers was horrified - it was the same hotel in which he'd romanced Britt Ekland before embittered ex-dom. He believed the place to be haunted by evil energies and insisted that the only way to enter the hotel was via the roof. En route Sellers spoke to thin air in an encounter with a "particularly hostile spiritual presence speaking Swedish" ...

As I've not read the book yet I don't know whether James has found space to include his extra-marital affair with the former ABC singer and writer Fiona Russell Powell. Back in the '80s he'd visit her at her London apartment. What he didn't know was that prior to his arrivals she would secrete a tape recorder under the bed to treasure his timeless pensees - and perhap flog them to a tabloid one day. To her credit Fiona never did.

But she did threaten to sue him for libel about 10 years ago when she discerned a similarity between herself and some ditz in his novel Brrm! Brrm! The story was splashed by the News of the World. But nothing more was heard.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Guns N' Roses' Slash in talent show?

My nomination for the Most Ludicrous TV Invitation of the Year.

Slash of the US hard rock band Guns N' Roses has been invited to take part in the BBC1 show Just The Two Of Us - the very nadir of cheesy "talent" shows. Hosted by the elephantine big-mouth Vernon Kay and the somnambulant Tess Daly, it pairs star singers with C-listers who perform duets through the week before a panel of judges. The result is the aural equivalent of a milk van crashing into a cattery.

This is a bit like inviting Pete Doherty to play Maria in The Sound of Music. A producer from the show writes to Slash in all innocence:

"I understand that Slash must have a very tight schedule but we could work around this and the celebrity will be coached by a vocal coach so the onus wouldn't be solely on Slash to make the duet work .... At the moment, we would like to find out if Slash is interested and available to take part in the show. We will also be paying a substantial fee for his participation in the show ...."

Nicholas Coleridge reviews himself

The latest Private Eye's Bookworm exposes yet more vanity self-promotion by one of the world's worst novelists, Nicholas Coleridge. "I LOVED this novel ..." starts one reader's review on of Godchildren, a previous work of his. Unfortunately the reviewer's name is one "ND Coleridge, 'Worcestershire Man'": back in 2002 he had yet to learn how to disguise his real identity in an email.

In fact, there is a similar pattern at work in the Amazon reviews for Godchildren and his latest work, A Much Married Man. Both titles elicit an initial awful review by a genuine reader. In the case of Godchildren, "A Reader" writes brutally: "This was the dullest work of trash (and I love trashy books) I have ever read. It was also very silly. The most ridiculous story line ever plotted. How many dead real life industrialists' lives can you fit in a story? Sadly the net result was a hodgepodge of soundbites. Bad story telling."

In response the very next review was the rave from "ND Coleridge".

Then, with his latest novel, A Much Married Man, Madame Arcati herself kicked off the reviews (as "Gore Vidal II") with a less than enthusiastic survey of the novel. This was quickly followed by a number of raves, all by people who've never reviewed on Amazon before. Perhaps by now Coleridge knows how to hide behind an electronic mask. Or else he has lots of friends (like these).

Doubtless some will think all this rather disreputable. Personally I find it rather endearing. I mean, here's a man - Mr Coleridge - who earns a seven-figure salary as Conde Nast's MD and commands six-figure publishing advances for novels he assiduously pushes through his glossies (Vogue, Tatler, Vanity Fair etc) and through newspapers that employ people he went to school with.

Yet despite contacts to kill for and power to die for this very considerable man actually sits at his computer screen in his study and worries himself over what some nonentity thinks about his wretched fictions. You can imagine him checking daily sales reports of his books - this may explain why he sent out an assistant to buy up copies of his latest novel to improve its position in the London books charts, as reported by the Eye. Perhaps he has a geo-sales world map on his computer full of primary colours and percentage readings - indices of the Coleridge impact on Planet Earth!

It is heartening in a way to think that a man who has achieved so much can still care that much about what people think of him. Humbling.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix pics!

Here we go then, a couple of just-released stills from Warner Bros' Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix due out July 2007. The top tart is Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge and the other tart is Daniel Radcliffe as, well, guess who! I'm only putting these up to increase traffic to the site and piss off HP fans looking for more. How I pity the grown-ups who actually read HP novels on trains, worse even than those who cradle The Da Vinci Code at their bosom in public places.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monty: Day of the Locust

Ex-Mirror boss David Montgomery poses in the Indy today with a foreign newspaper in his hands and foreign newspapers fanned out on a glass table before him - all copies of regional titles his company Mecom has purchased recently. And all written in tongues he does not speak. How alarming it must be to part with hundreds of millions of other people's Euros for things one doesn't understand. Ah, same old Monty, some cynics may say.

Raymond Snoddy paints a very pretty picture of a reinvented media guru known on the Continent as the "locust". Though most of his new titles have very slim profit margins, the Murdoch manque is certain he can fatten up his acquisitions by sacking "back office" people and putting ads where journalism once rolled.

But Snoddy should have mentioned Yava for a better sense of where we imagine Mecom could be heading.

Yes, Yava was a Monty company. In 2000 he came up with a cunning plan - put computer terminals with internet access in pubs and Naafi canteens. Brilliant! The man who's teetotal (though he has a drink-driving conviction) knew all about boozers and their desire to write emails after the fourth pint. But anyway, he raised £20m of other people's money to fund this folly.

A mere year or two later the company was wound up. Perhaps he thought mobile texting would never take off due to the higher incidence of arthritis, or something.

Meanwhile, relationships chez Monty don't appear too cheerful. I hear that Lara (his moody daughter with tabloid journalist Sharon Feinstein) is somewhat at odds with his current wife Sophie who herself is in need of TLC as she faces a daily battle with their unruly five-year-old son.

To cap it all, David has reverted to his "distant and distracted" mode as work becomes his great excuse to neglect emotionally his nearest and dearest. One just hopes he doesn't succumb to past weaknesses and seek solace in the bosom of another. Madame Arcati asks her readers to send healing prayers to this troubled family.

Scotty beamed up Spencer Tracy

Fans of old Hollywood will enjoy William J Mann's Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, just published. That Hepburn was at heart lesbian is probably no great surprise - even the press of the '30s made much of her sexual unconventionality. What does amaze me - call me naive - is what Mann unearths on Kate's "soulmate", the straighter than straight Spencer Tracy.

He had a sexual relationship with a man called Scotty - known to have been one of Vivien Leigh's lovers but notorious as the "male madam" who ran a post-War gay brothel from a petrol station on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Van Ness. Young male whores charged a constant stream of male drivers $20 a pop. The vice squad wondered why so many cars were parked around the station but it never got busted.

A member of gay movie director George Cukor's social circle, Scotty related: "Tracy would always be drinking when I arrived [at Cuckor's]. He'd get so loaded. He'd sit at the table drinking from five o'clock in the afternoon until two in the morning, when he'd fall into bed and ask me to join him .... And in the morning he'd act like nothing happened. He'd just say thanks for staying over." This went on for years.

An MGM insider is quoted as saying: "We knew Spencer wrestled with homosexuality." This may have been the real reason why the guilt-ridden actor drank so heavily - Hepburn attributed his alcoholism to "over-sensitivity to life."

Most probably Hepburn knew of his orientation. She certainly knew Scotty who not infrequently called on the couple, on one occasion when she was washing Tracy's dishes. Then "she would walk off and leave us alone to have sex," said Scotty. PS - The people at celeb directory NNDB may now want to revise their Tracy entry which states "straight" under Sexual Orientation.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Dawkins Delusion

It's Sunday. I don't want to think about who broke up the McCartneys' marriage today (see exclusive story below if interested). I don't want to think about Andrew Lloyd-Webber's unrequited love for Tim Rice (see exclusive story below). Or whether the Independent's louche editor Simon Kelner - last seen in the Ivy, Groucho, etc - should have blacked up Kate Moss. Today, I give to ....

Voted one of the world’s three top three intellectuals (by Prospect magazine), Richard Dawkins continues his materialist-atheist fatwa against religion with his new book The God Delusion, just out. Belief in the Divine causes wars, promotes abuse and is a general pan-historical pain in the arse, he argues – “He [Dawkins] eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being,” promises his publisher.

It’s on my books-to-read list but I caught him on Radio 4 this morning re-asserting his view that even a transcendent experience (such as he enjoys while listening to Schubert) is no evidence of God. Asked about Einstein on religion, Dawkins replied: “He did not believe in a personal God.” This is correct. But Einstein always marvelled at the ordered mysteries of the universe and conceded a “super-personal” cosmic intelligence. He had a sense of God in all things, or as he put it:

“I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations...."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Torchwood star's stitch-up

Actor John Barrowman - star of Dr Who spin-off TV series Torchwood and a once ambitious contestant on Dancing On Ice - recently had a very delicate operation to, er, tighten up a certain part of his anatomy grown a little slack by his amatory exertions. This was an essential procedure given the many action sequences he must undertake as Captain Jack Harkness.

McCartneys - McGear + Mills?

A certain prominent PR is claiming that the McCartneys' marriage may have not been helped by Heather Mills' bond with Paul's brother Mike McGear - the man famous for Lily The Pink and Thank U Very Much with The Scaffold band.

Kate Moss is the new black

Laugh of the day is the UK Independent's Africa Issue ("guest designed by Giorgio Armani").

To sell Africa to the whities, Kate Moss has been blacked up for the cover - "Not a fashion statement" is the headline.

Delicious in its irony. Next, the return of the Black & White Minstrel Show? Perhaps it's a post-mod thing, or a Banksy joke, or just a terrible mishap.

In other news ... on page 40 Armani admits some responsibility for setting "a trend towards models who look anorexic" but then thinks the problem is "exaggerated". It's unfortunate that he chooses to part-defend himself over vanity thinness in an edition of the paper devoted to famine and poverty.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Supermodels: Belsenistas at Bath

Just when it seems the Belsenistas maybe fattened up for the catwalks, here comes the University of Bath - probably the most publicity-seeking educational establishment in the UK - with a report that concludes "women prefer thin models to those with fuller figures."

The poor conformist Vogue-reading twats who preferred thinner models thought Belsenistas were "more elegant, interesting, likeable and pleasant". Less than a third of the 470 female undergraduates questioned reacted favourably to adverts featuring larger models.

The survey's results come after the organisers of last week's Madrid Fashion Week imposed regulations banning "super-skinny" models from the catwalks. Professor Brett Martin, from the university's marketing group in the School of Management, says: "Women who believe that weight can be controlled by taking exercise and dieting believe that a thin model has succeeded in controlling her own weight and is someone they can relate to. These women tended to be thinner."

The fault line in this "poll" lies in the narrow sample - female undergraduates. Would it be presumptuous to suggest that most of these women are under 21? Why does Bath imagine that such a sample is representative of women in general? Or does it suppose that the least cash-rich segment of society - after children - is now the sole focus of the greedy and exploitative fashion and cosmetics industries?

In an earlier post I reviewed Charlotte Church's new show and referred to the new heat-generation of body-bitches who delight in the mockery of fatties, porkies or orange peelies - the celeb ones, as a starting point. It seems a harmless pursuit, a bit of a bonding exercise among the Thin Nazis, but in truth it hard-wires an obsession with physical perfection as defined by the gargoyle designers who hang their unwearable clobber on a herd of anorexic, neurotic matchsticks we call supermodels.

We all know how they stay emaciated. They eat fucking coke for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Supper darling? I'll have some charlie with the Heidsieck.

Female undergraduates - probably more attuned to the career benefits of template conformism - are perfect fodder for the Thin Nazi propaganda of the glossy mags they've gobbled up through their teens. It's the only gobbling up they dare dream about.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Filthy showbiz goss

I really must avoid TV studios and all the attendant gossiping. But anyway ... a certain TV bod not unconnected to a show on the McCartney divorce (y'know, Macca vs Mucca) was reliably informed in passing that the great McCartney love match of Paul and sainted Linda only had one of the slightest wrinkles - Paul wasn't crazy that she didn't like to give blowjobs. OK, sue me! Sue me!

Then there's some stuff on Robbie Williams but this I can't repeat because it's from Someone Who Really Knows so I'll save it for the memoirs (or when his career's on the slide which is hopefully never. The darling).

Andrew Neil not the Business

International playboy Andrew Neil sends me a personal message (well, it looks personal) inviting me to subscribe to The Business Magazine. Sadly, the man who makes a virtue of never being wrong has put his name to a letter that desperately needs a touch of subbing. Either that or he's starting to repeat himself, in which case, medication is advised.

Here's the unexpurgated letter in full:

"THE BUSINESS Magazine is the only London-based and UK-focused weekly business magazine in the market; but, unlike the daily newspaper business pages, its focus is not parochial. Rather it concentrates on business and financial stories with an international dimension: so the magazine is British-based but with a strong international flavour reflecting the global importance of London in the 21st centurybusiness pages, its focus is not parochial. Rather it concentrates on business and financial stories with an international dimension: so the magazine is British-based but with a strong international flavour reflecting the global importance of London in the 21st century"
Andrew NeilChief Executive and Editor-in-chief

Monday, September 18, 2006

DiCaprio a diamond geezer?

The Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana have written to Leonardo DiCaprio asking for his help. They write: "Friends have told us that you are in a film, The Blood Diamond [out 2006], which shows how badly diamonds can hurt. We know this. When we were chased off our land, officials told us it was because of the diamond finds.

"Please help us, Sir. We know you are a famous and respected man, and that if you speak up for us many people will listen. We just want to go home, and hunt and gather and live in peace like we have always done."

A press release explains: "The Botswana government has brutally evicted the Gana and Gwi Bushmen from their land in the Central Kalahari, and De Beers diamond company is exploring for diamonds there. The Bushmen are calling for a boycott of De Beers and Botswana diamonds until they are allowed back on their land."

The Gana and Gwi Bushmen's organization First People of the Kalahari launched their own website earlier this month:

Pope calls for Moor's head

The Pope's current global difficulty with (some) Muslims brings back to mind the curious coat of arms His Holiness adopted last year.

One of the charges or objects on the shield, said to relate to his Bavarian homeland, is the so-called Moor's head (pictured) or caput ethiopicum - or Ethiopian's head, alias the "Moor of Freising" or " Crowned African king". The image has been associated with the principality of Freising (Pope Benedict was once Archbishop of Munich and Freising) since about the 14th Century or earlier. So you might think its inclusion on the papal coat of arms pertinent and innocent.

It most probably is. Yet a few commentators last year wondered at its appropriateness, or political correctness, in the 21st Century. To the contemporary eye it looks like a caricature of a savage. It could too easily be interpreted as the triumph of Christianity over Islam. The Boston Globe speculated on the origin of the Moor's head:

"He could be St. Maurice, a Roman commander from Africa whose Christian soldiers refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods after an important victory, and were themselves massacred. . . . And there is a more grisly possibility. At the time of the Crusades, some Christian kings displayed a severed Moor's head on their flags or crests to symbolize victories over their Islamic enemies. It is conceivable that the king, known as the 'Moor of Freising,' evolved from such an image."

It added: "The portrait is practically a caricature of an African male, with exaggerated lips painted ruby red."

Even the Pope is uncertain of its precise meaning. Back in 1998, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he offered a subjective interpretation: ''For me, [the African king] is an expression of the universality of the Church." (From his Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977).

That must be right, but is Benedict XVI fully sensitive to the effect of his words and images in a world of hyper-ventilating drama queens?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

VF writes ...

Vanity Fair gets in touch to inform me that its November issue will be dealing with the reaction to AA Gill's piece on Kate Moss (see my Aug 14 post for what the slight fuss is about). Doubtless this will encourage the magazine to view Gill as sexily "provocative" when in fact he simply irritates with his basic, lazy inaccuracies - redeemed presumably by his brain-lite giggly prose. Just ask the Albanians.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Frank-N-Furter's kitchen goss

Normally I deplore Popbitch-style celebrity teasers in which some outlandish sexual practice is attributed to an unnamed famous person in order to dodge the UK's draconian libel laws. But then again who am I to stand (too much) on principle?

A story comes my way of a famous UK-based married TV chef - let's call him Funny Cradock. A few years ago Funny was in the habit of visiting a prostitute on a regular basis - let's call the prostitute, um, Miss B.

Now, here's the thing about Funny - he's resolutely heterosexual, he craved extra-marital sex but he didn't want to commit adultery (ie have sexual relations with a woman who's not his wife). Some people just want to have their cake and eat it! And Miss B was the perfect cake because she's a transsexual (male to female) - but one still with a penis. Miss B has the boobies but as she says herself, "I still tumesce, darling".

In Funny's brain Miss B's penis made her a "non-woman" (so no adultery) who nonetheless was sufficiently womanly to excite his heterosexual love-map for guilt-free relief.

"So it was just as well I was a catcher," adds Miss B, cryptically.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Morrissey, Capote & Ernie

The blessed singer Morrissey is an occasional blogger with a disarmingly discursive, clear style. I do hope he's keeping daily diaries for publication in his dotage. He writes indiscreetly, like a man on sodium pentothal, though of course he's not (I'm sure).
In his latest posting at he discusses the novelist Truman Capote, having recently seen the movie Capote in Iceland and been captivated by Philip Seymour Hoffman's lisping impersonation of the master manque.
"I'm not even sure if Truman was a writer at all, or just someone who sneaked around and watched," writes Morrissey. "But he was funny." Then he recalls a delicious moment: "When I put him on the cover of the Smiths single The Boy With the Thorn In His Side a certain member of the Smiths (who unfortunately is still alive) said, 'is that Ernie Wise?' .... dear God ... "

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Those Barclay Scaramangas!

On a recent cruise around the Channel Islands I was amazed to see a local fisherman chug past in his motor boat making insulting hand gestures at various security cameras staring out from the Brecqhou coastline. My guide explained wearily: “The Barclays are not too popular around here”.

He means billionaires Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay who own the Telegraph and Spectator among many other things - including the Brecqhou island. Apparently their grandly gothic, honey-coloured castle home – Fort Brecqhou, no less – is the object of some mirth. But their power battles over tax/water/whatever with the hereditary ruler of nearby tax-free Sark, The Seigneur (who has dominion over Brecqhou), is a comedy perhaps only Peter Sellers could have done justice to. The twins are presently petitioning the Queen to terminate The Seigneur’s pesky reign over them and his feudal set-up – maybe because they want to start up their own sovereign feudal state (population: 20).

A glance at something called the This Is Guernsey Forum indicates the ill-feeling felt by many Channel Islanders towards the twin Scaramangas (Scaramanga, you may recall, was the sophisticated resident of his own island, played by the incomparably vain Christopher Lee, in The Man With The Golden Gun - the Barclays, I hasten to add, are not assassins). But back to the Guernsey Forum posts ... :

The Rev LGH Craske rages at their “monstrous mock castle covering the whole of a tiny island built to accord with some feudal and mythical lineage known only to [themselves], the battlements and accessibility of which are best understood in a world of Ali Baba and his flying carpets or that of Gulliver upon his travels.”

A James Marr brutally denounces the Barclay Brothers as “despicable” and demands that “they should be ostracised by every inhabitant of the Bailiwick.” He relates: “Even the Germans treated the Seigneur's grandmother with respect and if these domineering browbeaters and despoilers of Sark's heritage cannot be withstood, they can at any rate be treated with the contempt which they deserve.”

Felicity Belfield asks: “When the Barclay Brothers bought Brecqhou in 1993 they knew exactly what Sark's constitution was, so if they did not like it, why did they go ahead and buy the island? They were already based in the tax haven of Monaco. Could Sir David and Sir Frederick please tell me what they actually like about their small rocky outcrop, where they have no fresh water supply, no indigenous trees, no beach and very few friends?”

Ominously June and Brian Prout warn: “To use one's wealth to force other and powerless people to toe your line has a very unpleasant name ... and wars have been, and are being, fought over such things.”

Indeed. But every Scaramanga has his (or their) Nick Nack (or servant, should you not be familiar with Bond movies). A Barclays employee, Mark Harrison, points out that the brothers have spent a fortune beefing up the Islands’ emergency services with an ambulance ship and helicopter.

“Separately,” he adds, “some £3.2m has directly entered Sark's coffers by way of our charter of vessels belonging to the Isle of Sark Shipping Company. A substantial donation has been made to Sark's community school, allowing its completion. Funds have been allocated to many other charities and, indeed, to individuals who are in need within all the Channel Islands.”

The seigneurial knights are known to be litigious and are currently prosecuting the Times editor for criminal libel in the French courts. It is a wonder that they have not slapped libel writs on the 500-odd inhabitants of Sark.

Monday, September 11, 2006

TOTP lives again!

Hopes that Top Of The Pops really was killed off have been dashed. Prepare for the papers to report that TOTP2 returns to BBC2 on Sept 30 with the ferret-faced Steve Wright smarming about. In fact the Radio 2 DJ was told just this morning so zombie happiness all round. I'm informed that live acts lined up include Jamelia and Razorlight. Pointless with all the music TV channels pumping out stuff 24/7.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Richard Chamberlain's star lover

All this talk of the Sybil (see below) reminds me of the late astrologer Patric Walker who died of salmonella poisoning back in 1995. He had star-sign columns everywhere, from the London Evening Standard to Harpers & Queen (as Celeste), from Town & Country to the New York Post. It’s pointless trying to assess the accuracy of his prophetic skills against that of other astrologers, as pointless as trying to prove a dream. What he had was a lucid, direct, mischievous prose style and it was this that turned him into a celebrity. It made him plausible and trustworthy and highly entertaining. In life I found him to be anything but the first two but always the third.

He lived part of the year on the Greek island of Lindos and claimed to write his columns on the beach there. Donkeys regularly clip-clopped through his villa, he said. It was Virgo that first brought me into his world. A reader of a magazine I was working on complained that the Virgo star sign for that month was word-for-word the same as Virgo for the same month the year before. When we asked Patric for an explanation he said dismissively: “Not much has happened to Virgo in the past year”.

Plainly he was recycling his stuff for certain markets but then he was always quite frank about sun-sign astrology – it was basically showbiz. Nonetheless he had studied his craft. No one knew more about Saturn Returns than Patric. When we finally met at a London hotel for a magazine interview he took against me because of the way I held my teacup.

Looking at some of the obits again I see coy references to his sexuality and to his relationship with a “US TV actor”. I don't know if the public know that this was Richard Chamberlain. They had a long love affair. At times Patric could talk about nothing or no one else. It was a turbulent liaison frustrated by both men’s closet status at the time….

And now I have to go.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Blair's downfall foreseen?

Reading Robert Harris’ vivid and splendid new novel Imperium re-ignites my interest in Ancient Roman history and the Sybil – the prophetesses who read for the empire. How I wish we had their like today, as opposed to the legion of henna-haired "channellers" and their rip-off psychic phonelines milking the vulnerable at £1.50 a minute (most credit cards welcome).
The nearest contemporary Britain can claim to the Sybil is the cheapo annual Old Moore’s Almanack and its horrible Flash Gordon monochrome graphics. Yet it's this I turn to occasionally during national or international dramas, in the hope of alighting on an instructive astrological prediction, if only to requisition it in the shaping of a dinner party opinion that may make me look perceptive if not psychic in hindsight.
So I open up the edition for 2007 and turn to the month of July, for it is then that Tony Blair promises to step down having resigned in May prior to a leadership election. And I am intrigued to read the following:

“The Sun and Moon are on the Midheaven at London pointing to somewhat greater popularity for the government. Radical changes both in policy and personnel are possible, and will be carried out very smoothly.”

A “smooth and orderly transition” even? Can it be possible that the Pluto-diminished heavens had already pronounced death on Blair’s premiership, as far back as sometime before September 2005 when Dr Francis Moore drew up his horoscopes?
We shall see.
Of course there’s no indication whether we're actually due a new PM in July or whether he will be Gordon Brown. Yet is there a clue for August? National celebrations are foreseen as “old-fashioned values are reasserted” with more and more people getting married – perhaps the now ex-Chancellor will have introduced more tax incentives to get hitched. The Gord has never much cared for Tony’s social liberalism, so you never know ….
Still, whoever takes over whenever, it’s predicted that by November the government will be embroiled in “scandals at the highest level”, so plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nick puts the Hell in Hellen

Nick Hellen, the Sunday Times deputy news editor (the job is not as grand as it sounds) is not a very nice person, I am very reliably informed.
In his early days at Wapping the lanky lollop was tipped to remain a hack, first as a media correspondent and then as "social affairs editor" - in short a glorified royal correspondent where he enjoyed the nickname Lord Percy after the royal crawler from the Blackadder comedy series. In that job he usually did little more than put up stories fed to editor and fellow lanky lollop John Witherow by one-time ST hack Charlie Peat (whose Dad was the former private secretary to Prince Charles, Sir Michael Peat and, I can reveal, a leaker of the highest order).
After a lunch with Hellen a few years ago, Witherow told his lieutenants to remind him "never to give that man a senior job on the paper". But then Witherow, something of a nasty little jackboot bully himself, decided that the news section "needed a kick up the arse" and brought Nick in to give everyone a foul time.
So he is now deputy news editor where he enjoys tormenting junior staff, screaming down the phone and trying to cover up his own errors by blaming others. People who deal with him describe him variously as a "psychopath" or a "loony", a "bully" or just "a plain nasty piece of work".
An enjoyable game at the ST is doing a "Nick cuts search" where his name is inputted into the cuts machine and all his spun or inaccurate stories are seen in their full glory with the benefit of hindsight.
Sadly colleagues had to lid their giggles when a story filtered into the news room about him being thrown out of a mini-cab after he asked the Asian driver if he was an "illegal immigrant."
There were no giggles though when an attempt to leave his job came to nothing. Earlier this year he tried to relinquish his deputy news editor post for the sunny pastures and furnishings of the ST's Home section. He lost out to dep foreign ed Peter Conradi for the job and is stuck where he is.
This is not good for junior hacks under him, although his attempted move maybe a hint that even he is tiring of his lowly work.
But still - and it pains me to report this - there can be few people so morally unpleasant and self-seeking in journalism that colleagues would say of them, "the world would be a better place if that man was dead", as some ST hacks I spoke to have said of Mr Hell.
If he would like to get in touch I can recommend some counsellors to help move him towards the light.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Chantelle's new image!

Celebrity hairstylist Richard Ward sends me a message about Chantelle and her trichological evolution that climaxed in an orgy of Racoon Hair Extensions on the special day she plighted her troth to Preston. Men once bent their spines building pyramids for a royal's astral glory. Now it's Chantelle's crowning glory that drives men to the Quasimodo look. Or, let Richard's PR tell his tale ....

Chantelle visited Richard and his team for a staggering 10 hours to prepare her hair for the big day! After months of discussion and consultations, Chantelle decided to take her hair darker and move away from her trademark goldilocks blonde hair.

Oh My God! But anyway ....

Senior Technician Thomas Simons transformed Chantelle’s hair completely to a gorgeous warm subtle chestnut shade, extensions specialist Sonia Padam then applied new 20 inch Racoon Hair Extensions in soft caramels and coffee for gentle highlighting and volumising effect, which were then cut and blended by Richard himself to create her sensational new look. Richard was then on hand for the actual wedding ensuring her hair looked fabulous for the ceremony and official photographs.


“I’ve been styling Chantelle’s hair since we worked together on her television show and she has been going on about how much she hates her blonde hair since then! We’ve been slowly darkening it but suddenly the day before the wedding she announced she wanted to be really dark! The Racoon extensions and the new rich chestnut colour really made sure her hair was ultra shiny on the day.


It was a mad week as all the press had heard we were doing her hair and were calling me and Hellen on our mobiles and even at home trying to find out where Chantelle and Preston were getting married, but we kept quiet, and just made sure her hair looked gorgeous for the day. The paparazzi were camped outside the salon waiting to glimpse her new look so she donned a long blonde wig to fool the cameras! I was really pleased she decided to take her hair darker, it gives her a fabulous new image for her new life with Preston,” concluded British Hairdressers of the Year nominee, Richard Ward.

A new image for life with Preston! Well, at least Richard's honest.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Intercourse with Private Eye

I recently had correspondence with Private Eye's Bookwork over the magazine's seeming odd attitude to self-publishing. Here are the two letters:

Your Literary Review correspondent takes to task writer Nikki Bradford for self-publishing her novel through Pen Press and claims to have "trawled" their local bookshop for the title without success (in issue 1166) . Yet many if not most contemporary novels from orthodox publishers will be sought in vain on high street bookshelves (just go to Amazon, everything's listed). And why is the Society of Author's advice to writers never to contribute to book production costs repeated without question like Mosaic Law? Painters, actors, directors, musicians et al routinely subsidise their creative work - what's so different about writers? The Eye's own dyspeptic reviews of mainstream-published novels might lead one to think that orthodox editors are hopeless judges of what's good or bad - a thought that evaporates conveniently at the mention of self- or "vanity" publishing.
Incidentally, your contributor's suggestion that Bradford should have gone straight to a printer to cut costs is daft. With digital print-on-demand companies like Lulu around, producing books in a fraction of the time it takes some arrogant Snipcock & Tweed to get off their arse, the era of cheap and effective self-publishing has already arrived. Try to keep up dearies.
Yours sincerely
Madame Arcati

Bookworm’s response to your letter.

The era of cheap and effective self-publishing may have arrived, but the point of the article was to suggest that Bradford could have achieved roughly the same result much cheaper by really, genuinely publishing the book herself rather than going through a third party. She's going to be doing all of the legwork anyway, so why should anyone else make a profit?
The Society of Authors' advice is repeated because it remains a basically sound rule of thumb for not getting shafted. The original article stated that Bradford's book was available at 'most good bookshops'. All books are available at 'most good bookshops', if you know they exist and order them, and everything's available on Amazon anyway, but the implication seemed to be that Pen Press had succeeded in getting this title stocked by 'most good bookshops'. As you so rightly point out, the choice in most bookshops, good or otherwise, is severely limited. The Eye's been railing against this for ages, in case you hadn't noticed. As for editors being good and bad judges, there are some brilliant editors, some who really shouldn't be employed and the rest are somewhere between the two extremes. The problem is with the marketing departments, who really do tend to judge a book by its cover.
Publishers can indeed be arrogant and inefficient and are often stupid. Well observed. Bookworm's been saying that for years and proving it with examples. Do try to keep up.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jeremy Langmead: heroic revenger

, I'll always adore an elegant revenger, and Jeremy Langmead - the editor-in-chief of the wanky IPC mag Wallpaper* - is my new hero.
He'd already impressed me last week when in an interview with Press Gazette he paid "tribute" to one of his past bosses, Veronica Wadley, editor of the imperilled London Evening Standard. After showering some flattery diversionary nonsense on this ghastly snob he revealed not only that she was Daily Mail-esque (an insult among those who know) but that her editorial line was: "I want this feature and I want the person who was in the train crash yesterday, but she's got to be middle class and she's got to be pretty and wearing a skirt."
Female, a bit monied, not lesbian. Tut-tut.
Today in the Indy's Media section, Jeremy exacts revenge on another ex-boss, some monstronsity I'd never heard of called Alison McDonald. Is she still the editor of the Sunday Times Style magazine? Answers on a postcard. But anyway, Jeremy reveals that she has or had a "generous cleavage which often played host to the ash from her filter-held cigarettes ...."
I like that piece of detail, filter-held.
But it gets better.
Jeremy relates how he dared to book a day off to celebrate his birthday after working a 10-month stint without a break as her deputy on Style. Yet just as his dinner party was about to start here was Alison on the phone demanding he write a 1000-word piece about male celebs' bad hairstyles by 11pm.
Alison could be dead for all I know but I wouldn't be too happy about all this information being released into the public domain. What Jeremy fails to say - and here I have some concern about the state of his soul - is that there's legislation against Alison's kind of abuse. Journalism is not going to rise above its present hellhole status unless we stop trying to make light of dysfunctional managers who veil their incompetence by making everyone else's life a misery.
Blessings nonetheless on the handsome hetero, Jeremy.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Charlotte Church Show

Call me a car crash TV fetishist but I couldn’t resist watching the Voice of an Angel’s debut excursion into evening chat show-land last night – and on Channel 4 as well. It was always going to be a flop of course, what can you expect of a barely-educated 20-year-old who reads by paparazzi flashlight? Why should she be able to do what a Wogan or a Ross can do – or even what a Sharon Osbourne can’t do?
But then her show is not a chat show at all. It’s actually a variety show for Generation-H - as in H for Heat (OK, heat) magazine.
Give Carlotta her due. She didn’t hang about chatting to her guests Denise Van Outen and some comic (fresh from Edinburgh) I’d never heard of, Michael McIntyre. A quick how-d’ya-do on the couch and then we were down to the real Gen-H business: bitching about other celebs, Heat-style. Up popped stars’ holiday pics on a slide – pics we’d already seen in Heat, Now! New! More! (shall I go on?) – and the ridicule came thick and fast. The fried near-nude form of David Beckham in his white briefs on a yacht reminded Charlotte of a “chip” while an image of a manatee-proportioned Cherie Blair elicited much studio laughter. Even man-boobed Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson did not escape the censure of the Thin Nazis.
This was all a bit unfortunate given that Our Charl has just set up some fashion line for the bigger woman and has gone on record as saying she couldn’t give a fig about whether she’s big or small. Plainly she’s obsessed with her looks, and everyone else’s, as any addict of Heat magazine would be. Hasn’t the mag traded on ridiculing all sorts of celebrity disfigurement and irregularity in its pretty pages, playing on our desire to project common vanity fears onto our fellow mankind? I just ask the questions here. And to think Heat set out as a respectable movie publication. It sells by the truckload each week and has helped spawn a whole new generation of body-bitches. Charlotte personifies the trend.
Not that her show was all bad. It did at least bring Michael McIntyre to public attention. Clearly he should have a show of his own. Indeed at times he did take over as the Fallen Angel fidgeted nervously at his blitz of amusing bons mots, scarcely disguising her unease as a presentiment of another career move cramped out any natural reaction.
Charlotte would be best advised to dump the unfunny sketches and just recruit a panel of emaciated Z-listers to bitch about porcine A-listers for the H effect.
Heat would be an enthusiastic sponsor, I’m certain.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Blair + Carr = joke?

The Friday Night Project comic star Alan Carr is teaming up with ancient hoofer and bisexual Lionel Blair - they're making an old-fashioned variety show together for Channel 4. In fact if you want to be in the audience for the pilot at Backpool's North Pier on Sept 20, then look no further: tickets are on a strictly first-come first-served basis so email your request asap to or call the ticket hotline and leave your details on 07723 686893.