Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fallowell's wig - mystery solved

Yesterday's Evening Standard ran Madame Arcati's exclusive story on the April Ashley plagiarism debacle (see below) that resulted in the pulping of her book The First Lady. The photo showed April beautiful as ever and writer Duncan Fallowell in a dirty blonde woman's wig ... he explains in an email:

That photo was taken at the Fourth Estate 21st party last year. I was wearing the chemotherapy wig of my dear friend Bunny Dexter (RIP) - she pressed it into my hands and said 'It may be useful one day'. And so it proved. I told the gossip columnist that I was lead singer with the Crippled Niggers and our album, Paedophilia, was due out next month - but they found out the hideous truth. DRF.

I understand that John Blake Publishing will pay damages to Duncan for ripping him off. Neither April's ghost Douglas Thompson nor Blake has had the courtesy to reply to my queries.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Witherow: Lord Levy's 'Cashpoint'

Sunday Times editor John Witherow is not known for having an extensive contacts book or indeed for giving his news desk many story tips. But he sure looks after those contacts he still cultivates when not shouting at his staff.

Take Mark Bolland, his old chum, whom the ST always gave flattering attention when he was Deputy Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales (1998-2002). Whenever he was mentioned in the ST Witherow insisted that some reference was made to his being known by the two princes, William and Harry, as Blackadder - a moniker Boland enjoyed and even traded off at the top of his dead and unlamented News of the World column.

The fact that the name was made up and that the princes never called him anything of the sort was neither here nor there. Witherow is now extending the same favour for his chum and tennis partner Lord Levy, Labour's erstwhile fundraiser, who finds himself questioned by the Knackers investigating the cash for peeages scandal.

All stories about Levy in the ST are fed by him via Witherow who insists that some reference is made to him in the paper's copy to being known as "Lord Cashpoint" - a name dreamed up by Levy who rather loves it.

Again, no one in political circles ever calls him that, but hey: the truth can be a relative thing in what passes for news in the Sunday Times.

Haslam: He snogged Paris Hilton?

A gorgeous person called Fish sends me the following message on our idol Nicky Haslam:

I called him the next day (after drunkenly proposing down the phone to him the night before) and he claims to have snogged Paris outside The Ivy. Apparently, the pap got pics, but I've only managed to locate three pics and none involve snogging. Also, a little tidbit - his memoirs are not going to be called Writing On The Wall. They're going to be released in two installments. The first will be titled "There and Then" and the second "Here and Now" - definitely more Nicky-esque titles. He is indeed a most intriguing character, and a fantastic laugh with the sharpest wit I know. I would be interested to know more of your views on Nicky, if you're willing to share - drop us a line.

That I shall Fish. Oh yes ....

Ashley story in papers

I am so pleased that my April Ashley exclusive has made the lead in the Daily Express' Day & Night column today and in the Evening Standard 's Londoner's Diary - naturally Arcati does not get a credit but all the quotes on the site have been lifted. This happens so often: a blog breaks a story, the mainstream media descend like vultures.

Still, never mind .... (for now).

Ashley: 'I saw nothing'

April Ashley has written again on the subject of Duncan Fallowell's claim that her book The First Lady was a rip-off of his book ....

Dear Madame Arcarti,
Thank you for your reply that was very nice of you. I had rung Duncan but he did not return my call which I found odd as our freindship goes back about 40 years. I knew something was wrong as Douglas Thompson [her ghost] would not forward me anything that he had written and I kept warning him not to sound to like "The Odyssey" - to no avail how stupid can one be?????????//

Again thank you for your very kind thoughts.


In my reply, I suggested she write her own book in future and advised her to read Rupert Everett's brilliant memoirs, Red Carpets & other Banana Skins - funny, vivid and true. April wrote back...

I read Rupert's serial in the "Daily Mail" and it brought back memories of him almost killing us both in Edinburgh when he was taking corners at 60 MPH in a small car but he was adorable.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fallowell's jibe at Ashley

Writer Duncan Fallowell has responded to April Ashley's letters below with some asperity as you will see ....

Dear Madame Arcati - All I want to say on this matter, in response to your email, is that the book April Ashley's Odyssey by Duncan Fallowell and April Ashley has always on April's website been referred to as My Odyssey by April Ashley.

Wishful thinking is to the sex-change what blood is to the vampire. Now let's move on to better things.

With best wishes, Duncan Fallowell.

Plainly the two - who were once so close - have fallen out. I hope I can help heal the rift.

April Ashley: 'What's going on?'

Further to my news the other day that April Ashley's book The First Lady had to be pulped following a plagiarism row with Duncan Fallowell (see post below), April has been in touch with Madame Arcati - distressingly she says she knew nothing about this matter. In her first letter she writes:

Dear Mme. Arcarti,
How did you come by this knowledge as no one is speaking to me, not John Blake [the publisher] Douglas Thompson [her co-writer] or even my old friend Duncan Fallowell.
I look forward to your reply.

Then in a follow up she writes:

Well my darling,
perhaps we now know the truth. How sad.
So lovely to see you.

How very odd that John Blake had not kept in touch with one of his authors. He has not bothered to reply to my query on this subject either. Once a tabloid rascal ...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

April Ashley book pulped!

I am horrified to learn that remaining copies of April Ashley's autobiography The First Lady (written with the hack Douglas Thompson and published last May by John Blake) have had to be pulped following a plagiarism row.

Writer Duncan Fallowell discovered that it was a little too similar to his own 1982 book on the transsexual star, April Ashley's Odyssey.

Mr Fallowell informs Madame Arcati: "I've been involved in a legal case re the new April Ashley book - two thirds of which I discovered - to my astonishment - is a straight reprint of the one I wrote. John Blake Publishing, after lots of bluster, have now agreed that there is no alternative but to cancel The First Lady - remaining stock will be pulped."

Perhaps someone should tell which is carrying a Christmas offer for The First Lady. More to follow I'm certain.

What's Nicky Haslam for?

Susan Hill wonders aloud through the medium of Madame Arcati what the royal and celebrity interior decorator Nicky Haslam is for.

I must counsel that it is not for mortals to wonder at the purpose of a fellow human being. After all, M&S's very own mature model and sometime musical entertainer Bryan Ferry saw fit to make Nicky a godfather to his fox hunting son Otis, last seen leading a posse through the Commons chamber in protest against animal rights legislation. Mr Ferry's keen sense of high society and its uses has never deserted him: what better entree into the most exalted salons of London could Otis hope for than via Nicky's incessant networking?

I do not know what he is for, precisely, but my psychic sense tells that his memoirs will present some sort of answer. What he writes will matter less than what he illustrates, and whom he knows - everyone who matters, natch - may serve as useful research for novelists of a certain satirical interest.

Literarily, I have always thought Nicky a combination of Mann's Gustave Aschenbach (Death In Venice) - except that Nicky would have ensured that the eyeliner was waterproof - and Proust's hedonistic and comic Baron de Charlus (A la recherche) whose several homosexual intimacies bridged the social spectrum from many a royal palace to the gutter. There is also a touch of Mme Verdurin about Nicky in her false teeth and monocle, hinted at in his epic cosmetic surgery, painted hair and dirty ripped Levi's.

Nicky is one of the templates of literary character creation because quite frankly you couldn't make his sort up. And I adore him.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nicky Haslam does ... Paris

I am indebted to interior decorator Nicky Haslam for increasing my sum of knowledge of Paris Hilton. In his one-off, typically recherché, society diary in ES Magazine last Friday he recounts a visit to The Ivy – one of the best notice-me establishments London offers – in the company of the hotel chain heiress, actor Rupert Everett, Jade Jagger and her “devastatingly handsome” musician boyfriend Dan Williams – nice to see that the queer roué can still get a hard-on and he must be closer to 70 than 60.

What impressed me most was his recollection of Hilton’s drinks order. “Chilled vodka in one glass, un-iced still water in another, in the third, iced pineapple juice, sipped in strict rota.” He reported that the next day she was off to Amsterdam “to ride a bike by the canals.”

“Do you have to go incognito?” asked Nicky.

“What’s that?” she replied.

In other news he claimed to have been asked onto I’m A Celebrity … and modestly thought that the producers were scraping the barrel with that invitation. On the contrary, he would have been perfect. He was not at all impressed by the current lot on the show. He wrote: “David Gest would certainly put even his posthumous father-in-law Vincente Minnelli, who is said to have liked watching handsome young hustlers in bed with his various wives, off voyeurism.”

All this bodes well for his memoirs, Writing On The Wall, expected to hit the fan in March of next year courtesy of Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Retentive of memory, beady of eye, Tallulah Bankhead’s once-admirer is driven to make us all feel like outsiders to his Olympus. I can’t think of a better personality-type for gossipy outrage.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Rolling Stones: LA review

by Jan Fox
Looking like an animated string bean on speed Mick Jagger took the stage at LA’s Dodger Stadium for the final US date on the Stones’ marathon A Bigger Bang tour.

What is that man on? - because I’d like some. At 63, Jagger runs an average ten miles during a performance that would floor most athletes and leaves younger rock stars in the dust – Chris Martin? Pete Doherty? Like pale pastry in comparison with our Mick.

The same couldn’t be said of Keith Richards, bless him, who looked more like Jack Sparrow than Johnny Depp. Barely upright, fag in hand, ‘Keef’ thanked the brain surgeon who put him back together after falling out of a palm tree before stumbling through a couple of solo numbers. We still love him though.

The beautiful people had paid $500 and up to be corralled in front of the stage on fold-up plastic chairs but we all got our money’s worth thanks to Mick’s ability to streak up and down runways reaching out into the audience on all sides, wearing a fetching variety of flowing sequinned jackets and those trademark tight T-shirts. This is a well-oiled machine and Jagger is definitely the man who drives it.

The average age of the fans was about 50 and it was all a bit sedate with most people staying in their seats but managing a bit of clapping and swaying – Mick even apologised for being late and wished us all a Happy Thanksgiving – not very rock ‘n’ roll, but the rest of the night was electrifying.

Highlights included a duet with Bonnie Rait on Dead Flowers, a marathon version of Midnight Rambler with incredibly sexy harmonica playing from Mick, a visually stunning Sympathy For The Devil complete with flames shooting hundreds of feet into the LA night sky and a storming Satisfaction to close the show in a shower of fireworks.

This was rock ‘n’ roll at its best – the kind of music that makes you want to go home and have sex on the floor – though judging by the shuffling grey haired audience members politely queuing to leave, they were probably all headed for a cup of cocoa.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pete Burns ... in "Hitchcock movie"!

The very welcome rise and rise of pop divo Pete Burns into a TV fixture continues with new reality show Pete Burns Unspun . This is what we can look forward to ...

A man pays Pete Burns' bail and moves in with him, thinking he owns him. "This is like a Hitchcock movie," says Burns. "I feel as though somebody's disemboweling themself in front of me." The plot thickens considerably in Pete Burns Unspun, WOW's real-life melodrama with the former Dead or Alive frontman, airing November 30 on the UK's Living tv.

And to see the trailer, click this link.

PS: I really do think that Simon Cowell should get Pete on The X Factor as a judge to replace Sharon Osbourne. To my mind she nearly saved herself from advised dismissal last week with her reported tantrum at Chris Tarrant - who'd make a sarky remark about Ozzy's articulacy - but since this wasn't broadcast it doesn't count. She's grown dull with the effort of keeping up the fake cutie-pie persona - Pete would reintroduce the nuclear option.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jordan's voice: the truth?

Jordan (aka Katie Price) and Peter Andre launch their album A Whole New World later this month. Can she sing? Find out for yourself:

The finished product

The unvarnished, horrible truth

Jasper Gerard & the gypsies

The Observer's Readers' Editor Stephen Pritchard has judged against his own editor, Roger "fucking" Alton, and his recent right-wing sign-up Jasper Gerard. Two weeks ago Gerard paraded his lazy racism on the subject of gypsies and where he thinks they like to live. I encouraged people to complain and I wasn't disappointed.

Pritchard reports in his paper: "Several readers were incensed. 'Why allow such lazy bigotry in a quality newspaper, particularly one which normally would be falling over itself to dispel such brainless caricaturing?' was a typical question. I put this to the editor, who replied that the piece was intended to be humorous. 'I think it is simply ludicrous that we cannot make jokes about a minority purely because it's a minority,' he said.

"The Race Relations Act (1976) defines gypsies as a separate ethnic group, while the Commission for Racial Equality describes travellers and gypsies as 'some of the most vulnerable and marginalised ethnic minority groups in Britain'.

"Last week, the Press Complaints Commission confirmed to me that it would treat gypsies as a separate race under the terms of Clause 12 of the Editors' Code of Practice, which states that 'the press must avoid prejudicial and pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or any physical or mental illness or disability'.

"So it would appear that The Observer was in breach of the code....

"The PCC upholds the press's right to make robust comment, as long, as in this case, it is clearly labelled as opinion, but snide stereotyping can hardly be described as 'robust comment' and it's too easy for the PCC to refuse to entertain complaints from uninjured parties while defending freedom of expression. Knee-jerk attacks on minority groups do nothing for social cohesion and have precious little to do with hard-won rights and freedoms. The editor was wrong to allow them in the paper." [my bold italics]

Well said Pritchard. The only reason why Gerard was hired in the first place was because he worked at the Sunday Times: how national newspaper editors just love sloppy seconds. As for Alton, I fail to understand why the Scott Trust permits him to remain as editor when he backed the Iraq invasion, thinks Blair a great PM (they're mates) and - worse - is friends with Mariella Frostrup.

She phoned the balding swine during an interview with the Indy recently and he asked her what she thought of Gordon Brown as PM - which is a bit like putting Lulu on the spot about dialectical materialism. I don't recall her reply but he did go on to talk about Observer writer Henry Porter who gave Blair a hard time the other month on the erosion of civil liberties.

According to Alton, Blair now refers to the writer as "Fucking Henry Porter".

Record Of The Day Awards

At London's 100 Club last night for the little-known Record Of The Day Music Journalism and PR Awards 2006 - a knees-up just for hacks and spinners - a man in the corner sat ignored (unnoticed, unrecognised, unannounced, boo hoo!) by the creme de la creme of UK music journalism until it was his turn to present an award. Up he got and ... it was only Coldplay's Chris Martin! Dear oh dear! Gwyneth would have had them going.

My congratulations to NME's Conor McNicolas for winning Editor of the Year. Make the most of it, deary. With NME's fast-falling sales your migration to the compensations of a broadsheet cannot be far away.

Special K for Peter

The Bookseller reports that comedian Peter Kay's autobiography sold a mammoth 65,680 copies last week, following his appearance on ITV1's Parkinson show. It is the highest weekly November sale by a hardback since Paul Burrell's A Royal Duty three years ago.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OJ Simpson and his psycho publisher

The OJ Simpson disaster may end the career of one of the great monsters of the publishing world, Judith Regan of Murdoch-owned HarperCollins' ReganBooks. At least I hope it does. This disgusting and detestable woman actually thought it a good idea to part with $3.5m for Simpson's If I Did It, Here's How It happened? Murdoch had no alternative but to cancel the book in response to widespread incredulity at such an outrageous project. He's nothing if not a realist.

Regan pretends that the book was in effect a confession by Simpson to the murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. It was nothing of the sort. It was just a cynical attempt by a murderer to capitalise on his notoriety by posing as the hypothetical killer. All she heard when Simpson's "people" offered her the idea was kerching! "I didn't know what to expect when I got the call that the killer wanted to confess," Regan claimed in a defence she titled Why I Did It. "But I knew one thing. I wanted the confession for my own selfish reasons and for the symbolism of that act. For me, it was personal."

Why it was personal you can read elsewhere - just a crass attempt at victimology (ie invoking fake victimhood), like crying rape. She is in reality a highly successful abuser of people herself. Last year Vanity Fair ran a long demolition piece on her, The Devil and Miss Regan. Some choice quotes:

When it comes to picking books, "Judith doesn't listen to anything or anybody," says brand-identity designer Jeff Stone, who is also the companion of HarperCollins C.E.O. Jane Friedman. "A man has a golden gut. She goes with her golden vagina."

Of Regan: "The highest-functioning deranged person I've ever known."

"If Regan is theatrical in her author dealings, she is positively operatic with her underlings. In the last two years, at least a dozen people have left her employ—pretty impressive for an imprint that consists of only six or seven staffers. "She is," says a woman who has worked happily for other demanding bosses but lasted with Regan less than a year, "a destroyer of souls."

"Does anybody think there would be a Paris Hilton autobiography if it weren't for Judith?"

"You have no idea how crazy she is. None," says one former editor. "Many of us who worked there still get together years later. We became very close, because you had to stick together to survive it."

"Here she is, this middle-aged woman, and she needs everyone to think she's the authority on youth culture, but she's not so in touch."

Often, she seems to want to foment conflict, as if she were arranging toy soldiers on a wee battlefield. At one point in the late 90s, when a young (straight) editor complained that a gay superior was coming on to him, Regan immediately reassigned the editor to work directly for the superior. The editor quit.

When she got mad, people were called "fucking retards" and "fucking idiots" ....

PS - For a fuller report on OJ and Regan see the brilliant Grumpyoldbookman site

Monday, November 20, 2006

TomKat & Madge: celebrity cons

The UK's Daily Star "exclusively" reveals today that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were not actually married in Italy at all but in LA sometime before. The paper simply lifted this from online showbiz site (which put up the story on Sunday) though the TomKat Bracciano charade had already been rumoured.

While on I notice that Madonna's latest book The English Roses: Too Good To Be True has only sold 9,000 copies in the US in four weeks. The first instalment in the series sold 350,000. This is excellent news for those infuriated by the whorishness of publishers who chase after celebrity with their hefty cheques. It's safe to say that at least 300,000+ original purchasers of Madge's children's literature felt conned and decided not to waste further money on an egomaniac's vanity works.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Private Eye writers at war

A regular glancer of this blog reminds Madame Arcati that both Craig Brown and Tom Bower are Private Eye contributors - all the more tragic then that the latter proposes to sue the former for libel (see Mr Veronica Wadley post below). Doubtless this irony will not be lost on the public schoolboys who write the MediaGuardian's Monkey catch-up media column.

I shall refrain from comment of any sort. However, this spat does remind me that Craig Brown is currently writing lookalike columns for both Private Eye and Vanity Fair, both exhibitions of celebrity parody. What I don't understand is why he's brilliant in the Eye yet hopeless in VF: his latest Bono diary in the latter is exceedingly obvious and therefore unfunny: Bono's buddy the Dalai Lama gets to be called "Lammy". Did editor Graydon Carter really fall about at this lark?

Now, Brown is a brilliant parodist. And never more so than when he is possessed by the spirits of his victim slebs and allowed to glide on the thermals of his egomaniacal inventions. While this works for a British audience of reductive pisstake lovers, with an ethnic contempt for celebrity delusion, I wonder if the joke gets lost in translation in a magazine currently dedicated to Kate Moss?

Is it possible that VF's Lancome-scented pages cause Brown to become giddy as he tries to understand a readership that pores over baby Suri pics while yet trying to reach the end of a multiple sub-claused Christopher Hitchens sentence?

I don't know the answer, but I thought I'd ask the question.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Apophis: Earth's destruction on hold

Yesterday the Guardian ran a piece on NASA's plans to take inspiration from midget hero Bruce Willis and "land an astronaut on an [Earth-bound] asteroid hurtling through space at more than 30,000 mph" in order to deflect it. The report identified "a smallish asteroid called Apophis ... as a possible threat to Earth in 2036."

This sort of threat always gets me excited. My mind basks in the futility of pension plans, of soap operatic "fresh starts", of Wars on Terror, of the Pope's Linguaphone courses, of ... well, just fill the gaps. The unity of a terminal big bang to tail our genesis ignition (or so we are led to believe by the couturiers of astro-physics) appeals to me for reasons I can't quite explain. But the prospect is a great leveller of human presumptions, a great reminder that we're just tenants, not freeholders, of the BBC's invented Planet Earth.

Alas! Even the Guardian misleads (a little). Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, explains in a letter to members of his organisation:

"Last year, briefly, it looked as though the unthinkable was coming true.

"A newly discovered asteroid -- dubbed Apophis -- appeared to be on a collision course with Earth. Its impact could annihilate a city, or set off a gargantuan tsunami. For a few tense weeks, the world’s telescopes swiveled to watch the asteroid and pinpoint its trajectory.

"It is now clear that Apophis will miss Earth by a few thousand miles in 2029."

Damn! I'm just still young enough to benefit pensions-wise from a cataclysm given my misspent youth. How deliriously wonderful if a life of hedonistic excess should be rewarded with instant oblivion instead of the regretful, drawn-out longueurs of supplementary benefits. Still, there's a smidgen of hope yet for those who've not put in their 40 years of voluntary servitude. Mr Friedman dangles this exciting thought:

"When Apophis passes us [in 2029], its orbit will be dramatically altered. Right now, calculations suggest that all will be okay ... but if the improbable happens, and its new solar orbit is just a few seconds more than the most likely prediction, then it will collide with Earth in 2036."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cherie Booth QC in 'Bad' book

It's only right that since Lauren Booth is being used to puff Jamaican dancehall music (see below) her sister Cherie Booth/Blair shouldn't be left out as a vehicle of commerce.

The wonderful writer Susan Hill writes ... "Ooh, can we send you a PR puff for the launch party of HEROINES: THE BOLD, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL by JESSICA RUSTON. There are goodie bags and one of the contributors is.. er... Cherie Booth QC."

Susan's site link below left for more details. Can Madame Arcati come (she has many disguises ...)? Or at least have a goodie bag?

Tony Blair's sis-in-law: a Jamaican invite

I'm in a TV mood at the moment - it must be the low cultural influence of Stephen King and his band of trainspotters who happen to run online fawning fansites. How are you today, Mr Karim?

Did you see Make Me A Supermodel last night? Albert, the Stepford Stag, won - and he certainly looks the part of catwalk king. A surfer Jesus. As "large" Jen was voted off, the camera jumped to the panel and we spotted Tandy and Rachel smiling in relieved joy. How graceless. All those white teeth of victory. The Vogue-reading conformist twats had had their way at last. This on the day that yet another model has died of malnourishment. See the red-tops.

And to I'm A Celebrity ... I received this PR puff today from a company trying to ride on the musical tastes of Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. Here it is:

Jungle star Lauren Booth is a dancehall queen! On last night’s smash hit TV show, ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!’, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law suddenly proved her roots credentials with an extraordinary and spontaneous medley of Jamaican dancehall classics – ‘Wa-Do-Dem’ by Eek-a-Mouse, Yellowman’s ‘Zungguzunggugguzungguzeng’ and ‘Here I Come’ by Barrington Levy.

All these tunes are on Greensleeves Records, the label that next year celebrates its 30th anniversary at the cutting edge of Jamaican music. Says Clive Dickenson, Greensleeves’ General Manager: “We were staggered to realise that Lauren has such a deep love of dancehall and maybe when she’s out of the jungle Lauren would like to suggest some tunes she’d like as part of our celebrations. In the meantime, she gets our vote to be the jungle queen, too.” For further information:

Rob Partridge
Coalition PR
020 8987 0123

Thursday, November 16, 2006

King fan writes again ....

Ali Karim replies ....

Dear Madam A
That maybe your opinion as to our exchange - but it doesn't exonerate your mean-spirited post, which was frankly in such poor taste.
You were plain ignorant and rude - you didn't bother to check your facts before posting.
At least I don't hide behind a pseudonym.



What a boring old tart.

A King fan writes ....

A writer called Ali Karim has left a message on my Stephen King post below. He thinks it's badly written, among other things. He was at the same party and had a mighty fine time. My own reply is this:

Thank you Mr Karim for your literary review though I would suggest that my report is more likely to keep one awake than your own long, long fan letter on your blog.

Merely alluding to a conversation with Mr King is no substitute for telling your public what was actually said. Perhaps you have no recollection. Did he say anything news-worthy, for instance? Or maybe you fell asleep half way through?

In the interests of balance you can read his soporific hymn to King at Rap Shit, I mean Sheet.

Michael Jackson: Insania

A source (X) at the World Music Awards last night eye-witnessed the Michael Jackson debacle firsthand. "He seemed to start well but after a few lines he dried up like he lost his confidence," he reports. "I think his self-esteem or self-belief is rock bottom."

X was astonished at the sheer hysteria of the Earl's Court audience. "Perhaps Jacko's sick psyche appeals to the barmier pop fans, they identify with his dysfunctional soul. It was the sort of atmosphere you might expect at a religious meeting, at an evangelical happy-clappy service or something."

X was also struck by the weirdness of many of Jacko's fans. A professional photographer said to X: "Send my blessings to Michael." Then later, after Jacko was booed off stage, a fan in his 50s explained to X: "He couldn't continue because there was a terrorist threat." There wasn't. He just felt the need to protect Michael.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Make Me A Supermodel

This is a sad comment on my inner life but my favourite TV show right now is Make Me A Supermodel on the UK’s five channel. It hopes to crown the next catwalk king or queen from a group of gorgeous amateurs.

Wonderfully, the series has been blighted by a row over the size of Jen, one of the four finalists. The judges think she’s too fat ever to be the next Naomi (ie a stick insect psycho) but Jen is threatening to subvert the show’s concept with something not often seen in a young, walking talking mannequin: she has a warm, charismatic, winning personality. She’s also displayed considerable guts to withstand the bullying of the celebrity judging panel – last week Rachel Hunter ranted at her for daring to make size and weight an issue. Result: the public are on Jen’s side.

The final is this Thursday at 8.30pm (my apologies to readers overseas, btw). I really think Jen could win. The other female model Marianne has the supermodel stats but the aura of a fridge freezer. The two guys Jake and Albert are sweet and beefcake perfect – manufactured at some sausage factory for Stepford Stag.

The judges deny that the Jen controversy is over her weight – “It’s about shape,” they say, disingenuously. “She’s the wrong shape.” So why was she selected as a contender in the first place? To pretend public involvement in a contest that would ultimately be manipulated by a bunch of gargoyle experts from the fashion world? The show nicely mirrors the actuality of fashion: that thinness is the ideal for women. In that sense it’s a raging success.

As for the judges – my God!

Tandy Anderson – runs Select Model Management. She’s all Absolutely and no Fabulous, a cold-blooded troll lookalike. “You will never be a supermodel,” she sneered at Jen after one show. Remember, she's supposed to agent the winner. On the show’s website she says she was once an international model. What for? Eiderdowns?

Perou – not a bad lad really, a “subversive” photographer with bad skin, tattoos and enough spiky rings on his fingers to female-circumcise a harem just by being a little too friendly. I’m sure he’s never touched a Class A chemical in his life but I’d advise him to book into a health spa anytime soon.

Rachel Hunter – I don’t think she’s 40 yet but the ex-Mrs Rod Stewart already shows signs of raddled skin, doubtless the legacy of starving herself to success and getting hitched to an old cocker. Her rant at Jen was highly emotional suggesting to me that she secretly envies the younger woman’s chutzpah. I really think she needs to get herself a whippet – something thin and doesn’t answer back.

Dylan Jones – the GQ editor. He’s very maths teacher, isn’t he? Perhaps he’s just shy. You don’t expect to encounter a sombre male heterosexual in fashion journalism even if he looks like he’s trying to hold in a butt plug. He tried to be nice to Jen but showed his true colours when the public voted her to stay – he couldn’t disguise his fury at this exercise of democracy. You simply don't have to suffer this sort of thing at GQ.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is Hitchens a Catholic?

Christopher Hitchens – or someone close to him – has kindly sent me via his public email a link to a piece he wrote for Slate on Sept 18. It’s called Papal Bull: Joseph Ratzinger’s Latest Offence. I assume this is his response to the post below in which I say he’s now in bed with the Pope (at least on the subject of Islam).

I had read the piece at the time of publication but I’m always happy to re-read Hitchens. He may put his name to nonsense periodically but he writes so well that one can turn the experience into an education. I’m not proud. Anger – or disgust – is his natural condition; he writes with orgasmic, even brutal, zest when he arraigns the enemy before him. The clement mood inclines him to prolixity and scholarly didacticism – though his learned essay on the history of the blowjob (in Vanity Fair earlier this year) is a masterly exercise in (so-to-speak) tongue-in-cheek erudition.

Papal Bull sensibly throttles the Pope for being rude about Islam. So, in emailing me the piece, I take this to mean that Hitchens does not see himself in bed with the Pontiff. A silly notion! But Papal Bull only establishes one thing: Hitchens is not in bed with the Pope willingly.

I’ll keep it brief: in the broad brush world of public perception, Hitchens is no better than the Pope in his splenetic attacks on Islam. At this level of perception, hostility is hostility is hostility. Forget the pretty prose that attempts to draw fine distinctions between “irrational” faith and “rational” reason: both are dangerous in the wrong minds. Both claim the moral high ground. And Hitchens’ support of the Iraq invasion – and glib dismissal of reports of 665,000 Iraqi dead – only adds to a sense that he himself is on some sort of crusade to root out or undermine “Islamic theocracies”. His silence in VF on Fallaci’s outrageous assaults on Muslims is most telling.

Is Hitchens a Catholic? No, but he may as well be.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fallaci, Hitchens and Ratzi

December's Vanity Fair remembers the (sometimes) great Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci who died of multiple cancers last September. Her friend Christopher Hitchens writes elegantly of her - he could never be inelegant - but unusually for him he pulls his punches somewhat.

Her virulent Islamophobia post-9/11 is played down (she wrote in one of her last books that Muslims "breed like rats"), he fails to comment beyond the telling of the story: he relates how, for instance, she (a "Christian atheist" by her reckoning) established a bond with the present Pope whom she called Ratzinger. She claimed the two were one on Islam. And we all know what he thinks of Islam. But what does Hitchens think of Oriana and Ratzi's pillow talk? He does not say explicitly.

Hitchens hints at "outraged" groups trying to silence her obscenities when what he means is that she was due for trial in the Italian courts on a charge of incitement to racial hatred.

Before her moral fall, Fallaci was one of the great, great print journalists of the second half of the 20th Century. You can read elsewhere of her accomplishments: to my mind her greatest was her encounter with Kissinger in the '70s. Through wily "seduction" she got the de facto criminal to admit Vietnam was a "useless" war and to depict himself as the heroic cowboy of geo-politics. As Hitchens recollects, he came to regard this conversation with Fallaci as the most "disastrous" of his career.

She was a ferocious, highly emotive inquisitor; she was also forensic in her research. Hitchens tries to contrast her interviewing methods with those of today's TV talking-head dolls. This is foolish. Unlike most of these pretty, lacquered Q 'n' A merchants, she was a warrior and her target was power in all its forms. She had a cause. She once said famously: "Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or a beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon." Does this sound like Kirsty Wark to you?

But back to Hitchens. In recent years the ex-hero of the Left has been lost to Islamophobia himself: on a bad day he could pass for a neo-con, or even a Fallaci acolyte. As was Fallaci, he is an aggressive secularist, he hoped to make Mother Theresa's life a misery before she died with an abusive, anti-Roman Catholic book on her work. He now believes the West is engaged in a war against Islamic theocracy.

Fallaci's destructive Islamophobia found a friend in Pope Benedict. And all Hitchens can do in VF is not to make too much of it: the problem for him is that his own position uncomfortably takes him into the environs of the Vatican. In writing about Fallaci he writes (a little) about himself and his own incongruous common cause with the Pope.

What strange bedfellows Fallaci, Hitchens and Ratzi make as irrational fear grips (respectively) the emotionalist, the intellectual and the God-fearing. Their way is inevitable war.

A Stephen King fan writes ...

"For being a journalist you sure are clueless to how to write good. I was at the same party and man, you are so lost. Why where you there in the first place? Not to have a good time I guess? Wnated to be able to say you where at the same party as King and then say how he sucks? Man you are just to much. Please get of the Net!"!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Alabama 3 were brilliant!

OK, I give up. Alabama 3 are up there with the Beatles, David Bowie (when he was a lad insane) and ... er ... the beautiful Enya. The Stephen King post has generated such a response in defence of the band (you should see my inbox; few have) that I shall signal an uncustomary retreat and confess to hating anything "bluesy", which is no comment on the brilliant, the nonpareil quality of Alabama 3.

I freely confess that probably the acoustics of the Middle Temple were the problem. It cannot be claimed that the Elizabethan double hammer beam roof of the Hall was ever intended to cope with their utterly raucous 21st Century acid, punk, whatever (see one of the comments in post below; all is explained). The Hall can only resonate in perfect harmony to the choral polyphonous church music of canzonets, balletts, madrigals and sacred songs. So fair's fair: Alabama 3 can blame the venue for giving me a thundering headache.

And then there was Stephen King, bless him. He is of course (since I'm feeling Queen Bessy today) the Shakespeare of movie and literary horror. But he ain't going to be topping the album charts anytime soon. Like Simon Cowell says, brutality can be the greatest kindness you show the deluded (or he would say that if was articulate enough).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stephen King party, Middle Temple

Off I went to Middle Temple Hall last night. In another life I was a student barrister and ate my dinners here en route to a pupillage with Michael “shagger” Mansfield (now QC). But I changed my mind at the last minute after passing the Bar exams and became a journalist instead, more fool me. I regret this decision when things are going wrong so I probably did the right thing.

I was here ostensibly for Stephen King. His new novel Lisey’s Story is just out. I really can’t be bothered to read it. I prefer the movies of his books: you get through them quicker: Misery, Pet Sematary, Christine. Can’t stand The Shawshank Redemption though it’s every film fan’s all-time favourite (they pretend). Love Kubrick’s version of The Shining.

Hodder & Stoughton thought it would be fun to fly King over for a party. And Middle Temple Hall, off Fleet Street, is a great place to lig at. Nothing much has changed since I passed the port yonks ago: it’s all Tudory wood and royal paints: Van Dyck’s portrait of Charles I still gazes out above the long Bench Table. Twelfth Night was first presented here. But that’s tourist bus stuff.

So my companion and I arrive at Middle Temple only to be told by a H & S serf that King’s just done the press conference. Oh, really! Don’t tell the journalists then. Who has a press conference at 6.30 in the evening? What is it with publishers? Do they sign a pact with the devil to be congenitally stupid in return for the next Harry Potter? Are publishers the most cretinous people on this planet? If I had my way I would bundle every fucking publisher into one of those concrete mixer lorries and watch them revolve and harden into statues. Then I’d stand them in my garden over the pond life with a fishing rod sticking out of their fat arses.

Anyway, we missed nothing. The thing about King is that he rarely says anything worth reporting. About six years ago he said something interesting: he announced he was going blind. When I later ask him about this at the party he says: “I am not going blind. What I meant was that macular degeneration runs in my family, and I don’t have the condition.” So he told a lie. I heard him say he was going blind.

Lots of people stood around in the hall chomping fish ‘n’ chips in tiny card funnels and mini-burgers. Almost everyone had a copy of his novel in their armpit: it’s so heavy that the party looked like a Quasimodo fan club convention. The whores just wanted King to sign their copy so they could show off to their pals and families – not that I recognised many of the whores. The publishers seemed to have forgotten to invite many journalists.

Then there was this dreadful racket in the hall itself. At first I thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was being screened somewhere below Charles I. Then I realised the noise had a rhythmic quality, like a heartbeat roused up by Viagra. As I made my way towards the Bench Table I spotted the source of the racket: a southern blues band called Alabama Free or Free Alabama - or something.

Worse was to come. Stephen King shuffled into the midst of the band. His besuited publisher had introduced the novelist in a homage: apparently King is our Charles Dickens, he greys the line between schlock and literary. Fair observation. The Dickens reference took my mind to Barnaby Rudge which offers a good description of the Middle Temple. But I mustn’t allow my mind to wander.

So there was the great man in a pea soup-green T-shirt, distressed jeans and white trainers. The hair is still thick but a sort of elderly dyed blond, I think. Couldn’t he have dressed a little more appropriately? Doesn’t he have a suit back in Maine? How dare he darken the portals of an Inn of Court in jeans.

The southern blues band restarted their horrible noise. And Stephen King sang! Yes, he made a noise that’s called singing. He can’t sing, or if he can, then only like Rex Harrison, sort of talk-singing but with long, flat, grating notes to suggest the idea of singing. To fool us. Some publisher tart started bopping like she had a dildo in place, judging by the expression on her face. God, did I want to kick her in the tits. But I refrained from kicking her in the tits and joined in the revelry by placing my hands over my ears. I hope King noticed.

Fortunately, despite the dervish behaviour of the audience, “encore!” was not a word to rise up at the end. We were grateful to have witnessed why King has stuck to writing. Some other tart who runs bookshops said to me: “Isn’t he wonderful! But you know he hasn’t got much energy since that truck ran him over. He can perform in short bursts, then he has to rest. I can never get him to sign books. Last time he was in London he sang with Ken Follett.” My God!

Then King said what he said about not going blind and then I pissed off to Orso for grilled sardines.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Iraqi blogger tells her truth

While our mainstream media offer remote, dry analyses of Iraq - Murdoch has given his blessing to the "minute" loss of American life there - hundreds of Iraqi blogs paint a truer picture of the situation: see

One blog in particular has caught my attention, Baghdad Chronicles - "The detailed daily events of a Baghdadi woman". The blogger is only identified as Miraj - her last post was on October 20 so I pray she's safe. Her cause seems to be humanitarian, her wish is peace. Her life is hell. Miraj's story won't be read in any newspaper or told on Sky or CNN.

Here's an unedited snap of her blog:

"Americans now in general, especially those who are with Bush’s policy often tend to shrug their shoulders denying what may would be slight feeling of responsibility towards the country they invaded by the new cliché 'Iraqis are killing Iraqis, not our business.'

"Well, yes! It is your damn business!

"That sentence would be right in one case, if people started killing each other which is not the case here. The case is that the country is controlled by the Militias from one side and Bathists from another side. Those two groups are criminals and what is happening here is Organized Crime. My neighborhood is a mixed area where you find sunnis and shias are living together in one street. I never saw nor heard that one neighbor attacked the other one for being sunni or shia on the contrary the whole neighborhood is standing together in case intruders get in to attack people.

"If those criminals know that there is punishment for what they do they would not have done it for they would fear law but they know that this land became a cowboy land, the survival for the strongest and since the government itself support the militias, not one good thing will happen here and they will keep on the killing and on the other side the other groups will answer them in revenge killing again

Darwins: the eel enema

True story: late 2003, Hong Kong

An unidentified 50-year-old entered the accident and emergency department of a local hospital complaining of abdominal pain. The doctor’s examination revealed peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdomen. Wondering what had caused the problem, doctors ordered an X-ray and spotted what appeared to be an eel inside his colon. Could an eel be the source of his pain?

Yes, the man admitted, there was an eel inside him. He had been suffering from constipation … and thought inserting an eel into his rectum would relieve it.

The man was rushed to the operating room, where an emergency laparoscopy disclosed that a 19” eel was biting the side of his colon. The eel had also taken a bite out of his rectum wall in transit, so to speak.

After the surgeons removed the animal and reconstructed the rectum, the man’s pain and constipation were both cured. He was discharged from the hospital a week later.
Reference: Surgery, Jan 2004, v.135 p 110

Taken from The Darwin Awards 4 by Wendy Northcutt, £9.99 – a great collection of amazing, true stories.

PS – The fate of the eel is unrecorded.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fantasy journalism: Madge & Saddam

The Mail’s “Glenda”, Amanda Platell, described Madonna as a “faded” popstar in last Saturday’s paper in a predictable, typically spiteful, swipe over the adoption. So faded in fact that, well, read this Nov 6 posting on Her Madgesty’s website:

“After Hung Up, Sorry and Get Together, Madonna's Jump made its way to the number one spot of the Billboard Dance Club Play chart. This is Madonna's 37th #1 single in this particular chart since her first studio album, back in 1983. Congratulations Madonna! Jump will be released as a cd maxi-single on November 7.”

Another example of fantasy journalism attended Saddam Hussein’s death sentence on Sunday. A number of reports claimed that the hair-dyed former tyrant was “visibly shaken” at the announcement of his fate. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. A study of the video footage reveals arrogance, hauteur, a curious stony-faced rage, anything but the tremors of shock at the prospect of the noose. He had in fact asked to be shot.

His was the face that knew what was coming. He’d prepared his performance, Koran in hand. This was a far more interesting response than the fiction served up in some news reports. How dull is professionalism.

And editors wonder why newspapers are on the slide.

Express up blind Alley

"Kirstie Alley: I ate 28,000 calories a day" screams a Daily Express headline today. The story is lifted from the US Life magazine - though with the newspaper's customary embellishment.

Life reported that the 55-year-old actress actually ate up to 8,000 calories a day. Quite where the extra 20,000 came from is anyone's guess - probably some moron in subs decided that 8,000 didn't sound dramatic enough, though that's a lot more than your average truck driver gets through in 24 hours.

Or perhaps the paper has now extended its Diana principle (ie make it up) to the rest of the news.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Jasper: not many dead

Jasper Gerard’s column for the Observer is not exactly setting the world alight – his second effort has elicited just three reader response comments so far this week to its website. One from someone who's had enough of the paper.

It’s one thing to be stimulating, another to be controversial. But to be dull is unforgivable.

His views are of the auto-tired-of-life sort that appeal to too many editors who live in their scrotal sacs: you can almost see the Guinness froth popping away on Jasper’s nose hairs as yet another gouty moan at modernity slips out with the halitosis. This week: Jackson Pollock – “bollocks”. Muslim faith schools – more-or-less bomb them. Celebs who survive scandal like Kate Moss and Tom Cruise – ooh, deary me!

Views that could have happily sat in the Mail, Sunday Times, Telegraph, etc etc. Off to Saga mag with you, Jasper. And take your right-wing, war-loving editor Roger Alton with you.

Boris on Conrad Black's cake

Rather liked Rod Liddle's review of Tom Bower's book on Lord and Lady Black in the Sunday Times yesterday. Liddle was asked by the ex-Spectator ed Boris Johnson to write a piece about the former Telegraph owner but didn't quite understand what Black had done. Boris explained:

“Um, well, Rod, think of it a bit like this. Imagine your wife had bought a chocolate cake for the children and put it in the fridge for safekeeping. And then, ah, in the middle of the night you crept downstairs and ate a little bit of it. That’s, um, sort of what Conrad’s done.”

Later, when the enormity of Black's alleged fiddling at Hollinger had come to light, Boris amended his explanation to:

"Um, you know that stuff I said about Conrad and the chocolate cake, Rod? Well, he may have taken more than just a little slice ...”

CONRAD AND LADY BLACK: Dancing on the Edge by Tom Bower, Harper Press £20.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Indy: More bunnies!

The Independent's ravenous preoccupation with eating bunnies is further illustrated in its Sunday edition today. The paper's hideous foodie hack Skye Gyngell is asked by a meat-masticating reader:

Q. I find it hard to find good-quality farmed rabbit. Can you help? Richard Mantell

A. We get all our rabbit from Albert the grouse man who works for Allen & Co, the butchers on Mount Street in London's Mayfair. If he can't get it for you himself, he'll know who can. You can reach him on tel: 07986 542 728.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Indy: obsessed with bunnies

Has the Independent got it in for rabbits? It features an awful lot of rabbit recipes. And in the December issue of GQ, Indy editor Simon Kelner scoffs saddle of bunny with bunny pie topped by creamy potato puree at fashionable London restaurant Arbutus. Bill: £84.83.

Is Kelner some kind of pervy bunny boiler?

Here's the Indy's inordinate (selected!) list of bunny shame:

Food of the Week: Local specialities
Published: 29 October 2006
Includes rabbit

Richard Olney's rabbit with saffron, cucumbers and tomatoes
Published: 22 October 2006

Skye Gyngell: The rabbit omnibus
Published: 22 October 2006
If you are too squeamish for rabbit then you are missing a treat. Skye Gyngell presents a comprehensive, leg-to-saddle guide to getting the best from this delicate, gamey meat. I really love cooking rabbit. Over the past couple of years ...

Grilled rabbit with lentils, Speck and mustardy vinaigrette
Published: 22 October 2006
By Skye Gyngell. The gently smoky flavour of the Speck works really nicely with the simply grilled rabbit - while the vinaigrette and lentils lend a depth that feels satisfying and autumnal. Serves four 4 rabbit legs (the hindlegs), boned [that's enough rabbit innards. Ed].

Rabbit livers on toast with Pedro Ximénez
Published: 22 October 2006
By Skye Gyngell. Rabbit livers are deliciously tender, gentle in flavour and almost sweet.

Warm salad of rabbit, borlotti, tomatoes and torn bread
Published: 22 October 2006

Mark Hix cooks up your favourite recipes
Published: 07 October 2006
Includes rabbit.

Grilled rabbit with rosemary, polenta and black olives
Published: 30 September 2006
By Mark Hix. Serves 4. Large French-farmed rabbits are best used for this dish

Celebrating Le Caprice
Includes rabbit dish
Published: 30 September 2006

Roadkill: One from the road
Published: 07 September 2006
It's free-range, free of charge - and it sure is fresh. So next time you see roadkill, take it home and eat it. Rose Prince goes kerb-crawling. Early autumn and the fields are stubble; tree branches droop with cobnuts, and dead rabbits and ... [censored on taste grounds]

Cliff Richard: An Algarve revenge

Cliff Richard starts his umpteenth British tour this weekend. And I’ve now just discovered that he’s a blogger too – though only an occasional one. There’s a July entry, an October one (in which he tells us he’s relearning his songs) and he promises a post before Christmas. I think he can do better than this. Surely he can tap out a few lines once a week at least – his thoughts on Rowan Williams perhaps or the latest Quinta do Moinho wine from his commercial Algarve vineyard.

His July 13 entry is lively. He’s moaning about a story in the Mail on Sunday. He writes:

“This time, according to the press, my gardener, house-keeper and farmer [at his Portugal estate] were ‘on the edge of revolt’ and were about to hand in their notice. What did I find? The usual warm and friendly welcome from a staff who were totally baffled and angry at what they’d read. None of them had spoken to anyone from the press and had no idea where the notion had come from.

“What makes me especially angry is that, while I’ve accepted for years that I’m ‘fair game’, the press have no right to drag family, friends and employees into their distorted stories. I’ve complained to the Mail on Sunday but I’m not holding my breath waiting for an apology or correction!”

I assume the story was the one run on July 9 – a 2,000-word demolition job. Among other things it claimed that staff relations had deteriorated at the villa since the appointment of Cliff’s brother-in-law David Pilgrim as estate manager. His predecessor Michael Sargent, a “locally based expat”, had resigned. Since then “things had gone downhill.”

Behind these dark shifts stood the figure of Cliff’s general factotum and companion, ex-Roman Catholic priest Father John McElynn, described by one source in the story as a “meddling Svengali”. The story is so pro-Michael Sargent (it’s revealed for example that he saved Cliff £400,000 on the villa purchase price) that one can only suppose this was classic revenge journalism by someone at least sympathetic to him.

The gardener, the housekeeper and the farmer were allegedly threatening to quit over pay and conditions - the Mail's story did not claim that any one of them had spoken to the paper, contrary to Cliff's implication. One felt over-worked by Pilgrim, another was only on £3.50 an hour. Yet a close reading of their alleged complaints reveals a common theme: fury at Sargent’s departure. Lesson: don’t piss off your estate manager.

One’s inclined to think that Cliff never got an apology or correction from the paper because (for a change) here was a story not unadjacent to the truth.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Winterson on astrology

So many emails asking about Jeanette Winterson's Vogue piece on astrology. So here it is.

It's a spooky day

Ever get one of those days when a particular word gets repeated wherever you go? Same with topics. Today is a supernatural day. Everywhere I turn is preoccupied with the spooky, the beyond, with matters metaphysical.

I turn on GMTV and there’s the hairdresser-turned-medium Gordon Smith having a séance on the sofa with Phillip Schofield and Fern Brittan. He says: “There’s no such thing as a haunted house, there are only haunted people.”

If true, where does this leave Yvette Fielding and her Most Haunted show on UKTV which explores haunted abodes? I could believe Yvette herself is haunted. Her goggle eyed countenance – especially her infra-red Mrs Werewolf look - might suggest permanent alarm at something. Or perhaps Preparation H is the answer in her case.

Then I learn that Colin Firth is to make contemporary ghost movie Genova. Firth will play a widowed man who travels to Italy pursued by apparitions from his past. Michael Winterbottom to direct. Ghosts have a penchant for Italy – Don’t Look Now is one of the most effective chillers I’ve ever seen: a Canaletto of spirits. And Rome's Dario Argento is a byword for gothic spookery.

The BBC has just commissioned a load of spooky dramas to run next year: in Empathy for instance an ex-con helps a murder enquiry with his paranormal visions. I can’t wait. Doubtless the success of ITV1’s Afterlife will be behind all this – last Saturday’s episode was particularly good I thought, as the medium’s past and present climaxed together in her living room.

My favourite news story of the day has to be the “unholy row” at the Pope’s TV station Telepace. Journalists there are furious at the monitoring of their phone calls and an attempt to find out if some female staffers are virgins.

Perhaps the channel’s director, Monsignor Guido Todeschini, is a man possessed (or haunted) in the Gordon Smith mode. Send Yvette to the Vatican's TV station with her infra-red camera. She’ll give the place good scream, as they say.

Brand promoted, not sacked

"RUSSELL AXED" screams the Daily Star. The report claims Russell Brand's been sacked by BBC 6Music and has lost out on a promised new spot on Radio 2. All because he's "too insane".

In fact, Brand has just been promoted to Radio 2, not sacked at all. Why would you sack someone who's just boosted a station's audience by 40%?

The BBC PR I speak to calls the Star "pathetic". The Star is owned by Richard "£1m a week" Desmond.

Susan Hill asks ...

One of my favourite novelists Susan Hill asks Madame Arcati what she was doing in a gay bar, or pit of iniquity (see Ted Heath post). I have replied: "I am a trawler for human experience and nothing and no one is beyond experiencing." I would also add that male gay bars are the safest place for women in these Asbo-ridden times - see the Times and Guardian front pages today ("Asbos are badge of honour" blah).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vanity Fair is the Pitts

TMZ reports that Brad Pitt is aghast that this shot makes the front cover of Vanity Fair's December issue. Pitt's lawyer told TMZ: "We are very disappointed that Vanity Fair has chosen to put an unauthorized cover on their magazine. It seriously makes me question their integrity and motives."

In fact the pic is not from a special shoot for VF but from a 2005 video project by Robert Wilson. Unwisely, Pitt's people signed a release allowing Wilson to use the actor's image for any pertinent purpose.

Jossip suggests that the December cover was meant to be Borat star Sacha Baren Cohen, but editor Graydon Carter didn't think he was sexy enough. Sacha or Brad? Think about it ....