Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shilpa Shetty: the biography

John Blake's bringing out a Shilpa Shetty biography in March, I hear - some ex newspaper hack is probably flailing about in a ton of cuts as I write. I imagine the first draft of the opening paragraph - with Blake's annotation - will read something like this ....

"She was the Angelina Jolie of India, the toast of tout le [check the French stuff, is it right? - JB] Bombay [Mumbai, you prat - JB] and the star of [how many's that - check - JB] films ... Little did this mega-star of the sub-continent [check Wikipedia - India] could have guessed the hell that awaited her in the shape of the Goody clan - Jade, Jackiey, Jack [didn't he fancy Danielle? - check - and did he wank really? - ask C4 for vid - JB] and the grandparents. By the end of the ?? [check - JB] days, Shilpa emerged from the Celebrity Big Brother house as the cynosure (yer wha'? - JB] of an international row about race and bullying. The glittery grub had metamorphosed into a dazzling global butterfly [fucking hell, he's after the Pulitzer - can't she at least be a caterpillar? - JB] and fluttered over Davina Mc - [go over this crap again and make it shiny - you've three days - oh, and have you fed the tropical fish? -JB].

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Duncan Fallowell: And now to Sodom ...

I am delighted to learn that the world's best writer-interviewer, Duncan Fallowell, is about to deliver to his agent the second book in his celebrity interviews trilogy, A La Recherche des Etoiles Perdues.

Titled Sodom & Gomorrah it's the rock 'n' roll/showbizzy/naughty one and includes not only his meetings with Tina Turner, Gilbert & George, Vivienne Westwood, Johnny Rotten, Lord Snowdon, Patricia Highsmith, Osbert Lancaster, Peter O'Toole, Sophia Loren, et al, but also rentboys, female boxers, people who've changed their sexuality (as opposed to their sex!) and sundry other delights.

The third volume Portraits in a Distant Corridor will be more intellectual: personal encounters with writers, philosophers, historians and eccentrics, some of them born in the 19th Century. The first in the trilogy Twentieth Century Characters was published in 1994 (Vintage).

Mailer discovers the joys of homosex

The excellent New York magazine has a short piece on Norman Mailer and his homosex scenes in his new novel about Hitler’s childhood, The Castle in the Forest.

“Young ‘Adi’ has an older brother who puts ‘his happy blood-filled organ’ into the ‘yearning lips’ of an elderly beekeeper and whose buttocks ‘feel like the portals to a bounteously endowed temple.’” Yearning lips? Were they puckered or parted? Did he go phwoar. Details, Norm, details. And isn’t the blood-filled cock bit tortologous? What else would it be filled with? Diesel? And organ? COCK, Norman, COCK. Only Private Eye is an organ these days. The temple simile for the arse has a certain baroque fragrancy I suppose, but buggery is very hard work (I am told) so I should have opted for “bounteously endowed sweat shop". Yes, sweat shop, that’s it. He plainly hasn’t had his backside cherry popped yet, but at 84 never say never, Norm. Just don't forget the KY.

“So what’s changed? Was it firsthand research? ‘You have to cross the Rubicon to do that [and] I didn’t feel comfortable doing that,’ [Mailer] says. ‘But then I thought, Come on, it’s not that hard to imagine what it’s like’” Is there some safety in his age? ‘Oh, yes. When you’re younger, it takes more courage to be brave. You can lose so much. It’s enjoyable to be brave now, whereas when I was younger it was hairy and sweaty.’

Goodness, anyone would think he was contemplating a suicide bombing. Many years ago Norm said he could never have queer sex because it would destabilise the masculine-feminine see-saw on the fulcrum of his creativity, or something like that. What he meant was he didn’t want to turn into a nancy boy and not write big butch books anymore. Norm's always worn his COCK on his sleeve. He also had odd ideas about having a specific quota of orgasms in a lifetime and these were not to be wasted, though maybe that had more to do with the importance of fecundity. Waste not want not. I love these made-up superstitions: the building blocks of all religion. In his old years Norm appears to have loosened up a bit though whether he had to write a novel about Adi and his brother’s organ in a beekeeper's yearning gob to demonstrate this remains to be seen.

Many early reviews are favourable. “Mailer paints an icy and convincing portrait of the dictator as a young sociopath, both prissy and sadistic, simultaneously sentimental and stupendously cruel.” -

“The new book is lascivious, grandiose, cosmically critical (finding something Teutonic in technology and touting it as the Devil's own handiwork) and cantankerous, filled with grandstanding pronouncements on the nature of evil.” - The New York Times.

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Bean film downs in France

I hear that Rowan Atkinson's latest - and mercifully last - Mr Bean film, Mr Bean Goes to France, has been pulled back from release, and completely new scenes are being shot on location in London this week. Movie executives felt that the original opening sequences were not strong enough, and demanded that they were restructured. The film was originally titled "Mr Bean's Holiday". Its release date has been delayed from spring/early summer to early autumn.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kurt Cobain: the late junky

"The stupid fucking British press have swallowed the lie that I suffer from narcolepsy." Kurt Cobain, Journals.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The rise of the showbiz carbon traders

Cynically put, carbon trading is about buying your green credentials. Rich polluters get to pay their proxies - ie the disadvantaged - to clean up the planet. Rich polluters continue to emit as much carbon as ever, but on paper they're cleaner because someone else somewhere else (usually a lot poorer) is doing the carbon-busting for the rich polluters' money. Sounds tidy, but how accurate are the carbon stats?

A good example of this kind of transaction is the recent reported deal between the global showbiz Creative Artists' Agency (which represents such A-listers as Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep) and Robin Birley's Envirotrade.

Creditably, Envirotrade is encouraging farmers in Nhambita, Mozambique, to grow trees for sustainable cutting. To this end the organisation supplies the trees and equipment for nothing. The carbon that these trees absorb is then traded (ie quantified, valued as "carbon credits", and sold) and the profits shared with the farmers.

But is it possible to calculate accurately the carbon removal?

I ask because I can't make much sense of Birley's figures. In ES magazine last Friday be boasts that he has just sold 30,000 tons of carbon offset to CAA for $300,000. Yet in September 2006 he told the Daily Mail: "I have just sold 25,000 tons of carbon credits, worth $125,000, to the American showbiz agency Creative Artists." Was the deal re-negotiated then? Did the trees prove to be more effective, hence the 5,000 tons surge? We're not told.

Perhaps something has got lost in translation. The figures are substantially different. But if carbon offset deals of this kind are to earn credibility, the numbers must be discrete and scientific; not guesstimates or airy-fairy approximates. If carbon trading is intended to re-oxygenate our planet we'd better know exactly the amount of carbon reduction per offset, if rich nations don't intend to do anything about their own actual carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, CAA is now "carbon neutral" for a year, according to Birley, even if its projects continue to choke us. It was movie director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) who got CAA into environmentalism. For his apocalyptic movie The Day After Tomorrow Emmerich spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own pocket in carbon offsets to compensate for the environmental impact of the production of the film. This influenced CAA to sign up to Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative and pledging itself to carbon neutrality.

Lots of good intentions here, but to my mind carbon trading is just another fudge, just another putting-off of the day when rich nations have to wake up to the fact that carbon reduction starts at home, not just over there. It's cool tokenism in order to keep things as they are while appearing to do something.

For this is the true scale of the problem: around 24,000 million tons of man-made carbon dioxide are released into the global atmosphere every year, equivalent to about 6,500 million tons of carbon (2002, UN). For the complete list of countries by carbon dioxide emissions, click this link.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Naomi Watts buys up doggy dinner

I have never quite got over a claim in the Guardian back in 2003 that the actress Naomi Watts’ pet dog had to be hospitalised after wolfing down a pile of marijuana left lying around. She denied it claiming that the beast suffered from narcolepsy. How I laughed.

Now I learn from a reliable source that she’s done a good turn for the canine race. While in Beijing filming The Painted Veil recently, she spotted a shop full of caged dogs. Told that they were due to be shot and sold as an accompaniment to pot noodles, she bought up the entire stock and had them flown back to the States for care and keeping. There, you don't have to become an international ambassador for UNICEF to be rich and caring.

In The Painted Veil, generous dog lover Naomi plays a character called … Kitty.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jade Goody: Act Against Bullying response

Hi Madame Arcati

Thank you for your email. We have been slightly inundated with emails on this subject so apologies in not replying sooner to your response. I have now issued a statement on my own website which I hope will clear up the situation regarding Jade and the organisation I founded Act Against Bullying. As a result we are receiving some very touching responses.
With best wishes.
Louise Burfitt-Dons

Twiggy's ire at 'Stumpy' fire

I am very sorry to learn that the sainted Twiggy - her virginal nimbus has not quite deserted her - is the subject of a horrible attack by the ghastly, cosmetically upholstered she-elephant called Janice Dickinson.

Their contretemps arises from Dickinson's sacking as a judge from America's Next Top Model, a reality show about to be broadcast on Living TV. She describes herself as the US's first supermodel and boasts to have appeared on 37 Vogue covers. Her impersonation of Simon Cowell's sharp tongue to model contenders was a little too much for the fashionistas and so sweet Twiggy was recruited to bathe the show in positivity.

Evidently Dickinson didn't welcome this development and has now taken to referring to Twigs as "Stumpy" - thought to be a reference to her lack of height among catwalk giantesses. Word has got back to Twiggy who is most aggrieved, I learn.

Incidentally, Dickinson's publisher used to be Judith Regan, recently fired by the Old Testicle Murdoch from ReganBooks for the OJ Simpson debacle. Both fired for misconduct: birds of a feather, etc. And I relish this exchange between Dickinson and The Book Standard's Chuck Shelton from last May - they were discussing Dickinson's book Check, Please! and the perils of dealing with Regan ....

CS: I’m looking at this subtitle [to Check, Please!] —“How to Pick Up Boys . . . and Dump Them When You’re Done.”
JD: Well, I didn’t add that. That was not me at all. That’s all Judith. That should have been taken out. That’s her take on what my book is about —
CS: Well, you better talk to her —
JD: I wanted her to take that off —
CS: I’m looking at the cover. Maybe she will. I’ve got the galley copy right here.
JD: She has to. It’s a galley. It’s not on it.
CS: You have to tell her then.
JD: I have told her. She doesn’t listen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Prospect magazine honours Arcati

Madame Arcati is most flattered to arouse the cerebral curiosity of Prospect magazine (February edition - follow this link).

While to quote from the item might be viewed as a form of auto-eroticism, I can’t imagine that I am "causing consternation in celebrityland for [my] well-informed indiscretions." My real identity is the matter of some speculation, it reports, but it doesn’t occur to the publication that Madame Arcati could quite possibly have slipped into this world in the usual fashion - placental moist and bawling - with her name etched on her forehead. Admittedly, Madame is an odd first name but we all have our cross to bear.

Writer Duncan Fallowell – see his interview below – is quoted as saying that "[Arcati] is great fun, sort of the News of the World getting off with the TLS at a drag ball." Kindness of this order is such a rare thing …

Sue Douglas: Near-death accident changes all

OK, I’m fallible. I get it wrong occasionally. I recently wrote a rather mean piece about Sue Douglas, former deputy editor of the Sunday Times and former “president” of Conde Nast’s New Business division. Now I learn, from an interview in the London Evening Standard, that she nearly lost her life in a horse riding accident eight months ago. She suffered damage to her brain and optic nerve - she’s on the mend, thank goodness, but still has double vision.

She said: “I've got my memory back which is a relief but [the accident] has changed me. In fact I think, I hope, I'm a much nicer person than I was ... Before, when people came to me and they were ill or unhappy, I'd give them pretty short shrift. Now I would listen and try to understand more.

“You know, I set out on a beautiful day to ride my horse. That's all I did and it nearly cost me my life. I have found that very frightening. But it has given me a wider understanding of my whole life and that's a good thing in the end, isn't it?”

My comments on her husband Niall Ferguson and his Henry Kissinger project stand, however.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

J Randy Taraborrelli: Chronicler of the bitch divas

J Randy Taraborrelli. What a name! I could write an essay just on that name alone (but I’ll keep it brief).

First there’s that mysterious J initial (so American, though initials tend to the midway of monickers, usually) and that thought takes me to The Great Gatsby and its hero Jay – the man who came from nowhere, who has found himself somewhere, whose soul is elsewhere. Is that Mr T? Probably not, but that’s the way my brain’s working today.

Then there’s the Randy bit – oh yes. A man who writes shagadelic books as big as Mr T’s has got to have a lot of go in him. This is a man who has oceans of surplus energy. His books need shrink-wrapping just to keep your lap dry.

And finally, the climactic, the polysyllabic Italian opera: Ta-ra-bo-rrell-i. It’s the sort of name the Kevin Kline loon Otto might have enunciated over and over again for seduction purposes in A Fish Called Wanda. No one else is called Taraborrelli. It’s a brand designed to trip the tongue-tied. And the brand is: Big BIG pop biographies. So big that just buying a copy presents a health and safety issue. BIG because they’re chock-full with revelation, exclusivity, high carat goss. And BIG because Mr T doesn’t write about small people – just about some of the biggest bitch divas on this planet.

Madonna, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson (honorary bitch), Cher, Elizabeth Taylor ... shall I go on? His current Diana Ross: An Unauthorised Biography is just out. I caught up with Mr T for brief intercourse.

Greetings Mr T! You’re the world’s top popular biographer – any message to your nearest rival Kitty Kelley?

Just one word: WHO???

Miss Ross did not deign to speak to you for your latest book. Does she hate you? Have you heard of any ructions arising from the book in the Ross Empire?

I did draw from interviews I conducted from Miss Ross years ago. I first interviewed her way back in 1972. Sure hope she doesn't hate me...but great divas will be great divas!

How many people did you speak to for the latest Unauthorised on Ross and how many for all the books you've written on her? How many researchers do you have?

Hundreds of people... more than I can remember if I had to total the sources for all three books, from the members of the Supremes, to Diana's mother and father and siblings and... all of the Motown stars... many, many people. I have five researchers who help me conduct interviews and then transcribe the tapes. But I write the books myself...

How long does it take you to write a bio blockbuster?

Usually about two years... but I always have more than one book in the pipeline at a time. I was writing Diana Ross at the same time I was working on Elizabeth Taylor, for instance.

Give me one reason why I shouldn’t propose marriage to you …

Because if I accepted, you'd then have to put up with me!

Cher, Madonna, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson et al: who’s your favourite among that lot and why?

Miss Ross, always. Why? Because she's Miss Ross, for goodness sake!

Do you hold back more than you put in to your books - perhaps for legal reasons?

Oh yes, of course. And also because I think you don't have to write everything you know, just what helps tell the specific story you're trying to tell.

Where’s home?, please give us a brief description of it. And what did you have for breakfast this morning?

I live in the Hollywood Hills in a big ol' castle I bought from one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's a great home, and I love it. For breakfast? Cheerios, baby!

How young were you when you realised what your life purpose is? What’s the best education to become a biographer?

I was about 10 when I knew I wanted to be a writer. The best education to become a biographer is to live your life to the fullest. And fall in and out of love a few times. Only then can you understand another person's experience.

You seem drawn to divas or les monstres sacres – why why why?

Because they live BIG lives. They love hard, they lose hard... they fall hard... and when they come back -- and they always come back!-- they do it with a vengeance.

The country with the worst press is …. (and why)

America, I'm afraid. We've become very... unpopular, I'm afraid.

Tell us your worst defamation/libel/threat of libel experience with a diva

Madonna once came up to me backstage at someone else's concert and said, 'Now you've done it, and I've had it with you.' Then, she turned and walked away. To this day, I have no idea what she was talking about!

Who’s your next “victim” and why?

It's a secret. There are so few great subjects left, I'd have to divulge his -- or her -- name. (Of course, it's a "her.") It will be my 14th book!

Will Michael Jackson ever make a comeback do you think? Can he be as big again? Did he like your book on him?

He did like my book about him. I think that if MJ wants to make a comeback -- if he truly wants it -- he can do it. I'm not sure he has that fire in his belly, though. And without it? Can't happen.

Your advice to Mr and Mrs Beckham (if any)


Thank you Mr T. Here you are a hero.

And thank YOU. I'll be sure to include you in my next acknowledgments. :-)

Bullying Online response: 'What about Jodie?'

Dear Madame A,

I'm really disappointed that an anti-bullying charity doesn't think it's appropriate to speak out publicly on an issue like Jade Goody's appalling Big Brother remarks to Shilpa Shetty which have been condemned by three other anti-bullying charities - Kidscape, Bullying Online and Act Against Bullying - race relations bodies, MPs and the public..

There was no reluctance to speak out to the media when Beatbullying ambassador Jodie Marsh was given a hard time on the 2006 version of the show.

At that time, the charity was quoted widely on the issue, under the London Evening Standard headline "Stop bullying our Jodie" which reported: "Jodie Marsh's harsh treatment at the hands of her Big Brother housemates was condemned by anti-bullying campaigners yesterday."

Elsewhere the charity was quoted saying...."Beatbullying has received a huge number of e-mails from young people across the UK who support Jodie's stance on bullying, many of them very worried about some of the treatment Jodie is going through in the Big Brother house. Beatbullying will speak out against bullying whenever it happens".

It's disappointing that Beatbullying's previous support in the media for Jodie Marsh doesn't extend to Shilpa Shetty when they both took part in versions of the same show.
Liz Carnell
Bullying Online

Jade Goody: Beat Bullying response

Dear Madame Arcati,

Thank you very much for your email which we received today. I was very impressed with your website, humorous, vitriolic and brilliant! I applaud your criticism of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, not many people do criticise it, which means that its purpose is often misunderstood or undefined. However, for us professionals working within the anti-bullying sector, the ABA does provide a useful forum for sharing best practice. I suspect they add more value to the profession than to the public. But I’m not in the business of defending them.

On the matter of whether anti-bullying organisations should have spoken out against the bullying on Celebrity Big Brother, I respectfully disagree with you. We were asked many times all last week to comment to media on the story, but we declined. We have a strict policy of never commenting publicly on specific bullying incidences, and certainly never vilifying an individual involved in a bullying case. We adhere to this policy even when we have all the evidence, and we had nothing even close to the entire evidence in the CBB case.

We spend all our time working with schools, youth groups and young people from all over the country on the ground everyday. We don’t have the resources to scrutinise Big Brother and cast judgment on the contestants. However, you are not alone in your concern. We have had a number of members of the public asking why we weren’t commenting, that is why we eventually put up a statement on our website on Thursday It is certainly disappointing compared to some of the more emotive soundbites that have been doing the rounds; boycott Jade, etc. I think it would be grossly irresponsible for an anti-bullying charity to go after an individual like that no matter what their crime, wouldn’t you agree?

Once again, thanks for getting in touch, do let me know if I can assist you in future and well done on a great site with a great truthful tone.


Niall Cowley
Head of Communications
Tel: 020 8768 1017
Mobile: 07904 343 950
Fax: 020 8771 8478

Text DONATE to 61211 to set up a standing order to beatbullying

Monday, January 22, 2007

Waterhouse boozing starts at 11am

Grizzled old poppet Keith Waterhouse recently described bloggers as "nerds, anoraks and braces-wearers of the worst sort". Let it be said that Madame Arcati is not without a sense of humour. Generously she smiled at this well-turned bit of Ludditism. Waterhouse is himself a earlier model of the blogger - a plogger (paper logger)

In a rather good interview with him in the Independent's Media Weekly today, I enjoy this detail: he swigs white wine from 11am each day as he pounds together his 1000-word columns on an old Adler typewriter for the Daily Mail. He then gets himself creatively sozzled at long lunches. Quite what he does from late afternoon to bedtime is not told, but mid-evening I frequently spot him near Earl's Court Tube strolling from some pub with a lady approximately of his age (he's nearly 78) attached to his arm. They usually manage to complete the crossing of a road per two reds of the traffic lights, slow-dancing around hooting cars trying to make a quick getaway.

I understand he went AWOL last year after a little spill following a marathon six-hour lunch with Mail colleagues.

All this and more qualifies him to write The Last Page, a play he's working on about the last days of Fleet Street. He's not certain himself what it's about but I think it maybe an elegy for geographical Fleet Street rather than for print journalism.

The only Fleet Street bar I ever visited was nicknamed the Stab In The Back. This I think would be a more interesting title for his play.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Is Shilpa Shetty a racist too?

I don't know the answer to that one. I just ask the question. Before Jade went ballistic, Shilpa was asked whether she'd marry a white man. She replied she would only marry an Asian.

I don't know whether this is racist or merely cultural or an expression of personal preference. Is this a "do you prefer oysters to snails" question?

Years ago I interviewed Jane Asher in her Chelsea cake shop. I asked her whether she'd mind if her kids married black people. She replied she would mind. She couldn't articulate precisely the problem but there was no doubting her unease at such a prospect. At the time I privately concluded her reply was racist. The media didn't follow up.

Am I wrong? I honestly don't know.

'Jade Goody paid £50,000 by Screws'?

"Jade [Goody] was not paid for this interview," screams the News of the World today. Is this accurate? For the interview the paper contracted to pay the consideration of £50,000. The fact that this sum will be donated to a charity of Goody's and Shilpa Shetty's choice is another matter. The fact that Goody will not actually receive the sum is neither here nor there: it's part of the quid pro quo. The donation is contingent on the interview.

"For the interview Jade has donated our £50,000 fee to charity" would have been the truthful screamer. We also learn that her CBB fee of £50,000 is going to charity too. So the value of Jade's donation(s) is £100,000 - hopefully the Anti-Bullying Alliance (see below) is not on her good cause list.

The interview itself is not worth £500 let alone £50,000. It just repeats the mea culpa Goody gobbed at Davina McCall on Celebrity Big Brother. But the donation launders the exercise and is good PR for the paper - and is not unhelpful to demonised Goody. Oh, and expect a sales lift of about 100,000 (x 85p per unit) copies.

Now, to the Screws' Goody interviewer Jules Stenson. He is certainly an expert on bullying - although about 10 feet tall he has been abused by newspaper staff over the years. Notorious bully editor Bridget Rowe at The People contributed to his endorphins-free existence there in the '90s. And only recently poor Jules was compelled to appear in the Screws' problem page Photo File as a middle-aged office satyr pursuing some poor lass half his age. This was his punishment-by-humiliation for a fuck-up I won't re-visit here.

Yep, the News of the World knows all about bullying.

AA Gill: pot, kettle, black

In today's Sunday Times, AA "call me Adrian" Gill delivers a breathless denunciation of Celebrity Big Brother and the "remedially educated" Jade Goody. Inadvertently, and brilliantly, his description of the show perfectly fits another bastion of national entertainment ... (my additions in parentheses):

"Big Brother [the Sunday Times] is a format that is constructed around premeditated bullying [of certain of its staff and story targets by the editor and his lieutenants]. It incites and exacerbates unfairness, encourages cliques [with "freelance contracts" among other things]. It bullies its contestants [staff/story targets] with humiliation, rewards and punishment [see Nick Hellen postings below]. It foments resentment and hatred [Mr Hellen, et al]."

Well done Gill! Incidentally, he dodges the matter of Goody's racism probably because he himself has been the subject of racist allegations following a piece he penned in the Sunday Times Magazine on Albanians - described by him as "short and ferret-faced, with the unisex, stumpy, slightly bowed legs of Shetland ponies."

The toothless, non-Albanian Press Complaints Commission concluded that a bit of post-mod larking about at the expense of another race was not worth troubling the symbiosis between itself and editors.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Shilpa Shetty: Anti-Bullying Alliance fails her

In the wake of the Jade Goody/Shilpa Shetty saga on Celebrity Big Brother I am at a loss to understand why the government funded Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) and their 65 members are (unlike Gordon Brown) silent on the biggest bullying issue in the last decade.

On Wednesday (Jan 17) the ABA put out a pathetic and anodyne statement on CBB on its website. Part of it read:

"The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) believes that bullying in any form is wrong and should not be tolerated, and that any environment that encourages bullying, prejudice, and discrimination is unacceptable."

Yet this statement was pulled from the ABA site yesterday. Why? I think for the £600,000 it receives from tax-payers each year we can expect leadership and inspiration - a response that is both timely and exemplary. The ABA ought not to fear controversy.

One of the ABA's member organisations Act Against Bullying even had to issue an apology after publishing a statement that appeared to offer understanding of Goody's behaviour (whom they've just dumped as a rep). Part of it read:

"We apologise once again for any misunderstanding caused by (the) statement yesterday. We under no circumstances condone bullying of any forms, and do our very best to work to eliminate it wherever possible."

This is true incompetence. Why the ambiguity on as clear a case of bullying as has ever been witnessed on national television (non-fiction)? As the non-government funded Bullying Online points out on its site:

"Act Against Bullying says 'that Shilpa Shetty is being bullied not because she is Indian but because of what she represents.' We disagree with that view. Numerous comments have been made on the show referring to Shilpa’s Indian background and most of the large number of complaints we have received share our concern about those remarks."

In fact, as I write, only Bullying Online and Kidscape have spoken out publicly and directly about CBB and its bullying entertainment. Perhaps Gordon should take a closer look at the ABA and its personnel when he finally levers Bliar out of Number 10.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Drugaddict's 'I Love Charlie' exhibition

The art people have kindly invited me to an intriguing exhibition called I Love Charlie at London's Guy Hilton Gallery from Feb 24.

The title is a clue to its mischief: a play on love of coke while some sort of tribute to art collector Charles Saatchi, "an unwilling celebrity in this celebrity culture".

The press release explains: "Celebrity and Art have now been hopelessly confused. Charles Saatchi is an unwilling celebrity married to a celebrity cook 'Nigela Lawson'. Tracey Emin writes a column each week for the Independent and is never out of the gossip columns herself mixing with the likes of Kate Moss, she is in fact a celebrity Artist."

To this end the paintings and photos of artists and tabloidy slebs (eg ex-Coronation Street's Richard Fleeshman; Sadie Frost et al) will hang together is what sounds like a satirical showcase of the Frankenstein marriage of credible tat and showbizzy tit.

Members of the public will be asked to vote for their favourite work in an old-fashioned voting booth supplied by novelist Will Self. And I particularly like the fact that the stuff will be up for sale and categorised and priced like street drugs - Class A, B and C.

For further information email:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nicholas Hellen's blackmail letter

The letter below is purportedly from Nicholas Hellen, the (now) deputy news editor of the Sunday Times, to an anonymous blog writer who became rather well known after the paper outed her against her wishes. I publish it without further comment. For more on the backstory go to Girl With A One Track Mind.

Aug 5, 2006 11:08 AM

Dear Miss [my name],

We intend to publish a prominent news story in this weekend's paper, revealing your identity as the author of the book, Girl With a One Track Mind.

We have matched up the dates of films you have worked on - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Batman Begins and Lara Croft Tomb Raider - and it is clear that they correlate to your blog. We have obtained your birth certificate, and details about where you went to school and college.

We propose to publish the fact that you are 33 and live in [my address] -London, and that your mother, [her name], is a [her address] -based [her profession]. The article includes extracts from your book and blog, relevant to your career in the film industry. We also have a picture of you, taken outside your flat.

Unfortunately, the picture is not particularly flattering and might undermine the image that has been built up around your persona as Abby Lee. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image.

We are proposing to assign you our senior portrait photographer, Francesco Guidicini, and would arrange everything to your convenience, including a car to pick you up. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and make up. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.

We did put this proposal to you yesterday, but heard nothing back. Clearly this is now a matter of urgency, and I would appreciate you contacting me as soon as possible. To avoid any doubt we will, of course, publish the story as it is if we do not hear from you.

Yours sincerely,
Nicholas Hellen

Jodie Marsh dumps fiance

Alas, I was right about Jodie Marsh. On her blog she announces:

"If you are reading this Dave Doyle; you are dumped. I'm not even going to waste my breath in saying it to your face or on the phone. You don't deserve it. The reason for this? I know (and have proof) that you cheated on me. It was on New Year's Eve, with your ex-bird, she stayed at your flat and got a cab to the station the next day. Do not ring me (cos I won't answer), do not email me (cos I won't read it) and if you sell a story on me; well you'll just make yourself look stupid because I have done nothing wrong and YOU are a cheating w*nker."

OK! magazine - which used up nine pages to explore the Doyle-in-the-Marsh love match (at home) - must be mortified.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Diana Ross and the thankyous

J Randy Taraborrelli’s Diana Ross: An Unauthorised Biography lands on my desk. My, it’s weighty. When a huge glossy mag arrives in the post I sometimes ask myself: “How many ants would this kill if I dropped it on their nest?” Vogue in ad-rich October, if employed so brutally, would wipe out the entire colony. Limpy Hello! mag might cause a few injuries, that’s all. But I wouldn’t want you to think I’m weird or anything. For sure Randy’s book is up there with October Vogue, ant fatalities-wise.

Something I’ve noticed is the growing fashion in these blockbuster bios for endless thankyous, as if the book were an Oscar acceptance speech by Gwyneth Paltrow. Randy’s Diana Ross is substantial in its gratitude. First there’s the dedication to the “many Motown stars who transformed my youth by allowing me to join them on their fantastic journey.” Aw, how sweet. You can tell Randy’s hung out with Michael Jackson once too often. You can almost hear the simpering squeak of the rehearsal-in-the-mirror as the speaker/writer imagines that what he feels will transfer to the listener through the agencies of pitch and gurning. Such saccharine usually forces me to do some sort of violence.

Then go towards the back of the book and you hit pages and pages of tas-very-much. In the nine-page Acknowledgements one encounters not just thankyous to the likes of Mary Wilson and Berry Gordy et al but also a self-review of the author’s evolving attitude to the woman he calls worshipfully “Miss Ross” when he tires of repeating Diana. “Thankfully, I have changed over the years, my viewpoints informed and altered simply by my maturity and experience,” he writes. He also survived puberty and probably danced in the rain once, but do we need to be informed of these universal experiences?

And then we get to the Personal Acknowledgements (the first being Impersonal presumably) in which it appears the entire Taraborrelli tribe gets a name-check. Father Rocco has always been Randy’s “inspiration”. Friends, publicists and countrymen are all immortalised with Miss Ross, climaxing in this beauty: “Finally, to my loyal readers: I thank you for giving my life purpose.”

I hadn’t realised that an interest in his interest in Miss Ross entailed any kind of reader loyalty – as if such an interest must endure against the enemy without, such as rival Miss Ross chroniclers perhaps. The unfortunate impression is of an author dreaming he's up there on stage with Miss Ross, taking bows and bouquets as sequins sparkle (and hers), as if the world had come to see Mr T as well.

And while I’m on the subject of the Divine Diana, I’ll mention Kaye Ballard’s memoirs just out: How I Lost 10 Pounds In 53 Years. She tells a delicious story about a lunch she had with Doris Day. They spotted Diana Ross sitting at a nearby table – “Oh, Doris, go over and say hello,” said Kaye. “No,” said Doris. “Oh go on – it’ll be a thrill for her.” Doris relented and went over to her table. “Hello,” she said, “I’m Doris Day.” Diana turned to her, barked “Hello”, then spun back round to her meal leaving Doris just standing there humiliated. Crestfallen, she returned to the table and said to Kaye: “That’s the last time I ever listen to you!”

So, finally, my thanks to Kaye for that story, to Doris for featuring in it, to Miss Ross for being the compelling bitch that she is, to the waiters, etc etc.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Has CBB found its screaming queen?

No sooner had I offered my advice on regenerating the current Celebrity Big Brother - a screaming queen was what was required - than I hear it rumoured that Lauren Harries maybe joining the remaining housemates. Lauren is the former antiques expert James made famous by Terry Wogan when he was just a 10-year-old boy, a rather precocious one I recall, and marked by me even then as a sexual deviant in the making. I warmed to him immediately. Then, as testicular activity kicked in, James decided he was a woman and took advantage of modern medical science to make it so.

I have absolutely no doubt that Lauren will supply the elements I identified in my previous post for an interesting show: Channel 4's audience share will rocket and, you never know, perhaps Jack Tweedy will find a new outlet for his pent up sexual energy. Lauren is certainly a most comely female with an ear-splitting screech when required to talk over her bolshy interlocutors. I shall be most disappointed if Lauren turns out to be a suburban myth.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother: Send in the screamers!

A delightful reader asks whether I have anything to say about the current Celebrity Big Brother. Just this. Where is the screaming queen? Only the self-created sexual deviant with his or her falsetto lunacy can save the show and drive it back to the heights of improvised rapture we have come to expect.

Cross-dressing Pete Burns was the last CBB. Without him it would have just been The Waltons, unscripted. Transsexual Nadia (formerly Jorge who won 74% of the overall popular vote) completed embodied a non-sleb BB series: the mood music of each show was entirely orchestrated by her biorhythmic peaks and troughs. Just when normality threatened to crowd in and depress us all with family values familiarity, up popped Nadia with another self-dramatised, screeching projection.

I had hoped Cleo Rocos might be this time’s screaming queen: surely something of Kenny Everett would have rubbed off on her? No. What can you expect of a 42-year-old who’s lived with her mother all her life? Leo showed some promise as a screamer but his angst was rooted in suburban things, such as fear of dirty underpants. He only wanted to be loved. H was never going to deliver. He’s just a sweet bottom who can sing. Announcing he was gay before he went in was strategically sensible: it disarmed the tabs. In other words, he is capable of unsexy, pre-meditated action. This is lethal to entertainment CBB-style.

The screaming queen is a creature of staggered, unleashed fury. Love is not sought, only trembling awe. In his or her soul a lifetime’s worth of rejection has transmuted into conversational terrorism and a real-life parody of bigoted expectation. The screaming queen is revenge on the normals. And provided the revenge is on the other side of the TV screen, the normals just love it.

Because that’s showbiz - so wise up Big Brother before I get seriously pissed.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Proust, Ackerley and Jodie Marsh

How sad that Jodie Marsh's engagement to some moron appears to be over. See comments to the previous post below - she's put up a picture of her dog on My Space saying he (the dog) is the only man in her life - and covered up some scrawl on her skin that recognised the moron's proximity to her.

One writer suggested that I should discuss Jodie Marsh and Proust in the same breath, comparing the length of her paragraphs to the length of his sentences. Certainly there is a quantitative approach to be considered, that much one can say. But if we are to find a twin for Jodie who happened to be literary, then let us look no further than JR Acklerley.

He had his Alsation Queenie and she has her bulldog Paddy. To JR, Queenie was the Ideal Friend. And what is Paddy if not the soulmate of Jodie? Perhaps the brazen glamour model, with the nose like a builder's elbow (to quote the immortal Jordan), will take a leaf out of JR's book and marry Paddy. Queenie never approved of JR's many (hundreds of) male pick-ups: who's to say that Paddy couldn't perform the similar task of chasing off any one of Jodie's innumerable studs once she had sniffed her first dog breath of the day on the pillow after some Essex nightclub expedition?

I commend this thought as OK! magazine wonders whether to ask for its money back (for in the latest issue Jodie and moron parade themselves in togetherness for chav consumption).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jodie Marsh's unfeasibly large paragraphs

Some people turn to trainspotting to sublimate dark, infernal forces that dwell in their breast. Madame Arcati is a Jodie Marsh giant paragraph spotter.

I must admit that my fascination with her blog has long since passed. Her bloody dogs did it for me. But the lengths of her paragraphs are a thing of wonder - just paste them into Word for a quick tot up.

On Jan 9 she wrote a paragraph that's 377 words long. On Dec 27 last year she delivered a 388-worder. But she had already exceeded that on December 10 with a 474-er. Her world record to date (so far as I can tell) is the mammoth 742-worder on Oct 10 2005. Let me know if there's one bigger. Naturally I have ceased to read the actual words as a rule. Size to the eye is all. Just the sheer, vast angularity of all those vapid blocks of words rushing across the page like dandelion seeds on a summer breeze.

However, her rant at Carole Malone, aged closer to 53 than 47 I have to say and presently in Celebrity Big Brother, reminded me why I shifted my focus to paragraph proportions. Here's an extract ....

"Carole Malone. The ugly, no-good, talentless hag! She had the cheek to abuse me for going on CBB and now she's in there herself. Times must be hard for her, the poor love. Why else would she do a "crappy reality show"???? I thought she was a credible, intelligent writer who didn't need to go on stupid shows like that?! No.... am I wrong? Oh sh*t sorry, yeah I'm wrong..... what was I thinking? She's also been on Celebrity Fat Club. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. How embarrassing! No matter how fat (or skint) I got; you would NEVER catch me on TV wobbling my flab about to the nation and trying to get rid of some of it (if I need to diet, I'll do it in private thank you!)! The woman pretends to be a journalist but she's actually more desperate to be famous than I am for a shag right now! Carole Malone - I ..." and on she goes.

Telegraph man makes up Saddam's hanging

An astonishing confession on one of the Telegraph's blogs today. United States editor Tony Harnden reveals that his report on Saddam Hussein's hanging was largely made up. He actually wrote his report before the tyrant dangled because he had to meet his London deadline. Then reality caught him out. Tunbridge Wells is outraged. Here's an extract and the link:

"You're right that writing about Saddam's hanging before it happened was not my finest hour. It was one of those tricky journalistic challenges when no matter how much you hedge and speculate, the reality will always mischievously diverge from the finely-turned piece one filed."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Paris Hilton seeks personal pain

A friend tells me the hotel heiress and porn queen Paris Hilton is walking around LA at the moment with a copy of Ivana Chubbock’s The Power of the Actor in her unworked mitts. Presumably she’s boning up on a few tricks to get her through the unpromising-titled film she’s working on The Hottie and the Nottie in which a girl refuses to marry her long-time boyfriend until he can find the perfect match for her ugly best friend. The plot sounds faintly young Martin Amis (distaff side) but for the cast and the rest.

Chubbock is a highly regarded Hollywood acting coach – and with testimonials from the likes of Halle Berry, Beyonce, Brad Pitt et al she’s doing something right. “Aristotle defined the struggle of the individual to win as the essence of all drama more than two thousand years ago. Overcoming and winning against all the hurdles and conflicts of life is what makes dynamic people,” Chubbock writes of her ethos. “Every actor knows that discovering and understanding your personal pain is an inherent part of the acting process.”

Paris must surely start at a disadvantage since unearned riches and fame have been hers as birthright. Perhaps that’s her challenge in life: to find the personal pain that arises from not having personal pain because without personal pain you can’t be a credible fellow sufferer for acting purposes. This must count as a hurdle of sorts, a “conflict of life,” as Chubbock calls it. Princess Margaret had a similar problem but solved it by marrying a bisexual artist as solipsistic as she and ruining her health on fags and gin. By life’s end she had accumulated a lot of personal pain but then died before she could do anything with it. She liked singing. What might have been - the Royal Sparrow?

Perhaps Paris should read a Margaret bio before embarking on a course of self-created pain. For spoilt bitches philanthropy is a painless preferred option – Brooke Astor (still going at 104) did it right.

For more on the Chubb technique to capitalise on your personal pain follow this link.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Victoria Newton: Watch and weep

And while I'm in the mood to notice websites dedicated to the incompetence or perfidy of certain highly paid journalists, let us not forget the Sun's jet-haired Victoria Newton whose recurring motif is getting things wrong. Go to VickyWatch for the monitoring of her fictions on matters rock, pop and Posh - an almost daily event. She is either a living parable to the young against the folly of tabloid hackery or a paragon to those who plan to get through life on a glissando of bullshit. All good unclean fun.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Nicholas Hellen: naughty Lord Percy

For more on the Sunday Times' deputy news editor Nicholas "Lord Percy" Hellen and his low techniques, go to the fascinating site Biffinbridge. Blackmail claims, possible data protection issues, unpleasantness to an innocent mother ... dear oh dear. What is this once great newspaper coming to?

Sunday Times lifts Speccie's story?

I wonder whether these stories were divided at birth or whether one was cloned from the other ...

"Within the next 12 months, the Americans or the Israelis, possibly both, are likely to launch military strikes aimed at crippling Iran's nuclear ambitions. Those strikes may come sooner rather than later. And they will probably be nuclear."
The Spectator, opener, Jan 5, 2007

“Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.”
The Sunday Times, front page opener, Jan 7, 2007.

The similarities between the two lengthy reports are remarkable and doubtless a tribute to a plurality of journalistic talent.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Duncan Fallowell: 'I fancied Jamie Oliver ... '

Copyright 2007 by Madame Arcati

The news that April Ashley’s recent memoirs The First Lady had been pulped broke exclusively late last year on Madame Arcati. My source (no less) was Duncan Fallowell himself, the aggrieved party in the plagiarism row. He’d discovered that at least two-thirds of the book was a straight lift from his own 1983 book April Ashley’s Odyssey – the original account of the beautiful transsexual’s life. She blames her co-writer Douglas Thompson (who has ignored all my emails). Fallowell holds Ashley accountable. Whatever the truth, publisher John Blake has had to compensate Fallowell for the theft. A delightful outcome.

And so to Duncan Fallowell: novelist, travel writer, celebrity interviewer, cultural observer and critic, lyricist, librettist, bisexual athlete (though he’s grown a bit tired of that …), and more. It would be simpler to list the publications his work has not appeared in worldwide.

His thematic range is vast – he seems to have a fully developed, often perverse, view on just about everything (except The X Factor) – and he has cornered the market in what I shall describe as hardcore high camp, fiction and non-fiction departments. Even at his most intellectually severe there is a hint of mischief or teasing, of amusement, about him. His most marvellous recent sentence is this one from his regular column in The First Post in a review of Samuel Beckett’s Proust: “What we have is Beckett trying to be more affected than Proust - and succeeding! Into the plush vaginal Sargasso of Proustian circumscription Beckett's penile hyperfocus is decisively plunged.”

His three novels – Satyrday, The Underbelly and A History of Facelifting – have prompted varying degrees of outrage, tending as they do to dwell on the seamy undertow of suburban or shire life. Bernard Levin once wrote in the Sunday Times of Fallowell’s “extremely unpleasant imagination” only redeemed by its “fierce honesty”. One Literary Review critic was so appalled by Satyrday - “a post-punk world of unspeakable violence, snuff movies, non-stop sex, perversion, greed and genocide” – that he flung his copy across the room in disgust.

Personally I regard Fallowell as one of the best celebrity writer-interviewers in the world. He’s walking-talking Rohypnol in his seductive effect on his subjects. Only he could have somehow lured Germaine Greer into a comparative analysis of all her lovers by nationality: the papers had a field day. His long piece in Prospect on Barbara Cartland sheds much generous light on the late romantic novelist. Twentieth Century Characters showcases many of his best starry encounters. For more on his work go to his unofficial website.

Duncan agreed to an email interview ….

Now Duncan, have you made up with April Ashley? She seems most hurt by it all …

April is a cunt trapped in a sex-change’s body. But when I was a young man, she gave me something priceless, so I’ll always love her.

What was your relationship with April. I mean, did you – to use a Johnny Rottenism – squelch? Share with us one memory – non-squelching if you must.

We tried to squelch a few times. One memory? Johnson’s Baby Lotion, ice-cold, on the window-sill of an unheated bedroom in Clarendon Road, London W11, January, 1969.

Your three novels to say the least are studies in comic perversity and oddity. Would you be comfortable in the box called “decadent writer”?

Of course my writing isn’t decadent. None of my contemporaries has produced work more vigorous.

You once wrote that to be decadent you have to be bent in some way. Describe your particular U-bend.

Space itself is curved.

Do you have a favourite review of all your work and a least favourite? – please identify. What’s your general view of book criticism and do you have a favourite literary publication (this includes newspaper books sections). In one of your bios about your work: “Graham Greene didn't like his novels but thought they belonged to the 21st century. William Burroughs relished his books and Camille Paglia has described them as 'mordant, energetic and outrageous."

I don’t moan about reviews. Great reviews have kept me going. Reviews – and women. I couldn’t’ve survived without the women. Favourite literary publication? I read none systematically, all occasionally – except The Times book section on Saturdays. What’s wrong with it? Everything is jittery and broken up; it repels the eye; obviously it’s terrified of text, of writing.

A Tardis takes you back to Oxford and you’re aged 19. Did you dream or imagine where you were headed? As a writer? And have you arrived to your satisfaction?

Please don’t use ‘headed’ for ‘heading’. You’ll be saying ‘bored of’ next. I was writing before I could read. Making marks on paper and clipping them into little books. When I write I’m inside the language; something is coming out through the language. I’m not writing from the outside in. Polishing is tertiary – but I love it more than the original writing: one has the animal breathing quietly beneath one’s hands. I am largely unrecognised.

Your life at a distance at least seems golden – the first Spectator pop writer, the Ashley book, glittering journalism, an Oxford scholar … do you feel lucky or will you tell us of hard work?

Never make this error about the lives of others. Life for everyone is a struggle.

Did your family of origin help or hinder your career as a literary and sexual adventurer?

My father had a wire factory in Reading. It was an enormous help.

Your ideal sexual scenario?

At the moment – lads of the Empire.

Is it possible to speak of “best lovers” (ie the best in bed) in your case …

All lovers are unique. Bad sex can be very thrilling for the heart.

You’re a very sexual writer. I remember in To Noto your description of sexual frustration – I think on some wasteland. Give us a snapshot of the Duncan Fallowell libido, orientation. Is he serially monogamous, promiscuous. He has written of rent boys

I make it up as I go along. I’m not a box-ticker but a swimmer. Drowning’s good too.

To Noto and St Petersburg are “quest” books as much as travel books (combining diary, travel, memoir etc). Do you plan to write any more in this vein?

I have lately finished my third - and last – in this vein, called Going As Far As I Can, about wanderings in New Zealand. It’s been rejected by three big publishers so far. They don’t want New Zealand and they don’t understand my freaky version of it (the book uses New Zealand as a touchstone for general cultural crises – but doesn’t spell this out in big letters, so they are clueless).

Who’s your publisher now? Friends with Arcadia again? Do publishers do their best for authors?

Arcadia are publishing A History of Facelifting in the USA on April Fool’s Day of this coming year. Do publishers do their best for authors? The problem is publishers are frightened by writers. Haven’t you noticed that publishers and writers don’t talk to each other at parties?

In general do you feel at odds with the world or a fully paid up member of the chorus? You strike me capable of great anger …

Sometimes in, sometimes out. Occasionally from my towering rage I reach down to grope a lamb.

Quite apart from the novels and non-fiction, you have interviewed a great many notables – could you thought-associate on a few of them. Who was the biggest bastard? Who the most admirable? Any fanciable? And tell us of Barbara Cartland – nice teeth?

I seem to detect four principal artistic influences in my life from among the living: Sacheverell Sitwell, John Betjeman, Andy Warhol, William Burroughs. I knew three of them well. I fancy about twenty people a day but funnily enough the only celebrity I’ve ever really fancied was Jamie Oliver in his young days, probably because I never met him, and a boxer whom I shan’t name because I had him (I can get into sporno a bit). No bastards really, more ‘monstrous egos’. Norman Foster, whom I interviewed for the Financial Times, was heavy, trying to influence the piece afterwards behind the scenes. James Brown was also quite heavy, with bodyguards in the room, but would never have been underhand like Foster. Brown was fantastically direct. I was thrown off the set of Tina Turner’s video but that wasn’t her fault. Peter O’Toole gave me gastritis exacerbated by duodenitis. The only celebrity who was actually nasty was Bryan Ferry who called me ‘a shit’ and slammed down the phone, but of course he was a friend. Because of that I decided never to interview friends again.

Gore Vidal has been quite rude about you over the years – (to me) he once called you “lazy”. You once upset him terribly in the Spectator – he sent a long raging response which he now prefers to forget about. But he loves you really? One can't imagine a Vidal biopic a la Capote ....

Gore was mortified by his appearance in To Noto which he said was a pack of lies but it’s a very accurate account of our meeting in Ravello (I jotted everything down immediately afterwards). The trouble with Gore is that he hates everyone on sight – he may in time come to like those who let him get away with murder.

Hello! magazine has been sent to your home. Where would it find you and would you care to describe how such things as your laundry and garden get done.

I have a flat in Notting Hill, plus a house near Saint Tropez co-owned with my brother. My London garden is a dragon tree in the sitting-room which, despite every encouragement, refuses to die. I have a Bosch washing-machine from Peter Jones. It’s always full of white cotton sheets.

You wrote the Gormenghast libretto – are you still writing for opera?

No. But I would love to. Writing is so solitary that collaboration feels like a holiday. Micky Karoli said that the Gormenghast libretto was the best thing I ever wrote – which goes to show how partial people are. Music was always big in my life. I worked a lot with Can.

No one’s ever heard of him so in a few words sell us your intellectual pin-up the Romanian philosopher EM Cioran.

Cioran is the dandy of ontological pessimism. Despair as cosmic joke. Autobiography as abstract expressionism. Metaphysics bursting through the sound barrier. The sentence as crooked laser beam. He wrote skin-tight, erectile French and has the best translator into English, Richard Howard.

Have you ever had a clairvoyant or psychic reading? If so what was foretold?

Yes, I had my hand read at a Rolling Stones party at Blenheim Palace – forgotten what she said. I had it read again at the Kinsham Court fete – forgotten what she said too. Just as well. I’m terribly suggestible. I’ve only got to read about cancer to precipitate lumps.

And now one-liner response questions:

Iraq – if democracy can’t take root in the Muslim world the Islamic religion will destroy itself.

Pete Doherty – one of nature’s bottoms.

Tesco – I can’t stand supermarkets. I get the horrors in them, unless a woman is with me taking the brunt.

Blair – when I voted for him in 1996 or 7, whenever it was, it was the first time I’d ever voted (abstention is a legitimate political act). I knew a number of queer Tory MPs and their hypocrisy was disturbing. Now? We need tough decisions to take us through global warming and the potential collapse of European society from waves of hot-country refugees.

Ideal country – hills & woods & streams & meadows.

The X Factor – don’t understand.

Green taxes – of course.

Will Self decadent? - why are you hung up on this word? ‘Decadent’ applies to an artistic mood of the late nineteenth century. It is only used elsewhere by religious and political tyrants. Never read any Will Self. I saw him once, at Oscar Moore’s funeral.

And tell us of your next project.

My next project is plural. The aforementioned New Zealand book is ready to go. So is another little book, of a weirder kind still. Plus a second collection of showbizzy/arty meetings/interviews/occasions called Sketches From Café Society. Plus a third, more literary/nostalgia, called Portraits In A Distant Corridor.

Keep up the good work, Madame A, and have a prosperous, provocative 2007!

And you Duncan.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jasper Gerard: Eye sees the light

If theres's anything that causes Madame Arcati to self-lubricate, it's an expression of agreement with any of her prejudices. So when I spotted the new Private Eye's trashing of the hideous Observer columnist Jasper Gerard my sensitive bits tingled. The words "world's worst columnist" were dildo-esque in their effect - and the news that even the paper's editor Roger Alton is realising that the "experiment in dumbing down is a disaster" with this "ham-fisted half-wit who'd be more at home at the Daily Express" was climactic to say the least.

Regular readers of Madame Arcati can catch up on my various reports on this gargoyle whose picture byline resembles the "before" photo in a dental hygiene ad. I shall be writing to Richard Desmond recommending Gerard for the Express: I am sure that the proprietor will relish Gerard's anti-Gypsy invective as well as his warming pensees on "immigrants" and other peoples who don't have the luxury of a lucrative soapbox.

As I've said before the only reason why Alton took Gerard on in the first place is because he wrote for the Sunday Times - national newspaper editors love sloppy seconds and think it a trophy thing to pick up other editors' left-overs. There are quite enough right-wing, complacent, slack-brained bastard journalists about without the supposedly liberal Observer adding to their coffers. Gerard is so appalling he makes the Mail's Amanda Platell appear faintly sentient.

If Alton does not get rid of Gerard I shall start a campaign of true horror and publish personal details about Gerard. I know that Gerard's wife does his accounts and if I know that imagine what else I know. The spirit of Sir Peter Ustinov animates me at this moment, and my fans will understand the relevance of this reference.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Blogging a dead horse

The London Evening Standard's This Is London maintains five blogs - and you'd think that with its ABC1 readership of young and educated urban professionals (ie prematurely-aged and shat-on commuters) these emissions of opinion would draw a huge and lively response. Alas not.

First there's the blog of restaurant critic Charles Campion, a suitably plump testament to the metropolis' myriad eateries. This has managed to draw three comments since Dec 11.

Comedy critic Bruce Dessau drew his last reader's comment on Nov 27.

The pugnacious 10-year-old theatre critic Keiron Quirke has provoked one comment since Dec 13.

Art critic Tom Teodorczuk can scarcely justify his online existence with a paltry two comments since Nov 14

But music critic Richard Godwin excels in this dire company with a hefty six comments since Dec 19.

With a newspaper readership of about one million the blogs should be doing a lot better than this. But then blogging is a different craft from remunerated space-filling in a newspaper - which tends to sell on habit and headlines.

All these bloggers affect an off-putting Liz Jones-style form of first person self-absorption and a delusion that their very being is the subject of interest. Plainly not.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sue Douglas and her husband

Today’s Londoner’s Diary in the Evening Standard bewails the omission of historian Niall Ferguson’s* name in Sue Douglas’ entry in Debrett’s People of Today 2007: he’s her husband.

Douglas – a former Sunday Times deputy editor - is described as (still) a “senior Conde Nast executive”. She was in fact “President” of the New Business division at Conde Nast – a job title in keeping with the high opinion she has of herself. On December 6 the Standard's very own media gossip revealed that she was leaving the publisher – she’d “been off work for several months after a riding accident and has not yet decided what she will do next.” Ah yes, my grapes are in the post.

Perhaps someone could inform me what’s really going on here.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is toiling away on what may prove to be a contender for a respectable fiction prize: Henry Kissinger: Life and Times. The old war criminal has plainly calculated that Ferguson is a suitable Boswell. The historian is a great champion of the British Empire and has sought to draw a fig leaf over its brutalities. Perfect!

*( Niall Ferguson MA, D.Phil., is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is a resident faculty member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

Under Mars: A defender writes ...

Further to the Under Mars site - which showcases photographs of dead Iraqis captioned disrespectfully - I received this comment which is worth posting - my reply below:

I'll stay anonymous on this because I fear for the hatchet job you'll try to do on me for daring to disagree with you, but....

You've got to wade through an awful lot of pictures on 'Under Mars' to find even one disrespectful caption. Most are pretty bland, so I'd venture to suggest the site's compiler is simply captioning the pictures as they were captioned to him, possibly by the person who took the picture.

If so, that speaks volumes about the mindset of the photographer, and not necessarily about the mindset of the site owner. A few minutes spent researching before launching a spittle-flecked rant would have shown you that - if nothing else - the site owner/author/compiler can spell. Is he *really* going to spell 'charades' wrong in a caption? While that's hardly conclusive proof, you would have thought someone going for the pithy wit of a 'charades' punchline wouldn't spell it in such a way as to make the critical word almost indecipherable.

'Under Mars' may have disrespectful captions under some of the pictures. Sadly, that's pretty common on the internet - no, really, you should check some other sites out to see. If you didn't agree with the site's premise, why launch into a muddle-headed ad hominem attack on the possible author based on (apparently) chuff-all research.

Do get a grip, Mme Arcati.

Thank you Anonymous. Shannon Larratt, who runs Under Mars, must take full responsibility for the content of his site: I do not think that his mastery of the English language indicates necessarily a good intent. He may simply be well educated. It is also unfortunate in context that Larratt is a hardcore body modification freak: inevitably one is suspicious that his interest in publishing pictures of butchered corpses is bound up in some way with his aesthetic occupation. Perhaps he would do better to reveal himself on the site and explain its purpose.

I do not think that the low standards of the internet - on which any old rubbish can be put up - should be used to measure the offence or otherwise of Under Mars. The site stands alone as offensive. You also ignore the feelings of Iraqis and others and the effect this site may have on them (see the Baghdad Chronicles site): I don't recall seeing any dead Americans or Brits in this gallery of morbidity - not that I wish to - but the point is made.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Arcati's "Old" Book of the Year

Want to know what my "old" book of the year was? Go to Andrew Sullivan's blog for Time/CNN to find out. Clue: "Clau Clau Clau Clau ..."