Thursday, February 08, 2007

Celia Walden: trifles in the past tense

Celia Walden writes the gossip page Spy in the Daily Telegraph. Nigel Dempster she painfully ain’t. Take today, for instance, and her five tales.

She leads on Yvonne Ridley and her absence from the Islam Channel. “I now hear that the show [The Agenda] has been taken off air,” she writes with urgency. Yes, but the show was axed in the first week of January, dear. Still, Celia caught up in the end.

Her second story tells us that Prince William told Bertie Ahern that he supports Aston Villa. This tragic allegiance is common knowledge and the addition of Ahern fails to refresh our interest. Had he said "Manchester United" or some such, then she'd have a story.

Still on footie, she bumps into Teddy Sheringham at a new poker club in the City of London. From the auguries of his gnomic utterances she deduces that he’ll be retiring at the end of the season. This is a generally held view and scarcely a secret. Incidentally, she forgets to mention that he plays for West Ham United (tsk) but does manage to ask the great man if his romance with Celebrity Big Brother clot Danielle Lloyd may yet revive. His response, though completely unrevealing, is reported.

Next Celia reminds her readers that she was the one who reported Jeremy Paxman’s attack on the BBC last week. Sadly, she undermines herself with the additional reminder that she came across this scoop in the BBC’s mag Ariel – not quite Woodward and Bernstein, sugar.

Celia’s last story is about someone called Charlotte Wheeler, 22, who stuns with the confession that she once played something in Vegas (the editing makes her game of choice ambiguous). Her daddy gives money to the Tories so I guess this expose is at least in the right paper.

I understand from my sources (actually, Celia’s bio on her Society blog) that she speaks French and Italian. Surely she could do better as an airline trolley dolly or one of those polyglot station announcers at Waterloo.


Susan Hill said...

Charlie Methven was the best SPY.. but there are no really good gossip columnists in the papers now. None.

dinu said...

A good gossip columnist is a dead gossip columnist ! :->

nsfl said...

The problem for newspaper gossip columnists is that most of their best stories are nowadays appropriated by the "news" pages of newspapers. The columnists are left with the sort of fag ends that Madame listed. In the olden days, royals, footballers and popular recording artistes didn't trouble the front pages, they kept Dempster in hair tonic.

Ms Walden's sleeping arrangements and the views of her father continue to be more interesting than her column.

Gerontius said...

Celia Walden actually missed the real story here. Stuart Wheeler, the father and Tory donor in question, is well-known as a successful gambler. Indeed, his wealth came primarily from the success of his IG Index, a company which translated the movements of financial markets into a form of spread betting. In that context, his daughter's interest in gambling would have been particularly interesting. But hey, what's context to Celia?

dinu said...

[The columnists are left with the sort of fag ends that Madame listed.]

"Fag ends"... Is there a pun intended here ?

Arcati said...

Richard Kay - (though lacking Dempster's flamboyance and spectacular malice) seems to run a half-decent gossip column in the Mail. The Express' Night & Day is not bad as a catch-all diary and the Londoner's Diary can still deliver on a good day. The Times' People column is embarrassing (worse than the Telegraph's Spy) - the editor plainly hasn't a clue what's meant by "gossip" and the Guardian has its generally dismal online Monkey column staffed by young persons desperate to move on.

The pop columns like Victoria Newton's Sun page or the chav Mott in the Star don't really count since much of what they churn out is sexed up PR stuff or titbits culled at the last minute from celeb blogs and showbiz websites.

I quite like Compston Miller's goss page in the London Evening Standard's property supplement on Tuesdays. But I do wish he'd do something about his hair - it explodes from his head as if struck by a thunderbolt.

dinu said...

[- the editor plainly hasn't a clue what's meant by "gossip"]

And what's meant by "gossip", according to Madame ? I'm very anxious to learn about Arcati's 'gossip philosophy and aesthetic principles'.

Arcati said...

You're not anxious to know what I mean by gossip at all, but it's Saturday and I'm in the mood (it won't last) to humour you.

Gossip is the revealing or discussion of sensational or interesting personal information about others. A newspaper gossip column, to be interesting, must focus on the lives of the famous and speak of them as one would one's next door neighbour. As a rule the lives of those unknown to us are of no or little interest, hence wars and prejudice. That gossiping may cause hurt and embarrassment must not in anyway deflect the gossip or diarist from his or her task in interesting us with a personal revelation. However, gossip may be quite trivial in nature but no matter: the vital element is interesting-ness. Knowing your audience thus is axiomatic.

Now, Dinu, anxious as you are to to know what I think, you will then say: "Ah, but what if the gossip is untrue or merely mischievous?" Yes, this is a matter of some concern. Fortunately, libel laws have been created for such eventualities. The growth of privacy laws will also protect the rich-poor poppets from undue intrusion as they fill their nostrils with powders and stuff cash in whores' purses.

There are of course some sad wretches about who deplore the discussion of the lives of the rich and famous because they feel that the gods should not be treated irreverently - I suspect the editor of The Times falls into this camp. Such celebrity lapdogs must be treated robustly and put down in extreme cases.

I hope you are enlightened now, Dinu.

Dinu said...

[You're not anxious to know what I mean by gossip at all]

I wonder what allows you to doubt my sincerity.

[but it's Saturday and I'm in the mood]

A witch's mood, of course. Damn it, I chose the wrong day. ;-)

[the vital element is interesting-ness.]

If so, I fear your results are often very far from your theory, especially when it's about gay gossip.

[I hope you are enlightened now, Dinu.]

"Darkened" would be a better word, but I thank you all the same. Knowing one's enemy's philosophy is always an advantage.

Arcati said...

Thank Dinu. I have noticed that it is gay gossip especially that stirs you to action so I conclude that your uninterest is a passive-aggressive affectation for the purpose of dissuading me from running such material. In this, and in every other respect, I am happy to tell you - and you will be secretly happy to learn - that you have not succeeded.
MA x

dinu said...

[I have noticed that it is gay gossip especially that stirs you to action]

Oh, did you ? How perspicacious you are ! :->

[so I conclude that your uninterest is a passive-aggressive affectation for the purpose of dissuading me from running such material.]

Don't you think "material" is too noble a word for stuff you pick in the sewers of mediacracy ?

[I am happy to tell you - and you will be secretly happy to learn - that you have not succeeded.]

I've sometimes succeeded in convincing reluctant men, but I humbly confess that the taming of a homophobic bitch is beyond my capacities.
But go ahead, my sweet shrew. If you're so eager to ridicule yourself, it's your problem, not mine. :-)

duralex said...

What a wonderful credo, Arcati, all stuffed with tenderness and humanism !
Now I'm quite sure you're a terribly frustrated old maid. Only a fossilized virginity can turn a human being into such a vicious animal. Now, how about that therapeutic chimney sweeping Dinu suggested ? :-D

dinu said...

In case you want some violin music during the... operation, I'm your man (so to speak).
I think Tartini's "Devil's Trill" would be perfect ! ;-D

Arthur G said...

The Yvonne Ridley story hadn't been written by anyone in any other paper...surely the suggestions about employment tribunal also made it more interesting.
Yes, gossip columns might not be what they and can always do better.
But journalists on these columns do pretty well all things considered.
Celia, I'm sure, must use her French to uncover stories (Spy stories focus on celebrities on from on the continent).

The real reason why gossip columns aren't what they were is because of the paralysing effects of the PR industry. Celebrities cynically manage and control their press in ways which would flabbergast Nigel Dempster and continue to astound hacks who have seen it happen.

I submit, therefore, that it's important to see both sides of the story.