Friday, November 30, 2007

Catherine Bennett joins Observer

Excellent news - the new Observer editor John Mulholland has hired Catherine Bennett from the Guardian - as first reported on Arcati the other day. This is a good omen for a paper that has been compromised too long. Bennett is brilliantly civilised. Mulholland knows who I want removed.

Join Brian May against whaling

One of the better celebrity blogs is Brian May’s. The Queen star posts regularly and actually interacts with his audience – and I’m impressed by his recent outspoken attack on the resumption of whaling by Japan. “I was looking at murderous Japanese boats going out to kill 1,000 intelligent, beautiful higher mammals ... the magnificent whales. And we all sit back and watch it happen?” he writes.

As Greenpeace reports, “If the countries that oppose whaling were putting one-tenth of the effort into ending it that the Japanese government invests in maintaining a sham research programme, whaling would have ended by now.” If you’d like to sign Greenpeace’s message to various world leaders to call Japan's Prime Minister Fukuda to stop whaling, click here.

May’s blog click here.

Read Adam Macqueen

Mmm, here's an interesting and amusing blog with Private Eye and Popbitch connections, click here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Morrissey declares war on NME

A delicious row brews between Morrissey and the NME – he’s on the cover this week adorned with his own words on the topics of immigration and floodgates. “Oh dear, not again,” sighs the mag. Shouldn’t this have been, “Oh goody! More PR for the NME!”? The interview itself confirms Moz’s view that logistically it’s probably unwise to let the entire world move into the UK but the NME takes this as code for darker sentiments even though he backs its Love Music Hate Racism campaign.

Now my attention is drawn to Morrissey’s website – oh dear, Big Mouth is awfully upset, and with reason if we are to believe the piece therein penned by Moz’s agent Merck Mercuriadis. His tale of what NME’s editor Conor McNicholas said one minute and then did the next is, prima facie, curious to say the least – it appears he only confirmed that the magazine would be tough on the star and his opinions when it was too late to injunct the issue, having first denied a hatchet job. Legal threats are made by Moz’s front, and a lawyer’s letter to Conor (“Not for publication") is published. Could it be that Moz will sue NME?

Let us examine the interview. It follows the lazy Q‘n’A format (I can get away with it because my stuff’s free) but has a caveat-style intro in which we are alerted to Moz’s “belligerence” on the topic of immigration. Contrary to NME’s testimony, he does not “steer” the conversation to the topic of immigration, but rather is slyly led there with such questions as “You live in Italy now. Would you ever consider moving back to Britain?” Ah, yes, I know that old trick; it’s artfully done. Moz’s basic message is more Laurie Lee rosy tints than BNP; a sentimental elegy for an imagined lost England: it’s the curse of age and is usually cured by a bout of hard sex with a stranger. The Q‘n’A is then interrupted by a little NME lecture about Moz’s form on immigration before the interview picks up again specifically on race and immigration. Moz repeats his concern about “floodgates”, denounces racism as “silly” and suspects he’s about to be pilloried. The interview ends with NME shaking its head in consternation at Moz’s “ravings” which make him sound like a “rogue Tory MP”.

The magazine makes clear it does not think Moz a racist. Rather, he is naïve and does not understand the effect of his words on a world he no longer understands. But damagingly a letter to Mercuriadis from the NME interviewer Tim Jonze is reprinted which reads: “I should mention that for reasons I'll probably never understand, NME have rewritten the Moz piece. I had a read and virtually none of it is my words or beliefs so I've asked for my name to be taken off it. Just so you know when you read it.” His name nonetheless appears on the piece.

I can’t think any legal complaint will succeed since interpretation is by its nature subjective and no words are made up or falsely attributed so far as I can see. But the NME ed should have risked telling Mercuriadis of its editorial treatment of the interview from the outset. Of course, no editor wants to lose a guaranteed seller, even one that’s “belligerent” on immigration.

Click here to read the Morrissey complaint

Catherine Bennett to leave the Guardian ...

... and take up residence at the Observer? If true I shall put the paper on order again. I love Bennett, she's my favourite sourpuss.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christy Brown and the celebrity wankers

I think it would be fair to say that Christy Brown is remembered today thanks chiefly to Daniel Day-Lewis’ extraordinary mimicry of the writer/painter/poet, who had cerebral palsy, in the 1989 movie My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (it won 16 film awards including two Oscars). As Georgina Louise Hambleton writes, in her new biography, Christy Brown: The Life that Inspired My Left Foot, “It still perplexes me why Christy has been forgotten as an artist. In his poetry (all of which is now out of print) and his prose, his skills as a writer are vast.”

Most probably the memory of his Herculean victory over disability crowds our perception of him; it cannot be the case that his work was elevated merely because of the circumstances of creation – given the peer raves he enjoyed during his lifetime. Critics are usually not kind, only intermittently dishonest on good days. It would be best to rediscover his work when the air of schmaltz has thinned away.

Hambleton has many wonderful stories to tell – my favourite featuring Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland. Brown met the couple when he had grown famous. After just 15 minutes of their company, he turned to his sister Ann and said, “These people are awful wankers.” Hambleton adds: “Sellers (who had ignored Christy after their initial introduction) leant over to Christy’s ‘interpreter’ and asked, somewhat pedantically, ‘What’s that he’s saying?’ Ann did not know what to say, so she thought quickly. ‘Ah, sure, I don’t know,’ she said. ‘He’s speaking Irish.’”

Christy Brown: The Life that Inspired My Left Foot, Mainstream Publishing, £15.99. Click here to order

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ben Stiller buys up Gods Behaving Badly

Great news that Ben Stiller's production company Red Hour Films has snapped up the rights to Marie Phillips' debut novel Gods Behaving Badly to turn into a TV comedy series. London-based Phillips wrote a StrugglingAuthor blog about the writing of the book before it was sold - it's a tale of the Greek gods who have been living together in a house since the 1660s, still in control of the world but dangerously bored: Aphrodite, for example, now runs a telephone sex service. A dream come true for Phillips. This reminds of the time in the mid-'90s when Robert Redford phoned up Nicholas Evans in London to secure the film rights for The Horse Whisperer. Can't say I much liked the movie; perhaps Gods Behaving Badly will turn out better.

Marie writes an entertaining blog - click here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mother Meera in UK next March

Those interested in the work of Mother Meera will have a chance to receive her darshan in London between March 27th and 30th, 2008. For further details click here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gordon's November horrors foreseen

Arcati readers will know of my keen interest in the astrology annual Old Moore's Almanack - I have been particularly impressed by its predictive accuracy on the topic of the government. It foretold a happy August (with traditional Gord-style values emphasised) but that by November the government would be in trouble with new scandals aplenty - Northern Rock and the loss of 25 million benefit files might reasonably be regarded as, er, headaches. For my last Moore's report click here.

If Moore's remains spot on, then the UK economy in 2008 will perform reasonably well even if the PM is given little credit.

Christopher Biggins and actor star in a dream

Dear Madame

I thought I must share a dream I had this morning. It could have only come about from reading your blog and watching ITV ... In fact, it was possibly more "waking nightmare" ...

The dream: I'm sitting in The Ivy with none other than Kevin Spacey and Christopher Biggins. Kevin is holding court, discussing his movie triumphs and theatre excursions. Then, he looks slowly at Biggins followed by me and adds: "And I'm also writing the lyrics to P.Diddy's new album."

At this point I become EMBARRASSED and look at my table napkin, but Biggins seizes the moment with a huge cheshire cat grin - "How prodigious!" He throws his head back and laughs like a hyena on acid.

This dream REALLY happened. What's happening to me? By the way, the Biggins in my dream was the On Safari version. Thanks for your time:).


Friday, November 23, 2007

Jonathan King writes ...

Hi Madame - seven years ago to the day I was arrested! I'm drinking a toast to celebrate as I type.

Click here

All the best, JK

Duncan Fallowell ponders his bathtime churning balls

In this week's excellent Spectator - I love to stroke my cheeks with the gorgeously sexy silky paper, inter alia - Roger Lewis lists as one of his Books of the Year Duncan Fallowell's "long-awaited hedonistic masterpiece about his visit to New Zealand, Going as Far as I Can (Profile, £12.99)." Lewis writes: "New Zealand comes across as a philistine hellhole, so Fallowell shuts himself in a motel to contemplate his knackers floating in the bath instead. You assuredly didn’t get that in Bruce Chatwin."

The phrase darling Duncan actually writes is: " ... a good long soak in the bath and
contemplation of my balls slowly churning in their sac"*. It has been brought to my attention that this is "a unremarked phenomenon," namely, "that balls in this relaxed state can often be seen to make a definite churning movement of their own accord." My male writer adds: "I can't be the only man to have noticed this [as well] but I've never seen it referred to elsewhere. Can your readers offer some input on this?"

Any New Zealanders are most welcome to contribute, btw.

*Duncan spells this as "sack" in his book for the reason he gives in comments.

To order Duncan's new book click here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Poor Zsa Zsa Gabor mugged by VF

Abusing a frail old lady is usually unthinkable in polite society. But in the case of ancient starlet Zsa Zsa Gabor, the December issue of my second favourite magazine, Vanity Fair, throws caution to the wind and gives a very good impression of a hoodie happy slapping a passing pensioner. It sets on the old glitz-bag in a most thuggish way – probably because she didn’t have a savvy agent/PR to police the copy and threaten reprisals in the first place.

The assault appears to have been provoked by gossip writer Cindy Adams’ claim that Zsa Zsa is the prisoner of her very odd and much speculated about husband, Prince Frédéric von Anhalt. “This charge greatly upset von Anhalt, the aging German stud who counts himself as Zsa Zsa's 10th husband, although she claims to have married a mere eight”, reports the magazine. So in a damage limitation exercise he called in VF’s finest cosmetic prose and picture stylists for a summit with the actress – perhaps over-estimating her personal interest in the project. The Prince tells the writer that she fears being perceived as old, or as he puts it gallantly, “She doesn't believe she's 90 years old. She says she's 82." The “interview” is brief.

VF offers a geological treatise on determining his and her age and then later reminds us of the episode in which three women robbed him in his Rolls and left him naked and bound to the steering wheel. But there may be an alternative explanation: “Several internet gossip columnists suggested that von Anhalt frequents gay cruising areas and might have picked up the wrong person,” VF scrupulously reports. Before this Zsa Zsa is “poofed” into a powder-caked vision for the pics and then ritually slaughtered – it’s no way to treat a disabled person, is it?

It’s journalism at its worst and I just wish there was more of it. Click here for fun.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cranford: The show gives good suck

“My sister doesn’t like the word suck,” said Dame Judi Dench apropos the eating of an orange, in her latest period vehicle for an award aka Cranford (Sundays, BBC1). It was the second sexiest thing about this Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation. The first sexiest thing was Dame Judi sucking on an orange in the privacy of her bedroom – she made it look like a fruity type of cunnilingus: she had already said at table that she likes to make a hole in her orange for the sucking of the juice. She was tasteful enough not to allow a dribble, that would have been too much for this otherwise twee costumed tale about a group of hymened hysterics who faint at the first squeak of a woodlouse fart. Her sister did allow herself a bit of a suck, but from neatly cut orange segments. Still, the build up will be to a romantic tumescence - spinster redemption by cock - for even in Cranford oranges are not the only fruit.

David Montgomery and his Cycle of Doom

Reading the Guardian's entertaining report on David Montgomery and his empire building across Europe in the van of the alien-sounding Mecom – buying up hundreds of regional newspapers – reminds me to remind you of the usual Monty cycle as witnessed at News International and Mirror Group:

1. The surprise move as he emerges from nowhere to take control (he's a Scorpio, see. Secretive).

2. Lots of promises not to sack anyone ie “Everyone is in place …”

3. A brilliant start – cuts impress the suits, he talks the talk to the City types, paints his visionary future. Some useful purchases made.

4. Cuts start as promises are shredded, the troops start to revolt, editor heads roll, lots of vile coverage in the media. He is described as "thin man" and his nickname Rommel revived.

5. Eccentric editorial initiatives, bizarre appointments, more sackings, horrible or scandalous diary items about his love life. But he loves opera and is a delight on the piano.

6. Media Rumours of unease among the suits – concern about editorial hostility to Monty and the feasibility of some of his ideas. Is Monty a one-man band?

7. It's not that Monty's wrong on everything, it's just he cannot get over his basic contempt for journalists. This warps everything he touches. Doubts are raised about his understanding of readers and everything's done on the cheap. People tap their temples when they speak of him in hushed tones.

8. He’s fired and scuttles off several millions of euros wealthier.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nicholas Coleridge: At home in his graveyard

Not content with reviews of his novels in Condé Nast's many gorgeous catalogues, Condé Nast MD Nicholas Coleridge has now granted an Hello!-style audience to Condé Nast's opulent The World of Interiors. In its December issue it carries a 10-page feature, entitled A Fantasy Flower, on Nicky's grand Worcestershire home, Wolverton Hall - and I must compliment him on his exquisite taste if not the pretty pics.

However, as is the Indy on Sunday media diarist, one is perturbed by signs in the home of what the paper calls "creepy personalised features". These include "Sunhats perched on antlers from a deer shot by Nicholas Coleridge" and, in the bathroom, "the mounted butterflies above the basin were netted by Nicholas Coleridge, aged 10."

My friends at PETA claim that "Violent acts towards animals have long been recognised as indicators of a dangerous psychopathy that is not limited to animal abuse." While I think we may safely conclude that Nicky poses no obvious threat to his fellow humanity - if he sticks to writing non-fiction books I may grow yet more generous - the presence of the deer's antlers on one of his walls at least connotes an affinity with old aristocratic (if not royal) pastimes. A much-deserved peerage would surely complete the illusion.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Picture of the year: Look, no tongues!

I am Spartacus I am Spartacus
I am Spartacus I am Spartacus
I am Spartacus I am Spartacus
I am Spartacus I am Spartacus
I am Spartacus I am Spartacus
I am Spartacus I am Spartacus
I am Spartacus I am Spartacus

Anthony Haden-Guest: FT gives him the FO

Is the Financial Times editor Lionel Barber the most self-important turd in "Fleet Street"? Probably not - the competition is keen - but I am appalled that he has sacked living myth the Hon Anthony Haden-Guest, as the paper's Weekend FT saleroom correspondent, for not being strictly accurate about the troubled politics at the National Gallery. Given H-G's decades as a high profile socialite and art critic, Barber could have at most demanded dinner at the Ivy at the author's expense as punishment.

Not that H-G is bleating. As he told Mediaguardian: "The allegations about Peter Scott had previously been published by both the Times and the Independent. Nonetheless I should certainly have double-checked. So I am not going to whine."

Let us hope that the FT was not perceived as the softer touch by the complainant, or as Barber put it in his Papal Bull of an email to his staff: "The FT's reputation depends on the integrity of its reporting and its unflinching commitment to accuracy." For more click here.

To acquaint yourself - if you need acquainting - with H-G, visit his website, click here.

I like Toby Young's story about H-G - whom he terms the Beast - in his excellent book-to-movie How To Lose Friends & Alienate People. The Beast and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (and family) fell out while strolling on the latter's Connecticut estate. One of Carter's kids spotted a silver coin in a stream. "Where?" asked H-G. "There," replied the boy. At that the writer waded into the water and pocketed the treasure. "Aren't you going to give that to my son?" asked Carter. H-G replied: "No fear, finder's keepers."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heather Mills: Two bitch superstars (and a dog)

Michele and Bijou. David is elsewhere

I am pleased to see that Heather Mills McCartney's new global PR Michele Elyzabeth has put on the moderator on her Heather blog at long last – I am most impressed. She has also wisely removed all the tabloid-driven commenter bile and replaced it with a confetti of lovely healing thoughts with only the slightest sign of demurral to Heather’s gospel – this too is wise: it gives the impression of free-speech (a childish notion in net world).

I think I may like Michele who has a dog called Bijou and a gay hairdresser called David. In contrast to Heather’s last PR, the Yoda-ish Phil Hall who understands how thin-skinned the average hack is, Michele vlogs weekly rants at the media as Bijou looks on with a sad countenance. Some media pundits are saying that Heather has made another big boob with Michele, but I’m not so sure. I did suggest in a previous posting that perhaps she could improve her image with some humour and self-parody. I think Heather has just found herself the perfect lightning rod.

And so to the Michele vlogs. In the first she appears without Bijou and announces in what may be a French accent: “I am sick and tired of all the lies about Heather.” She promises to “take apart” lying articles every week. True to her word she then launches into a splenetic attack on Barbara Walters and her show The View over claims Heather cancelled an appearance. Not true you bastards! And of Walters’ broadcast opinion that Heather is a "difficult woman", Michele explains that this defamation arose because Heather had the audacity to ask "for water at room temperature” when she appeared on Barbara's show earlier. "Heather had a tooth pulled that day so she was sensitive and in any case water at room temperature is a healthy option," Michele adds. With regretful pathos she sighs: “Walters was a fabulous journalist who got famous and became this storyteller of ... tabloid magazine” (sic).

Vlog 2 is even better. Here Michele appears with David on a sofa. Bijou sits between the drama queens and falls asleep to Michele's caresses. “If Heather were a man she’d be considered strong,” drawls David. They then both crucify a galère of anti-Heather villains including the Daily Mail and Perez Hilton – of the latter Michele says: “He drew something disgusting over Heather’s picture. He took someone else’s name to get famous. ” David responds: “That’s because he’s a nobody”.

The pair reveal their true glorious colours though when they bitch about someone called Joy Behar who slagged off Heather on The View. David: “She laughed about Heather’s leg, about a disability. I mean, I don’t laugh that Joy is 30 pounds overweight, has bad colour and needs a facelift.” To this Michele screeches and Bijou cocks up a fluffy ear. The show ends with a dodgy claim by David that Sir Paul’s “big PR machine” has shut down a lot of Heather’s charity work. Oh, more, more please.

It is plain to me that Michele and David must be given their own talk show PRONTO. They are brilliant. Like true stars they take the media seriously and aren't ashamed to customise their rage to the needs of the payer - a symptom of what some call loyalty. Two fabulous motormouth bitches! And little Bijou! Heather, I love you for bringing these people into our lives. I hope you get $100m from Macca. You have earned it in my view.

Catch Michele and David yourselves, click here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tony Blair unpaid - a confirmation

The excellent Times diarist Hugo Rifkind reports today that Tony Blair's Middle East envoy role for the Quartet is unpaid. "I'm sure we have said this before," a bewildered spokesman for the former PM tells Hugo. But he begs to differ. Actually, back in June, Sky News reported that the role was expected to be unpaid, click here. But it's nice to be reminded.

Heather Mills: New PR may not last long ...

Heather Mills has appointed a new worldwide PR to replace Phil Hall - one exotic Michele Elyzabeth who has aristocratic pretensions and a new Heather blog unwisely unmoderated. The result is a cascade of atrociously insulting anti-Heather comments from the net's gabby anonymice - along the lines of "Crazy hires crazy", "She's only famous because she sucked a Beatle's dick" and "Why doesn't she take off her stump and knock you both over the head". Oh dear, this is not good PR at all, unless it's an experiment to measure the level of tabloid-driven bile directed at the embattled Lady Macca. Whatever, read up for yourself, click here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Observer and Guardian disagree on homeophobia

In the Guardian, novelist Jeanette Winterson soberly tackles the tricky subject of homeophobia – the fear and loathing of homeopathy, that is. She relates how while staying at a remote cottage in Cornwall she ran a temperature of 102, had spots on her throat, was delirious. And she had a book to finish. Her “desperate” publisher suggested she call the homeopath Hilary Fairclough who sent round a remedy called Lachesis, made from snake venom. “Four hours later I had no symptoms whatsoever.” (I believe this piece first appeared in The Times in 2004). She finishes: “We should be careful of dismissing the testimony of millions who say the remedies have worked for them.”

For once I have no firm view to offer – by temperament I am too impatient for results. And homeopathy, by my understanding, works slowly and subtly, if at all (Winterson’s rapid symptomatic relief surprises me). Zap me with the chemicals and I’m all yours (reluctantly). But it intrigues me that the piece has been resurrected in the Guardian when its sister paper the Observer only very recently ran a Nick Cohen homeophobic piece in which Hilary Fairclough got a kicking over claims that homeopathy can help in the treatment of Aids. “Of all the pseudo-sciences on offer, homeopathy is the most obviously spurious,” Cohen asserted, in the way Christopher Hitchens promises his flock that there is no god.

I see no reason why The Guardian and The Observer should not run contrary pieces – it’s very fair-minded of them – if a little redolent of their opposing stances on Iraq. Being all things - if done intelligently - is a very attractive commercial proposition.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nicky Haslam, Russell Brand and frying old boobs

Fish was right – publication of Nicky Haslam’s Redeeming Features: A Memoir has been postponed from November 1 to January 3. How annoying for Weidenfeld and Nicolson to miss out on the Christmas prezzie rush, and for me. I was getting sooooooooooo excited at the prospect of learning more of Tallulah Bankhead’s infatuation with him – she loved public schoolboys as I think MI5 discovered in their trawls and she may have even yielded to some under-age cock, the dirty cow.

So, instead I have to read Russell Brand’s tiresome “memoirs”, My Booky Wook, serialised in the gorgeously celebrity-obsessed Guardian (shouldn't it be restyled The Guardian! ?). His prose style stirs up Henry Miller as realised by Ken Dodd – “I didn't understand what I was witnessing, but by jingo, I knew I liked it," he writes. "Dumbstruck, I sat looking at the women, their hair, each strand identifiable as it responded to a fan that had been placed there to elicit exactly the reaction I felt in my pantaloons.” The extract I read today chronicled his sex addiction and its treatment at the KeyStone clinic. “In Hong Kong, I was naked and shy about my body. I had trouble getting hard, and the blow job seemed daft, not sexual, just giggly and intrusive.” It's all very tattyfilarious and I'm sure Guardianistas will appreciate this smutty excursus. To read click here.

For class I sought out the American former supermodel Janice Dickinson, currently residing in a downunder jungle on I’m A Celebrity. Of Lynne Franks she said: “I’m going to stab her in the middle of the night. You don’t think I’m kidding, I’ll eat her tits. I’ll fry up those big old boobs.” My kind of bitch.

Jonathan King: Pessimistic about Euro Appeal Contest

Jonathan King has replied to a new star on the Madame Arcati reality blog show (re: King's appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction for sex attacks on teen boys). The pseudonymous Feodor quoted King on his site as saying: “[I] proved I could not have committed 4 of the 6 offences". Feodor replied: "So, the man implicitly admits having committed two of them, doesn't he? Enough said." Jonathan King writes:

"Feodor "doh" - the other (more obvious conclusion to those without tunnel vision) is the correct one - that I could not prove my innocence on the other two false claims. It is hard to prove you didn't do something 25 years earlier, especially when there is no proof that you did, but one person's word is enough for the legal system.

"Madame - sadly I would predict (though my crystal ball is rather cloudy) total failure in Europe as in the UK system. Once a Vile Pervert always a Vile Pervert. The truth is less important these days."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Are you a left-brainer or a right-brainer?

Quick test for you - which side of your brain do you use more, right or left? To find out with a simple at-a-glance test (is the model moving clockwise or anti-clockwise?), click here. (I'm a right-brainer apparently)

Norman Mailer: 'I think masturbation is bad ...

"I wouldn't say all people who masturbate are evil, probably I would even say that some of the best people in the world masturbate. But I am saying it is a miserable activity ... Masturbation is bombing. It's bombing oneself."
From An Impolite Interview with Paul Krassner, collected in Pieces and Pontifications.

Jonathan King wins right to appeal to Europe

Jonathan King has won his right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction for sex attacks on teenage boys. To read more click here. King on the appeal, click here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


... In a class of his own. The current series of The X Factor may as well end now.

Karl Lagerfeld and his odd bedtime habits

Tatler editor Geordie Greig's interview with Chanel's legendary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld in the magazine's December issue is faintly fawning to say the least, and it left me a little confused on the matter of the subject's bedtime habits, described in regal detail.

We learn that Karl sleeps in a long white nightdress, in a room with no curtains, for seven hours every night, "like clockwork". But before Hypnos carts him off to oblivion, Karl reads "two pages in bed before the book falls on his face." Karl adds: "I then read in the early morning" even though, as Geordie relates immediately afterwards, "he is woken by light and hunger". That he reads rather than breakfasts first thing is an example to me of admirable masochism.

But let us think this routine through. So, Karl lies in bed, presumably on his back with the book in his hands held above his face. This then crashes onto his face as he nods off. Would this not wake him up? - I take it he's not under sedation. I suppose it depends on the weight of the tome. A slim novella by Ian McEwan or Susan Hill might not make much impression on unconsciousness, but what if it was a fat Nicholas Coleridge hardback novel or anything by Tolstoy? This would surely bring Karl around with a start, and squash his nose too.

Perhaps we should assume that Karl's steepled arms descend gently and smoothly as consciousness ebbs away - he is elegance personified, after all - like one of those rickety elevators in ancient department stores (Debenhams usually) heading south, so that the book enjoys a soft landing. But if awareness ebbs away then we must also assume that he does not actually read the two pages unless he means that his lights go out precisely at the moment he reaches the last word on the second page, Pavlov style. This is most unlikely. I fear that Mr Lagerfeld probably stops reading well before he has turned his first page as drowsiness sets in. Mystery novels must remain a mystery to him, if this is the case.

But even if we accept this two-page claim, are we then to believe that the King of Chic sleeps his seven hours and then awakes with a book spread-eagled upon his visage, like some vampiric bat seeking to infect a new recruit for Vlad? Can you imagine a more absurd sight, accompanied we may suppose by the slightest rumble of a snore beneath? Happily, as Geordie loyally explains: "[Karl] does not take himself too seriously."

Geordie's top 10 Lagerfeld arselicks from the Tatler interview

1 "Lagerfeld is a man of supreme sophistication, charm and power"
2 "And supreme taste"
3 "He massacres hypocrisy and cant"
4 "He is a man of supreme politeness and decorum"
5 "No other designer seems to inspire such adulation"
6 "Pretension is his bugbear"
7 "With a clear conscience, he sleeps long and easy"
8 "He doesn't do anything as banal as translated books" (because he reads in four languages)
9 "His workload is Herculean"
10 "He is courteous, charming, gentle and yet incisive"

To acquaint yourself with the master click here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

John Barrowman, his memoirs and anatomical pics

Torchwood and Doctor Who star John Barrowman has just completed his autobiography, Anything Goes, with the help of ghostwriter, sister Carole, I learn. It's due out next February or March from Michael O'Mara after his well-earned break in South Africa.

But what's this I hear of him taking pics of a huge part of his anatomy on the set of Torchwood, having the images blown up and then stuck up put on the wall of a certain Torchwood set? Perhaps the poppet will get in touch and explain himself.

Madame Arcati is a great fan of Mr Barrowman - he will become a global superstar through movies I predict - and is pleased to learn that the stitching in another area of his anatomy is holding firm.

Nesta Wyn Ellis replies to Lavinia ...

Paris-based author and singer Nesta Wyn Ellis caught sight of a comment from commenter Lavinia and asked me to put up this response:

I have never heard of Lavinia, except that there is a rather nouveau riche pretentious wine chain here in Paris by this name. As for Lavinia's comment, the reason that I am not known in Paris is that I keep my life here a complete secret and my concerts, and social rendezvous, are entirely private and by invitation only.

Sorry "Lavinia" if you are one of the hoi polloi who never gets an invitation. My reason for coming to live in Paris was to keep my life entirely private and free of malicious comment in newspapers by freelance nonentities such as yourself, perhaps? As for Madame Arcati, she's a doll and a confidante and very much my valued friend.


Best love,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Del Toro to direct The Champions movie

Great news that Mexican movie director Guillermo Del Toro is to make the movie version of Sixties’ TV sci-fi show, The Champions. Remember it? It featured one beautiful man (Stuart Damon), one beautiful girl (Alexandra – I want to say Bastardo – but, no, I mean Bastedo) and then one not-so-beautiful man (William Gaunt): all playing agents endowed with supernatural gifts and working for some international outfit called Nemesis.

The ejaculatory, spraying city fountains in the opening credits sequence were the one thing that impressed my child’s eye; the paranormal bits of course I took to be entirely natural, what with me being a precocious and witchy Madame Arcati and all. I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. I didn’t realise then just how dull life is for most wretches.

Del Toro is perfect for this project: a master of the schlock-free other-worldly. If you’ve not seen Pan’s Labyrinth yet, then get the DVD. It was my movie of the year last year; a literal fairy story set in Fascist Spain of 1944, featuring a most wonderful and sinister faun (pictured) among so many other underworld creatures – but none so dreadful as some of the pathological human beasts. Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, set during the Spanish Civil War of ’39, is also hugely impressive: a creepy ghost film fusion of the political and fantastical and allegorical.

What Del Toro will make of The Champions - which he will write, direct and produce - I can’t guess. It has to be a big tentpole movie because of the promise of super-action, but I don’t doubt he will add many new things, make it adult but not at the expense of fun and just a teensy bit of profundity.

For more on the old The Champions click here.

Stereophonics' Kelly Jones: 'Din with Keyser Söze'

One of my darlingest sources sends me this delightful item from the excellent freebie Metro London newspaper. It's an interview with singer Kelly Jones of Stereophonics and one part goes like this:

Did Kevin Spacey know your songs?
Yeah, he did. We met when I did a gig for the Prince’s Trust at St James’s Palace. He took us out for dinner to Madame Jojos and the Met Bar; that was the first time we went there. The boys in the band thought he was after me…

Did you think he was?
No, as far as I was concerned, I was out for a drink with Keyser Söze. We didn’t become pals.

Heather Mills McCartney: Crime claim against Sun?

Glad to see Heather Mills McCartney has no regrets about her various attacks on the British press last week. On GMTV this morning she claimed that a Sun journalist had approached a man in Newcastle offering him money to make up a story against her - "It could be a criminal matter," she said, "we have a statement from the man." This is most interesting and I shall watch with interest.

I liked the fact she kept calm this time and didn't whinny on a top note to suggest an imminent blub - she's not one for tears is Heather. She also wished Macca well in his new relationship with "US millionairess" Nancy Shevell saying it was no one's business but his. Some ancient alleged Mafia link with her dad's company adds juiciness.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sophie Dahl and those pesky gene-jeanies

Novelist and supermodel Sophie Dahl – or Dahling as some bitches like Arcati have a habit of saying – is all over the place right now with the release of her first full-length work of fiction, Playing with the Grown-ups. Whereas most writers must face the cruel fate of oblivion, Dahl’s more rarefied excruciation is the reverse of the common experience, hereditary celebrity and its remorseless trivialisation of her person and work.

It was the Indy editor Simon Kelner who encapsulated Sophie’s predicament with inadvertent and cruel efficiency in his GQ December Food column, following his delicious lunch with her (she had the smoked salmon and Jerusalem artichokes). He wrote: “For her career as a writer, the genes look good. As I watched her stride across the Aldwych after lunch, I thought the jeans don’t seem too bad either.”

Ah, yes the genes and the jeans. Never mind about the book! Every profile and interview rehearses the genealogy: Sophie’s mother is Tessa, the daughter of Roald and actress Patricia Neal; and her father is Julian Holloway, son of actor Stanley Holloway. Not just all this but Sophie was the inspiration for the Sophie character in Roald’s The BFG! Poor Sophie! It’s not her fault that she sounds like a walking ad for a benign form of Eugenics – popular in some areas of the media, broadsheets and glossy mags especially.

Her natal stardom leads to a kind of social determinism: her Wikipedia entry announces simply that she was “discovered by Isabella Blow on a London street at the age of 18.” Oh, OK. Just like that. Like you do. Crisp abbreviation lends a Mosaic quality to the tale; it was meant to be. It was ordained by ongoing, ambient success.

Then there are the jeans, the other thread – so to speak – of Sophie’s story (ie, the other big excuse not to discuss her fiction) which takes us back to her supermodel days – she did the Vogue cover for November, by the way – and at some point lately pint-sized jazz star Jamie Cullum gets a name-check (see pics of little man and tall woman). The lines of glittery detail are snorted up with tremendous relish – tragically to be repeated for Sophie’s entire life and in her obits - and, oh, she’s written a book!

To add to the distraction is the fact that she’s represented in the UK by that literary party Zelig, Ed Victor, the big agent man ever in search of the next buzz, buzz, buzz. You think: Yes, I see the sparkle, I can smell the sparklers' fume; yes, I concede the superior genes and jeans, but can any literary talent withstand such irrelevant heft? Wouldn’t even a very serious talent be compromised by sooooooooooo much trivia? Discuss.

Of course what one must do is read Sophie’s book to separate the genes from the jeans. Actually, I can’t be bothered because the hype puts me off. I did however read a short extract from Playing with the Grown-ups on Bloomsbury’s website: this establishes that she can write. But if I didn’t know it was the work of Sophie Dahl, would I be bothered? Would any publisher/journalist really be bothered? The question is the answer.

But this shouldn’t be read as a put-down of Sophie's writing talent – even “smart end of average” is a compliment on this site. If she wants to discover whether she can be taken seriously as a writer, my unsolicited advice to her is this: Dump star-fucking Ed, dump the family history (make all interviews contingent on no mention of Roald, Pat, Tessa, Jamie et al), refuse any picture poses and ban all model illustrations and insist that 90% of the interview is just about the work in hand. Only then will you know whether it’s your book, your genes or your jeans that’s the real point of interest.

To read the extract from Sophie's novel, click here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Heather! Get yourself on Ross pronto!

The PR Mark Borkowski gives sensible advice to Heather Mills McCartney in today's Guardian after shaking his head at her TV antics of last week. He even tries to explain to her the "emotional roles" celebrities play in the wretched lives of the public. First, stars provide a "mythical narrative that the fan can follow and identify with" (very true, as my studies of Spacey fans have revealed). Second, stars can "function as an empty screen on to which fans can project their dreams." He adds: "The slightest deviation from these prescribed roles provokes enormous rage." In other words, she should have just put up with the press shit because, let's face it, we want her to be Cruella.

Mr Borkowski is one of our shrewder PRs - Madame Arcati might yet put him on a retainer! But there is one way in which a celebrity can tear away the binds of media central casting. It's called self-parody. Send yourself up - surprise your public with a display of comic self-knowingness - and a whole new life may await you.

The trick is to get yourself on a show where you can be mercilessly sent up, thereby burying the old myth. The show has to be pretty hot - ie very cool - to achieve image conversion. Until recently anything associated with Ricky Gervais might have done the trick - ask Les Dennis who has not looked back since he appeared in Gervais' Extras in a piece of self-crucifying irony. The Simpsons is also a great place to shape-shift the PR: get yourself cartoonised, have yourself slotted into a zeitgeist narrative animation, and the public will look upon you with eyes afresh (except it didn't really work for Blair - he was too far gone by the time of his 'tooning).

Talk shows may help, but you have to be careful. A spot on Graham Norton might just do the trick if you can withstand his porno theatre of cruelty. Jonathan Ross is a better bet since he still cleverly sides with the stars while taking the gentle piss, loudly. If Heather could be persuaded to swallow the bitter pills of his scabrous humour - "So, Heather, what was it about a pop icon billionaire that appealed to you," etc etc - and if she could just hold her face together in a pose of amused tolerance, well, perhaps even the Sun might lay off. Eventually.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Zac Efron cock shock pic poll result!! It's a fake!!

In a shock blog poll result commissioned by the Madame Arcati personality construct, 58% of her global reading public have voted that this picture of Zac Efron's cock and balls is a Photoshopped fake!

Only 26% thought this pictorial display of the singing-acting star's masculine crown jewels was for real. Ten per cent generously concluded that the image captured "something of the actual" while a mean 6% thought it "nothing like the actual".

Madame Arcati commented: "Not much gets past my public - as seasoned size queens, they can spot a phony once it's pointed out to them."

However, critics of the much-maligned Madame savaged this latest blog poll. The Francophone Quebecian calling himself Duralex said, as he wiped away drama queen froth from his lips with a Man Size Kleenex: "Mon dieu! Madame has completely humiliated herself this time - suicide is the only answer!! Aux grands maux, les grands remèdes - or as the great philosopher Duralex père once said (via Babel Fish): 'Fuck me! I never thought I would enjoy pleasuring myself so much at the expense of another.'" Duralex fils added: "I am emailing Stephanie Mastini and all of Madame's other friends to announce her death - this is the blog equivalent of a life-changing tsunami!!!!!! Je me écrème dans mon pantalon!!!!!"

Another critic, Lorenzo, was fast asleep when called by reporters - his mother said to call back later. "Shhhhh! The masturbator lazy it is full of paste," she helpfully explained (according to Babel Fish). "È un muscolo Mary."

And the Francophone Claire issued a statement: "J'aime sucer le robinet du Duralex" (as translated by Babel Fish). For more on this incomparable translation service click here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jack Ewing: The truth about Randy and Kevin

Jack Ewing is Randy Fowler's ghost writer - or memoirist (see below) - and a fellow resident of Boise, Idaho. Jack is the man who helped pull together Randy's unpublished life story that has so exercised the minds of Kevin Spacey fans when in fact the actor is just a minor player in the book.

Jack is a fascinating one-man industry of prose - he claims to have written 100 million words in his long career as fiction writer, copywriter, encyclopaedist and much much more. Despite my idiotic initial rudeness he agreed to an email interview in which he dilates on ghost writing, the Fowler family, porn fiction, cats, Boise ... and he sends an invitation to Kevin Spacey.

Hello Mr Ewing! First, I apologise again for referring to Boise, Idaho - your home town - as "fucking cunting". It was most uncalled for - I thought you were ignoring my email requests for an interview when in fact the email on your site was not working - so, sorry.

I've said worse things about Boise from time to time; it has its faults, though it's scenic and the weather is quite temperate. Boise is not really my home town, per se, but my wife and I have lived here since 1980, having moved from upstate New York.

Now, you're Randy Fowler's ghost writer. Is that still the case? I understand a 90,000-word draft was completed ....

Ghostwriter is probably a misnomer, since that designation is usually applied to someone who writes anonymously for another person (which I have certainly done before). Since my name appears on the book cover, I would more correctly be called Randy's biographer or memoirist, in which capacity I completed a 90,000-word draft in the fall of 2003, more than six months before the infamous Spacey incident in the London park that precipitated the MAIL ON SUNDAY article.

Is it likely to be published do you think? Why has it not been published or even self-published? The title has changed over time - it used to be called "Out Of The Closet". Which do you prefer?

In an environment where nearly a half-million books are brought out annually in America and Great Britain alone, and where the major publishing companies are owned by a handful of entities that accept manuscripts only from agents, publishing is a crapshoot.

Randy and I both felt the book stood a better chance of publication through agent representation, but so far, that has not come to pass. Between 2003 and 2006, I sent out more than 120 queries to agents. Some 8 or 10 asked asked for a proposal or the complete manuscript (about one-third were impolite enough to never respond at all). None of them offered to represent the book. While many rejectors expressed
interest in the subject matter--which revolves around the sexual abuse Randy was subjected to, and its aftereffects, which continue to resonate to this day-- the most common complaint was that there's not enough material included about Kevin Spacey (a relatively minor character in the book who, through an accident of birth, happens to be related to the biographical subject). This reaction was not entirely
unexpected, since, as far as I am aware, there is currently no book-length work about the enigmatic actor available on the market.

It was a mutual marketing decision to include Spacey's name and image on the cover, in hopes of attracting attention (echoing statements Spacey is alleged to have made to Randy upon hearing his brother was contemplating writing a book, along the lines of, "Who'd want to read about you?" and "The only way your book would sell is with my picture on the cover.") Randy and I both now agree that was a mistake, and the revised version (currently in progress)--though it will inescapably contain some information about Kevin in the course of detailing Randy's life--will have neither Spacey's name nor picture on the cover.

The book, with the title SPACEY'S BROTHER: OUT OF THE CLOSET, was in fact produced (Randy did the layout) as a CD, which was subsequently registered with the US Copyright Office in 2005. The CD, which was vetted by a lawyer, was never released because of certain legal concerns that will be dealt with in revision.

I believe a major hurdle to publication is the difficulty of producing the manuscript in its present form: the book includes more than 800 photos (out of Randy's archive of some 12,000 images), most never before seen, which accompany and illustrate the narration throughout. The number of images will undoubtedly have to be drastically reduced and grouped to defray publisher production costs.

Self-publication is, I suppose, always an option, but there's typically little profit in that route; I'm used to earning money for my writing, and Randy would like to be compensated for the hell his parents put him through.

The title of the work has indeed changed over time. Originally, it was BROTHERS SPLIT BY SECRETS. The title I prefer will be the final one, which has not yet been determined.

How long did it take to write? Could you give us some idea of how you worked with Randy - did he for instance just talk into a dictaphone, or did you edit his words? You're a fast writer I guess ....

The book took about six months to write. Randy initially recorded his story on about 50 two-hour audio cassettes, which I spent the first month transcribing to have a written record of the raw facts. As the writing progressed, I also met with Randy two or three times per week to go over the material, to obtain further details, to ask specific questions, and to occasionally argue about what should or should not be included. I usually gave him new chapters as they were finished for comment, additions, deletions, etc.

The book, in its present form, contains most of the incidents he related, though I completely rewrote most scenes to give them dramatic structure and impact. I totally reorganized the narrative, conducted research into his family history (little of which had originally been included), interviewed some of the key figures (there
will be more of these in the next version) added material from family documents, devised chapter headings (which, appropriate to his main profession as a musician, consisted of song titles), and provided transitions from scene to scene. The resultant story is completely Randy's, the storytelling style is primarily mine.

I notice you're born under the sign of Aquarius - I have discovered that Aquarians tend to be highly idealistic, independent, sometimes stubborn but free-thinkers ... recognise the description?

Yes, I'm afraid I exhibit all of those qualities to some degree, though I put little stock in astrology as a science. I'm not as idealistic as I was in my youth, not as independent as I'd hoped to be, more single-minded than stubborn, and my thought processes are based on logic rather than emotion, which often places me in opposition to mainstream society.

How did you and Randy get together on his memoirs project? Can you say what he wanted to achieve in having the book done?

Randy and I first met in early 1995, just after I'd resigned my position as creative director at an advertising agency--my fourth agency since 1973-- to return to full-time freelancing. He had set up shop as a commercial video producer, and I was looking for work.

We hit it off (I had extensive marketing/advertising experience, he had valuable contacts from working in the entertainment industry), and collaborated on a number of projects. I wrote scripts for television commercials and videos, other freelancers shot footage and composed original music, and Randy coordinated the projects and put the finished products together.

When we first met, Randy was a hard-working, hyperactive, angry, bitter, obsessive-compulsive, tense person (one of those, as the saying goes, who wears his clothes out from the inside.) If he had not been blessed with such redeeming features as obvious musical and artistic talent, technical/computer skills, a self-deprecating sense of humor, and a quick--if undisciplined--mind, I doubt we would have become friends; we are nothing alike in temperament, lifestyles or most interests (though we share a fondness for cats). Over time, as we worked on various projects, Randy's story slowly came out. I believe it was in 2001 that he first revealed the full extent of what had happened to him as a child, mentioned he'd been contemplating a book, and asked me to write it for him. I was enough taken by the idea (I had a wholly ordinary childhood, nurtured and encouraged by loving, caring parents, so how he managed to cope with his experience without undergoing formal therapy or without turning destructive fascinated me) and by Randy's dynamic personality, that I agreed to do it. It took him another two years to record his narrative. Contrary to my longstanding practice of undertaking professional writing jobs for an hourly or flat fee or retainer (none of which Randy could afford), I agreed to work on a speculative basis, toward a small percentage of whatever revenues eventually might be realized from the finished product or related income from the project. (My only earnings so far have been a cut of the fee Randy was paid for the interview in the MAIL. Randy also put together my web site.)

I'm no psychologist, but I think Randy needed to tell his story because he was in psychic pain and wanted it to stop. Something terrible and traumatic happened to him as a child, perpetrated by his own parents, and his life thereafter--his career choices, his relationships, his attitudes--was adversely affected until, only as an adult, could he come to grips with the fact that the sexual abuse he endured was the root cause of all his pent-up frustration.

Baring his soul in the book has, in my opinion, had a cathartic effect. He's a much calmer, more directed, accepting person than when I first met him (though he's still compulsive and impulsive, and while he's at heart a kind and generous and sincere person, he'll probably never be what would be termed mellow). Even after a dozen years, I still find Randy a compelling character: a hard and punctual worker, a snappy dresser, a man with genuine magnetism who attracts instant attention wherever he goes. I don't know whether it's the hair, the chiseled features, the ready smile, the flamboyant clothing, the jewelry, the scrawny body, his world-weary yet childlike nature, or some undefinable aura, but he has the capability of drawing women of all ages in particular. Under different circumstances, I firmly believe he could have been the major star of the Fowler family; he may yet be.

On your website you say you've written 100 million words in your life; and you list an extraordinary number of companies you have written for. Which was your favourite job? And the least?

This question is a toughie for me. Every job is different from the last one; each presents a new challenge: how best to present the features of a product or service as benefits to the consumer? (In the ad industry, this is called finding the unique selling proposition--what can you say about your product that the competition can't?)

Since I began writing ads, I've built a reputation for putting a lot of thought into each project; I typically think about an ad for much longer than it takes to write. Once I've established a sound concept--often structured around a persuasive headline or opening line--an ad practically writes itself. So, my favorite jobs--the bulk of my work, fortunately, which fills an entire spare bedroom--are those done for clients who trust my expertise enough to give me the facts and turn me loose, letting me work without interference. A few examples of projects I'm particularly proud of:

* A newspaper ad for a car dealership featuring
the owner, a man named Norm, pictured in
typical salesman's attire.
HEADLINE: "Norm's not normal."

* A magazine ad for a gift shop, spotlighting
a cow's-head lamp.
HEADLINE: "Mooooooood lighting."

* A book commissioned for Albertsons
supermarkets' 50th anniversary, which I
researched and wrote.

* A book I researched and wrote for
salesmen of Oneida Silversmiths on the
history of porcelain and silverware.

* A contest I devised for hundreds of Pizza Hut
restaurants in 8 western states, the "Smelling
Bee," which through a variety of media centered
around giveaways of rubber animal noses to

* A humorous poster for Ore-Ida, introducing
their new potato wedges, which claimed that
the product was the result of experiments
produced by the avid golfers of the R&D

* And finally, a pro bono billboard project,
warning men on the prowl in Syracuse, New York,
that some of the local women of the night were
actually undercover policewomen.
The traffic-stopping (literally) headline:
"Is she a cop, sucker?"

The few unsatisfying jobs are those in which a well thought-out concept was diluted or destroyed by some corporation's anal-retentive personnel--technical staff, lawyers, administrators--who left their fingerprints all over the project in the process of squeezing out the creativity. Luckily, virtually all such projects carried a high price tag, and my dissatisfaction was assuaged by a fat check. As a freelancer--as opposed to an agency employee--I have the luxury of refusing projects where the client won't relinquish the creative control for which they're contracting.

You say you didn't mind anonymity - but through Randy you're quite well known now. How do you feel about that? As a young man what did you dream of turning out as?

I'd question how well known I actually am; I'm not exactly a household name.

The great majority of my work has been performed anonymously or pseudonymously--in advertising, they rarely let you sign your work. I have earned a fair amount of recognition at industry award shows, but such fame is fleeting; the plaques tarnish and gather dust, and you're only as good as your last project.

I accepted my lot in life early. My parents were not wealthy; frugality and the value of a dollar were drummed into me as a child, and I began parlaying my talent with words into cash as a teenager. I sold my first short story (under a pen name) at age 15, my first novel (ditto) at age 17. During college, I made an excellent living writing term papers for other students--they got passing grades, and I could afford things I couldn't ordinarily buy.

While I've written more than 500 bylined articles, more than half my nearly 600 published short stories were written under noms de plume (I've always had a fondness for odd, punny pseudonyms--Luke Warmwater, Bjorn Free, Al B. Dern, Rameses Woolly, Eaton Worms, etc.) It's only in the last 15-20 years that I've attached my real name on my short and long fiction--a form of writing that compared to my regular work pays poorly but gives me great pleasure, because for better or worse the ideas contained therein are all my own. Maybe now in my dotage and more aware of my mortality, I'm finally craving a modicum of fame; now that I desire it, it's slow in coming.

Like lots of young boys given cap pistols and cowboy hats, I dreamed briefly of riding the range. In high school, I demonstrated a facility with modern languages (I was one of only a handful of students in the late 1950s studying Russian, and before the Gary Powers-U2 incident ruined things I aspired to attend school in the Soviet Union), and had notions of becoming an interpreter. In college, I added classical languages (advanced Latin and Attic Greek), with thoughts of becoming an archaeologist. Music was also a possibility--I played reeds (clarinet and saxes) from fourth grade through college, played in many dance/jazz bands, and had music scholarships before a split lower lip (18 stitches) in a car accident ruined that idea. I was also a fair schoolboy baseball player until a fractured ankle (and a half-dozen permanent bone screws) put an end to that career possibility. From the age of four, I'd enjoyed striking nouns against verbs to create sparks, so with other avenues closed, I became a professional writer by default. I'm not sorry I did.

Give us a brief description of Boise - what do you see from your window.

Sorry, but as you can see, I don't do brief, unless limited by time or space, as in a radio or TV commercial.

Boise, the City of Trees, is situated at about a half-mile in altitude, nestled in what is called the Treasure Valley. The Boise Front, foothills of the Rocky Mountains, dominate the horizon about twenty miles to the north, soaring more than a mile over the city, and the rounded peaks are typically covered deep with snow in the winter; a popular skiing area, Bogus Basin, lies there. Boise, which was a slow-paced town of about 75,000 citizens when we arrived, has grown to a bustling metropolitan area of about 200,000 today, and boasts one of the country's fastest growth rates, thanks to its scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, temperate climate, relatively low housing and utility costs and moderate tax rates. It is the state's largest city, populated largely by white, conservative Republicans; there is a high percentage of Mormons here.

Idaho's current capital--before statehood was achieved in 1890, the capital of the mineral-rich territory was located in the gold mining boomtown of Idaho City (now a village), fifty miles north--Boise is divided north and south by the Boise River, which is heavily trafficked by inner-tube floaters in the summer months; the river is paralleled for most of its length through town by a broad paved Greenbelt, used year-round by joggers, walkers, strollers, bikers and in-line skaters. The waterway is fed by a dam to the east that controls outflow from a huge, irregular reservoir tucked in a deep gorge. Idaho's vast wild, roadless areas--I believe we have the highest percentage of wilderness in the Lower 48 states, and dozens of mountains rising over 10,000 feet--begin about 25 miles northeast of town, and are accessed from narrow highways that wind through achingly beautiful, panoramic mountain scenery. On a day hike or cross-country ski outing it's possible to glimpse all sorts of native fauna in their natural habitat: raccoons, beaver, bald eagles, elk, deer, bear, cougars, coyotes, wolves, mountain bluebirds, magpies, and many birds of prey. Mountain flora are also abundant: tiny, delicate blooms in a rainbow of colors. For contrast, just beyond the city limits to the south lies high desert: rugged, rocky, sandy terrain sparsely covered by tumbleweed, bitter brush and rabbitbrush stretching bleakly into Nevada.

We have lived for the last 26 years in the single-story house we own in one of the city's older, middle-class neighborhoods, a few blocks south of the river. Boise State University, which has grown into the state's largest institution of higher learning, with about 20,000 students, begins on the south bank of the river, and has spread into the neighborhood during the last 6-7 years, in which time more than 80 duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, and similar multiple housing units have been erected to replace single-family dwellings and to accommodate the students, nearly 80 percent of whom live off-campus. The influx of hundreds of essentially transient residents--who pay no property taxes, acquire no equity, have no pride of ownership, and thus have no stake in maintaining what was once a quiet, stable neighborhood--troubles me, as someone who works out of a home office. The noise level from increased traffic and late-night parties disturbs my concentration. On-street parking is a problem. Vandalism has risen. Eventually, we'll have to move, since the city fathers seem disinclined to halt the expansion, despite paying lip service to "maintaining the character of the neighborhood."

Meanwhile, we enjoy having one of the larger yards in the neighborhood (nearly a half-acre on a corner lot), fenced to protect our current clowder of six cats--all adpoted strays; we've cared for as many as thirty at a time--from maurading dogs.

The outstanding feature of our front yard is a towering spruce tree, where juncos, finches, sparrows, hummingbirds, and other feathered friends perch between meals at the feeders that hang from the edge of our porch. From our windows in the near distance, we can watch our tilled gardens grow at the front, back and side (sweet and several varieties of very hot peppers, Roma and Better Boy tomatoes, Black Beauty and Icihiban eggplants, onions, zucchini, summer squash, and string beans all do well, and after harvest, my wife puts up many batches of spaghetti sauce, cacciatore, spicy salsa and blanched, chopped or sliced veggies that we enjoy throughout the year.) The soil is, of course, perfect for potatoes (we are probably the only state that commemorates a vegetable--"Famous Potatoes"--on our license plates). We have planted many scented roses around our yard, as well as annual bulbs, including tulips, iris and my favorites, daffodils. There are several floribunda rose bushes that cascade with brilliant red blossoms in season, permeating the air with a heady fragrance. Hyacinths, coneflowers, painted daisies, California poppies, and several creeping succulents grow wild, distracting the eye from our shrinking lawn, which despite a sprinkler system, tends to turn brown during the long, hot, dry summers.

In the far distance are the mountains, and to the east the mesa-like Table Rock, where a huge lighted cross stands like a beacon in the night. Above, the sky is usually an infinite cerulean blue most of the year (except when we suffer infrequent temperature inversions, when the bowl of the valley is covered with smog). Sunsets are long and spectacular, featuring gold, lavendar and salmon hues. On rare occasions, the Northern Lights flicker fitfully. On cold, crisp nights, the stars and planets are especially bright and distinct.

You wrote some erotica in your early adulthood - could you give us a line from one of the three books?

That's one thing I can't do. The books were written 45 years--and millions of words--ago. The books have been out of print for decades, and I haven't had my contributor's copies for a long time (I gave them away because I was afraid my late mother would discover them and disapprove of how I was wasting my talent: "No son of mine would write such trash," she would say.) You'll just have to use your R-rated imagination.

You say you write 10 hours a day. Did I get that right? What's been recently published?

Since 1970, I have been at the keyboard--manual typewriter, electric typewriter, word processor or computer--virtually every day. Depending upon the paying workload, I typically work for 8-14 hours. With tight deadlines, I've been known to work for more than 30 hours straight, especially during the political season (up to the mid-1990s, I wrote complete campaigns--radio, TV, brochures, flyers, donation cards, banners, yard signs, bumper stickers, speeches, white papers, etc.--for a wide variety of candidates, including US Senators and Congresspersons, governors, lieutenant governors, mayors, councilmen, and lesser lights; luckily those exceeding long hours are behind me). For the last 40+ years, I've produced 2-3 million words annually, at the rate of 5,000-10,000 words per day. About 95 percent of what I write gets published in one form or another. You can find my bylined nonfiction work in a number of local, regional, and national publications (they are enumerated under "Client List" on my web site). Some of my recent short fiction can be found by Googling my name; 10 or 12 of these stories are reproduced in entirety on my site. A long story, "A Wet One," can be found in the anthology, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF ON THE ROAD (2002). Two of my mystery novels, FREAK-OUT (2000) and KISSING ASPHALT (2002) are obtainable through Amazon or other online booksellers.

More recently, I've been invited to contribute to a number of reference works. I wrote about 450 author biographies (five percent of the total work) for the online subscription work, the Literary Reference Center (2006), a dozen or two long articles for the 20th anniversary edition of the Critical Analysis of Mystery and Detective Fiction (2007), contributed annotated articles and essays to McGill's Survey of World Literature, and Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century (both 2008), and am currently researching and writing for the revised edition of Masterplots II: African American Literature (2008).

Please complete this sentence: To be a good ghost writer you have to be...

Exceedingly patient (because clients often don't know what they really want or need), even-tempered (because subjects can be volatile), an excellent listener (especially attuned to what's not being said), a sharp interrogator (to draw out the hidden facts that can provide real interest), and an efficient organizer (because a straight linear narration is not always the best option) with the ability to subvert your own ego for the sake of the project.

Back to Randy - do you think he will ever make up with his brother Kevin? What impressions did you form of the two men?

If the brothers never make up, it's certainly not because of Randy. He continues to reach out to Kevin, only to get his hand ignored or slapped away. Maybe at some point Kevin will make an effort to reconcile--in my opinion, he has no real reason to maintain his distance, since Randy has never done anything to earn his enmity--but I wouldn't hold my breath. One of the Fowler family's main characteristics is extreme stubbornness; another is deniability.

My impressions of Randy can be gleaned from what I wrote of him above. I've never met or spoken directly to Kevin. (Years ago, I did leave a message on his New York answering machine when Randy was struggling to maintain his video production enterprise, as a friend and colleage of his brother trying to persuade Kevin to help finance Randy's business; soon afterward, Kevin sent Randy a check, but that could have been just a coincidence.)

Naturally, in the course of writing the book, I've read a great deal about Kevin, and I've heard a lot of second-hand information from Randy and other sources. Kev's obviously a terrific actor, with an uncanny ability to adopt a persona not his own; he is very talented at doing impersonations of famous people, and seems able to turn charm on or off at will, depending upon how it ultimately benefits him. It's my theory that his acting ability, his capability to comfortably wear any mask, springs from his essential lack of a definable personality of his own. Where Randy comes off as warm, genuine, generous and sincere, Kevin appears cold, calculating, distant, selfish, impersonal, and hollow at the core. Like many actors, he seems fond of making the grand, dramatic gesture. As I've told Randy many times, I'd be happy to conduct an in-depth interview with his brother--and I'll extend the invitation once again: Kevin Spacey, please e-mail me--to present a fair and balanced picture of the Fowler siblings. But for the moment, where I completely believe Randy, I fear that much of what Kevin might tell me would not be the whole truth. I'm willing to be proved wrong and will freely and publicly admit the error of my thinking once I receive and absorb the additional information that can only come from the original source.

I'm sorry to bring things to me, but what do you think of the Madame Arcati site? Do you think it obsesses over Spacey, Randy and Stephanie? Madame Arcati is not too popular right now with Spacey fans ...

I've only visited the Madame Arcati site a half-dozen times; that's how I learned I had been named as one of the denizens of "Closetville," though I had not heretofore contributed one word to the discussion. The site seems to focus on the sensational, the outrageous, on rumor and speculation, and is therefore probably an accurate reflection of what apparently concerns contemporary society, which seems fascinated with the concept of celebrity. I'm not really qualified to determine what constitutes an obsession. Idealist I may be by astrology's reckoning, but age and experience have also given me too strong a cynical streak to become a committed, unequivocal fan of any fellow human; too many heroes turn out to have feet of clay.

Finally Jack, tell us what you're working on right now (apart from this interview).

My long tenure in advertising/marketing has instilled in me the need to juggle many projects at once. I've never had writer's block; indeed, I suffer from the opposite affliction, an excess of ideas, because everything inspires me, and I feel fortunate to capture a small fraction of the thoughts that flit through my brain during the 20 hours that I am awake, and the 4 hours that I sleep per day.

Beside the reference works previously named, I have several paying advertising projects coming up, as well as an extensive company profile for an architectural firm. I have a stock of about fifty completed short stories that I constantly tinker with in search of the perfect word, and I usually have 10-12 stories in circulation at any given time among print or online publications. I have perhaps 250 other stories in various stages of completion; when the well of inspiration runs dry on one project, I immediately turn to a different project. I have numerous finished and in-progress essays and nonfiction articles awaiting the market research necessary to place them. I have four completed 80,000-85,000 word crime/mystery novels and a suspense novella that I'm shopping to agents and publishers, and about 20 other novels of 20,000 words or more begun. I am about 25 percent through an original reference work, a chronological encyclopedia that I've projected for 30-40 million words. And I'm always on the lookout for new ideas.

Now, I really should get back to work. I'll be happy to answer any followup questions you may have.


Jack Ewing

Thank you Jack for your time and generous response to my questions.

Jack Ewing's website, click here.

(PS - by coincidence, just as I put this interview to air, a commenter sent this message: "Check out Randy has changed the title of his book, good for him, looks like it's more about Randy and less about Kevin. I wonder if this web site [Madame Arcati] had anything to do with the change? Reqardless, I like the new title: FOWLER FOLLIES, Surviving Child Abuse."). Thanks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Heather Mills McCartney: You call this a petition?

Amid the Kali-esque fuliminations and gurning from Heather Mills McCartney yesterday on various TV shows, she mentioned something about a petition for "responsible journalism" which she proposes to take to the European Parliament. To my knowledge only Sky printed a web address for further information - This turns out to be a red herring or a misprint or something. Can't imagine why! Actually, had Heather an ounce of sense she would have made this petition the centrepiece of a studied and reasoned allocution on the demonic tabloids: Fiona Phillips might have nodded off, but that's no bad thing. When TV host Fiona is erect with excitement, you know - as a show guest - you must be doing something wrong.

I assume that Heather's campaign web address is the one linked off her own website click here. Go to Fight For Responsible Journalism click here. This takes you to a blood red page topped with "Boycott The Scum" which is the "so-called Sun". The words "Enough is Enough!" scream at you before you're invited to continue. Enter bedlam ...

Next you're greeted with a load of words penned by Heather's sister Fiona Mills. "It is high time we took a stance and made a decision not to accept modern day stoning of anybody," she states not unreasonably. But just when you think that this is a campaign against general press bullying we are invited to "stand united against this corporate giant called the Sun, who [sic] is not only feeding the nation with lies and abuse, but is charging them money for it in the process." This is followed by an account of various abuses suffered by Heather at the hands of hacks and paps before more rage against the Sun and links to accounts of the paper's atrocities.

Finally we get to the petition button: "Sign the petition to create just and fair journalism that will educate us rather than moronify us and our children."

Oh dear! Memo to Heather, Fiona; listen to Madame: You can't rail against the press and then just pick on the Sun - you have to demonstrate wide-ranging abuse by many or all of the tabs. That's easy! And is this a campaign for a better press or just a vendetta against the Scum? Nor is it clear at all what your aims are beyond a fury over Heather's media treatment. What a pity Phil Hall, your esrtwhile PR, isn't around to redraft your petition into something explicable and keenly targeted. Judging by many of today's reader reaction comments on newspaper websites, Heather's not without her supporters. There's a bank of sympathy out there for what she has to say about our tawdry tabs (not to be confused with personal sympathy, of course).