Monday, December 31, 2007

JK Rowling: Wisdom of knowing what's bollocks

It’s not every day – or decade even - that ITV1 dedicates a one-hour show to a literary figure in the primetime Emmerdale and Corrie slots. In JK Rowling: A Year in the Life, the Harry Potter author known as Jo denied her fortune was anything near half a billion quid: probably an honest but not entirely accurate answer. I don’t believe she knows her actual worth in monetary terms. She’s just too rich. As early as 2004 Forbes was heralding her as the first billion dollar author.

“Unlike [Oprah] Winfrey, Rowling has created a treasure chest of intellectual property that any media firm could buy - if she were willing to sell - and continue the Harry Potter franchise. The series is going to generate billions more in revenue just from the seven-book series,” the magazine speculated.

Rowling is soooooooo rich and powerful that Bloomsbury chartered a private jet to fly her and her bearded doctor husband to the “premiere” of the final Potter book (Is there a Harry Potter carbon trail?) Dr Beardie told James Runcie – the show-maker son of Lord Runcie (balls), the former Archbishop of Canterbury – that under pressure Jo tended to freeze out everyone and take total self-control: a worthy and essential characteristic of a fiction writer I’d say.

Such is Rowling’s stature as a money-spinner, Hollywood came to her to talk her through a proposed Harry Potter theme park in Orlando (due to open 2009). She looked quite mystified as some corporate-speaker gobbledygooked his way through one “sonic”-something-or-other game that would only speak when stood in front of. Diagrams and illustrations were pointed at as Jo’s blonde blades turned into face curtains – she has a hairstyle designed for impromptu shielding of shyness or awkwardness, achieved by dislodging nods and head leans, which adds to that “publicity-shy” reputation she has.

She was seen baking a birthday cake or flan for one of her kids. Earlier that day I’d read Cleo Roccos’ fascinating Benazir Bhutto memoir in the News of the World: Kenny Everett's muse recounted visiting a Costcutter store with her “close friend” where the late former Prime Minister of Pakistan headed straight for the tinned tomatoes (I think). Those tomatoes and Jo’s cake (it started out as a chocolate goo) somehow merged in my mind and I thought of Edna Everage, Housewife Superstar, of Shirley Conran, Superwoman, – all those versatile genius bitches – and then wondered whether I’d ever seen their male superstar counterparts ever bake a cake or buy tomatoes in a TV show or media profile (unless they’re Jamie Oliver). We’re too far out of the 20th Century to start harping on about feminism and sexual stereotypes. But the sight of a female dollar billionaire author baking a cake in a suburban kitchen was deemed necessary by someone.

Jo’s parents had wanted her to be a boy and dressed her in blue for a while. Had she turned out a lesbian, people would have said, “Well, there you go.” Likewise, had she not turned into a blockbuster industry, people would have said, “Fancy wasting her time fantasising when she could get a proper job.” Her great success enables her to speak of her clinical depression (from a failed first marriage and penury) without people saying: “She’s quite, er, fragile, isn’t she? Is she well?” Celebrity has rechristened these negatives into life-affirming anecdotes – and there’s nothing like a glamourising TV homage to make it look all so fated.

Fortunately, Jo is level-headed, normal, entirely decent. There's not a false bone in her body. I think she knows that what people say now in her honour, and what they might have said in disdain had things turned out very differently, is all bollocks.

And on that note, have a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Pope & why Satan can breathe a sigh of relief

I got quite excited this morning when I read in the Mail that "The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism."

The 82-year-old "exorcist-in-chief", Father Gabriele Amorth*, told the online Catholic news service Petrus: "Thanks be to God, we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on. Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist. Thankfully, Benedict XVI believes in the existence and danger of evil."

Alas, this news proved too sexy for the Vatican. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, has now flatly denied the Petrus report. The papal spokesman said: "Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession.”

Just as well. The 1973 movie The Exorcist demonstrated well enough how the Catholic Church is run by bookish scholars and intellectuals who blush at the very idea of evil spirits (preferring to speak of the cop-out "spirit of evil"): old Ratzi would have to mount a purge of robed, post-faith academics first if he ever intended to unleash a new generation of Lankester Merrins on Satanists, their demon friends and, er, Mick Jagger-types.

*For Father Gabriele Amorth's horoscope (and his interview with, yes!, Gyles Brandreth) click here

Fr Gabriele Amorth: "Almost always, in cases of evil presence, the eyes look completely white. Even with the help of both hands, we can barely discern whether the pupils are towards the top or the bottom of the eye. If the pupils are looking up, the demons in possession are scorpions. If looking down, they are serpents."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: Death wasn't written in the stars

Was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto foreseen by astrologers? According to leading Jyotish astrologer KN Rao it was (more or less) - click here. "I felt sorry but the tragic death of Benazir death today was discussed at least four times by us in the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan; and Manoj Pathak had told me many times of the danger he saw for her. Sonia Mehdiratta also had hinted about it," he writes. But no death was foreseen.

Astrologer Mehdiratta was certainly alert to the dangers that faced Bhutto – dangers, frankly, a child could have foreseen given the religious and political divisions in Pakistan and its history of political assassination. But she will want to forget this line from her recent astro-profile of Bhutto: “From the pattern of dashas in her horoscope her return to power is a great possibility.” Oops.

Still, Mehdiratta is not alone in her failure to predict death. Bhavesh Pattni wrote this year: "Natal Sun will be aspected by transiting Jupiter which is a positive sign in [Bhutto's] favour. This doesn't mean that each and every problem will be sorted-out. She may face some amount of difficulty but the aspect of Jupiter over the Sun will save her reputation." Click here.

Astrologer Alex Miller-Mignone wrote: “… The backward-looking South Node could imply a return to power for Bhutto, a former Prime Minister, particularly when the wide square to the nation’s Venus at 17 Taurus and opposition to its 17 Leo Moon are considered, both Venus and Moon being feminine indicators.” Click here.

Tiberius had the right idea - astrologers who failed to live up to their prognostications departed Capri via a cliff, if rumour is to be believed. However, Madame Arcati shall be interviewing an astrologer shortly of true talent.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Molly Parkin: 'Lee's eyes tore flesh from my heart'

Arise Sir Parky indeed! What's he done all his life except sit about asking celebs what his researchers shovelled up from the archives? For his retirement show he could only find one woman to see him off, Dame Judi (and Dame Edna, but you know ...). What about Christopher Lee? Why isn't he Sir Christopher Lee or even Lord Hammer of Horror? Sign the Lee petiton, or die slowly. Click here

My new best friend Molly Parkin is also supporting my knighthood for Lee campaign and sends me this charming epistle ...

Dear MA,










Monday, December 24, 2007

Molly Parkin ... and Harold and Maude

In response to recent comments to the news that Molly Parkin is now in "loving email contact" with her once-only lover Laban - thanks to Arcati - Molly has written in ...

Darling MA,

I am immensely flattered that the loyal web-fanbase has picked up the Harold and Maude comparison, relating to myself and Labe (as Laban refers to himself when signing off. Labe ... so Kiwi surfer, eh!).

For others not familiar with the facts, Hal Ashby's 1971 cult movie Harold and Maude, scripted by Colin Higgins, music by Cat Stevens, starred Bud Cort as the 19 year-old Harold, passionately linked with Ruth Gordon's 80 year-old Maude.

Their utterly credible mutual attraction ignited the screen. Their sublime single sexual coupling as kindred spirits, he a virgin, she on the brink of death, fired my imagination and extended my sexual boundaries enough to embrace Labe as my own lover, with the 50-year age gap, 3 decades on.

In fact it was whilst I was describing Harold and Maude to Laban at the Las Vegas bar that he seized my fingers and steered them around a flourishing erection. That's when I surrendered my self-imposed celibacy and said Yes (urged on by Marty, my gay surrogate son - "Moll, if you don't fuck him, I will," he said).

I have never asked you why you chose to become Madame Arcati, as I have now become Maude. Both silver screen characters have influenced my life, certainly sartorially, side-stepping conventions. I celebrate the mantle of our adoptive personas, you and I.

Love Moll xxx

For more on Harold and Maude, click here

A knighthood for Christopher Lee CBE, please

Bruce Forsyth to get a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2008? That's the claim. ("Knight to see you, to see you Knight" - to be seen in all tabloids) So why hasn't Christopher Lee, 85, got a knighthood yet? As an actor he has 260 films credited to his name, he has starred in some of the biggest of franchise movies (Lord of the Rings, Golden Compass, Star Wars, Bond), his is a byword for old-style Hammer Horror, he has surprised (Jinnah, The Wicker Man), he is a sophisticated, cultural ambassador for Britain and speaks French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Greek and other languages. What is wrong with our fucking politicians and our goes-with-the wind Queen? He's a Gemini for cunt's sake.

To petition for his knighthood, click here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Queen and ... oculolinctus to you

One useful thing I learnt from the News of the World this morning - amid stories we'll never hear of again (eg "£100k plot to kidnap Amy Winehouse")* - is the word oculolinctus whereby people are aroused by licking their partner's eyeballs and or having their eyeballs licked. I was familiar with acrotomophilia (an intense desire to have sex with an amputee) and sitophilia (sexual arousal by food) and eproctophilia (sexual attraction to flatulence) and andromimetophilia (love of women dressed as men), but not oculolinctus which could be most unpleasant for all concened if one left one's contacts in (or specs on). Even more exotic paraphilia words or neologisms on this theme are most welcome for festive sharing.

To Rupert Everett**, a special Christmas prez - a pic of "Hugh Grant with a hooker", click here.

A welcome cheer for Queen Elizabeth II who now has her own Royal Channel on YouTube - do watch the poppet, click here. In 1957 she conceded "I might seem a remote figure to some of you". Now one can dip into her person at the touch of a keyboard. I see that TheRoyalChannel is classed a broadcaster and it joined YouTube on October 05, 2007. It has a mere 1,244 subscribers as I write but I'm sure this figure will shoot up. "The Christmas Broadcast or 'Queen's Speech' for 2007 will appear on this channel at approximately 3pm GMT on Christmas Day," we are told. Let's hope people don't accidentally go to xtube.

I was most appalled that BBC Radio 4's 7am news bulletin ran a report on who won Strictly Come Dancing last night. I should like to point out that last weekend the same news show failed to mention who won ITV's The X Factor: it's not good enough that a monopolistic beneficiary of a national tax shows such partiality between two shows that both drew about 9m viewers a week (peak time). The BBC is also in the habit of pushing its theme-prompted websites on TV and radio without any mention of rival non-BBC websites - a blatant disregard of the advertising rules.

I wonder whether there's a word for sexual arousal by the thought of, or proximity to, royalty. It's something to think about as you carve up the turkey when a Quorn substitute dish would have carried less of a health risk to you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas to all my subjects in Arcatiland. MA x

*£100k? This awfully low figure for the safety of the globe's most famous cocaine user brings to mind Austin Powers' out-of-touch Dr Evil who thought to hold the world to ransom for just $1m. Amy's worth to some criminal gang is surely more in the region of £10m - though I shall stand corrected by the more ferally informed among you.

**Justine Picardie helped him with his memoirs btw.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Molly Parkin in 'loving contact' with Laban

The beautiful Molly Parkin has been in touch and she tells me she is in "loving email contact" with her young once-only lover Laban. Readers will recall that the glamorous septuagenarian had a sexual encounter with the 23-year-old surfer. Follow the labels to catch up if this is news. Molly painted an impression of their interlude and wrote a poem about it, all on Arcati. "Life is as glorious as ever," she writes. I'm looking forward to her next book of memoirs and much much more - may I suggest her for I'm A Celebrity or some other reality TV show? - she'd be perfect.

Humpback whales saved ... this season

A welcome message from Greenpeace: "Japan has announced today that it will not be killing humpack whales this season! Well done to all of you who pressured your governments to call - Japan heard us, and humpbacks will no longer be part of the hunt thanks to the public outrage we helped generate, particularly the diplomatic pressure that resulted from the US and Australia ..." To read the report, click here.

To send a letter to Japan demanding it stop plans to build a new whaling factory ship, and start planning how to end the whaling in the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary, click here.

See earlier post, click here.

The Woman In Black - Sultan of Brunei's a fan

At a party the other night a PR tells me that Susan Hill's The Woman in Black has now been seen by Henry Kissinger, Jonathan Ross and his family and the Duke of Kent. Every year for 10 years the Sultan of Brunei has taken over half the theatre to watch the play - his entire entourage arrive in stretch limos. They adore it. And next September it will be on for one week only with the cast of the Japanese production, which is sooooooo succesful in Tokyo, and it will be played entirely in Japanese. It's likely to be booked out the day the box office opens apparently.

If you want a spooky Christmas, read Susan's marvellous novella The Man In The Picture. To buy the book online click here. To read my review click here. To read more about The Woman In Black click here.

Nicky Haslam did it

A source at Weidenfeld says that it was entirely Nicky Haslam's decision to withdraw his book Redeeming Features - the publisher is "sad" about it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nicky Haslam's missing book - Poirot's detection

An anonymous contributor has brought me up to date on Nicky Haslam's missing memoir (see below). On December 12, the Mail's Richard Kay reported that the party divo and interior designer had decided to buy back the rights to Redeeming Features - click here for the full story (and then scroll down).

Kay writes, quoting an unnamed source (Haslam himself?): "'Nicky is prepared to repay his advance, which is in five figures, in order to get the manuscript back,'" says a friend. "'Most of the people he's written about are dead so he's decided to bring it up to date by including the past 40 years or so.'"

A Weidenfeld insider describes the book as "brilliant". I hear even that the Mail itself was ready to serialise for stacks of money; so this is all very odd. Why, for instance, doesn't Weidenfeld keep the door open for the updated book instead of saying someone else will have to publish it? It's a story that doesn't make much sense as presented.

Nicky Haslam - where's his book?

Where is Nicky Haslam's Redeeming Features: A Memoir? It was due out last month, then publication was postponed to January 3. Now it is noted that the book has disappeared from Orion's website completely - though I see in passing that on Jan 3 Jasper Rees' I Found My Horn is out, which would make a most suitable Haslam title, I feel. Would someone report back to me on when this book is out. Please.

The X Factor scripted the cry babies

While the UK is convulsed by the Rhyd-dle fiddle on The X Factor, I learn that a lot of the weepy stuff from the finalists’ relatives (eg "I've always loved you son, there's still milk in my breasts - here, feel ..." etc) was largely scripted. “Rhydian’s gran was told they couldn’t start filming unless she was ready to get tearful and she had to bone up on the lines they gave her – all the relatives were amazingly eloquent and unfaltering. The crying was a crucial part of the show - and expected.” Fake phone-ins, fake nods – and now fake blub-fests. It’s all very disillusioning.

Lily Allen story dismissed ...

Hugo Rifkind in The Times follows up the Lily Allen story below to be told by someone at the Orange Prize that it's "rubbish". Oh no it isn't.

In other news, congratulations to Lily on her pregnancy. Perhaps someone should find out whether she's likely to drop around the time the Orange is peeled.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Orange Prize wanted Lily Cole ... not Allen. Oops!

A source at the Orange Prize thingy tells me they got in an awful mess about singer Lily Allen who has been selected as one of their 2008 literary judges - they thought she's the one who has the 10 A Levels and is reading English at Cambridge. In fact that is the model Lily Cole, but they only found that out after they`d asked the wrong Lily - who is a poppet but not at all readerly. The Oranges will deny it, of course, to avoid egg on faces. But my source is, um, impossibly impeccable.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nicole Kidman and the 'gifted' scent

Further to my little piece on Nicole Kidman and her victory over the Telegraph and its Celia Walden-edited Spy column in the Chanel No 5 libel case, I am intrigued by further information.

When the actress popped over to the UK recently to promote The Golden Compass - Kidman at her best, btw, as a complex villain - a press release was put out to hacks claiming that she was fragrant with Jo Malone's White Jasmine & Mint cologne. "Her co-stars can expect the red carpet to smell divine tomorrow night," it burbled. But this release was withdrawn very hastily with the explanation that it should not be treated as a celebrity brand endorsement. There is no suggestion that the actress asked for or used the scent: rather that Jo Malone sends unsolicited gifts to certain stars - Nicole Kidman included.

I don't know whether Jo Malone's celebrity gifting might have confused Celia, I have no idea at all. But may I take this opportunity to say how ravishing Miss Kidman looks in those Chanel No 5 bus shelter ads: a glamorous and warming sight as scruffy old tarts await the 267 to Richmond, or whatever. Personally, I would spray the homeless with the scent: Christmas always brings out the better part of me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

St Stephen's bookshops fight the Muslim heathen!

While Martin Amis pens anti-Islamism fiction on behalf of the religion of Atheism, and the Bisexual Word God, Christopher Hitchens, peddles anti-Islamism non-fiction wherever long fancy words are allowed, yet a further sign of religious intolerance is to be found in the hell that's befallen the 200-year-old British Christian bookshop chain, once known as SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge). SPCK transferred the chain to the US trust Saint Stephen the Great (SSG) last year. The shops are now called SSG "to reinforce their Christian values."

The trust is run by two Texan Orthodox Christian brothers - Phil and Mark Brewer - whose principal agenda is to "rescue abandoned Christian churches" from the Muslim and Sikh heathen (particularly in areas of "large ethnic populations") who would turn these churches into mosques and temples. The acquisition of SPCK's 23 bookshops will aid this purpose (for cash flow presumably) - bookshop staff have even been asked to look out for abandoned churches in need of saving.

Staff have not warmed to the Brewers who seem afflicted by a Bush-like cloddishness. One hundred have left since their takeover: 11 staff alone resigned en masse from the Exeter branch in October. Many complain of stock censorship: the Qur’an can no longer be bought at SSG shops - a development at odds with the original SPCK objective to "improve understanding between Christians and Muslims." The Brewers' new work contracts have appalled employees: reportedly, all staff will be required to work when told to, including Sundays and bank holidays, and to undertake janatorial duties. Part-timers will be treated as casuals. Questioned on Radio 4 this morning, Mark Brewer claimed that some staff had been unable to make the necessary transition - a nice euphemistic way of saying that many staff will not be treated as shit.

The Brewers admire St Stephen the Great because after each battle fought against the Muslim Turks he built a commemorative Christian church. Blessed are the peacemakers! What was once a liberal Christian chain of shops seems now to be turning into a Christian fundamentalist crusader. Most unfortunate in these fractious times.

Church Times views, click here
Staff resignations, click here
SSG video on rescuing churches for Orthodox Christianity, click here
Radio 4 show on the controversy, click here

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The X Factor - it was Scotland wot won it

Simon was gracious in disappointment. "Leon was the one who needed to win this more than anyone else," he said, which is a nice way of saying that on the night raw sentiment rather than best talent held sway. He'd backed Rhydian to win The X Factor but little Leon pipped it in the end, thanks to Scotland (and a lift from lovely Kylie). No matter. Rhydian was the true star of the series and his international success is assured.

Bill corrects David on Bridget about The People

In the venerable Press Gazette the venerable editor of the British Journalism Review, Bill Hagerty, who was once the editor of The People (sometimes called the Sunday People) – he succeeded the venerable but late Richard Stott - quite rightly corrects the venerable former Mirror editor, David Banks, on the matter of whether the not-so-venerable former editor of the doomed People, Dame Bridget Rowe CBE, MBE (gongs added to draw attention to absence), raised or lowered the circulation of last. She didn’t raise. As Bill writes, he left the title with a weekly circulation of just over a 2m while psycho successor Rowe flushed herself away at 1.77m. Banks is a friend of Rowe.

Quite how Rowe managed to lose so few copies (for contrast, I believe Stott managed to let go of about 400,000 readers in just over a year) is worthy of thought, yet I feel that the question cannot be fully answered until we know the truth behind the People's Phantom Sales Scandal, first raised by the venerable pundit Stephen Glover in The Spectator (1998). He discovered that 130,000+ copies of the People had been recorded as dispatched to a promotions company but which had never been received. The figure had been included in the sales audit nonetheless. Glover never did get to the bottom of this mystery. “Could the whole exercise have been a ruse to boost the circulation of the People when its sales were flagging?” he asked. He even called the Mirror Group CEO at the time, David Montgomery. He didn’t get back so far as I know.

For more on this story click here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nicole Kidman wins it for Celia Walden

Nicole Kidman has won "substantial"* libel damages from the UK Daily Telegraph over a baseless slur in its Celia Walden-edited Spy column on her commitment to Chanel No 5. It's all very distressing. Just when you think Celia has got a decent story at last it proves to be false. But Celia should take heart from one indisputable thought: a libel defeat in "Fleet St" is a badge of honour and invariably is followed by a promotion or offer of more lucrative employment elsewhere. It's all to do with raised profile and celebrity association. It's a blooding. A Mark Steyn column in the Telegraph once also attracted an expensive Kidman libel suit - and he's never looked back since. Celia, congratulations!

*Substantial normally means over £100,000

Martin Amis and his Islamism satire

I shall have to get the new issue of Granta and read Martin Amis' latest assault on Islam - or Islamism, if we are to be accurate: it's the fundamentalists he doesn't like, he says. The magazine has published a draft of his satire titled The Unknown Unknown which is sure to re-invigorate his critics, such as university colleague Prof Terry Eagleton who has accused him of Islamophobia. The story is about a Muslim terrorist called Ayed who plans to unleash rapists on Greeley, Colorado, in order to infect the good folks with syphilis. His perfect woman looks like a "matt-black postbox" though he has a sharp eye for Western women, noting a "thin skirt rendered transparent by a low sun", suggestive of a bit of hypocritical cock quivering. Yes, I shall read this so-called satire with great interest and await the anti-Amis threats of a fatwa.

Forget fucking Size Zero, join the Hot Women Campaign

"The Hot Women Campaign is about empowering women to play an active part in the global warming crisis. We believe that if people are encouraged to reduce their CO2 output by a moderate amount and in a voluntary manner they will be more willing to do so. Collectively even a small percentage reduction could amount exponentially to a significant decrease in the total CO2 output which is causing rapid climate change." For more on this campaign, click here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rupert Everett Wildely under-performs?

Further to the last homo-versatile Rupert Everett posting, and a commenter's point that Hugh Grant may work less but earns more because of his hetero-romantic image, I have found this British actors' earnings list for 2006 which rather confirms the point (Hugh's at joint No 5 - Rupert doesn't figure) ...

Ewan McGregor £10m
Liam Neeson £9m
Colin Farrell £8m
Orlando Bloom £8m
Sir Ian McKellen £8m
Hugh Grant £8m
Ralph Fiennes £7m
Daniel Radcliffe £6m
Clive Owen £6m
Anthony Hopkins £5m
Daily Mirror

However, because Rupes is a multi-tasker it's hard to tell what his annual income is just from one professional category - for instance, in 2005 he made £1m alone from a publishers' advance for his memoirs.

And by the way, I am intrigued to learn that he is writing a screenplay about Oscar Wilde's last days with a view to playing the playwright himself in a movie. I have always thought that there's a film in the Oscar-Bosie romance post-prison in Italy, though it seems Rupes is more interested in Oscar's final contest with his hotel room wallpaper.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mark Frith on the move?

Heat's Mark Frith to edit Mojo? Surely not ...

Graydon Carter ... is thoroughly stroked

I love the idea of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter – his monthly diatribes against Bush are a delight – but did he really need the gushing interview in Mediaguardian yesterday? I know Andrew Neil was the guest editor and that Andrew is one of Graydon’s VF contributing editors but who benefits from this line: “He and Graydon are pals; not least, it occurs to me, because Neil is the closest thing the UK has to the kind of editor-as-myth that Condé Nast creates”? OK, OK, I’ve got a lot to learn about the joys of arse-licking ...

A little while ago I extracted 10 outrageous arse-licky comments from a needlessly crawly Karl Lagerfeld interview by Tatler editor Geordie Grieg. In the same vein here are 10 from the Graydon piece by Janine Gibson:

1 “Even early on he was adept at crafting an image”
2 “A consummate showman”
3 “I wish Graydon Carter was the sort of control freak …”
4 [He is an] “editor-as-myth”
5 “Carter ... is second only to Anna Wintour in the profile stakes”
6 “You will not find him on the charity event circuit”
7 … “we sit in his triple-aspect, incredibly tasteful 22nd floor Times Square office”
8 “ … as pleasant and patient as Carter is …”
9 “Much has been made of his ability to reinvent himself ... as if it were immoral”
10 “He's pleased I'm delighted with his aphorism”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tyler Brûlé: Aping Phileas Fogg for Christmas

The Monocle founder and editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé why-oh-whys in the International Herald Tribune about the lack of Christmas spirit in London and New York (nowadays). But just when I fear he maybe doing God on us and thinking of empty churches, he adds a clarifier: “Shop windows were generally joyless and there even seemed to be a lack of special packaging in the department stores.” Ah, it’s the consumer landscape that troubles him, the lack of demonstrative, tinselly commitment to Christ’s the-till-bells-are-kerching-ing. I understand.

I’m not sure he’s right. My local garden centre opened its Christmas shop in September. Their wiry robot reindeers have been head-nodding ever since as mile-long ropes of pulsating light convey the message-seed of Christ’s birth (again) and fibre-optic trees iridesce like squid. Still, Tyler offers a comparative perspective based on his incessant, manic travelling - I wouldn't want to carry his carbon-heavy conscience.

In the IHT piece alone you can count up the air miles over a few days: "During a swing through New York last week ... "; "It wasn't until I was settled in on a fully decorated Lufthansa Airbus to Munich ... "; "Back in London 24 hours later ... "; "On Tuesday evening I boarded an ANA flight from Heathrow to Tokyo Narita ... ". In Japan he finds the Christmas that matches his festive expectation: "I actually got a bit emotional at the Tsutaya bookstore in Roppongi Hills as the music piping through the store reminded me of shopping with my mom at Ogilvy's department store in Montreal ... " Ahhhh.

Fortunately, he's not tempted to fly back to Montreal. But then these days he does live in "Switzerland, Sweden and Britain".

John Barrowman - no flash in the pan

One of my favourite TV stars John Barrowman tells me I got it wrong about his testicles - he does not put pictures of them on a wall on the set of Torchwood. He does however confess to the odd harmless flash of his gargantuan tackle to his on-set trusted colleagues when the camera moves off his perfect profile, otherwise concealed by a coat. He is a very bright man and I suppose he must do something to keep his mind alert.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Katie and Peter: the saviours of primetime TV!

Lavinia's insistance that Rupert Everett has had a facelift (if true the poppet should demand a refund) reminds me that I wanted to pay tribute to Katie & Peter Unleashed, the brilliant ITV2 chatshow hosted by Jordan's alter ego Katie Price and her horny husband Peter Andre. Very sadly it ended last night. I demand that ITV recommision the series immediately, relocate it to ITV1, schedule it for Saturday evenings (after The X Factor leaves a gaping wound) and lengthen it from one to two hours. Without doubt Katie and Peter are the future of variety entertainment (primetime).

Rupes was most charmed by Katie last night - and normally he is a swine to interview. It's true they had bonded during an OK! mag interview some time past, when just about every sexual permutation was touched upon, but her innate and charming impertinence is sooooooo winning. Everett only ever seems to open up to guerilla incursion, probably because he is a fantastic reprobate himself: it's a case of entertainment homeopathy, like treats like. If he doesn't like his questioner he sinks into an insolent torpor: many a TV sofa has ended up resembling a crypt beneath his restless arse-cheeks.

Katie is not a showbiz pro and never will be (thank God), but she has that rare thing - no side at all. She is Lorraine Kelly's bitch sister - a total must-watch natural in front of the cameras. You feel she could say anything or do anything on a militant whim: to retain that edginess in the feathered pillow of processed TV is amazing and should be fully exploited (she is of course a Gemini).

Andre is the perfect foil. He is the show condom, a lubricant and a defence: he could narrate a WW2 doc, the Eurovision Song Contest or a royal funeral without a pause. Talking is his natural condition, he keeps up the show motion, eyes a-glow with the latest daffy, soon-forgotten thought. You feel safe in his hands while Katie hums with harmful kinetic potential: it's a balance forged in many a domestic row and subsequent bedroom make up; and the show is the beneficiary of this frisson. They are that rare entertainment couple: they make heterosexuality seem rather interesting.

I like the flips between behind-the-scenes and before-camera: how the pair looked disappointed when the brilliant comic Alan Carr pulled out and was replaced by the too-normal, bearded, Roland Rivron - "Who's he?" asked Katie. Fantastic. Rupes gazed at Rivron with slight but tolerant bemusement as the comic out-talked Pete and tried too hard: but they (Rivron and Rupes) bonded during the tats bit. I knew who Rupes had his eye on.

Their best interview was with Boy George last week - he looked clearly at ease on their claustrophobic set, in their faintly sulphuric atmosphere; there was no distance, physical or professional. He revealed he had never penetrated a woman (not exactly news, but nice to hear nonetheless) and Katie was so distracted that on last night's show she thought he had said that he had penetrated a woman but never gone down on one. Perfection. And let us not forget that it was on this show that Jermaine Jackson revealed that Michael would be joining the Jackson Five reunion tour. So they can deliver gold as well as brass.

The mud bath battles, the tattoo contests, the agony aunting and uncling, the short attention span: it's all pure tabloid TV at its best. I want to say it's pure Chav TV but I know Julie Burchill will go ballistic at sight of the word (chav).

There's no diploma for what Katie and Peter have got. There's no self-improvement course to make you like them. It they is, as Timbaland might say.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Diana death re-enactment with 'assassin' Philip

Art eventist Mark McGowan is to re-enact the death of Diana, Princess of Wales at a prestigious central London venue.

McGowan tells me: "It's a theatrical art performance and there will be giant painted backdrops of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower a man on a bike with some onions, lots of Citroën cars etc, a massive tunnel made with an armiture and some black plastic bags, a makeshift car/limo with Di, Dodi and Henry Paul all played by actors with cardboard boxes on their heads with photographs of the characters which has a really strange effect, some real paparazzi, a crash, paramedics and above the tunnel a big image of Prince Philip with the word ASSASSIN scrawled underneath.

"The performance is aimed at unearthing some of the mysteries surrounding the tragic death and will be a serious look into the role played by the royal family and in particular Prince Philip. Tickets will be available soon."

Rupert Everett - 'It's not ideal to be a homo'

Rupert Everett has a moan in the January edition of GQ (UK edition). While dining on guinea fowl with confit leg and creamed cabbage (£23.50) at Artisan (in London's Westbury Hotel) with Indy ed Simon Kelner, he says: "It's not ideal to be a homosexual in my business. For instance, I'm every bit as good as Hugh Grant, and I can do the same sort of thing, but look at the roles he gets. He's always working, and I work hardly ever."

Rupe is a far better, more versatile, actor than Grant but as big a baseless moaner. I had a look at - the movie database - to check Everett's claim. In 2007 he featured in three major movies (including the hideous St Trinian's) and made at least 25 TV appearances (leaving aside all the stuff arising from his memoirs). Altogether 53 movies are credited to him in his estimable career. Grant on the other hand starred in just one movie in 2007, made at least 16 TV appearances and has 50 movies credited from debut. Rupes reigns in more ways than one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

'Crackers' Cracknell's worthy successor

Hi Madame,

More antics at your favourite paper - the Sunday Times...

Apparently, the Mail on Sunday's deputy political editor Jonathan Oliver is to replace outgoing Sunday Times political editor David "Crackers" Cracknell. Cracknell quit to join an ailing lobbying firm originally set up by Labour's fundraiser Johnny Mendelsohn called FD something or other ... after Independent on Sunday political editor Marie Woolf was brought in over his head by the Wapping management.

Most recently, Oliver was behind the MoS story on David Abrahams - believed by many to be a "drop" form Tory HQ's research dept. Ironically, Oliver would have stayed on at the MoS - but for his boss Simon Walters, the political editor.

When Walters was moved upstairs to replace the Mail's executive editor (politics) Peter Dobbie, Walters - nicknamed "Shifty" by Lobby colleagues for reasons too obvious and tedious to list - insisted in clinging on to the political editor title as well - much to the chagrin of Oliver. Still, the poor chap has got his revenge by disappearing to Wapping.

Fern Britton's Mohamed-teddy moment

At the Comedy Awards last night - in TV purdah over the phoneline scandals - This Morning host Fern Britton sauntered on stage with someone dressed up as a bear, said to be the Turner Prize winner. "He's called Mohamed," she quipped in reference to teddygate. The audience howled with laughter, worryingly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rupert Murdoch, Beliefnet and Pet Semetry

Heart-lifting news that the Old Scrote Rupert Murdoch has bought Beliefnet, an all-in religions site that promotes spirituality (cue lots of psychic phoneline skyscraper ads).

Driven perhaps by the sad news that the late Leona Helmsley’s pooch Trouble – left $12m in her will and subsisting on $300,000 a year – has become unwell on all the rich food, I am drawn to Beliefnet’s "Inspiring Pets Who Have Passed Away" section wherein readers find their voice in loving memory.

Meet Spirit the parakeet who passed away in October 2006 in his owner’s hands, or Hershey the Cockapoo who once saved his owner husband’s life during a diabetic low. There’s Bud the cat who seems to have enjoyed a telepathic link with his owner. My favourite story is of Rosita the little Chihuahua. The owner Carol relates: “Rosita accompanied Billy [her husband] to the hospital with him, riding on his belly as he was taken to the lab, to the X-ray room, and to Nuke-med. I can only imagine how much comfort she was to him when he died; she was at the funeral, too.” Many of the pets profiled have yet to pass away or perhaps there was a change in editorial policy.

Naturally, Islam has its own sub-site – and I think we can safely predict that from now on the Old Scrote will be softening his view on Muslims. Why, it was only last year that he told The New Yorker: “We keep having to speak politically correctly about it, saying Muslims are wonderful, it’s just a tiny minority. They are not all terrorists, of course, but the frightening thing is that it is the children of those good original immigrants who are being brainwashed in big numbers."

Beliefnet, click here

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Guardian's Jesus satire moment

My thanks to the Guardian which yesterday had a splendid giveaway: a sheet of Christmas wrapping paper printed with Jesus Christ's name all over it. An atheist newspaper, Jesus Christ, the excesses of festive consumerism and Linda Grant in G2 wondering where she can find a nice leather jacket that doesn't make her look like mutton dressed as lamb. Post-modernist satire - ie larky Yuletide moralising just to be clever - doesn't get much better.

Morrissey and the curious case of the hack

Tim Jonze, who interviewed Morrissey for the NME's current issue, has commented on the resultant controversy and threatened lawsuit against the mag. He is full of surprises. It had been assumed that that the letter he sent to Moz’s manager Merck Mercuriadis, distancing himself from NME’s “re-writing“ of his off-Q’n’A text, was written because he felt the magazine was heavy-handedly hostile to the singer’s perceived immigration views: the friendly tone of the letter led one to think that. Jonze now claims his text had to be toned down because he thought Moz sounded like Enoch Powell or the BNP.

He adds: "The piece was very critical and NME decided to tone it down, something I didn't agree with. They showed me several rewritten versions, some of which were very soft on Morrissey, one that was quite critical. None had any of my points or arguments in them and none of them were written in my voice. Furthermore, I hadn't even seen the finished version before it went to print (I still haven't seen it, as I'm currently writing this from the surreal surroundings of a beach internet cafe in Thailand). For these reasons, the byline was removed."

But, Tim, your byline is still on the piece – at least it is on my copy. Are we still talking about the NME?

I’m finding this all very odd. Why was his letter to Mercuriadis so crawly? Read Jonze’s piece for yourself, click here.

Queens and the gin and Dubonnet debate

I must tipple the Queen’s favoured ligging drink – gin and Dubonnet with one slice of pipless lemon and two ice cubes (strictly squared to slow the melt). This much I learned last night as I tried but failed not to be interested in BBC1’s Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work. Thanks to a 1999 piece in that well-known society magazine, the New Statesman, I now learn that this royal knock-back was favoured by the late Queen Mother as a breakfast aperitif and once known as a Zaza cocktail: it appears to have made its debut as far back as 1922 in a volume called Cocktails: How to Mix Them by "Robert of the American Bar, Casino Municipal, Nice, and late of the Embassy Club, London”. In those days orange peel rather than lemon was the citric topper so let it not be said that QEII is not an innovator of sorts. Controversy rages over measures: I would guess that QEII’s drink is one part gin to two parts Dubonnet, but the QM preferred equal measures, if we adhere to the Zaza recipe, denied with some force in ’99 by her private secretary Captain Sir Alastair Aird who insisted on the one-part gin theory. In fact the NS mischievously suggested that the QM might even have bare-backed on two parts gin to one part Dobonnet, given her fondness for Claridges’ rendition of the drink. I fear that the drinks expert at, Colleen Graham, may have to correct a detail that accompanies her Dubonnet Cocktail recipe: she thinks that while QM preferred the drink on the rocks, QEII does not. But millions witnessed otherwise thanks to the BBC.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Golden Comp - romise

Anyone who doubts that The Golden Compass - the movie of Philip Pullman's novel Northern Lights - is "anti-religious" should, er, go see the movie. It's a tremendous entertainment, loved every minute of it. Its implicit line on the Catholic Church (hostile) is clear in the first 20 minutes. The world of this fantasy is dominated by the "Magisterium, which seeks to control all of humanity, and whose greatest threat is the last remaining Golden Compass and the one child destined to possess it," to quote New Line Cinema. America's Catholic League claim this is a direct assault on Ratzi's church. They are probably right, but read on ...

"Magisterium" - or the teaching authority of the Catholic Church - connotes ecclesiastical power, and for further explanation, see Fr William G. Most's (from Ch 5 of The Basic Catholic Catechism): "By the Magisterium we mean the teaching office of the Church. It consists of the Pope and Bishops. Christ promised to protect the teaching of the Church: 'He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects your rejects me, he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me' (Luke 10 vs 16)."

In today's Sunday Times, Pullman tells the world he likes the movie - well, he would, wouldn't he? Despite the hacking, dilution, re-writing, it's a fair transubstantiation of the book with its anti-Catholic message masked but to the seeker of insult or affirmation. To a child or other innocent, the Magisterium will be just another power villain like Darth Vader or Cruella. In his piece Pullman artfully dodges the religion question and focuses on how he tolerated and welcomed the softening Hollywoodisation process. He writes: "What has impressed me about the reaction of New Line has been its clear commitment to the democratic value of openness and free expression."

He adds: "[New Line] knows full well (it bought the rights and read the books) that the tendency of the story is towards celebrating those very qualities, and other values such as humane-ness, kindness, intellectual curiosity and a sense of the wonder and the beauty of the physical universe, and it is not afraid to tell a story that criticises religious intolerance and hypocrisy." To read his piece click here.

This is very good (one of the film's stars, Daniel Craig, religiously parroted this line in interviews this week), but of course no studio could release a film on the premise that the Catholic Church (or any church) is intolerant or hypocritical - and here's an entertainment to show you how it is. There are laws against that sort of thing. So, we stuff ourselves with popcorn while thinking: "We know what this is about, oh yes. Fuck what Pullman has to say in public."

So, a great film, shame about the necessary subterfuge.