Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fiona Russell Powell: Why I went to the Screws over Clive James

Fiona Russell Powell

Long before 68-year-old opera singer Anne Howells' recent kiss 'n' tell in The Oldie about her affair with "Clyde" - the widely suspected nom d'amour for married Clive James (he denies) - the former Australian TV entertainer, poet, polymath and pal of Martin Amis enjoyed a five-month relationship with the writer and former ABC band member Fiona Russell Powell between 1987 and 1988.

The first the public got to hear about it was courtesy of a
News of the World splash. “He had this thing about my breasts, he liked to look at them. He was very fond of turning all the lights off when the moon was out and getting me to sit on the sofa to the strains of Bizet," she told the tabloid. He loved soaping her tits in the bath and she revealed he was desperate for a knighthood: he's still waiting. Perhaps, like Christopher Lee, he'll have to wait till he's 87.

The paper also reported that Fiona, then 34, was threatening to sue James, then 57, for libel over a "blonde nutter" lead character called Jane Austen in his novel
Brrm! Brrm! She claimed Austen was plainly modelled on herself. Nothing happened thereafter. James only admitted that his literary character had the same hair, wrists and slash marks as Fiona.

So I caught up with Fiona - who used to write for
The Face, I-D and Blitz - to talk about what had mystified me all along: why she'd gone to the paper in the first place.

Darling, always a pleasure to talk with you. Clive James is back in the news and you've been mentioned. Again!

There was a big piece in the Sunday Telegraph the other week on his latest "alleged" infidelity with the opera singer that was taken from an account she wrote for The Oldie. The journalist covering it for the Sun. Tel. had a paragraph about me, that's all.

What are your thoughts on Howells?

I would like to add a couple of things. First of all, I'm not surprised to hear about the opera singer because I remember Clive telling me that he still saw old girlfriends. He said whenever he went back to Australia, he would sleep with a girlfriend he had gone out with in the late 50s, ages before he met his wife, and he's kept it going throughout his marriage.

When I wrinkled up my nose at the thought of him shagging an old bird (I was young, remember!), he said he loved women of all ages. He was quite flattering because he said I was the sort of woman who would always be fanciable, even when I got older. He also said he had girlfriends in many cities all over the world, who he saw whenever he was in their country.

By the way, I'm not the first young woman to have been bedded by Clive to appear in one of his books although he gave me the dubious honour of making me a lead character. In a book he wrote called The Remake, he told me a young blonde features in it who is based on a literary graduate he knew.

His sexual charisma is something else, and not immediately apparent I must say. But Fiona, why did you tell-all to the News of the World in the first place? Isn't it all a bit tacky?

The thing I want to point out about the NOTW story is that it wasn't me who kissed and told, it was Clive who kissed and wrote first. When I finally read the book (Brrm! Brrm!) I realised he had stolen my life lock, stock and barrel - so that I was totally recognisable to anyone who knew me; but he also had used it as an opportunity to put me down. Someone read it recently for the first time and emailed me to say that, in their opinion, it's very nasty and that I must have really got under the old boy's skin.

I gave Clive a chance. I called him and confronted him about the book and it was his response that made me decide to go to the papers. Bear in mind that when I rang him, it had been several years since the book had been published or since we had been in touch. He recognised my voice immediately, saying: "I wondered when I would hear from you. You took your time." Obviously he had been expecting me to contact him about it. He was very relaxed about it and still called me darling.

But what did he say about "your" character in his novel?

When I talked about the book, he denied it, and I asked him how he could do that, who was he kidding? I told him that I was considering legal action and it was his reply that told me just what an utter cunt the man is. He said, "Darling, the girl in the book takes drugs, is an alcoholic and a suicidal nut. Are you prepared to take the stand and admit that you used to be a junkie, drank like a fish and had psychiatric problems?"

To which I bravely replied, "If it's relevant, I'm not afraid to tell the truth." He said, "I think you will find, darling, that you won't be a credible witness. They won't take you seriously." I thought, "So, you stole my life without asking because it makes good material for your book but when I object, you're quite prepared to turn around and use it against me."

That's when my mind was made up. I would do to him what he had done to me: expose him publicly. I knew he would hate that more than anything because, although in those days his profile was high and he seemed to be everywhere, in fact, he is an intensely private man who likes to control his image very carefully and hates anything about his private life being revealed.

Can you believe it (so sure was he of himself) that at the end of that phone call, he actually had the cheek to say he missed me and invited me round to his flat? By the way, I called his publisher and they were very rude to me too, which wasn't very clever on their part.

So what did you do next?

As soon as I got off the phone, I called Max Clifford. However, I still think Clive got off lightly. Although they had the answering machine messages on tape, the NOTW lawyer said that, because he only mentioned love, but not sex, and considering Clive would probably sue, it was best to err on the safe side. That's why they didn't run the original story in the end but went with the fact that I had served a writ on him.

Why didn't you sue him?

Simply because I couldn't afford it. As you know, in this great country of ours, unless you are rich, you don't have a reputation worth defending. It cost £5,000 just to serve a writ on him. I was advised that, though I would probably win the case, Clive could afford the best lawyers who would do everything to got to delay the case until I ran out of money.

Max took his cut - I even got screwed there; he's supposed to take 20% and I got £20,000 from the NOTW. However, when I received my cheque from Max, it was for £15,000 so he'd actually taken 25%. I asked for the grand he owed me but never got it. Watching the way Max works is an education in itself but I'm not sure it was worth a quarter of my fee.

Incidentally, years later, when Clive thought it safe to do so, he more or less admitted to it, first in an interview in the Evening Standard, about four years ago, when he said something along the lines of I had "good reason" to complain. He also talked about me in an interview Ginny Dougary (is that her name?) did with him in The Times about 18 months ago. I've got it somewhere if you want me to dig it out.

Thanks Fiona. Let's talk again soon - about current work projects, life and, oh, anything really.

PS The Ginny Dougary interview in The Times for May 12, 2007: the relevant passage starts - after mention of Brrm! Brrm! - with James saying: “I’m sorry about her [Fiona]… she was a talented young girl.” Since there is something elegiac about his tone, I ask him whether she’s still alive. “I have no idea,” he says (she is). “She had some very...” Drug problems? “Yesss. I regretted that. The occasional busy journalist, especially in Australia, likes to run an article when they hear about this, saying that Clive’s marriage is on the rocks, and I have to point out, if I get the chance, that my marriage has been on the rocks for 40 years.” Click here to read the piece in its entirety.

Fiona's website click here.

And who's wearing the dildo belt at 1.25 on? Catch the face at 2.11.


The Late Jane Austen said...

I read most of all this in Punch years ago. Isn't it time Fiona got over this ancient history? She should be proud that James has memorialised her in one of his fictions. I mean, it's not like he made anything up. She admits herself she was a drug addict and a basket case, just like Jane Austen. Where's the libel precisely? Theft maybe, but you can't copyright your life. Forget Clive and finish your fucking book, Fiona.

Anonymous said...

Why is MA giving space to this monstrous regiment of aggrieved women?

Anonymous said...

Don't you just love the way men rewrite the story to cast it in a more "favourable" light, their version? Why is she monstrous? And she doesn't sound aggreived to me at all, she sounds like she has moved on. Most men in the media are married dick-dipping whores. Sorry she got fucked by ol' Maxi C too though.

Anonymous said...

Be my Agony Madame. A US man has been caught impersonating his dead mother in order to claim regular social benefits. I've been doing the same. It's a beautiful thing and i expect quite common but has had a bad press ever since Psycho. Should i desist and return to beer belly and trainers or continue my crusade?

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Anon, I would strongly urge you to confess all at your local benefits office and take your punishment like a woman. You acquire bad karma through theft. While in jail you can go into analysis and start to work on your morbid fixation on your late mother. I hope this advice proves helpful. Love MA x

Anonymous said...

Fab story, Madame. But shouldn't you talk to Clive as well? I'd love to see him cross-exammed as well. The Times interview reads like a blow-job. Minding me language, like.

Former Punch Edtior said...

Fiona didn't tell us Clive's a 7-incher. I'm telling Mohammed.

Anonymous said...

Clive isn't known as the Billabong Schlong for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Fiona should write a short novel about a promising hackette who gets screwed by an Australian TV critic, novelist and "polymath". It would like the Henry Miller/Anais Nin story.

Anonymous said...

But his belly makes it look tiny

Anonymous said...

can we get some more ladies to give us an insight into just what is Clive James secret that attracts the ladies ?. Technique, size, charisma ?. It certainly can't be looks.

Anonymous said...

I can tell already that saying this is as pointless as trying to convince Steph to get over the feeling of injustice that someone "like" (whatever she thinks he is) Kevin what's.his.face has got from life such "fame and prestige" (or popularity and recognition or whatever it is she thinks he's got) but I'll try anyway.

Fiona dear, the guy as you say, is an "utter cunt"; if anyone doubts it, just look at how he talks here, specially starting at 1:00. I'm surprised it took you years to figure that out, but then again I don't know you well (yes, the affair lasted 5 mo., but you say you didn't quite realise what he was until you confronted him - and still had the gall to ask you to renew the shagging!).

But you see, that is exactly why this old fart has probably read this post and is! This scum is approaching 70 and has a smart, attractive, woman (what? 15 years his junior?) talking about how he fucked her literally and figuratively and continues to get away with it because there is nothing she can do about it. Does anyone else see where I'm going with this? At his age this is all he's got to boost his ego and feel good about himself: all the stories of all the pairs of legs he has got in between and how none of the women in his life have done a thing about it (specially his horned wife).

The best revenge against this piece of work is to "forget" to include him in your memoirs, because he is not relevant enough, compared to all the truly exciting things that have happened to you, to be mentioned; his biggest fear is to be not remembered by his past conquests - notice how he bragged to you about them (I wonder he is even telling the truth, he, he; He probably was trying hard to sell you what "catch" he was).

But I have the felling you will not do that; you still talk about his schlong as if it is quite remarkable (6 1/2? that's b.a.r.e.l.y above average - then again I only fall for men with big... hands) and I'm thinking that in your mind he must be some special thing like a first love or something crazy like that.

It's so frustrating to me to see things like this happen to women that could do so much better.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of incurring Fiona's wrath but I like Clive James. He was very gentle with her I thought, calling her darling, when another man would have told her where to go. I loved Brrm Brrm and I had no idea Austen was based on Fiona till I read it here. makes me wonder why Fiona keeps banging on about it.

Anonymous said...

Zillionaire is awful.

Lavinia said...

Please move on from this dismal cul de sac

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that his is his point of view in the matter...
No time to stand on dignity
By Andrew Billen - Evening Standard 28.06.01

(extracts of Clive J's interview)
"Let's talk about love. I think love hits men straight away, full force, in all its complexity. That's a difference between men and women. We're ...
.... The question is what you do about it and I figured out fairly early that loving someone else, which might happen every five minutes, wasn't a good enough reason to break up a marriage...
... a woman who claimed, without contradiction, to have had a five-month affair with him in the Eighties accused him of invading her privacy. Fiona Russell Powell said he had identified her by pouring details of her personal life into Brrm! Brrm!
...From the fearful rictus his mouth forms, I know I've spoken the nameless question he has dreaded all along.
"Yes, she was definitely one of the models for a character, but there are a dozen of them. I think most novelists, even amateur novelists like me, compose characters out of an amalgam, a synthesis of people." He pauses. "She certainly had a right to say that. She was identifiable by a hair."
So he would apologise to her for that? "I did," he says.

Fiona R P said...

Hello, all you anonymous sweeties out there who have taken a minute out of your busy day to post judgement on my life. Just a couple of points: first of all, it doesn't take a genius to guess I might pop up again after the opera singer aired the details on her romance with CJ two weeks ago. It's the first time in 12 years that I have had any more to say on the subject, so I'd hardly call that banging on. Also, the original News of the Screws story, which they didn't run in the end, is hilarious and goes into great sexual detail. If you were to read that, you would know that my view of CJ as a lover was that he was hardly a star pupil, 'adequate' is how I described him in my diary. He the sort of man who stirs the mind rather than the loins and, as I've said before, I'm a sucker for a man with a massive..brain. His cock size, which I described as about six and a half to seven inches, is just above average. The UK average is five and a half. But being tiny cunted, most penises seem big to me. In fact, I have heard that the original interview has been found and someone is posting it up so I shall let the Madame know when I have more information. Re ABC and 'Zillionaire', this was their second most successful record because it was a US number 1 dance record and the album was on the Billboard top 10, or was it Top 2O, for many weeks. And this was when you had to sell more than 50 records to get to number 1 like now. As for 'Lavinia' - I'm sorry darling, I can't take anyone seriously with a name like that. Anyway, at least everyone knows now that reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated though you'd be forgiven for thinking I'd gone to an early grave. It takes more than a ton of heroin and being used by a chubby old Ozzie goat to sink the descendent of an IRA general. Thanks for all the interest,

Fiona R P said...

One last thing: I was 25 and CJ was 48 so that makes him 23 years older than me, not 15. Old enough to know better, surely? But then he ain't called Jaws for nothing. And when the original NOTW story is posted, which I hope the good Madame will keep you lot informed about, I guarantee that not a single person will be left in doubt that the Jane Austen character was based on me because it is explained in yawningly great detail with tons of comparisons. Let's put it this way, you could find my flat from the directions in the 'book', and that's just the start. Pip pip!

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad for you, Fiona, that you have not tried to make a career in the advertising business. You keep trying to sell this image of being the one who had the last laugh and instead you come through as nothing but bitter, resentful and one that feels misunderstood, lashing out indiscriminately at criticizers, sympathizers and those who couldn't care less (Lavinia, I love your name and have missed your witty comments). I apologize for not having paid enough attention to the interview's prologue to notice the exact age difference - I didn't mean to make you appear "much" older than you really are. If this story was posted to make us have a good ol' laugh, I suppose it's not my kind of comedy, because "I didn't geddit".

Maybe Fiona has a point, MA darling; maybe you shouldn't pull us away from our "busy" schedules to talk about ancient history that happened over 25 years ago. Who wants to go over moot points to figure out who was right and who was wrong?

Best wishes Fiona for much success in the future.

Madame Arcati said...

Judging by the Standard interview with James, Fiona's connection with Jane Austen was a "hair". We now know that there were numerous similarities between Fiona and the character. Like most novelists, James lifted loads of details from a person he knew intimately, and got caught out.

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

Anonymous blog authors are acceptable, but the posters on this comment trail slagging off a named person whilst standing on stage with a brown paper bag on their head and screeching to the audience in a high pitched whine, "I'm dangerous, I am!" - so 1998.

I think Fiona Russell Powell is hilarious and a brilliant writer.

Madame Arcati said...

You sound interesting Jude as does your book - fancy an email interview?

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

@Madame Arcati - that sounds absolutely spiffing, yes please :)

By book I don't know whether you mean my thinking woman's chuff pamphlet compendium of filth, Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law, or My Adventures in Cyberpsace, about falling in love with a man across a crowded room in cyberspace without knowing what he looks like, but either way, let's gab :)

Anonymous said...

@ Miss "righteous to the rescue" Jude Calvert-Toulmin

Wright: it's ok to be a disguised author (Jude, you're such an arse-lick) but not ok to use the anonymous choice on the basis that hardly anyone that we know in person visits and/or contributes to the comments on this blog.

I'm the first to disapprove of pointless bashing, of which MA is a target here on a regular basis from many of the anons that comment on this blog, but MA is the fist one to agree that
1) 98% of the people that interact on this page will never -ever- meet, in the 5 billion inhabitants real world and it is absolutely pointless to give a name that will still mean nothing (as in you, Jude); and
2) this blog would loose it's whole style and personality if there wasn't a choice to post anonymously because then there would either be a deafening silence (like it has happened with many of the people that posted names in the past whom have either stopped posting or have started using pseudonyms or the anonymous choice), or everyone would make pointless, nicey-nicey little comments like your "I'll make you feel good because I'm so supportive" comment to Fiona, which in turn will make MA nauseous to the point of closing down the blog for lack of an outlet to speak up (more of the same bullshit we get in real life).

Why don't we do this, MA darling. You stop accepting anonymous comments and only registered ones. What will happen? Probably what I just said: deafening silence or anyone that still wants to post and opine will create a cute disguise for posting comments (ooh! it will be such a lovely Mardi Grass party), which will still mean NOTHING. That way none of us will have paper bags (why not say KKK hoods instead?) over our faces and everyone will have a chance to click on the user's name and send them useless hate mail (oops! I forgot... you can still block you profile and not accept criticism - oh, well!).

When Fiona agreed to be interviewed she must have been ready to expect the bad with the good - that is a chance you take - and if she didn't realise some would think differently than her, she has a 12 year old mind in a 45 (?) year old body. I sympathize with Fiona and her anecdote, but what good would it do her to act like her "friends" who kept coming to her (for YEARS!) to tell her she had been portrayed negatively in this pseudo-novel of C. James' and did not even bring her a copy (the one they had already paid for! - she had to buy her own!) or standing side by side with her to confront him. D'you know what I think of these "friends" who RECONIZED her description? They are a bunch of hypocrites that probably laughed their bellies off while they read C.J. remarks about her while they though: "well, am I glad I'm not as stupid as this bitch". In the real world the people that know me, know I would tell them as kindly and sensitively as I can what I REALLY think of them; to the people that matter, I my give face and an honest opinion. I even told Fiona how I felt about her story, completely sympathizing with her situation and giving her an opinion she can work with - including the fact that I see her as a smart, youthful, attractive woman - which she dismissed only to focus on the ugly part of the story - which is not untrue.

I know I'm a bit harsh with you at times MA and it breaks my heart when you don't take it too nicely, but I mean well, baby; I think it makes you far more good than all this brown-nosing that these hypocrites go about sometimes just for their own self indulgence - I'm so sick of it!.

Put a cork on it, bitches!

Anonymously yours,
You know who MA, darling (and so does Steph ... ;)... ) and that is all that matters to me.

tracey said...

Happy to fuck a married man, she then bleats 'betrayal!' when he mentions her in a book, as if every writer doesn't recycle material from their own life, and anyone but her gives a shit. She's so 'humiliated' she then exposes herself properly in the press for cold, dirty, cash! What a pathetic, whining hypocrite!

Just admit you did it for the cash and exposure.

Fiona Russell Powell said...

I have just noticed the latest comments about me which were only posted over the last two days and, I must say, surprise me that you are still going on about it. I expected you to have found pastures new by now.I notice that my arch defender/wrist slapper can't resist another lecture. You have no idea how much your insults turn me on, especially when they're mis-spelled. Can't resist an illiterate didact. I would love to meet you. And I do thank you for your previous kind remarks. Anyway, yes, of course I expect negative comments as well as positive. And I always welcome constructive criticism. But when you bitch and expound about me at length, don't get your knickers in a twist if I feel compelled to correct what I perceive to be an uninformed distortion of what happened. After all, I was actually there and lived through it. The day someone steals your life, in massive quantity, because their own imaginations are drying up, gets a huge advance while you can't scrape two bob together then threatens to turn the tables when you object to it, come and talk to me. Go to my website and read the first unpublished (NOTW are nervous of Jaws) article and you might understand why I got a teeny weeny bit upset. I understand all artists take inspiration and use material from their own lives but just have the common decency to ask me first if I mind. And thanks Trace, you've set Women's Lib back in the dark ages again - how shocking of me to fuck a married man! What about him, eh? Indeed, I am a complete slag, jumping into bed with a man who spent three months wooing me down the phone. Still, he was marginally better than a dildo.

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

> I notice that my arch defender/wrist slapper can't resist another lecture.

It's very tame stuff compared to the usenet days. He's jealous cause he wants to shag Clive too.

> Indeed, I am a complete slag, jumping into bed with a man who spent three months wooing me down the phone.

PML! Yeah, poor misunderstood patriarchal male and shocking naughty strumpet. You slaaaaaaag :) LOL :)

Anonymous said...

Oy... the real life bullshit really is spilling over to this blog these days. All these double standards over who says it as it is, who doesn't put up with losers and who sermons. Should I even bother, MA darling?

Fiona, I'm not going to waste my time with you anymore at the moment; as I said in my first post, I could see efforts to encourage you to move on would be in vain. I'll wait until we meet and we will (I have a stronger than strong feeling about it and I have my reasons to say so). Judging for the friends you've had until now, once you get over the shock and trauma of learning "who" I am (because I will tell you I'm this person) and a few cat fights between us, I can tell we'll become inseparable (because you are in dire need of someone that doesn't bullshit you) and I can see us in our 80's, still having cat fights, and in between I'll be trying to talk you out of dead end relationships and you'll be trying to talk me out of ... well, you'll see.

Bye for now

Jude, nothing has changed; you are an arse-lick.

Fiona Russell Powell said...

Absolutely positively the very last comment I will make on this subject (even I am bored with it now): To Mr Anonymous (because there's no doubt you are a man) - you're on. Provided you aren't an Englishman currently residing in Berlin, name the time and day. If we need to bring seconds, contact me through my website. Or arrange it via our good friend the Madame (whom you claim to know so well while she hasn't a clue who you are). Thankyou and goodnight.

Anonymous said...

Oh Fiona, you are so sexy when you get all assertive, confrontational and put on your competitive suit (leather?). Of course there won't be need for seconds, there'll be a referee, who I'm sure will be most amused (or bemused?) by the whole thing. Don't expect it to be too soon, though; I don't want you to be discouraged and disconcerted by the wait. See you then.

Fiona Russell Powell said...

Leather suit? You wish. Me assertive? Your reading of me is even more off base than your previous remarks. You have no more intention of meeting or contacting me than you have of ever revealing yourself so stop playing stupid little games. I notice you often place your posts at the weekend as well as during the week. Why don't you get yourself a life instead of poking your nose into mine. I can't bear cowards, especially a male coward. You know how to contact me. Either do it or shut the fuck up.

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

> You know how to contact me. Either do it or shut the fuck up.

PML :) What an excellent start to the day before I pot up some basil, refill the fat balls in the bird feeder, make Jamie Oliver's roasted meat lasagne from "Jamie's Italy" and then cut and sew a pair of palazzo pants from ultramarine chinese brocade. Life just doesn't get any better. Thank you Ms Russell-Powell, I like a poster who kick starts my day with a laugh rather than with tears of boredom :)

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

Madame, I await your interview qs with anticipation. I have got a brand spanking new blog layout as well which is reet good as us northerners say.

On the point of northerners, last time I was in London, I was asked by a posh person at a gallery opening "Do people actually *live* outside London?" - I was also told by someone else "I love the way northerners talk. They talk in a Dickensian manner. So quaint."

Anonymous said...

Six months ago this blog was rocking with inuendo and progesterone and I missed the entire ordeal. To my beloved Fiona I'd like to say that should you ever feel compelled to spend time with another man of 6" or so, please know I'll never tell a sole of our encounter. And remember my dear, if I'm too large, I have always been a fond provider of oral stimulation! Although I've never been there to conduct my own verification process, I'm quite certain you were provided with the necessary width and depth to accomodate most any sperm donor. (Perhaps we can meet sometime to enjoy several hours of touch and smile; strictly scientific in nature my love)
To all those who write and judge without having to play the game; shame on you all! A sexual meeting between two individuals should always be shadowed in detail. For a man to "kiss and tell" is the most horrible rebuke one can offer to a woman after enjoying her favors. Where I'm from, it's tantamount to a slap in the face and generally seen by all as a truly dispicable act of treachery. I've not heard a sign of lament from any of you snickering jays for the pain Fiona must have felt.
Fiona reputation was tarnished by a brief interlude with an idealogue with a medium penis and a typewriter. She should have been awarded triple what the courts gave her and CJ should have been publicly flogged. I stand behind Fiona! She did nothing wrong and for being gracious to an old man she was immortalized in an unflattering manner.
I've prayed for an opportunity to be as blessed as CJ was by Fiona. Perhaps that day will come! What were those directions to the flat again?

Madame Arcati said...

Fiona, you owe me an email.