Saturday, October 31, 2009

Did Patric Walker murder Celeste for her column?

Patric Walker (the love of his life was his intimate friend actor Richard Chamberlain - whether Richard knows this precisely I couldn't say)

Further to my appreciation of Nicky Haslam's incomparable memoir Redeeming Features - the only thing that could make you want to have diarrhoea because it is the ultimate loo read (antiseptic Wet Ones at the ready, please) - I am distressed by two things on p108 on the subject of a very famous dead astrologer.

The late Patric Walker was the master stargazer of the late 20th century as well as actor Richard Chamberlain's most expressive admirer. Thanks to lucrative international syndication, and a socialising liver which sadly was not as robust as one might have wished, his constellation of sunsign frippery informed and entertained hundreds of millions of hopers. Yet, even though Patric was a Haslam intimate, a frequent companion in a basement club beneath Fortnum & Mason, in the company of pretty boys, Nicky misspells his name as Patrick. How Patric must be seething wherever. The omission of the k was special, part of the mythologising branding: had Patric been born Colin he would now be remembered as Coli,  a thought that brings back to mind antiseptic Wet Ones. Patric died of salmonella poisoning in 1995, by the way.

Nicky!  Please correct for the reprint!

Richard Chamberlain:
 a gratuitious inclusion in this piece

It doesn't end there. Nicky then goes onto suggest that Patric (a Libran) may have in 1974 murdered his octogenarian astrologer mentor Celeste  in order to grab her horoscopic column on Harpers & Queen (as was): he did this by pushing her down some stairs, it was rumoured. Celeste was the pseudonym of the American astrologer Helene Hoskins: she taught Patric everything she knew about the heavens. It could be that this "rumour" was part of the fun campery of the time: but who knows?

I certainly detected no homicidal tendencies in Patric when I interviewed him back in the 80s: indeed so taken was he by the sight of me he exited to the hotel bathroom and rejoined me in vain in his silky dressing gown. It was early afternoon. We talked of his chasing asses around his home in Lindos on the island of Rhodes. I think he said asses.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review: Redeeming Features by Nicky Haslam: Joy of being souffléed alive

Seasoned Arcatistes will know that I am not given to incontinent praise. So when I say that Nicky Haslam's memoir Redeeming Features is the most brilliantly trivial book I have ever read (since the Andy Warhol Diaries) you may need to pause and take a deep breath. Yes, you have my permission not to work for the rest of the day. By all means have sex. At least buy a good champagne.

Redeeming Features is the book Proust might have written had he not literary talent - his curse I'm afraid - or the book Duncan Fallowell might have penned had he not a brain or Oscar Wilde might have dashed off had he not a sense of humour. This is not to say that Nicky lacks literary talent or brains. Or a sense of humour. It is that he has neither (nor the sense of humour) in sufficient quantity to get in the way. His naked magnetism to society and celebrity figures is pure, romantic, child-like: nothing takes priority over his natal desire to nurture intimacies that are worth it.

A reader of average intelligence, and with an above average interest in names (obscure upper class aristo satellites, especially) will find their own delight unchallenged by artistic soul delving, behavioural over-noticing or mere satire. Many a memoir is utterly ruined by the simple inability of the author to maintain the consistency of a soufflé in matters entirely inconsequential. Nicky avoids this. He rises to the occasion all puffed up like a pillow, his named crowns golden, and with a yielding middle bit: yes, he did have a romance with Tony Armstrong-Jones. Redeeming Features is that scrummy.

In keeping with the frothy nature of the book it would be unseemly then to try to paraphrase his tale: it matters only that he is here and the book is there. To say more would be to ruin the effect, to puncture the soufflé. Light things, such as a joke, cannot bear to be named or explained. To write a book which is just there is a high accomplishment: it is an act of witting or unwitting humility. I can't say better than that.

Like all good books, Redeeming Features hosts a mystery. On p283, Nicky writes of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll "meeting a supposed sex-change relative." Of this encounter he recalls once writing in the defunct magazine Ritz: "With a song in her heart, Marg beheld an adorable face. It may be a her to you and me, but it sure is a him to Her Grace." I can't imagine why the "supposed sex-change" is not named but if he means who I think he means he should know she's highly litigious. And she's no sex-change.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

AA Gill: Whatever happened to the Mickey Mouse phone?

Very naughty. Almost as naughty as shooting a baboon for fun. Let's give the baboon a name - Melanie sounds nice.

Is Suzanne Moore thinking of leaving the Mail on Sunday?

Only asking, in the light of her final words in her last column on Nazi-loving Nick Griffin and her homophobic Mail colleague Jan Moir - "In these culture wars we have to pick sides. Griffin and Moir each believe they are telling their own 'truth'. Neither are my truth nor much of the country's. The day they are, I will pack my bags."

Starsuckers - the movie the tabloids don't want you to see

Starsuckers is one movie the tabloid film crits won't be reviewing this week because it reveals how easy it is to sell fake celebrity tales to the redtops. My favourite is the Sun's Bizarre column running a story about Sarah Harding and her interest in astronomy - all made up by the movie stooges. Celebrity obsession lies at the heart of the problem as more and more former showbiz editors and journalists move into politics, PR and other areas of life, importing their dimwitted preoccupations with names. The tabs may be desperately gullible but all media - upscale included - are similarly infected. Go watch. It's a laugh and an education.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nicky Haslam: Camp Papa Benedetto and his cobbler

Artisan delivers shoes gift to Papa Benedetto XV1 rather than use the Vatican trademen's entrance

Nicky Haslam is all over the place as he pushes his memoirs Redeeming Features. Nice to see Lynn Barber recycling some of her old Observer lines for her Sunday Times Nicky dicky licky. And while he distances himself from himself by denying his own claim (in his book) that he had a romance in the 50s with Lord Snowdon (as he now is), I alight on a learned essayette Nicky wrote for Channel 4 book 25 x 4 titled "Notes on the New Camp". Here he dilates on how camp has evolved over time - poor (Sir-to-be [for services to Twitter]) Stephen Fry is correctly described as "horribly, smugly camp" - but then goes and ruins it all by winking that the current Pope is camp because he wears Prada (shoes).
Nicky dicky licky

As we now know, Papa Benedetto XV1 may well be camp (scholarly nance division - see David Starkey for atheistic equivalent) but he does not wear Prada. The Pope's cobbler is a man from the Piedmont city of Novara, north Italy, called Adriano Stefanelli. His handmade leathers in ruby red are delivered to the Vatican as a gift - saving the pontiff 400 Euros a pair - and of course Stefanelli recoups by making no secret of his great honour on his trade website. His other clients include the last President Bush and President Obama - I say "clients" but I am not persuaded that the shoes are not simply made and dispatched to the White House.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Susan Hill gets it all wrong on Katie Price and the lower orders

Susan Hill

Former Arcatiste Susan Hill (famed novelist, publisher, playwright, opinionist spewer of words) now writes a blog for The Spectator, the magazine that's hosting an Aids-denialist movie screening on Oct 28 - and my thanks to the loyal, all-weather Arcastiste who brought the blog to my attention. I did say elsewhere that I would not bother to read it, but being a double Gemini I succumbed to curiosity and had a look. Oh dear.

Susan's latest post is a nattery onslaught on ghost written celebrity novels such as those by Katie Price (aka Jordan). In Mail-style fulminant mode she writes of these books: "To pretend to pen a novel, to appear and sign the book for long queues of people and never to acknowledge the ‘real’ author, is simple deceit and the many people who buy a novel believing that it really was written by Jordan or Katie Price, are being cynically manipulated."

I don't think so, dearie. If Susan did her homework, instead of wallowing in upper middleclass oblivion of lower-order cultural realities - a condition encouraged by the infantile, belle epoque mindset of the Spectator - she would know it's no secret that Katie is not the author of the novels that bear her name. As Katie herself said in a Mail interview - among others! - last year to push Angel Uncovered: "I'm not going to sit here and say I write it word by word because I'd be lying. I actually say how I want the story and that's how it happens." Her non-authorship is a truth universally acknowledged. Her books are brand-stamped productions and promoted as such.

I bet Susan a modest £50 - to be donated to an Aids charity - that she will not find one Katie Price fan chosen at random who imagines Katie has written any of her books. Susan would do better to get back to writing a properly earthed indie blog and not try to pander to the delusional and out-of-touch soaks of the Spectator readership.

On other matters, I've always been fascinated by spiders ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spectator is fooled by the Aids denialists

Why is the increasingly infantile Spectator hosting an exclusive UK screening of the widely discredited documentary film House of Numbers (on Oct 28)? Intellectual controversy I can appreciate. A wallow in moronism is harder to understand.

If you haven't heard of it yet, the movie's a piece of Aids denialist propaganda by the Canadian filmmaker Brent Leung. His baseless contention is that Aids is a myth created by the pharmas to flog antiretroviral drugs or a condition dreamt up by misdiagnoses. As Ben Goldacre writes in a comprehensive demolition of the film, House of Numbers crafts its own confusions and is disingenuous. For example, a woman with Aids featured in the movie says she feels much better for rejecting the drugs. What you don't know, if you miss some tiny words added at the end of the closing credits, is that she is now dead.

As fascinating is how the Spectator has been gulled into bestowing its kudos on this nonsense. Though Leung claims to be an indie filmmaker, not an Aids denialist, it is now suspected his film was funded, at least in part, by the Aids-denialist Rethinking AIDS. If true, this makes a nonsense of the magazine's assertion that Leung embarked on a "worldwide journey" of discovery. He'd already reached his conclusions.

The fact Leung has never talked about this should have alerted the usually rational Spectator to the dodgy nature of the production.

Stephen Gately: The Movie. A goat, its chopped cock and a voodoo death

Now he is dead, time for his celebrity to soar on the thermals of dreams. Stephen Gately in life was the cuddlesome pop toy of boyz and girlz and guileful tabloidz. In death, he is being reconfigured. Jan Moir (Moi? Mwah?) of the Mail dreams he died because he was a morally stinking homo (to paraphrase). Mark McGowan has made a short movie about a Stephen Gately killed by ... voodoo. McGowan dreams Stephen Gately cut off the penis of a sacrificed goat and drew malevolent sorcery to his effigy heart. Of the two dreams I prefer Mark's. It strikes me as truer, comparatively speaking. (Click film once, slight delay)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Duncan Fallowell: Why isn't he in BBC4's krautrock documentary?

Dear Madame Arcati

I'm answering the enquiry about me and krautrock which appeared on your comment board. No, I did not know anything about the BBC4 documentary which I see is being broadcast this Friday. Yes, I did introduce krautrock to the UK and spent a lot of time in Germany at the beginning of the 1970s.

I'd like to boast: I am the only person in history who bought the first albums of the Velvet Underground, the Stooges and Can upon their release, so when I became the Spectator's rock columnist in 1970 one of the first things I did was go to Cologne and connect up with Can who became good friends and I wrote a lot about them. I also hung out in Berlin with Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel and told Tony Stratton-Smith of Charisma Records to sign up the former but he was too slow and Polydor got them, later Virgin Records.

David Bowie arrived in Berlin much later at the end of the 70s and of course was never in on anything seminal. In Munich I was with Amon Duul and Popol Vuh (re last, see video below). The latter was the brainchild of Florian Fricke who was the first person I ever knew to sleep under a fur blanket. Fur was popular at the time - see the film Performance for a graphic illustration of this and remember too the famous fur-topped bar at the Byblos Hotel in St Tropez (since removed). Florian was a delightful man, quiet, intense and generous, and a wonderful pianist. He already knew Herzog and Popol Vuh subsequently provided the music for all Herzog's major films. Sadly Florian died early from a stroke.

I hope Friday's documentary mentions him because I'd call him the inventor of 'ambient music' in the current sense of the phrase. As we know, ambient music as an idea was the invention of the Franco-Scottish genius Eric Satie.

With best wishes, Duncan Fallowell

Popol Vuh - Improvisation (1971)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nicky Haslam: Cock-cocking with Tony and Roddy

Nicky Haslam's Redeeming Features autobio is out on Nov 5 and one of its delights is his revelation that the old party-goer and name-dropper cock-cocked with Tony Armstrong-Jones (now Lord Snowdon) in the 1950s, before Tony married Princess Margaret, and later with Roddy Llewellyn, before Roddy became her boyfriend. I had never thought of Nicky till now as the late Queen sister's unwitting bedtime taster.

Roger Lewis: 'My guilt over pompous pantaloon Clive James'

Dear Mme Arcati,

I have been feeling guilty about being so beastly to Clive James. I decided therefore to read his new memoir The Blaze of Obscurity in the hope of revising my opinion that he is a pompous pantaloon. Here are a few choice quotations:

"I would have liked to have been in England when Larkin died."
"My own view of the past was expanded considerably by a recently acquired ability to read Russian."
"Hardly anyone ever resigns from the Garrick."
"When waiting in the car with my driver, I would read to him from Simenon or Maupassant."*
"At the same table as David Hockney, Philip Roth, Harold Pinter and Sir Isaiah Berlin, it was flattering to be treated like one of the boys."
"I talked to the granddaughter of ... Vinicius de Moraes, whose poetry I later learned to love."
"Sitting outside my favourite cafe in the Rue de Université, where I still write at least part of all my books ... "
"I had become so caught up with learning to read Japanese ..."
"At one time I often saw Gore Vidal socially ..."
"Peter O'Toole quoted one of my own poems to me ..."
"I was working late in my London apartment when I got the news [ of Diana's death ], and for several days afterwards I couldn't stop crying... Finally a call came through from Tina Brown at the New Yorker. I owed her too much ..., so I took the call."
"I could easily improve my knowledge of the syntax and the grammar [ of Spanish ] by underlining the various ways in which the clichés were held together."

Roger Lewis
The Angel With Horns
(Tory MP Michael Gove raves about Roger Lewis' Seasonal Suicide Notes in The Times today: "Its [sic] the perfect Christmas present." As a result of this, and/or Roger's interview below, the book is, as I write, at 210 in the Amazon hit parade, from over number 900 at the weekend. For once, Gove is spot on)

*Quote in red is Madame Arcati's favourite. I had a vision of Lady Penelope reading Descartes to Parker ...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Roger Lewis interview: 'I think Clive James is a silly cunt'

I have Duncan Fallowell to thank for giving me the biggest laugh of this year. He introduced me to the world of Roger Lewis and his fantastic autobiography Seasonal Suicide Notes: My Life As It Is Lived. It reveals a man who deplores Clive James, Simon Cowell, Harold Pinter, et al.  Of Andrew Roberts, Lewis likens the historian's "grimace" to that of "a baboon with diarrhoea trying to hold it in." The state of loathing often elevates him to the lyrically comic. If Gore Vidal had a sense of humour he'd be something like Lewis. If Scrooge had a heart (before the visitations), etc etc.

Learned, misanthropic, baroque, supremely dyspeptic: this is a man who reports that his father died in 2004 of “cancer of the bumhole… My sole inheritance is to comprise spare bumper packs of Coloplast Direct Wetwipes”.

"Like most truly funny people, Lewis has a markedly serious side, a bottomless well of melancholy and possibly even a dash of genuine madness," writes Sunday Times reviewer Christopher Hart of 49-year-old Lewis. A journalist and biographer of Anthony Burgess and Peter Sellers, he is a former Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. More to the point, he is also the author of Charles Hawtrey: The Man who was Private Widdle

Roger Lewis kindly submitted to a Madame Arcati analysis.

Roger Lewis! Hello! Congratulations on your autobiography Seasonal Suicide Notes: My Life As It Is Lived. You have given misanthropy a good name. "Roger Lewis is a genius writer, and he knows it," writes Lynn Barber. Do you know it? And what do you think of the demon Barber now she's exiled herself to the Sunday Times?

I must indeed know it -- as how else to account for the fact I live in complete poverty and total obscurity in remote Herefordshire, threatened by bills and bailiffs. I'm like one of those consumptive characters in La Bohème, working under the damp bedclothes because I can't afford to put the heating on. If only I could be mediocre -- oh, for then I might have had a career. I'm too vivid, I fear. I'm not what you might call a safe pair of hands. As for Ms Barber -- she's doing well with that slim tale of her youth. She told it first in Granta. Then again as a little paperback for Penguin. Then as a film. Then as many a feature article. What I'd like to have seen -- Lynn interviewing Lynn by Lynn in her demoniacal mode. As it is, she's allowed herself to slither off the barbed hook.

You come across as a champion hater - weddings, Clive James, bad manners; yet you love Austria and stories featuring wooden legs. Of all the things and persons that appal you, name THE most appalling. And THE thing you most adore.
I don't think I hate things -- I am just exasperated by phoniness and smugness and deliberate amateurishness. I am the Voice of Everyman ! I am the Very Platonic Ideal of Sweet Reasonableness! I have standards! But to answer your question -- the most appalling thing is heterosexual reproduction. There are too many people on the planet. It is verminous. We need a nuclear war or a plague. What I most adore -- finding an old world restaurant with linen tablecloths and doddery waiters.

And Clive James ... he's very nice to his mistresses, and he can read novels in about 57 different languages. Surely that counts for something in these semi-literate times?
I think he is a silly cunt. I mean that in a caring way. If Professor George Steiner decided to be a circus clown -- that's Clive James. And I apologise for insulting circus clowns, as my son Tristan is one with Zippo's. Once you have read Craig Brown's brilliant parodies of Clive's would-be aphoristic style, it is quite impossible to revert to reading the originals.

Was there a precise moment in your early life when you realised you were possessed of a nature of powerful emotions? (Please don't tell me you tortured earwigs in the garden shed).

Do I have powerful emotions? Who do you think I am, Maria Callas? I get it all from my mother, who is just permanently ferocious -- her temper could put Caerphilly Castle into fucking orbit. I never knew calmness at home as a child. So off I slunk to the attics of this huge red brick Edwardian villa we lived in, to play with my Pelham Puppets. There was a laboratory up there too, where Jeremy Lewis' father Morley once conducted medical experiments. I grew up in an atmosphere James Whale put on celluloid.

Do you know your astrological sign and if so are you true to it?

My star sign is Bestial.

Is it true the Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre - who has just bought a wonderful property in the Highlands - wilted when he read one proposed serialisation extract from Seasonal Suicide Notes? He must be a wise man really because he ran something in the end.

Ever since he authenticated The Hitler Diaries, I have not been able to take Lord Dacre wholly seriously. But the Mail has a new and enlightened features editor now called Sandra Parsons, with whom I dealt. However, as a result of my appearance in her pages, my sales ranking plummeted on Amazon.

You deplore bad manners - if there's one thing you could magic away or into existence to improve human intercourse, what would it be? And may I have a taste ruling on the increasing use of the word cunt.

I love the word cunt. Most euphonious. I got drunk the other night and the next day I discovered I'd re-written the lyrics of Les Misérables -- Les Cunterables -- inserting the word cunt in every possible place. This had been e-mailed at 4 a.m. to novelist Paul Bailey, who fell over in Turnham Green and did his ankle in. I am now fully expecting that after my next session on the single-malt I'll be giving the world Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Cunt, Annie Get Your Cunt, My Fair Cunt, and A Funny Cunt Happened On The Way To The Forum.

Apropos bad manners -- I was agog when I had luncheon with somebody at St Alban and they kept poking at their Blackberry device with a little cocktail stick thing, like the monkey in Kubrick's 2001 playing with a bone. I felt that was rude. I think being rude to waiters / underlings is unforgivable. If I see anyone doing that in a restaurant I want to punch them in the face -- luckily I do have a vengeful, violent streak. (Welsh, you see.) To improve human intercourse? Well, it would be nice if people replied to letters. These days you write to people and you might as well be chucking the envelope down a well.
In your book you complain of poor financial returns on your Anthony Burgess and Peter Sellers books - would you ever consider writing a biography of a celebrity just for the money - such as Katie Price (aka Jordan), Paris Hilton or cry-baby blogger Perez Hilton? Perhaps you could turn water into wine. Each has a huge following. You could bathe in scented rose petals for the rest of your life.

I would do anything for money, except live in West Drayton. But I have never heard of the people you mention. I thought they were hotels, like Bromyard Stakis. Water into wine -- ah yes, the Jesus trick. On the other hand, to mix the metaphor, you can't polish a turd.

You do like the high life, you dine at The Ivy, for instance. Is it that you're wealthier than you would have us believe?

I adore the high life. It should be available to all, 24/7. Believing as I do that the only way to waste money is to save it, I always splash out on myself and my loved ones. Then I get back home and there is a summons for Council Tax arrears. My late father was the same -- he'd come back from a gloomy visit to the bank manager and buy a Picasso etching, cashmere coats, a case of vintage sherry from Berry Bros., a dozen hardback books posted from Hatchards, a suit or two from Gieves & Hawkes, and a seaside house in France. He had style. Then he died from cancer of the bumhole.

Now I have heard a rumour you're working on a book that will feature one of my alter egos, Margaret Rutherford. I regard her as the most splendid presence in the English movie, an unsurpassed Miss Marple (the TV versions are pallid). Do you agree? And tell us about the book.

Well, it is not a book about Margaret Rutherford. Margaret Rutherford features in my next opus, Growing Up With Comedians. To be published by Century in the summer of 2010, if I can get my mind back on it. The advance was pitiful -- approximately the equivalent to ten minutes of a lawyer's time. Dedicated to Craig and our late much-lamented chum Hugh Massingberd. Essays and profiles and meditations on my personal favourites, from Alastair Sim and Terry-Thomas up to Johnny Vegas and Malcolm Hardee. It is a feverish book about how comedy deals with sex and death. It is about comedy as tragedy.

Do you shower or bathe? And without looking do you know the price of the brand of bar of soap you use? I hope you don't resent my treating you as a celebrity in OK! magazine ...

I can never be a celebrity. I am so fantastically fat and ugly. You need to be photogenic, like Peter Andre. Not even the great Francesco Guidicini of The Sunday Times could make me look half human. Talk about Phantom of the Fucking Opera. People thought Stratford Johns was still alive.

In my Austrian birdcage I shower. There's also a horrible little shelf in the pan of the bog, for one to examine one's stools -- they are weird these Germanic peoples. It it a digestive / health conscious thing or is to tell fortunes with? Here in the Herefordshire Balkans I sink like a hippo in the tub. I get my toiletries from Penhaligon or Trumpers. I really do. Another reason for being bust. If I unfortunately resemble Stratford Johns taking a mid-morning crap, at least I smell nice.

One reviewer suggested you should see a psychotherapist to analyse your furies. Your thoughts.

My wife is an educational psychologist.

And finally, Roger, if you could be persuaded to host a literary party in London, name five living people you'd invite, and why, and five living people you would bar at the door or kick up the arse, and why.

Those welcome: Barry Humphries (not as Edna or Les but in 1890s mode ), Duncan Fallowell (who is never in anything other than 1890s mode ), Mark Rylance (the greatest living actor -- I've known him since he was Peter Pan), Craig Brown (a very nice Old Etonian), Professor John Bayley (another nice Old Etonian -- and my beloved mentor at Oxford).

Those who can fuck right off: Jonathan Coe (because he was disobliging about me in his Acknowledgements to one of his books and also because his fat wife cut my wife dead at one of my launch parties), Blake Morrison (whose review of my Anthony Burgess masterpiece was homicidal -- I'd love to hear that he has met with a fatal accident), Brian MacArthur (who cut my fee in half when he took over as Lit Ed of the Daily Telegraph -- I'd love to hear that he has met with a fatal accident), sad mother Julie Myerson (who asked me if writing is what I do full time -- yet who'd reviewed my Sellers movie at Cannes and hadn't made the connection), and everybody at HBO (who didn't invite me to the premiere of my own movie at Cannes, because I was "only the author") and whilst we are about it, everyone in my Welsh family (because I don't like being part of anyone else's DNA). That's not five, sorry. That's five hundred.
Roger, you are an angel with talons. Thank you again. And good luck with Seasonal Suicide Notes. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read. x

Apparently it is what Matt Lucas' ex and Stephen Gately were reading when they croaked. The Coroner is going to be after me for murder.

Click here to buy Seasonal Suicide Notes: My Life As It Is Lived. It's better than Dignitas.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sir John Betjeman's Archie: the bear model for Brideshead's Aloysius

For delicate Arcatistes, the face-lifted Archibald Ormsby-Gore ("Archie") and his companion Jumbo, the teddy bears of Sir John Betjeman. Visitors to St Pancras International station on Tuesday 20th October will be given a rare opportunity to see the bear who was like a surrogate brother to Betjeman and the model for Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte's bear in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

So, the invitation....
Trains and Buttered Toast
John Betjeman Young People's Poetry Competition Awards Ceremony
With Roger McGough, Laura Dockrill, Jamal Msebele and Betjeman's Teddy Bear Archie.
Tuesday 20 October, 3.30 - 4.30pm St Pancras International station

And the "before" Archie and Jumbo

Daniel Radcliffe naked: the un-PhotoShopped version

OK, here's the actuality. Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. Click once to, er, enlarge.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Videojug blogging results: Madame Arcati muses on the stats

The Videojug blogging survey results are out - here's a sample of stats with my comments in italics:

Top Five Reasons For Starting A Blog:
Most people start their blog to either showcase their talent, to educate and help others, as a hobby, for corporate reasons, or purely for the monetary benefit. Madame Arcati was conceived in Barcelona, one of the world wombs of creativity, when its creator sought a new identity for the salvation of sanity. The notion of writing in drag appealed, and the prospect of limited liberation excited. A chicken stuck in a journalistic battery suddenly felt free range.

Bloggers Don’t Enjoy Press Releases:
Recommendations and press releases only consist of 3% of content that bloggers choose to feature. The majority (65.4%) still blog about their personal choice. Madame Arcati deletes most press releases on sight, unread. Spam and other fraud attempts are showcased on my delightful satellite blog, Spam2Arcati.
Sponsored Blog Posts Are Hugely Popular:
The majority (56.5%) stated they would accept payment for a blog entry with the minimum payment ranging from $2 to $1000 per post. Madame Arcati is appalled by this whorish tendency and deplores the use of the US dollar currency.

Bloggers Love Leisure, Food & Drink and Education:
Leisure and Hobbies (29.2%), Food and Drink (17.8%) and Education 17.9%) are the most common blog category subjects. Personally I love breathing, excreting and getting up in the morning. Eating, fucking and listening are also popular with me as are getting dressed and looking for melanoma spots. Oh and I adore the MJ History remix.

Blogs: No Cost, No Profit:
70% of bloggers spend less than $50 running their blog, however a massive 55% don’t have any advertising on their blog. My running costs are zero if I factor out indirect spends such as on my email sub, electricity and my rate-per-hour as a writer whore. The best thing about a blog is beating a team of salaried cunties on a newspaper or magazine - I can't think of one publication that has yet developed a readable blog. This is primarily because a salaried hack confuses blogging with cutting and pasting compromised and self-edited pieces from another medium: free expression is stifled, a pose of writing down detectable. Most journalists are half-educated propagandists who can only assume positions created in thought-moulds by an editor or a proprietor. Even a hypnotist would have their work cut out trying to discover what a hack really thinks about anything.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stephen Gately: The Sun, Andy Coulson and... blackmail?

The Sun reminds readers today that Stephen Gately of Boyzone - who has died suddenly at 33 in Majorca -  "was the first boyband star to bravely come out as gay" in 1999. "He took the decision to 'out' himself in the Sun in June of that year." Oh, really.

The reality of course is much more interesting than that. I must have imagined that his mother Margaret had a different view of the matter at the time. "Stephen has been bullied into doing this," she told the Mirror. "The Sun has destroyed so many lives. There was Lenny Henry and there was Sophie Rhys-Jones. Now it's my son - and us. All of us are involved in this. I have to go out and do my day's work with the whole place looking at me."

An ex-Boyzone roadie had slithered to the Sun with his gay Gately tale. Having promised to give up its habit of homophobia earlier in '99, the paper couldn't just splash with its exclusive (with its unreconstructed "gay shame" implications). It had promised: "From now on the Sun will not reveal the sexuality of gays - men or women - unless we believe it can be defended on the grounds of overwhelming public interest. If gays choose to come out, we will report it if we feel it is newsworthy or relevant. Otherwise, we will not invade the privacy of gay people."

So the paper, anxious not to lose anything to mere integrity, contacted Boyzone's PR agency and made it plain the story would come out sooner or later, so why not let the Sun handle it responsibly. Or as Boyzone manager Louis Walsh said at the time after a phone interview with the Guardian's Roy Greenslade: "Greenslade said to me that didn't Andy Coulson (of the Sun) ring me and say: `There's two ways of doing the Gately story - the right way and the wrong way?' Was that not blackmail? I said it wasn't blackmail..."

Ah, Louis, ever the pro. As he has said, "We work the tabloids. We need them. They need us." And our old friend Andy Coulson! Now the Conservative Party's media boss.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

John Lennon and the Moon: Piss in our time

Irksome Yoko Ono tweets excitedly that something called The International Lunar Geographic Society (formerly the Lunar Republic Society) has renamed a crater on the Moon in honour of John Lennon on the 69th anniversary of his birth. The John Lennon Peace Crater measures approximately six kilometers in diameter, with a depth of about 990 meters. Get your cunting bunting out.

I'd be impressed except I notice that among the other "select few luminaries" honoured by the Society with a lunar crater handle is Julius Caesar who, if I recall from my readings of Plutarch, murdered one million people and enslaved another one million in his Gallic Wars, in the furtherance of his notice-me political career. Plainly a commitment to peace will not in itself earn you nominal possesssion of a bit of a dead rock in space. Iconic celebrity might.

However, the Society did help to remove a crater designation to accused Nazi war criminal, Dr Hans Eppinger, Jr: whether this cunt killed more people than Caesar I couldn't say, but two millennia separates them. Nothing like a bit of historical distance to launder a name.

So who or what is this International Lunar Geographic Society, that is as celebrity obsessed as OK! magazine? Well, just read part of its Proclamation: "The people of the Lunar Republic do hereby mandate that all beings throughout the Universe do recognize, respect and uphold our sovereign right to self-determination and self-governance as a free and autonomous citizenry."

For $16 you can become "a citizen-partner with the Lunar Republic Society, joining in the groundbreaking international effort to bring about private ownership of property on the Moon, as part of a ten-year, three phase $3.8-billion program to return humans — including professional astronauts, engineers, scientists, and civilians — to Luna....We are on a fast track to return to the Moon by the year 2015." In other words, the Society admits it owns nothing on the Moon to sell. However, for as little as $34.25 per acre, you, too, can "buy" a tract of lunar land near Crater M Jackson.

Just like Yoko's Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Islandm near Reykjavik in Iceland, the International Lunar Geographic Society is another organisation for the nattering-on about fantasy projects. The John Lennon Peace Crater is in good company. It was born on the same day NASA bombed the Moon.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nesta Wyn Ellis: From John Major to the Paris Métro

Nesta and the then Prime Minister John Major

Transformations always fascinate me. Back in 1991 author Nesta Wyn Ellis bestrode the world of British biography with her life story of the then prime minister John Major. The two had clicked when she interviewed him for the now defunct glossy Woman's Journal. So she was his natural Boswell when he most improbably made it into Number 10: her book was the first to suggest that the Major marriage was no tropical fishtank, among other things. The book made her famous. She appeared on the primetime chatshow Wogan and made the Sun and Sunday Times front pages - it was rumoured that Norma (Mrs M) was most upset by the bio. Hurtle into the Noughties and Nesta has left behind the world of British politics with which she was so intimate and pursued her dream to be a free spirited chanteuse. In this rare footage, she busks in the Métro de Paris. She has also appeared in numerous city clubs there and made a movie. I am bedazzled.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Piers Morgan: Is Simon Cowell planning to sideline him?

On my recent tour of London goss salons one rumour pops up repeatedly - that Simon Cowell plans to sideline Piers Morgan fom his TV formats. And why? Because Morgan is just too good and more popular than the dark lord himself.

Really? I express doubts to my sources: Morgan has certainly enjoyed a good summer what with his Katie Price audience, his benign duel with Sir Cliff, his toyboy status in the SuBo universe: only today there's news of Cilla breaking down on one of his TV shows, not about bloody Bobby again one hopes. All very impressive. But Cowell has now attained a Gatsby-like status, confirmed by his £1m 50th birthday party the other day, with his co-ownership of ITV a credible reported aim. I conclude this rumour is just horrible mischief.

Then quite by chance I happen on PR-meister Mark Borkowski's stimulating and always insightful blog where he posits his theory about Morgan and Cowell. Have a read - scroll down to the Morgan pic on the posting. Borkowski is uniquely a philosopher-PR with I suspect a mystical side. Certainly he's shrewd. But don't tell him. Such praise might go to his head.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mark McGowan smothers himself in peanut butter for dying kids

Stunt artist Mark McGowan will mark World Food Day this month by riding around London for 24 hours on a tiny child's tricycle covered in peanut butter. His efforts, in support of Action Against Hunger, aim to raise awareness of a new life-saving peanut-based treatment for 19 million children dying of hunger. He starts his journey at 10am on October 15th 2009 at Downing Street and will circumnavigate London, ending in Greenwich on World Food Day - October 16th 2009.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Roger Lewis: Why he sucked his trousers up his arse

Has the Daily Mail run the extract from the funniest book of the year yet - Seasonal Suicide Notes: My Life as It Is Lived by Roger Lewis? I can't be bothered to look, and I'm awfully busy, so please be a duck and check it out. Last I heard, the paper bought the serial rights then got the wally-wobbles. Editor Paul Dacre was horrified by the book's venomous refrains (foreign to him as we know), spiked it, and ran something toothless by Janet Street-Porter. Very foolish. (Yes! The Mail has run the extract, a commenter claims. Now I can't be bothered to rewrite this par. Mr Dacre has proven to be more pliant than legend allows. He also has good taste in property. Longer[er] may he reign!)

While we await news (no longer), have a slurp of Lewis' glorious book from Christopher Hart's great review in the Sunday Times. Lewis, a journalist and biographer of Peter Sellers and Anthony Burgess, reveals himself to be an authentic, wildly comic, splenetic misanthrope: a hater, among many other things and persons, of Clive James (let's start a club on this fraud), bad manners and Andrew Roberts who has the “grimace of a baboon with diarrhoea trying to hold it in." He's also the first writer to allude to the late film critic Alexander Walker's homosexuality: for some reason it's a complete no-go area in some quarters.

Thanks to Lewis' poor health “I’ve been coughing so much I sucked my trousers up my arse.” And when his father died in 2004 of “cancer of the bumhole… My sole inheritance is to comprise spare bumper packs of Coloplast Direct Wetwipes”. Oh yes, please. Buy now.

Click pic for large version. My thanks to Duncan Fallowell for this photo of the Roger Lewis book launch at Zippo's Circus on Hampstead Heath last week - Roger's son Tristan is a clown and juggler with Zippo's. Duncan Fallowell is in the white trousers and Beryl Bainbridge is offering him money - he can't remember what for. Paul Bailey is in the background (my apologies for trying to kiss you once, Paul ...)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Duchess of York and how a Laura Van Wormer tale got turned

Being of an essentially humble disposition I am constantly amazed how my little posts on this and that get the media excited. Another example has been drawn to my attention.

Back in February I noted how the trail had gone cold on the co-authored historical novel-in-progress Hartmoor by Fergie, Duchess of York, and the delightfully named US Dallas author Laura Van Wormer. Laura saw my piece and retells on her website how it grew into something bigger. More than coincidentally, the very next day after my story ran, the Telegraph's Mandrake goss column led with: "Sarah, Duchess of York reconsiders plan to publish ’racy’ historical novel." Part of its story read: "Miss Van Wormer admits that even her friends and family are getting impatient about the book’s release which has been delayed indefinitely."

Unfortunately, the Telegraph story prompted friends and relatives of Laura to ask her why she told the paper that they were "impatient" for the book. We must infer that she didn't say this to the paper.

The site then picked up the Telegraph tale with their take: "Fergie's novel hangs in the balance". So then the Royal Watch section of reported that Laura had spoken to the Telegraph and wrote ... "Sarah’s literary collaborator, US historian Laura Van Wormer, has admitted she is getting impatient with the delays…" Laura is hardly a historian: a historical fiction writer perhaps ....

Oh dear! Laura writes in one of her journals: "At any rate, just to reiterate, yes, the Duchess of York and I did write a huge historical adventure novel, and yes, it has taken a long time to write, and yes, I should have definitive news for you by this summer." It is now autumn. We are still waiting, Laura.

Do read Laura's fascinating website. Just for the record, I'd noticed that the publication date for Hartmoor varied on trade book sites - a clear sign of a problem. That's what prompted my story. I remain confident Hartmoor will see the light of day. Eventually.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Jonathan King: 'Roman Polanski, vindictive acts and a lack of kindness'

Jonathan King was invited by an Arcatiste to comment on whether Polanski should be returned to the US. Here's his response:

"All I can add, knowing nothing of the case, is the fact that then, as now, a plea of guilty does not mean somebody was guilty. Many mitigating circumstances get washed away as lawyers and police persuade innocent people to admit guilt, chipping away with "you'll be convicted anyway" and other reasons to give up. So I would say - never believe transcripts or pleas or "admission". Likewise, sometimes people did dreadful things having convinced themselves all was fine. Neither extreme is the reality, most times. But what is clear here is that vengeance and vindictive acts seem to have taken over tolerance and kindness in the world. Personally I think we should all be nice to everyone."

Friday, October 02, 2009

Mumbai Calling - 'Grade cancels comedy series'

A darling Arcatiste within the bowels of ITV tells me that the broadcaster has cancelled comedy series Mumbai Calling. This may come as a surprise to the  show's production company Allan McKeown Presents which on its website reports, "Peter Fincham (programming chief at ITV) will decide on a second series by the end of July."

Alas, ITV boss Michael Grade has already axed it, apparently. He'd always hated the series, my mole tells me, and had allowed its debut series to colllect dust on the shelf for two years before reluctantly screening it as a cost saver.

Mumbai Calling sought in vain to raise a giggle from "troublesome turbans and coffee conundrums" at a call centre based in India. It featured accents.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hilary Gialerakis: Gallery for painter who suffered a large cock

Last year I wrote of the work of the late  and understated modernist painter Hilary Gialerakis and of her peculiar life - among other things, some of her canvases were once bullet-holed by misaimed gun shots at lovers. Then there was her war hero husband's unfeasibly large cock. A website gallery has now been set up - do visit and appreciate.

The Gift