Monday, November 28, 2011

Jonathan King shock horror! A 'fair' press interview

The new Independent editor Chris Blackhurst can't be all bad. He has actually run a fair interview with social media pariah (du jour) Jonathan King when the press convention is to label him a paedo, run doctored pics of him ogling kids in parks (as Andy Coulson did at the News of the World) or pretend he never existed (as at the BBC, until the DG Mark Thompson reversed that foolishness in a written apology).

The Indie relates how its interview with JK came about: he wrote to Blackhurst pointing out that his memoirs had recently topped an Amazon book sales chart and that thousands had viewed his movies on YouTube and elsewhere.

Such maverick responsiveness in a sitting editor must be almost without precedent in modern times. To read the piece click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Duncan Fallowell's Turin letter: Magical mysteries... and a dark porn cinema

Dear Madame Arcati

I have just returned from an intoxicating period in Turin and, since you have an Italian name and also an interest in mystery, I thought you might like the series 'Tredici Misteri di Torino' [Thirteen Mysteries of Turin] which I have to-day posted on YouTube.

Here is a taste, click here.

The city is fortresslike and of massive blocks on a stone grid with secret baroque courtyards and rococo interiors. For its size it has a greater number of bookshops than any city in the world. And its caffés are even grander than Vienna's with better food and more gymnastic waiters. You will also be interested to know that it is one of the three cities of the white magic triangle (the other two being Prague and Lyon) and doubtless even more excited to learn that it is one of the three cities of the black magic triangle too! (the other two being London and San Francisco - how on earth did Frisco get in there?).

It certainly has the darkest porn cinema I've ever visited, a cosy retreat when the weather is inclement. Not that it was inclement. Glacial blue skies, starry at night, and the Alps snowcapped as backdrop. Anyway the city is weatherproof with nearly 20 miles of glorious arcades in the historic centre and something of interest round every other pillar. You probably want to know more about my erotic adventures there - but I'm still in a secretive romantic glow so allow me to fondle my memories privately a little longer.

With best wishes, Duncan Fallowell

My Dear Duncan

Thank you so much - it's been years since I stayed in Torino. As to your intriguing film, I find that an iconic water feature in a place of worship is never so much sullied as by stigmata of its electrical power source. Don't you find? Still, your average Roman Catholic is a pragmatist. Which is just as well.

I think Turin has found its re-creator.

Love & Light (to quote the hideous New Age lingo)

MA x

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Modern manners: the graceless stupidity of ignoring emails

When a Jehovah's Witness rings my bell, I make certain he or she sees me through a window before I go about my business and decline to come to the door. JWs are easy to spot: they usually travel in pairs (may I just say that the Watchtower is quite well written), are clad in a chic I term shabby neat and always stand impassively and patiently at the door, as if embarked on a picnic-fuelled siege. Sales people tend to fidget.

My purpose in manifesting my person at the window is of course a calculated offence: I want them to understand that they have been observed and that I have elected to ignore them. It's a kind cruelty of a sort: it does at least invite the option not to call again, thereby saving them much in hurt dignity, if any.

A very modern variation on this rudeness is the ignored email. You, the sender, have gone to the bother of directing energy at a certain target (an editor, say). Perhaps you have suggested an idea, or pointed something out: in other words, you have bothered. The effect? Nothing.

You know the email has arrived because emails don't go missing: that's a modern myth. There is no such thing as a lost email, unless it has been wilfully deleted by some lazy cunt (ie the sendee). You may be on good terms with the sendee who reads your email - and then decides not to respond. You may be well known to the sendee, you may even have enjoyed carnal knowledge (perhaps not), yet silence is the answer.

Suddenly I am the Jehovah's Witness treated as an unwelcome visitor.

In the case of the office-bound editor or journalist who ignores emails, this is a behavioural exhibition of arrogance or sheer ignorance arising from tenure. The individual has started to imagine, thanks to the plastic security of status, that they are being inundated - that somehow everyone 'out there' is trying to sell them something. Thanks to their elevated position, the normal rules of etiquette are suspended because no equality is perceived. Silence is a type of response (in that it falls short of an expectation): its purpose is to advertise the importance of the sendee.

Silence is the flamboyant twirl of Big I Am.

The Silent are in transit, see - they hallucinate that their lives are moving at greater speed than those who are 'out there' - and the absence of response is a living demonstration. In any case, an ego trip based on not doing something is one of the delights of tenured journalism. It adds to the quilting of contract life, to the relish of professional hibernation on a Caffè Nero drip feed.

What I love most though is that The Silent usually come calling later, pretending not to have received the email or attempting to gloss over their graceless stupidity. That's when the real fun starts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jonathan King: The Sun, The Moon, Paul Merton and HIGNFY

The Moon in Me Me Me
The witty topical TV quiz Have I Got News For You? this week had Andy Hamilton suggest that, if The Sun closes down, the new tabloid should be called The Moon.

"What a brilliant name!" exclaimed Paul Merton.

Yes - so brilliant that six months ago Jonathan King's second movie, satirical Me Me Me - premiered in London and screened at the Cannes Film Festival - featured a national British daily paper called… The Moon.

In fact, the film's already had 12,000 full length downloads and views to the free website - you can watch the movie for nothing here. It was the No1 film on YouTube last week for 13-30 year-olds.

The film was revealed exclusively by Madame Arcati last May. Perhaps the scriptwriters should borrow Madame's crystal balls or invite JK back on - I'm sure he's more than capable of giving them a run for their six-figure fees.

To read Madame's 'non-review' of the flick, click here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Duncan Fallowell: Krautrock, acid wildness and.... The Spectator magazine

Duncan Fallowell back in the 1970s
Lovers of krautrock awake! Spoon Records and Mute are bringing out a 40th anniversary edition of the classic, 'genre-defying' Can album Tago Mago this week.

As it happens, leading Arcatiste Duncan Fallowell provided the original liner notes which were taken from an article he published in Melody Maker in October 1971, reprinted for the reissue. He didn't really want them to, but the record companies said: 'Oh yes, that's the whole point, it's historical. And would you like to write some new ones too?' So, he has done so.

Duncan was the first person in the UK to visit band Can in Germany and write about them - he 'broke' them here as it were - and did it - guess where? - in the once old codgery Spectator. 'Can you imagine it now?' Duncan tells Madame. 'It was really marvellous of the Speccie to go with my wildness in those days which was down to the arts editor really, Kenneth Hurren, but George Gale and the wonderful Harry Creighton were amused by it too. I was 21, 22. It was young fresh acid wildness, not the Jeffrey Barnard sozzled old mackintosh wildness of subsequent Spectator years.'

When Duncan went on the hippy trail for a year at the end of 1974, Kenneth Hurren gave him a letter of introduction on Spectator writing-paper. 'By that time Kenneth had become Associate Editor because George Gale had been sacked - but Harry would never allow Kenneth to call himself 'editor' as such, which caused unhappiness,' says Duncan. 

'Harry liked to consider himself editor but of course he wasn't. Patrick Cosgrave, I believe, was also annoyed at not being called editor. Anyway this gave rise to the story which I include in How To Disappear (p 78) about the British Embassy in Bangkok which I used for a few weeks as a forwarding address. They were so astonished that I should be a sort of roving correspondent for such a magazine that they rang the Spectator office in Gower Street. Gill Pyrah, who was editorial secretary at the time, picked up the phone and asked them, "Have you seen him wearing tight, bright-yellow flared trousers?" "Yes, we have as a matter of fact." "Then that's Duncan".

'By the time I got back from India at the end of 1975 the magazine had been sold to Henry Keswick and soon moved to Doughty Street where Alexander Chancellor retained me as a columnist for quite a long time - but eventually my anarchies got the better of both of us and I went off to do the punk glossies Deluxe and Boulevard.'

Of Can, he adds: 'They fed my Dionysiac side and still do - but they are intellectuals as well, so this re-release of Tago Mago is a terrific feast for the mind and body.'

For more info or to order a copy, click here.

A flavour of the Can festival: click arrow once to play....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Londoner's Diary mwah for Madame Arcati over Guardian's naughtiness

Britain's most wonderful gosser, the Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary, sweetly mentions the Madame Arcati blog (what a common word 'blog' is, on second thoughts) - do have a read here. I'm far too busy with my horoscopes to précis the matter, but tribute is paid to my fine manners (well, I am The Lady's weekly astrologer - and its first, fans rush to tell me).

I shall only say, in the wake of the Diary's item, that the Guardian must resist the temptation to emulate the BBC in its formulaic claims to have 'learned' of a news story when really they should give credit where it is due and admit that they're cutting and pasting lifting.

That's the problem with atheism. It leads to immorality and pogroms.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

London life: Molly Parkin and the man with a big one

My permanent fiancee Molly Parkin shared this story with me the other day and I felt it only right to give it the wider dissemination it deserves..... She writes:

YESTERDAY'S ENCOUNTER ON THE WAY TO THE APPLE EMPORIUM

AS I CROSSED THE PIAZZA AT COVENT GARDEN
TWO COCKNEY CHAPS DRESSED IN PEARLY KING KIT
WERE THERE WITH A TRAY.
THE TWINKLY, PORTLY, WRINKLY BOOMED OUT
"MOLL, I'VE GOT A BIG ONE FOR YA!"
I TURNED AND YELLED BACK
"SORRY, MATE...BUT THOSE DAYS ARE OVER.."
HE SHOUTED BACK
"TALKIN' BOUT A CARNATION, LUV

THE WHOLE SQUARE LAUGHED
(HE MAY HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE MEAT PORTERS FROM SMITHFIELD, GROWN OLDER!)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Kirk Douglas on bisexuality - and why Tatler is now soooo gorgeous

Kirk Douglas by Darrell Robinson
aka Wooden Horse
There's no point moaning about my non-attendance or imagining that I'm dying of a communicable disease. I have the Christmas and New Year horoscopes to work on. I am sozzled on future doings. However, the unprofitable present still has the capacity to stir my torpid interest.

First, I am delighted that the immensely improved Tatler has placed Duncan Fallowell's How To Disappear travel memoir [reviewed here] among its sexiest reads of the year. Ever since the 'spinning vagina expert' took over as editor, and Tiny Tears fucked off to the Mail, the magazine has gone from strength to strength in its championing of aristocratic and models-look eugenics: I can only aspire to the perfected physical and mental entitlements as showcased and celebrated in its glossy pages - but silly me!

This fabulous exhibition of good taste in Tatler draws me inexorably to the second thing to stir me - a YouTube video conversation about bisexuality, threesomes and cock-cocking prison sex. Once again we have Duncan F to thank for anchoring me in the present. It is in his interview with the legendary Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas that our attention is drawn to sexual practices that may be foreign to our nation's prim, comme il faut tabloid journalists.

Kirk wisely declines to say whether he has ever done anything that might outrage the Tinseltown homophobes, but he does reminisce about a big butch cock-cunter who went to jail for 10 years and there discovered that a pretty stubbled face in twilight is a perfectly acceptable substitute for organic relief. Having served his sentence and rejoined the public, our hero reverted to his normal sexual service without apparent need of psychotherapy, priest or agony aunt.

Suddenly, the present has its attractions - but the future beckons once again.

To watch the Kirk Douglas video, click here. Darrell Robinson's gallery can be viewed here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Silvio Berlusconi and his joyless cock: a poem by Fake Daniels

A learned writer calling himself or herself Fake Daniels recently commented on actress Susan Penhaligon's poetry - his or her critique betrayed a referential if not satirical bent. Here, Fake Daniels draws on an ancient Latin source to reflect on Silvio Berlusconi, the noted satyr and occasional PM of Italy.

An imitation of Martial's epigram 1.34 (translated original below)

Remarkably unguarded for a man with Security...
I think you like the cameras more than cunt.

But working girls keep the factory door shut.
Learn from them how to hide your labouring bones.

I don't care what you do with your joyless cock -
Viagra-hard like a hammered thumb -
but I forbid you, Silvio, from keeping getting caught.

The translated original:

XXXIV. TO LESBIA.

You always take your pleasure, Lesbia, with doors unguarded and open, nor are you at any pains to conceal your amusements. It is more the spectator, than the accomplice in your doings, that pleases you, nor are any pleasures grateful to your taste if they be secret. Yet the common courtesan excludes every witness by curtain and by bolt, and few are the chinks in a suburban brothel. Learn something at least of modesty from Chione, or from Alis: even the monumental edifices of the dead afford hiding-places for abandoned harlots. Does my censure seem too harsh? I do not exhort you to be chaste, Lesbia, but not to be caught.

And for classicists, the original:

XXXIV

INCUSTODITIS et apertis, Lesbia, semper
liminibus peccas nee tua furta tegis,
et plus spectator quam te delectat adulter
nee sunt grata tibi gaudia si qua latent.
at meretrix abigit testem veloque seraque

raraque Submemmi fornice rima patet.
a Chione saltern vel ab lade disce pudorem :
abscondunt spurcas et monumenta lupas.
numquid dura tibi nimium censura videtur ?
deprendi veto te, Lesbia, non futui.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Susan Penhaligon debuts as poet: A MILF at 50 and Bloody Cornwall

The actress and writer Susan Penhaligon - best known for her starring role as Prue in Bouquet of Barbed Wire and for appearances in many other TV dramas such as A Fine Romance - is also a poet (on the quiet).

'I write poems as a sort of diary,' Susan tells Madame Arcati. 'So they go back years. Some of them are just a moment trapped in time.'

It's a body of work that I'm sure will find its public - and I'm honoured to publish Cornishwoman Susan's Feeling down and Now I'm Fifty.

Now I'm Fifty
By Susan Penhaligon

Now I'm fifty I shall wear
Too much make up.
I shall look admiringly without shame
at young men's bodies,
Muscles firm stretched out
In the sun.
I shall sit with dark glasses and red lipstick
dressed in black at a table outside
an Italian restaurant, my mobile phone
poised importantly at my ear.
I shall wear all my gold rings at once,
And my perfume, though sweet, will be
Full of lemons.
I shall dwell without melancholy on the
Richness of my past,
And the heels of my shoes, perhaps a
Touch too puissant, will not make me stagger,
Now I'm fifty.

Feeling down
By Susan Penhaligon

Bloody Cornwall,
bloody granite,
bloody Cornwall,
bloody sea,
bloody sand smells,
bloody rocks,
bloody life boat,
bloody fish Market,
bloody Methodists,
bloody primary school.

Bloody London,
bloody no air,
bloody no God,
bloody no sea,
bloody no life.

Bloody Cornwall.

(Copyright © Susan Penhaligon 2011)

Poetry Olympics Superjam: Join Molly Parkin, Michael Horovitz and Steven Berkoff

Darling poet Michael Horovitz - a still potent septuagenarian - invites you to join him and a clutch of lyrical luminaries at his Poetry Olympics Superjam Parts 1 & 2 this Friday (Oct 28).

Among the arts circus acts are Elvis McGonagall, Gwyneth Herbert, Ayana Witter-Johnson, Adam Horovitz, Steven Berkoff, Barry Miles, Niall McDevitt, Annie Whitehead, Molly Parkin, Sophie Parkin and Francesca Beard, as well as Miles Davis Landesman, Kath Best and Hanja Kochansky celebrating the late lamented lyricist and poet Fran Landesman.

The Venue: University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY. Starts 6pm. For more info, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roger Lewis book party: Adult nappies, posh gits and names galore, darling

Perfect
Party reports from guests Molly Parkin, Jonathan King and Duncan Fallowell. And a letter from host Roger Lewis on his glorious celebration.

'Roger was wearing sandals. The last person I remember wearing sandals at his own book launch was Jeremy Sandford, circa 1985.' So reports Duncan Fallowell, one of many notable guests at Roger Lewis' launch party for What Am I Still Doing Here?, his fabulous and funny autobiographical follow-up to acclaimed Seasonal Suicide Notes.

Madame Arcati couldn't make it, of course. but she had not one, not two, but three famous appointed ambassadors dispatched to the Chris Beetles Ltd event on Tuesday (Oct 18) evening in London's SW1: the blessed Duncan (a biped concordance on party lore), the divine fiancee Molly Parkin and last and never least - oh yes - Jonathan King, lately the recipient of an apology from the BBC DG Mark Thompson himself.

Molly Parkin portrait by
Darren Coffield
JK tells me: 'My dear friend Lynn Barber just e-m'd me to say Duncan Fallowell was terribly keen to meet me because of our mutual friend Arcati! I'd have liked to have seen him with his clothes on.'

He adds: 'Molly Parkin looked gorgeous and took most of the attention in a room which ranged from Richard Littlejohn and Quentin Letts through Barry Cryer to Lynn Barber and Valerie Grove. Literally anyone who is anyone in London literary society was there and most had read about the BBC apology on Madame Arcati's site, so I spent the time fielding journalist questions. But the main puzzle was - how does Arcati know everything? I'm sorry to say I revealed the existence of the crystal ball, the cards and the stars.'

Isn't he adorable? OK, if you're a tabloid cunt he isn't adorable.

Duncan Fallowell
Molly Parkin reports: 'The party was full of posh gits - literary, artistic and fashion types I normally avoid - and loads of old Colony people, and Gyles Brandreth and (film director) Joe McGrath (82 now!) who worked a lot with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. Even Clair Woodward, the Arts & Ents Editor of the Sunday Express, was there. Men at the party kept on coming up to me and saying, "I want to shake your hand so I can say I shook the hand of Molly Parkin."'

A little confusion attended the opening minutes of the do. 'We couldn't get in initially and it was already 6.20 pm,' says Moll. 'Then a funny little girl opened the door; a bit of a cock-up. It was in a gallery of sorts with loads of water colours on the wall; the party was split over three separate areas.' Duncan adds: 'It was such a weird basement of cramped chambers.'

Moll continues: 'I met that wonderful journalist on the Independent Matthew Bell who was there with a difficult girl - he told me Duncan was trying to get my attention - it was terribly crowded. By the time I was free he'd gone - Roger wasn't happy about that. Roger said, "Duncan's prematurely disappeared."'

Moll paraded in a self-made tall magenta turban which excited the interest of author and journalist Valerie Grove - 'What have you stuffed the turban with?' she asked after calling it a 'fantastic hat'. Moll replied: 'Adult nappies.' Poor Val gave a disgusted 'Oh' and hoped the nappies had not been used first.

Jonathan King
Moll confides to Madame Arcati: 'Actually, the nappies were not used but I had bought some after someone told me about incontinence in the elderly. I'm not incontinent but I wanted to see if they work. So I put one on and went for a piddle - and not a drop leaked out. So next time I go to the theatre or cinema I'm going to wear a nappy and I can have a piddle without getting up. Nappies make great padding for turbans.'

And as for Duncan's early exit... he explains: 'I had to leave Roger's launch to go on to the Keats-Shelley party at Carlton House Terrace - followed by dinner at the Academy Club.

'But I then caught up with Roger around 11 pm at the Groucho where he was staying with his wife [Anna] and 3 sons - they'd been for a slap-up at Rule's. There were more drunks in the Groucho than in the Academy which must be a first. And so the Groucho was strangely quiet, several out cold slumped in armchairs. Roger on the other hand was just warming up and waving a glass of champagne around in the air and chatting up the pianist.'

Moll pays tribute to the surprising youthfulness of their 50-something host Roger and the 'beauty' of his sons. Duncan adds: 'I asked Roger, "Where did you find your handsome barman?" He replied "That's Sebastian". I didn't recognise his youngest son who last time I saw him some years ago was a hippy in embryo.'

How annoying! Madame Arcati regrets not attending this party. And yet she feels she walked among Roger Lewis' guests after all, in three persons, one nappied.

What Am I Still Doing Here? can be bought here.

Oh, and a letter from Roger Lewis himself....

Dear Madame Arcati,

Yes -- a great do. Barry Cryer said, "It's your book come to life!"

Luckily, the Booker Prize dinner siphoned off the dreck.

A highlight for me (in addition to your Molly) was the presence of Biddy Baxter! It was as if Dame Sybil Thorndike had turned up. She said: "Did you get a Blue Peter Badge" and I said, "No I bloody well did not!"

Also, we had Lord Archer, who unsportingly refused to exchange Belmarsh tales with young Jonathan King.

Judi Bowker
But also sneaking in -- the divine Judi Bowker. That's right, that vision of loveliness from Black Beauty and Clash of the Titans, where she was last seen lashed to a rock being menaced by Laurence Olivier. She was also blonde and gorgeous in The Shooting Party, with James Mason. But best of all -- Brother Sun, Sister Moon, where Zeffirelli got all these English lads to Tuscany and tried to, well, you can guess the rest.

We also had Eric Potts, the world's greatest pantomime dame -- this Christmas he's doing panto in Wimbledon, but with Barry Humphries. How can that work? Dame Edna as one of the Ugly Sisters ?

Perhaps Chris Beetles was still mourning his chum Rob Buckman, the celebrity doctor, who died on a plane heading for Toronto last week, but he was so gloomy, Rachel Johnson went up to him and said: "Are you Hungarian?"

Beetles shut the lights off at 8 sharp and 30 seconds later we were all on the street. A humorous sight, Gyles Brandreth, Barry Cryer, Stephen Frears, Joe McGrath, Molly Parkin, Francis Wheen and documentary-maker Tony "All You Need Is Love" Palmer tottering up the spiral stairs, from this dungeon where we'd been boozing. Everyone hung around for so long on the pavement, I thought, Christ, I'd better write another book so we can carry on celebrating.

A cab then drew up at the kerb, and executive editors from the Daily Mail piled out. A mob from the Sunday Express squared up to them, as if about to have a fight out of a Western.

Myself, Lady Lewis and the 3 little Lewises then went to Rules. The rest is as Duncan described, including my orthopaedic sandals for my diabetic foot.

Love,

ROGER

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jonathan King: BBC says sorry for editing him out of TOTP re-run

Much to my astonishment, the BBC Director-General Mark Thompson himself has personally apologised to Jonathan King for a recent BBC Four Top of the Pops re-run from which King had been edited out. You may recall Madame Arcati's tirade on this last month.

After an assurance that King will not be excised from future re-runs, Thompson writes: 'I want to join BBC Four in apologising for this incorrect decision.' Thompson's 'colleagues' at BBC Four are quoted in the letter. They write: 'We accept that this should not have happened and we would like to apologise for any upset this caused.'

To read the letter in full, click here.

But who decided to play taste-Nazi in the first place? Whoever h/she is, they're in the wrong job. The Daily Mail needs you! As for Mark Thompson, sensible man, even if he did bite a man on the ear once.

Chris Blackhurst: Is the Independent editor a bit of a cunty?

Jemima Khan
I have no idea. But given that blogging and journalism are about nine-tenths hearsay or speculation or gossip or plain wrong, we should not permit mere complete absence of any knowledge whatsoever to inhibit a voyage into the fog bank.

A story in the Guardian today informs us that Jemima Khan has departed the Indy for the New Statesman and its sexy former mascara'd New Romantic editor Jason Cowley. Apparently, Jemima - who as guest-editor this year single-handedly reinvented the Staggers by showcasing Hugh Grant's espionage skills in the phone hacking scandal - was disinclined to tolerate de facto demotion and reduced column inches as decreed by Indy new editor Chris Blackhurst.

Troublingly, these saddening events were preceded by 'warm' praise for Khan from Mr Blackhurst.

This reminds me of the fate of Richard Ingrams. The former Indy columnist reported a reassuring lunch with Mr Blackhurst, but the pabulum had scarcely reached the ex-Private Eye editor's sigmoid colon and he learned that he had been dropped by the paper.

Now, we've all done it as editors. Not been entirely straight with contributors before the axe is swung, usually to get the publication through a tricky, holiday-strewn Christmas or mid-summer schedule. But Mr Blackhurst must beware of saying one thing and doing another: not only is the Indy supposed to be nicer than the rest of the Dacre-alikes but he is alienating luminous revengers. No one forgives surprise dismissal, constructive or otherwise, and the tentacles of tit-for-tat spite are without end, though I'm sure Mr Ingrams and the investigative Goldsmith plutocrat are honourable exceptions.

Mr Blackhurst didn't entirely do himself credit in the Johann Hari scandal, either: there he was on Newsnight gamely attributing Hari's mishaps to a lack of journalistic education while the viewing public scoffed on their sofas. I'm afraid even the rather pleasant face of Mr Blackhurst betrayed a little of his own inner-scoffer, as the smiles waxed and waned a little too readily.

It pains me to write this as the Indy has been so sweet about Madame Arcati in the past. Then again I always question face value, as we all should in these uncertain times.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beautiful Books announces administration news

Sadly, publisher Beautiful Books is closing down. A notice on their website reads: 'Today, 11th October 2011, Beautiful Books entered administration.... All the employees at Beautiful Books would like to thank everyone with whom we have worked over the past six years.' Its many authors include Molly Parkin, Darren Coffield, Joseph Conrad, John Waters and so many other wonderful talents, new, established or legendary.

BB took great personal care of their authors and actually understood the value of marketing and PR: I can only assume that the great rush to e-books is among the reasons for the company's closure.

Here's hoping a multi-national fish comes along and swallows it up, and doesn't turn BB into homogenised sushi.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Amanda Lear: Chinese Walk is the best tongue-fu

Oh wow. Is Amanda Lear really 72 in November? (or should we say 65?). Well, whatever. Who's counting. A friend heard this great dance track in a Rome nightclub recently - turns out to be Amanda's latest release, Chinese Walk. No doubt the BBC or some other taste-Nazi decreed it didn't quite fit a committee Nappy-Dappy playlist, so listen to it here (click arrow). Amanda was possibly born Alain Tapp, known to April Ashley as Peki d'Oslo when they worked at Le Carrousel, a '50s transvestite revue in Paris. For certain she was a protégée and mistress of Salvador Dalí - oh, but, just listen.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Stephen Fry and Jonathan King: A £600 dinner date at Le Gavroche

Jonathan King
While I'm loath to give Stephen Fry yet more publicity, I am nonetheless intrigued to learn that the ubiquitous polymath and audiobook favourite had dinner with self-described 'vile pervert' Jonathan King last Thursday evening. This suggests a healthy disregard for the opinion of tabloid phone-hacking scum, or at least a degree of personal loyalty or, at the very least, hedonistic tendencies, despite his professed love of tea.

Their venue of choice was London's Le Gavroche. Yet le menu exceptionnel appears to have been the least of it as two (shall we say) monster egos tussled over whose (er, ego) was the largest of them all. Or to quote JK in his message to Madame Arcati: 'Upon boasting about my achievement [presumably of reaching the No1 spot in Amazon's Pop Culture Kindle chart with his memoirs 65 My Life So Far], I had to suffer his numerous No1 positions in every known chart in the Universe.'

Personally, I should have drowned Fry in the watercress soup, but JK bore this onslaught with magnanimity. As he says: 'Oh dear. But he is a lovely person.'

Naturally, their date could not go unnoticed. JK reveals: 'We then had a very loud disagreement about the value of language and the abilities of different species - as we left I apologised to the other Gavroche diners and a lady said, with a huge smile - "Absolutely brilliant"!'

I wonder who settled the £600 bill. [Answer from JK in comments]

PS - JK adds in a private email - 'I had lunch with Neil and Christine Hamilton last week [See photo]; Anne Robinson a few months ago; Jane Moore next week - real friends don't desert - even when one becomes a Vile Pervert!'

Friday, October 07, 2011

Chris Huhne and his awfully odd tweet (now deleted)

Well, we've all done it. Sent an indiscreet or faintly embarrassing message to an unintended destination.

Embattled MP Chris Huhne today tweeted an intriguing message into the public domain and then promptly deleted it. Perhaps he should have DM'd it.

It read: 'From someone else fine but I do not want my fingerprints on the story. C'

[See timeline to the left, my thanks to @Tweetminster: read top tweet. Click timeline to enlarge]

Westminster cynics will assume reflexively his dark involvement in another media foray.

But Madame Arcati prefers to think it's all perfectly innocent.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Jonathan King autobiography hits the No 1 spot in Amazon's Kindle chart

I am delighted to see that Jonathan King's autobiography 65 My Life So Far hit No1 on the Amazon Kindle pop culture chart. This is amazing given the near-universal attempt to edit our tastes by our nation's media by ignoring the intriguing tome. Thanks to Madame Arcati's review and that of Roger Lewis in The Lady, however, and a little PR by the author himself, and... well, success!

You don't have to be signed up to the JK Fan Club to appreciate his priceless anecdotes about bisexual John Lennon and sooo many other stars he worked and (well) hung out with. Despite the BBC's best efforts to delete him from public record there's no denying his huge contribution to pop culture, for better or worse.

Madame's review can be read here. To buy the e-book, click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gavin James Bower interview: 'Big Society? Big fuck off and die'

Gavin James Bower
Gavin James Bower is back! Britain's best-looking male novelist, former runway supermodel and strategic tweeter has survived the forbidding hell of first novel acclaim (Dazed & Aroused - see labels for more) and just got on with the second. Made In Britain is a very different kind of fiction, urban grungy to the first's mannequin glam, which gets down with the post-industrial 'feral underclass' kids - the kind of hoodie urban cunties who back in August gave great copy by tearing down our cities in order to return animal sentience to certain vegetative newspaper columnists. As marketing ploy for Made In Britain, the riots should surely win Gavin's publishers Quartet a Campaign award for product placement prescience. Naturally, Madame Arcati was most keen to catch up with a man whose literary antennae miss no societal nook.....

Gavin, poppet. Such a joy to be interviewing you again! I have forgiven you for not attending Duncan Fallowell’s launch party for How To Disappear as my gossip-spy. I hear you went shopping instead. What did you buy?

GJB: I really should have gone. My shopping partner would attest to that. I spent a good hour looking at plaid flannel shirts, only to discover that every other man in London has at some point in the last twelve months done exactly the same. I've since ceremonially set fire to the bastard. (The shirt - not my shopping partner.)

Now, it’s been about two years since you published Dazed & Aroused and your new novel Made In Britain is just out - will it make me dilate the way your debut novel did?


GJB: I'd like nothing more. In fact, when my publisher and I plotted world takeover earlier this year, atop our white board of primary action items was 'Dilate Madame'. To carry on the conceit, it's a bit of a stretch from my first dip, the length feels just right - and, even though it's bittersweet, there is something of a happy ending. 

I gather - because I’ve not read it yet (except for a few pages on Amazon) - that Made In Britain dwells on the so-called teenage ‘feral underclass’ of Burnley - their drugs, dreams, dicks, etc. The August city riots couldn’t have been timed better! (Not that I’m saying….) Did you will the rioters on from your TV sofa? And while we’re on the subject, I think a few of the judges and magistrates got rather carried away with themselves, sending convicts off to the colonies and what have you - middle-aged baby-boomers with fat arses are quite brutal, aren’t they?

GJB: People on Twitter - middle class pseudo-journalists with nothing better to do than spray textual diarrhoea all over their iPhones - cheered these riots on, certainly, while the government couldn't get enough. Big Society? Big fuck off and die. Unaccountable though the powers that be may feel, the riots sharpened the discourse about the betrayal of former industrial towns and the working class, which is no bad thing - not just for my book, but for where I'm from and the people left behind.

How would you characterise the present coalition government of Old Etonians and multi-millionaires? Do they cause you to dilate?

GJB: They cause me to constrict; indeed, I've a sort of exacerbated constipation. I'm in rectal retrograde, Madame! The powerlessness that's characterised politics for a decade is starting to dissipate, while power's simultaneously becoming more concentrated - in, and at the hands of, the reactive and the reactionary. There's a perennial sense of déjà vu with capitalism - but nothing's inevitable, one way or the other.

Drugs appear to be a major contributory cause of social and psychic defeat in your novel. What’s to be done about urban chemical romances? And what do you do when you’re offered a line of coke at a party?

GJB: I needed a 'cool consultant' for my first novel, to help with the pills, lines and, even, fags (not that kind). I'm still the same 'clean cut lad' who was told by a mother of a friend at school, after I'd egged her house, that he's 'poison inside'.

I can’t imagine that you, a former celebrated runway model and feted novelist from a northern town, were ever feral or an underclass trog - perhaps you observed your peers from the sidelines and made notes….?

GJB: I needed to leave my home town and get distance from it before I wrote about growing up. I ended up taking ten years - from the point at which I started the book, to the age I was writing about. I went to a state comp, I didn't live far from where the riots were - and I did all the things normal working class kids do (play on the field, smash up derelict buildings, kick a football about when the factory finished). My experience of feeling awkward, like I didn't fit in - that's in all three characters. But the abuse, the drugs, the violence - that's all taken from somewhere else, albeit very close to home. Just not my home.

Gavin in a former life
Made In Britain has already received a very favourable reception. Sophie Waugh, the well known anarchist, gave it a rave in the Guardian, and I see my darling newspaper columnist Suzanne Moore has thrown a critical bouquet. How would you compare the reviews of the new book with those of Dazed &amp Aroused? Any cunt-critics we need to sort out?

GJB: I've had some criticisms - about the fine line the book treads between 'grown up' and YA, and about the leap in subject-matter - but yes so far the reaction's been good. It's a more ambitious book - but also more vulnerable to criticism. The first was premise and style, and a bit take it or leave it. This one's plot and good old fashioned tragedy. The stories and voices have to stand up. There'll always be cunt-critics, though I'm savvy to when it's straight criticism and when it's just personal.

Would you like Made In Britain to be made into a movie? If so, who should be director? Not Ken Loach I hope.

GJB: One criticism I had of the book early on was also a compliment; namely, that the book was very cinematic. So yes, I'd like to see that. Billy Walsh could direct - if he were a real person. Otherwise someone with a bigger chip on his shoulder than mine. Someone who gives a shit about the real consequences of post-industrialisation. Someone who can capture what it is that gives us our identity - as a town, and as a class. 'The next Vincent Gallo' would do, especially as he's retired.

Now Gavin, this wouldn’t be a Madame Arcati interview if we didn’t delve a little into your amatory life department. How many times have you had sex in the period between the two novels and with how many partners?

GJB: I had one girlfriend between the publication of Dazed and this summer. But now les paris sont ouverts.

And just so it’s on the record, I take it that the photograph that came in to my possession, of the headless man with a rather extravagant erection, is not you. Be honest, now.

GJB: You'd almost certainly be correct. Though I'd like nothing more to have my erection described as 'extravagant'. Well, after making Madame dilate.

I see you’re a Scorpio -  said to be unforgiving, among other things. Do you regard astrology and related divinatory practices as mumbo-jumbo? Put another way, how many drug-addicted astrologers and psychics do you know?

GJB: I value loyalty and am unforgiving, that's true. It's a one-strike policy with me. I lack faith, so it's hard for me to accept anything 'divinatory'. I only know you, but I'm rather glad to say so.

And finally, Gavin. Are you working on a third novel? If so, tell us more.

Lady Gaga or Claude Cahun,
 born 1894 (a Scorpio)? GJB is
writing about one or other
GJB: Book three's a non-fiction biography/polemic for Zero Books, on the surrealist artist Claude Cahun. Google her immediately, fall in love and, if you're anything like me, shave your head to get into character.

Gavin! Thank you so much for your time. And good luck with Made In Britain.

GJB: xxxx 

Made In Britain: To read an excerpt and buy a copy click here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Duncan Fallowell: The night he took off with Muriel Belcher's crutches

Duncan Fallowell
Alas, I was unable to attend 'libertine' Duncan Fallowell's dazzling London launch party for his new travel book How To Disappear: A Memoir For Misfits the other day. And my appointed gossip-spy, model-turned-novelist Gavin James Bower, substituted retail therapy for promised mission - tsk. It's just as well I am forgiving. However, I learn from the London Evening Standard's Diary that 'an eclectic bunch of misfits, hedonists, socialites and the odd Zoroastrian' turned out and a fab time was had by all. (Click here to read the item]

The Diary, which seems to have lost nothing in the paper's transition from paid-for to freebie, relates an amusing tale told by one of the guests, art dealer James Birch. He 'recalled his first encounter with Fallowell, which left an indelible impression. “He went up to my father and asked if he was heterosexual. When he said he was, Duncan kissed him full on the lips. My father nearly fell off his chair.”'

Ah, yes, the event is recalled and I can tell more.

The encounter was at a large sit-down dinner at the Royal College of Art for the late artist and writer Dicky Chopping's retirement. Birch was indeed there with his father. Fallowell went with sometime lover and Britain's first transsexual, April Ashley; and unfortunately he got incredibly drunk. James Birch was wearing a fetching all-white suit and Fallowell pursued him all round the hall with a trembling glass of claret. Birch proved to be too quick for his pursuer - so Fallowell ran off with Muriel Belcher's crutches which she'd parked neatly beside her seat. This had never happened to her before. The filthy-mouthed Colony crone looked panic stricken - 'For God's sake stop that young man!' she wailed as he ran off out of the hall with them.

I am happy to report that when he gallantly returned them to her 10 minutes later she made him an honorary member of the Colony for bravery. And thereafter Fallowell was always called 'Young man' at the Colony, even after her death. Once or twice I heard Ian Board call him 'Young man' when he was 40 - er, some years past now.

Incidentally, in other matters, my friends in the book trade tell me How To Disappear: A Memoir For Misfits sold out before the launch - the warehouse cleaned out - but fortunately his canny publishers Ditto kept a couple of boxes in reserve for the party. They are now rushing to reprint.

To read my review of the book, click here. Worth reading (also!) is Byron Rogers' marvellously batty Spectator review. And to think, Byron used to write Prince Charles' speeches - 'Such big hands,' he is wont to say of his once royal master.

(PS: One minute [interview] with Duncan Fallowell in the Independent.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eve Branson: Why can't the mother of a very famous man find a decent publisher?

Eve Branson
I imagined that the mother of Sir Richard Branson - founder of Virgin Books - would have no problem in finding a paying orthodox publisher for her work. Yet Eve Branson has had to 'self-publish' her children's book Sarky Puddleboat via Authorhouse, which charges around £1000 per title (and does not even list Eve's book in its online store, neither .co.uk nor .com).

The London Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary reports: 'Rescued [by Kate Winslet] from the fire on Necker Island, she is just about to publish her first book [Sarky Puddleboat] at the grand age of 90.'

Ooh, I'm not sure about that. The book appears to have been released in February of this year and is already available through all good online retailers the worldover at various discounts. Even her age may be disputed. She tells the Telegraph she was born in 1924.

The Standard's Diary and Telegraph also report that Eve's working on her memoirs, Mum's The Word, which she hopes will be out for Christmas. As do I. Except that as far back as 2006, Mrs Branson was tantalising us with book news: the Mail reported then: 'She has just finished her autobiography, is starting a book called Life Begins At 70 and has been taking lessons in how to write romantic novels.' Alas, I see nothing of these sorts listed on Amazon.

I really do not like being kept waiting. None of us is getting any younger! And in the light of Eve's latest exciting escape from conflagration, Branson's Pickle is the obviously better title for the promised life story.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Private Eye: The First 50 Years - a non-review

Just after the Madame Arcati blog arrived on this planet in 2006, Private Eye was sweetly among the first of the media to notice. A contributor to its pages even invited me to one of the magazine's regular Soho pub get-togethers - naturally I declined, politely alluding to my osteoporotic fragility in city street breezes. This was one butterfly that had no intention of being pinned in someone's collection cabinet. Let's just say I know how journalists' minds work, dearies. Oh, yes.

(It has occurred to me since that I should turn up one day with fiancee Molly Parkin. That could be amusing)

Private Eye: The First 50 Years is out now and I have absolutely no intention of buying a copy. I say this in full confidence that a relative or ex-lover will read this and pick up on the hint. I could hassle for a review copy but I have no intention of reviewing it as it is unreviewable and can only serve as prompt for a dreary magazine history lesson or analysis of British satire or slagging of priggish editor Ian Hislop. Not that the book is expensive. On Amazon it's only £17; and I notice that you can buy this book, and the Private Eye Annual AND The Best of Matt 2011 for a knockdown all-in £27.32.

If you like your satire small c conservative (hello, Matt), then this is a must.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Johann Hari: As I said, scandal will do him no harm whatsoever

As I wrote on June 28, the fuss over columnist Johann Hari will do him no harm whatsoever. So I told you so. Many privately assured me that he would lose his job at the Independent but I knew better. Once you understand that newspaper editors are craven in the court of celebrity - even a micro-celebrity created by themselves or predecessors - it was rapidly deducible that a laundering formula would be found to retain Hari's services which did not include the words 'You're fired!'

What impresses me most is that Hari has clearly paid attention to Madame Arcati. In my piece (linked above), I lectured that a celeb interview is an 'encounter' not an 'intellectual portrait' as he self-servingly put it: so, in yesterday's apology, what word does he use to display his new wisdom and describe a celebrity interview? 'Encounter'. He learns fast. No wonder he's good at exams.

At heart is not Hari's lack of journalistic education - as his new editor claimed ludicrously last night on Newsnight - but his very low opinion of journalism. You don't stuff up your interviews with quotes from elsewhere and then pass them off as your own work unless you think that no-one will notice or care. You don't pinch someone's name to attack critics on Wikipedia unless you imagine colleagues are stupid. Ease of career passage has bequeathed Hari nothing but contempt and cynicism. His 'apology' is a lesson in cynicism.

Hari does not need yet more education. What he needs is to find a new career he can respect.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Natalie Rowe and Molly Parkin meet in a shop and discuss George Osborne and toff sex

George Osborne and Natalie Rowe
back in the early naughty 90s
What is it about my darling (everlasting) fiancee Molly Parkin and shops?

Only the other day she told us about her encounter with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their kids in Ad Hoc, the King's Road cutting-edge fashion store. Now she tells me that about 18 months ago she chanced on another noted beauty of some notoriety in a shop - Natalie Rowe, the lady and 'dominatrix' who claims to have kept the smile on George Osborne's fresh, shiny face long before he unleashed austerity upon us as Chancellor.

This unscheduled meeting took place in King's Road newsagent Lucky Me Enterprise. 'It was early evening,' says Molly. 'I understand now she's a regular customer there. I went in to buy my chocolate eclairs and rubbish celebrity magazines. And this beautiful creature wearing a wonderful perfume approached me and said, "It's Molly Parkin isn't it? I'm one of your biggest fans - I love your writing and reading about you...". And then she told who she was - Natalie Rowe.

Molly Parkin
'She had such glamour, translucent skin and a beautiful mouth, and laughing eyes. An educated girl, an upper class Chelsea accent; high bohemian. She waited for me to make my purchases and then we walked out together and along the King's Road in the Sloane Square direction. I asked her what she did for a living - I didn't recognise her name or recognise her from the famous party photo [above] of her with George Osborne when he was a 22 year-old Oxford graduate.

'She said: "You've not heard of me? I used to be a madam, I ran Black Beauties." And I said: "Oh, I always wanted to be a madam!" I'd conducted orgies in New York and at my old house in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. She told me she'd sold a story to the Sunday Mirror about George Osborne, and mentioned something about the News of the World and phone hacking (when Andy Coulson was editor) and how George was denying using cocaine at one of her parties [which he has repeatedly denied since].

'I asked Natalie: "Did you fuck him?" She replied: "Absolutely".

'I said that he's a typical Old Etonian, isn't he. [Osborne did not go to Eton, btw] In my experience, Old Etonians have a predilection for vice girls. I told her of an Old Etonian I'd known, an aristocrat, and how he'd asked me to wear a tightly belted mackintosh in a bed with rubber sheets - he loved the feel of them - and I'd asked him, "Are you incontinent?" He'd given me a vintage yellow Rolls Royce and had champagne delivered to my door every morning. He even gave me diamond rings which I gave to mother. Sadly the rings were stolen by a window cleaner.

'We laughed a lot talking about Old Etonians and their love of exciting sex which some call kinkiness and then she told me that publishers had approached her to write her story - I know she mentioned Bloomsbury, which surprised me, as publishers of Harry Potter.

'We must have talked and laughed for about half-an-hour. She said, "I love talking with you and would love to talk again." We hugged and parted our separate ways. I felt we were sisters under the skin; she's a sweetheart.'

Natalie sounds adorable. Do get in touch if you read this, poppet. Certainly bachelor George had great taste in, er, interesting friends.

PS If you're famous and see Moll in a shop, do go talk to her. I'm all ears!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Glenda Bailey OBE: Erstwhile queen of the Marie Claire cocks supplement

Glenda Bailey
New York's other British fashion queen, Glenda Bailey, is keeping docile feature writers busy, I see. The 52 year-old editor of Harper's Bazaar has a book to flog, Harper's Bazaar Greatest Hits (a mere £28.99 from Amazon; or if you prefer, £35.99 from Telegraph Books), and a V&A talk to publicise - September 18. Not to mention 'Harper's Bazaar: A Decade of Style' which runs until 8 January 2012 at the International Centre of Photography in New York. Book return flights now!

In the Observer today, a grazing fawner avers, 'While running the American version of Marie Claire, [Bailey's] penchant for risk-taking was legendary.' I'm sure it was. But nothing compared to her pioneering antics on British Marie Claire - I wouldn't expect any of the newspaper indentured tots to know anything about that time (the 80s-90s, darling); or even to imagine that sentience was alive and kicking even before their own natal birth.

Who can forget (if one knew to start with) Glenda's notorious penises supplement? When I tell people who doze through Glamour now, they think I'm making it up. But Glenda Bailey OBE, and friend of Karl Lagerfeld, actually persuaded the dull Old Spice scrotes of IPC that what the world needed was the gift of a penises supplement. And there they were, dozens and dozens of different disembodied dicks, a bonanza of Bobbitt-like chopped, cropped choppers, all close-shot - and this before pajazzling. An Argos catalogue of sausages, winkles, cigars, buttons (?) all manner of types; some cut, some not; though all flaccid. This exhibition of cock caused a fuss at the time and sales rocketed.

Glenda's genius was simply this: no mainstream women's glossy editor had ever thought or dared to do this before. Like Warhol and his art. She was copied briefly of course; and then the novelty was done. And later, Glenda got her OBE.

Deservedly so, I'm sure.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Molly Parkin: So, what's Angelina Jolie really like in a London shop?

Angelina Jolie
My everlasting fiancee Molly Parkin has told me of her encounter with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their von Trapp-like brood in a London shop the other day.

Moll had time to kill before sitting down to Almodovar's latest movie The Skin I Live In at her local Curzon cinema in the King's Road. 'So I popped opposite over the road into my favourite punk boutique Ad Hoc, also known as "Boy",' she says. 'I take all visitors to London to this tiny outlet - it personifies everything that Chelsea was once world-renowned for: originality, flair, theatrical excess; in direct contrast to the dire conformity of Marks & Spencer further up the King's Road.'

There, she bumped into the Hollywood star - whom she'd never met before - and soon got on chatting terms with her and two of her children, daughters Zahara and Shiloh: 'To open the conversation I congratulated Angelina on her family. Not her beauty or her fame or her film performances. At rock bottom she is a mother.

'There were no nannies present. I assumed no security, but I later learnt that before Angelina's arrival, about eight Brangelina security men and women had checked the shop out first and had kept an eye on me when I approached.

'I liked the way she pointed out to the clamouring children that if they spent their pocket money on "fripperies", they would have none left for ice cream later - and they accepted this without demur.

Molly Parkin
'On introduction they offered their hands for a handshake, with enchanting smiles. Heart-breakers; pre-teen. When I told Angelina my name was Molly and that I was an artist she responded, "I can tell that!" Angelina herself was very demurely garbed and devoid of makeup. She had the aura of a schoolgirl chum you could stay in touch with for life.

'She responded eagerly when I said this was the very best shop in London for the young at heart, kids of all ages, confiding that she had been a customer there since the age of 14.

'On my departure I noticed they were being picked up by Brad who expressed admiration for my Andrew Logan brooch - my pulses quickened, I do admit that. His handsome features were those of a younger understudy, or a cloned minder, so maybe it wasn't Brad; but the effect was the same.'

How enchanting. A lovely celebrity encounter for a change. Coincidentally I have just completed Brad's and Angelina's horoscopes (not commissioned by them) and would say she is the disciplinarian of the two while he is the controller of purse strings. A pair built to last together despite periodic rumours to the contrary.

Ad Hoc
And incidentally, in other matters, Molly Parkin talks about her girlhood paper round in Radio 4's The Paper Round on September 20 at 3,45pm (details, click here) - this features her duet with Bing Crosby.

And if you didn't catch her Desert Island Discs appearance on Radio 4 earlier this year, click here to listen to it. She's at 13th if you scroll down the page.

PS I learn from Ad Hoc, that after Moll had left the shop, Angelina asked the staff who that 'wonderful, extraordinary lady' was. Now she knows.

PPS Molly is now certain it was Brad Pitt at Ad Hoc and not a security man. She has examined recent shaved pics.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Jonathan King: BBC edits him out of a Top of the Pops rerun

The BBC's vacuous decision to edit out an appearance of Jonathan King on a 1976 edition of Top of the Pops for a BBC4 rerun sets an intriguing precedent. We all know King was convicted and jailed for sex with underage teenage boys a few years back, but what could be the rationale for this show 'laundering'; this charade that King never existed?

As columnist Terence Blacker writes in the Independent, "Certainly, if the BBC's new policy is to give musicians a retrospective morality test before allowing them on the screen, its censorship department is going to be busy. There will be no room for Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pete Townshend, Ike Turner and many others – and that's before one has even reached jazz."

To this roster of BBC disappearing acts we should perhaps add, among so many others, George Michael, Michael Jackson (OK never convicted, but, y'know....), Boy George, Gary Glitter of course, Sid Vicious. Oh, and not forgetting convicted murderer Phil Spector and all his work. And if past notoriety is a factor in deciding spiritual contagion, should we not even consider Sir Elton John for footage oblivion - after all, that well known hack-moralist Alison Boshoff of the Daily Mail felt compelled to write this line in worthless huffy-puffiness back in 1999: "Sir Elton John was last night facing the possibility of legal action after he appeared with a troupe of male strippers dressed as Cub Scouts at a gay rights concert." Sir Elton still awaits the writ.

Whoever at the BBC made the decision to airbrush King out is in the wrong job. There must be a Murdoch red-top that needs you.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Duncan Fallowell: A Cruel ghost tale of a Craven death

Long-distance followers of Madame Arcati will know of the unclassifiable (yet detachable) bond between myself and writer Duncan Fallowell. I know he had mixed feelings about my publishing the nude photo of him - passed to me by a mischief-maker-by-the-Med. Now we must test our alliance once again: he may not be entirely happy to learn that information has reached me of his mysterious 'ghost novel' - and naturally I feel compelled to repeat it.

One of the episodes in his new travel book How To Disappear (Madame Arcati review) was to be about the so-called Curse of the Cravens: holders of the Craven title are prone to dying young. However, I learn that this turned into a book in its own right, his ghost novel which is titled Cruel - and remains unpublished. This is because it contains a vivid deathbed scene for the actual Dowager Countess of Craven whom he assumed to have died long ago. Oops. It turned out she was still alive (a Gemini, natch) - in her 90s - and very much the matriarch! - so of course he couldn't put the novel forward.

My informant tells me that Duncan had had his eyes peeeeeled for her obituary ever since, desperate to sell his novel - but nothing. Then last week a death notice for her appeared in the Telegraph - she died peacefully in her sleep in June. A cloud with a literary silver lining: Cruel is now unleashed, ready to spook and tell the tale of the horizontal Countess whose two sons tragically predeceased her.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time Fallowell has determined someone's death prematurely. In How To Disappear, he pursues the social climber Bapsy Pavry (aka Lady Winchester). At one stage he is quite convinced she must be dead until disabused. Then he has his 'supernatural Pavry obituary' experience - for more about which you must read the book. (click here to buy)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Anthony Burgess: Listen to his Tarot short story

On Christmas Day last I posted something on Anthony Burgess and his unpublished short story on the Tarot, Chance Would be a Fine Thing. You can now hear it read on BBC iPlayer by John Sessions - my thanks to Arcatiste poet Köy Deli for drawing this to my attention. It's only available for four days from today for reasons not given.

The BBC explains: 'Burgess himself was fascinated by the idea of cartomancy (or predicting the future with cards). He designed his own set of Tarot cards for domestic use, and, when working as a schoolmaster in Oxfordshire in the 1950s, he disguised himself as 'Professor Sosostris the famous clairvoyant' and told fortunes at a village fete.'

Written in the early 1960s, the short story is a slightly amusing cod-morality tale about the perils of misusing the divinatory cards (as opposed to using them at all). A middle-aged woman wants to know if she is ever likely to come into any money but is befuddled by the card-reader's deft ability to avoid specificity. Sessions' crone voice impersonations are a titter.

To listen to the story, click here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi: an innocent man lies dying in Tripoli

Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi: many of our informed senior politicians know him to be innocent as do many of our informed journalists and editors and lawyers - but they choose to say something else in public. Sadly, many of the poorly informed relatives of Lockerbie victims and many US right-wingers, including a fool with a 'tache, actually believe him to be guilty.

Every time a UK newspaper or other news outlet writes another ridiculous story about al-Megrahi's 'guilt', it lets down itself, journalism, the truth.

In 2004, Private Eye's investigative reporter, the late Paul Foot, wrote in the Guardian: ...'The Lockerbie bombing was carried out not by Libyans at all but by terrorists based in Syria and hired by Iran to avenge the shooting down in the summer of 1988 of an Iranian civil airliner by a US warship. This was the line followed by both British and US police and intelligence investigators after Lockerbie. Through favoured newspapers like the Sunday Times, the investigators named the suspects - some of whom had been found with home-made bombs similar to the one used at Lockerbie.' He concluded: 'It follows... that Megrahi is innocent of the Lockerbie bombing and his conviction is the last in the long line of British judges' miscarriages of criminal justice.'

If you're still interested, read the entire piece. Click here.

Also, I suggest you follow the blog of Professor Robert Black QC, The Lockerbie Case: '[Black] is often referred to as the architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.' His book Lockerbie and the Trials of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi is due out next year.

Al-Megrahi's website: http://www.megrahimystory.net/.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Roger Lewis: 'Lesbian' Agatha Christie, death threats and a new book

What Am I Still Doing Here? My Years As Me by Roger Lewis.
Cover by Ronald Searle, 91
I had no idea that Roger Lewis had wondered aloud (in the Mail) whether Agatha Christie was a lesbian. The very mention of dread sexual practice in conjunction with one of the treasures of English heritage and TV sleepathon drama was enough to elicit death threats, presumably from a few of the cock-cunting or cunting-cock readers of Britain's leading family qualitab.

As a seasoned recipient of past death threats myself, mainly from anonymous journalists and other people purporting to be writers, I am familiar with the exquisite pleasure that greets such communications of terminal promise. One just knows that such incited fury will probably activate a cancer in one's crazed aspiring killer, a few years down the line.

Anyhow, Christiegate is one of his many experiences exhumed and dramatised  in new memoir (or 'self-portrait') What Am I Still Doing Here? I have not read it so I can't say it's brilliant. Yet. But I can say that his last memoir Seasonal Suicide Notes made my Christmas 2009: the book is a darkly comic and mischievous counterblast to the otherwise infernal jolliness of the genre. It reads like a rave at a crematorium. Roger tells me the new book is 'far madder and darker' - this I can believe. I can't wait to review it.

I'm only sorry that Lewis' publisher Coronet has seen fit to use a customised testimonial from Stephen Fry: ordinarily I would avoid anything this simperingly wet lump of ubiquity recommends. But on this occasion I shall make an exception.

What Am I Still Doing Here? is published on October 13. To buy click here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Susan Hill: The-willies queen is missing in blogging action

Susan Hill
The writer Susan Hill hasn't blogged at the Spectator since February - this observation was made in a comment to my review of Duncan Fallowell's new travel book, How to Disappear. What could the matter be? I visited the Speccie site where a few of her commenters are grumbling among themselves over her non-appearance. The word 'twat' gets used - how common.

A Hill loyalist has helpfully left the comment: 'Susan is one of the judges for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, and according to her posts on Twitter over the past couple of days, is working on the proofs of her latest novel, starting a new book and making notes for a collection of short stories. It's hardly surprising that she's not been blogging. Let's hope she'll be back soon.'

The key words here are 'according to her posts on Twitter...' She has time to tweet but not to blog. The truth is Susan is always busy so far as I can tell, always up to her neck in deadlines, celebrity visits to pubs and cavorting about in fashionable beauteous rusticity. And tweeting. She's always writing books, publishing books, writing about books: she is a production line, a sausage factory of hauntings hokum for lovers of the-willies. None of this has ever stopped her from churning out another batch of finely-tuned opinions for her various blogs over the years.

Obviously she has fallen out with the magazine. I hope no one's bitter.

(Do read Duncan's book which describes his stay at her Gloucestershire home while working on a book: oddly, she declined to eat with him though was otherwise friendly.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Robert Tewdwr Moss: Fifteen years on and a bio's planned

Robert Tewdwr Moss with Wayne (my thanks to Nesta Wyn Ellis for identifying the cat)
Fifteen years today (Aug 24), the writer Robert Tewdwr Moss was murdered in London by two pieces of worthless, opportunistic trash who may be entitled to apply for parole now. If you've not read Robert's fabulous travel book on Syria, Cleopatra's Wedding Present,* I highly recommend it, especially as the murderous regime there faces the chop. It's not by any means a political work; it is a sexual and romantic odyssey in a world frozen in time. But Boy George is famous there. There's hope yet.

An American writer recently got in touch with me. He's planning to write Robert's bio and asked me for contacts and insights. At first I was tempted to cooperate, then another mood took over. What's the point? His 'bio' is Cleo and the rest is goss. And the prospect of hunting down the crawlers who accreted to him because of his micro-celebrity, for their permission to pass on email contacts and other whatnot, filled me with a profound boredom. The truth is I couldn't stand many of his friends and acquaintances - many of them tiresome hypocrites and snobs. You don't set up a blog like this as a love letter.

No, let Cleo be Robert's memorial. It's a bright jewel still sparkling in an expanding desert.

* Duckworth is reissuing the book on September 22, 2011. Click the link above to buy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review - How To Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits by Duncan Fallowell

Duncan Fallowell
Adult warning: enlargeable naked author pic below. Don't panic!

July 19, 2012: News - Duncan Fallowell wins PEN/Ackerley Prize for Memoir for How to Disappear.

Is Duncan Fallowell’s seventh book How To Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits his actual life story? True, he confesses on p236 to an impressive 40 ‘sexual partners’ in the month following Princess Diana’s death, ‘including a group of women in a naturist Jacuzzi in Brighton.’ And certainly he liberally seeds us with tantalising glimpses of private multi-generational Duncan, including the nosey little boy whose first instinct was always to boldly go and duff up any mystery. But be clear: this is no autobiography.

It is instead something much more… typical. It is, for the dorky genre-spotters, a mongrel private parts book - ‘part memoir, part travelogue, part biography,’ to quote his unusually accurate latest publisher Ditto Press. In other words, How To Disappear is not unlike, in form and style, his other classic private parts books To Noto, St Petersburg, ‘New Zealand’ (Going As Far As I Can): each a brilliant self-portrait of the feral Duncan Fallowell on location, as spotted in the looking glass of adored or maligned travelled nation.

Is he then a narcissist whose World Atlas serves exclusively as his mirror? Well, I’ll come back to that.

Let’s just not get ahead of ourselves. There’s the business of the cryptic title: How To Disappear. The early dread threat of a self-help book from California soon gives way to compelling true-life stories of strangeness: each of the four of the five long pieces comprising this book cradles a social Houdini, a personality once great or associated with greatness, who has performed a public disappearing act and now lurks shyly in the shadows awaiting (willing or unwilling) rediscovery by Fallowell.

Will force be necessary to open up these exotic clams? These misfits? Part of the joy of this book lies in wondering whether.

There’s reclusive Alastair Graham who was Evelyn Waugh’s ex-boyfriend; and the elusive social climber Bapsy Pavry (aka Lady Winchester); not forgetting the absent Maruma who bought the alcoholic Isle of Eigg; and who could forget dead Diana? DF himself ‘disappears’ in ‘Sailing To Gozo’ where a ubiquitous, faintly menacing stranger haunts Fallowell’s way on a quaint island yester-world.
The feral DF: click to enlarge

Like the little boy he once was, DF the man is first drawn to mystery or it is drawn to him. Not any mystery, mind. The mystery is usually well-connected and/or old world glamorama. And if his overriding instinct is to dispel mystery then his fix is to be found in the tricky process of unravelling it.

Take the case of Alastair Graham, for example. Fallowell first chances on the old dipso in a pub in New Quay and only later discovers who he is (or was) precisely. Sherlock Holmes himself would be impressed by the lengths to which Fallowell goes to track down witnesses for enlightening demystification: awe-inspiring. In the case of poor old Bapsy, who spent her life in posh hotels hustling for royal party invitations, Fallowell’s decades-long quest begins with the discovery of her potted bio in a book in India: he’s hooked by her sad eyes in the accompanying photo, he must meet her!

Fallowell’s dazzling analyses and asides (the book could be subtitled, But I Digress…) do not spare his own primal motivation: ghosts of a sort, such as the subjects of his book, absorb him. He is drawn to ‘the disquieting state in which someone is neither present in one’s life nor absent from it.’ He is the ghostbuster in the ‘abyss which can open up between being here and not being here.’ In his Bapsy piece, the spectre metaphor is bettered by reality when Fallowell has what could be an actual supernatural experience. He remains agnostic on what it is; but to risk ridicule from literary followers of the atheistic faith by writing about it at all is most admirable.

Fallowell’s ghosts come in all shapes and sizes and dead places sometimes tickle his inner Madame Arcati. He adores Pompeii as a zombified still of disinterred pagan sexuality while sluttish ever-dying Venice is subject to such a fantastic Fallowell flogging (a ‘desexed city’) that doges in the Roman Catholic hell must be planning revenge should he ever convert.

As ever, Fallowell seduces with an electric prose style which straddles knowledge high and street like a whore plugged in to a well-stocked Kindle. Why else would I want to read about some sad old snob like Bapsy but to relish the vervy manner in which he compassionately grants what eluded her in life: the right kind of attention. Pathetic she may have been but Fallowell’s mockery is only very faint: he observes the human constant in her, the disappointment that urged her pointless epic life.

Certainly no narcissist (to return to my question above) ever spent as much time preoccupied with how others tick as Fallowell. Beautifully packaged in art-worked hardback, How To Disappear is a beyond-fabulous wallowing in weird people in wonderful places - magical and mesmerising. Oh, and very gossipy, too.

 
How To Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits by Duncan Fallowell.

Published by Ditto Press
on 7 September 2011.

To buy a copy click here.