Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Shelley von Strunckel stars no longer at The Sunday Times

Shelley von Strunckel

I have only to turn my back on the world for a few years and look what happens. Trump and Johnson get to power, Earth is locked down by pandemic and...Shelley von Strunckel parts company with The Sunday Times! This last happening is perhaps the worst to bear. Sufficient to stir Madame Arcati from her afterlife boudoir - and yes, uniquely I am able to reconnect the mortal coil. At will.

For those of you unacquainted with the divine Shelley, she was until last Sunday the astrologer to the above newspaper. One Saturn Return-ago (approximately 28 years), editor Andrew Neil - formerly aka Brillo - had a revelation: his newspaper needed Shelley and her horoscope column. A Uranian-style inspiration. Sleekly spiritual, Californian, honey-voiced (useful for the phonelines), opera-loving, versed in all things astrological and blessed with a reassuring answer to just about everything, Shelley was and remains the high-end media counterweight to darling Russell Grant who had already cleaned up from the TV and tabs mass markets.

Before either's ascendancy, the late Patric (no k, darling) Walker ruled the media astro-world. Then e-coli reportedly finished him off. It was rumoured he had murdered his Harpers & Queen predecessor Helene Hoskins ('Celeste') by booting her down a staircase. A very Baby Jane-sort of thing to do. I was prepared to believe it. In Hell, he now tells me that this was a joke. Legend has it that Shelley was his chosen heir apparent and that he was instrumental in getting her the ST gig. Patric neither confirms nor denies - he is such a tease. He won't even tell me if he ever went to bed with actor Richard Chamberlain. 

So, who knows? 

Quite why Shelley is no longer at The Sunday Times can only be guessed at. It seems odd that after three decades as one of the publication's go-to fixtures, she was seen off with a two-word "final column" in the intro as the only indication of her defenestration. The column ran in the After Eight Mint-thin Sunday Times Style magazine and somehow survived the ambient flow of narcissistic and self-regarding drivel that populates the supplement. Only people lacking style could treat it as any kind of inspiration to keep up. But at least Shelley was there to encourage readers to rest their ego-driven anxieties and tip-toe into expansive cosmic reflection for a minute or two. You never know, such tentative trips can turn into productive voyages. 

Without Shelley, Style is now the fully-fledged monoculture for scented boo-hoo mirroring that only its editor could dream of. Speaking of whom, if the Style editor Lorraine Candy is so antipathetic to astrology (do we imagine that she fought hard to save the column?) why not relocate it to another part of the newspaper bundle? It is the abiding habit of many editors to turn their publications into self-extensions with all the usual prejudices, assumptions and lack of curiosity. Occasionally, an editor is found with an open mind, a sense of adventure and an awareness of life beyond the parochial. Not here.

Ironic really when you consider that astrology is big among monied millennials. Odd that Style can't keep up. 

To stay in touch with Shelley, visit her website.