Tuesday, 29 May 2012

British Film Institute: Greta Garbo

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    Greta Garbo: Divine Star

    Five biographies to be won
    Biographer David Bret investigates the two so-called missing periods in the life of Greta Garbo in this new book published by The Robson Press.
    During the 1920s Garbo disappeared for several months, forcing the studio to employ a lookalike. The second time occurred during World War II, when Garbo was employed by British Intelligence to track down Nazi sympathisers.
    Bret has acquired material and anecdotes from friends and colleagues of the star which have never before been published.
    We have five copies to give away.
    To be in with a chance of winning please answer the following question by 10am Tuesday 15 May 2012:

    What was Garbo’s first talkie film?
    A. Mata Hari
    B. Grand Hotel
    C. Anna Christie
    » Click here to email us
    The prize-winners will be picked at random and notified by Friday 18 May 2012.

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    Time To Bring Back Capital Punishment

    Mother and father arrested over murder of six children in Derbyshire house fire

    A father of 17 who was dubbed 'Shameless Mick' in a TV documentary, has been arrested over the murder of six of his children along with their mother

    It has always been my firm belief that this country started going to the dogs when they stopped corporal punishment in schools--before that, when they abolished the rope.
    For premeditated murder, if that's what this is, the only punishment is a length of hemp around the neck. Children who should have had their whole lives in front of them, wiped out by this piece of garbage. And hot on the heels of this news, a sweet, 94-year-old lady who never harmed everyone, who lived a long, fruitful life to have it snuffed out by some thug. Why should we, the taxpayers, have to pay for these people to live a life of luxury in prison, when it costs virtually nothing to spring open a trap-door? Enough is enough, I say. A return to old values is exactly what this country needs, otherwise it will always be like this--each tragedy worse than the one before.
    And it HAS to be the rope. None of your namby-pamby, easy-way-out injections. The victims of these monsters din't have an easy way out--burned alive, bashed senseless. Let them know what fear is like as they lounge in their cell, waiting for those clanking keys.

    Sunday, 27 May 2012

    Leave Engelbert Alone!

    He's Jeanne's favourite singer, we've met him a few times and he's a really nice man. The only criticism that I have ever had of him is that he agreed to sing in the Eurovision Song Contest, a circus which over recent years has become little more than a showcase for untalented wailers and political voting. Europe hates the UK because of the way it's been treated by our government. Whoever we put into it is never going to win. Had Enge sung the same song, but for Albania (instead of the screeching woman with an onion on her head) the result would have been different.
    And now they are attacking him. Kiwi entertainments 'expert' Dan Wooton mocks Enge for 'limping' past the finish line. This young man, who hails from Hutt, New Zealand, but sits on Lorraine's sofa looking like the Jabba variety and would have a hard task rolling past the finish line, let alone limping, thinks that Cheryl Cole is a great entertainer, therefore should never be taken seriously. He is however polite in his denunciation--unlike Frankie Boyle who tweeted last night:
    Frankie Boyle@frankieboyle
    We should throw Humperdink into the flames to start the Olympics

    Frankie Boyle is a Scottish 'comedian' and recovering alcoholic whose only hope of ever making me laugh would be if I were to watch him being decapitated in a Glasgow shopping mall. This is the vile creep who made fun of people with Down's syndrome, who made dreadful comments about Katie Price's disabled son, and whose 'Jesus masturbation' sketch last year should in my opinion see him banned permanently from our television screens.

    And of course, despite coming second-last, Engelbert wins hands down. The gentleman--and he is every inch so--has been around for fifty years, whereas ALL of the 'artistes' in last night's fiasco will undoubtedly have been forgotten by this time next year--pretty much like most of the X Factor/Voice/Britain's Got Talent contestants that Dan Wooton gets all mushy about. As for Mr Carbunkle, let's just hope that, like the equally puerile Bernard Manning, he will one day self-combust.

    Saturday, 26 May 2012

    UK's Fattest Teenager

    Medics smash house to save 63-stone teen

    UK fattest girl's seizure

    Yesterday while strolling through town I couldn't help but notice that at least one in every three people who passed me was grossly overweight. Okay, some of these people are ill, and need help. But the woman standing in the doorway at Argos eating a kebab the size of  loaf, with all the fat drooling down her chops and onto her size 30 tee-shirt.....that's gluttony, pure and simple, and I have no pity whatsoever for such people, particularly when, in Africa, what this obese lump scoffs in a week would feed a whole family for a year.
    So, do I have any pity for Britain's fattest teenager, and her myriad of excuses regarding why she is so fat that her house had to be demolished to get her to hospital? Maybe I do. Do I hold those responsible for getting her into such a condition with contempt? Most certainly I do, if this is what happened. If these people are persistently feeding her on junk food, for whatever reason, then they are contributing to her early death and should be judged accordingly. Involuntary manslaughter. That's if they are to blame. If not it's gluttony, pure and simple and she deserves the fate which awaits her.
    My parents' generation suffered all kinds of maladies because of a bad diet brought about by World War II food shortages, and the rationing which followed. Suet puddings, too many carbohydrates, and of course way too many cigarettes. Now it's fast-food joints and quick-fix meals. If you were fat in the 1970s the medics merely told you to lose weight. You wouldn't have situations where vast amounts of tax-payers' money is used to demolish your house. And do the chipwaps (pardon the pun) REALLY care about these people?
    Of course they don't. Just like programmes such as "Embarrassing Bodies", and those two disgusting ads on the telly right now which contain gratuitous vomiting, they pick up on these stories because they revel in the ghoulish circus of it all.

    Friday, 25 May 2012

    The Bay Reporter: Bret On Rudolph Valentino

    I published Valentino: A Dream of Desire in 1998. The actress Moira Shearer didn't dislike the book, but she certainly hated Valentino and gave him a right old trouncing in the Sunday Telegraph. The following week, Ken Russell devoted an entire page to the book in The Sunday Times, and on 8 November--my birthday--I was invited to present a son-et-lumiere in Chicago. Subsequently, in 2009, eleven years after the book's reliese, I was hacked to pieces by two American hags who, each time they retired on an evening, dreamed only of being humped by "The Italian Stallion". Such a pity that both of them resembled a bag of rusty spanners. They've since hammered everyone who even dared to suggest that Rudy might have licked the other side of the stamp--and as a result of this, a book which would have stopped selling a decade ago has sold solidly for fourteen years. Thanks, ladies--and I use the term loosely!
    Issue: Vol. 42 / No. 21 / 24 May 2012

    Legendary star's gay life


    New biography of Latin lover Rudolph Valentino

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    Few important silent screen stars are remembered by the general public. Most that are (Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford) had success in talkies. A major exception is Rudolph Valentino, who died before the advent of sound. His last name remains synonymous with romantic Latin lover. David Bret's anecdotal but generally accurate biography Valentino (Carroll & Graf, $25.95) captures the tension that being homosexual caused this object of unprecedented female sexual fantasies.
    Rodolpho Alfonso Raffaelo Pierre Filibert di Valentina d'Antonguolla (1895-1926) was born in a provincial Italian town to a modest middle-class family. After studying agriculture, he sailed to New York in 1914. He worked as a Tango dancer, gigolo (sleeping with both sexes) and occasional movie extra. He toured in theatrical revues, one of which brought him to Hollywood. Despite appearing in 17 films, usually in small roles, male studio executives didn't consider him leading-man material. MGM writer June Mathis felt differently, and insisted he play Julio Desnoyers in Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1920) from Spanish author Vicente Blasco Ibanez's best-selling novel. She expanded his part, and he became a star.
    Over the next five years, he made 13 pictures, most huge hits. These included The Sheik (21), which inspired the popular song, "I'm the Sheik of Araby," Blood and Sand, Beyond the Rocks with Swanson (22), Cobra, The Eagle (25), and Son of the Sheik (26). Straight men disliked him intensely. An infamous Chicago Tribune editorial, "Pink Powder Puffs," decried his effeminacy and unhealthy influence on young American males. Among the criticisms was his popularizing "slave bracelets," predecessors of ID bracelets. Valentino, an experienced pugilist, challenged the anonymous author to a boxing match as a test of his masculinity. The invitation went unanswered.
    Brett, author of sensationalist biographies of Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn, Freddie Mercury, Maria Callas, Elvis Presley, and Maurice Chevalier, goes into considerable detail about Valentino's sexual experiences, likely lovers, and physical attributes. Brett claims that after his first homosexual encounter, Valentino told friends, "It didn't hurt that much," and accepted his orientation. Starting in 1921, he writes, Valentino frequented Los Angeles' notorious Torch Club, where gay men met for sex. One night, a homely movie mogul ordered Valentino to get "on your knees, pretty boy." Brett adds that among his partners was young Gary Cooper. Valentino was buffed, handsome and, Brett reminds readers on what seems like every third page, exceptionally well-endowed. Ramon Novarro, whose popularity as a silent-screen Latin lover was second only to Valentino's and who had an affair with him, reportedly owned a 10-inch sterling-silver dildo modeled on the Italian's penis— a souvenir of their romance.
    Many of Brett's assertions are impossible to prove, and while he provides a bibliography, there are no source notes. Some of his statements are well-documented — the affair with Novarro, for example. The Cooper anecdote is unlikely — most sources don't have the handsome future star in Hollywood until 1924. (Cooper briefly roomed with and befriended gay aspiring actor Andy Lawlor, but was primarily heterosexual, alas.)
    Brett is better analyzing Valentino's complex relationship with women, including his wives, actress Jean Acker, and Natacha Rambova, born Winifred Shaughnessy and step-daughter of cosmetics tycoon Richard Hudnutt. Both were lesbians. The marriage to Acker was unconsummated. Rambova was a member of legendary theatrical and early movie star Nazimova's Sapphic circle. She was a talented designer, sometime actress, and domineering personality. Whether she was ever physically intimate with Valentino is uncertain. Her influence on his career was harmful — she insisted he portray sexually androgynous men while wearing costumes she designed that revealed his well-proportioned body. Studio executives and directors detested her, and finally, she and Valentino separated acrimoniously.
    Valentino smoked and drank heavily, ate rich foods, caroused, and seldom rested. He developed a perforated ulcer, and died in Manhattan following surgery to repair it. Brett astutely compares the unprecedented hysteria and media circus that his death triggered to that which followed Princess Diana's demise.
    Thousands of female fans lined railroad tracks to watch the casket as it headed to Hollywood. A few women and one male, a hotel bellboy who had a one-night-stand with the actor, committed suicide. Actress Pola Negri claimed she and Valentino were to have been married. She made a well-publicized trip to New York to accompany the body west. Swanson, who loathed him, lamented his passing. In Hollywood, many of his lovers, including Andre Daven, whom Valentino called "the love of his life," Paul Ivano, and Novarro, escorted the casket to its grave. Chaplin was a pallbearer.
    He earned record sums, but spent lavishly and died deeply in debt. On May 6, 1930, on what would have been his 35th birthday, the mysterious "Woman in Black" first appeared at his tomb, carrying flowers, a ritual that lasted for decades. Despite Brett's claims to the contrary, Valentino the actor seems very rooted in his time and place. His nostril-flaring, bug-eyed approach to passion induces giggles from modern audiences. It's unlikely his career would have survived talkies.
    He was, in most respects, an ordinary man of exceptional beauty who couldn't reconcile an artistic nature to the demands of unimaginable fame that forced him to deny his true self. Like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, his early death assured immortality. It's a splendid irony that when straight men are hailed as "Valentinos," the reference is to a gay superstar.

    Sun Journalists: One Down, Two To Go

    I wrote about this THREE months ago. My 'gentlemen with the tea-leaves' (well, that's what I call them--would-be wrongdoers call them something else) who have contacted, nurtured, and protected me over the past nine months have always kept me in the loop. And in appreciation of their tender care I have always kept schtumm. Now there are just two more to go, and one of particular interest to yours truly.


    Think of those Marlene concerts when she was singing a song from The Blue Angel.


    "No, it's not that one....it's the other one!"

    Phone Hacking: The Sun's Whitehall Editor arrested in illegal payments probe

    Clodagh Hartley, the Sun’s Whitehall Editor, has been arrested as part of the investigation into illegal payments to public officials, News International sources have confirmed.

    Clodagh Hartley, the Sun’s Whitehall Editor, has been arrested as part of the investigation into illegal payments to public officials, News International sources have confirmed.
    She was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and suspicion of conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office
    The 37-year-old, who became the paper’s first female lobby journalist three years ago, was arrested when she attended Bromley Police Station by appointment this morning.
    She was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and suspicion of conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office.
    Ms Hartley is a long standing Sun reporter who has worked in Los Angeles for the paper and has also had spells as the consumer affairs correspondent and home affairs correspondent.
    When she was appointed to the paper’s lobby staff three years ago, the then political editor, George Pascoe-Watson described her as a “distinguished veteran news reporter with ten years experience on the road”.
    It is understood she has been on maternity leave from the paper in recent months.

    140,000 Missing Children~~Or Mostly Just The One?

    25 May ~~ Big Tweet For Missing Children

    Stephen Fry Explains

    A staggering 140,000 children go missing in the UK every year. On International Missing Children’s Day (Friday 25 May), I will once again join the charity Missing People in harnessing the power of Twitter to help find missing children via The Big Tweet for Missing Children. You can take part too, by retweeting the appeals for missing children that the charity will tweet every 30 minutes, for 24 hours. On this day, the charity will also be launching 116 000 – the new hotline number to call or text for support if you or someone you love goes missing - thanks to the support of ICAP. So please add #116000 to all your tweets and help to spread the word about this important new number. You never know when someone you love might need it.”

    So, if 140,000 children go missing every day, why should all the emphasis be mostly on just one? Isn't the United Kingdom supposed to be a democracy?

    Thursday, 24 May 2012

    David Bret Interview With Vintage Bandstand: George Formby

    The Vintage Bandstand

    A collection of reviews about my favorite recordings of vintage jazz, classic pop, and the crooners, including the biggest stars and some obscure names, published by Anton Garcia-Fernandez in Martin, Tennessee, U.S.A.
    Though largely unknown in the United States, even in his heyday of the 1930s and 1940s, George Formby was one of the biggest stars in the history of British entertainment. Born George Hoy Booth in the Northern English town of Wigan in 1904, Formby was the heir of a rich music-hall tradition that harks back to Victorian England. His was a very personal take on the kind of music that can be heard in the wonderful Alberto Cavalcanti movie, Champagne Charlie (1944), which spotlights the sounds of the late nineteenth-century British music-hall. In fact, before Formby himself, his father, George Formby, Sr., enjoyed a very successful career as one of the best-loved music-hall acts of his time, a career which was only cut short by his failing health. George Formby would go on to surpass his father's popularity with British audiences, and in a span of forty years, he was a favorite on the stage, on radio, and in movies. Many of his hit songs, like "When I'm Cleaning Windows," "With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock," and "With My Little Ukelele in My Hand," thrive on a kind of humor that is rife with double entendres, which often got George in trouble with the official BBC censors, who did not think that such songs were fit to be broadcast. In any case, audiences in Britain and abroad loved them and heartily welcomed Formby wherever he appeared, accompanied by his inseparable banjo-uke.Back in 1999, biographer David Bret published the first comprehensive book on George Formby's life and career, detailing not only his very interesting life but also his experiences in showbusiness. The book, entitled George Formby: A Troubled Genius (Robson Books), is currently out of print in the United States, but I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy, and after reading it, decided to contact Mr. Bret and ask for an interview so as to discuss the book and Formby's career. The author readily agreed to give freely of his time to answer the many questions that the reading of his work suggested. Born in France though brought up in England, Mr. Bret began writing biographies in 1987, as he tells us, "encouraged by my friend, the French chanteuse Barbara." Since then, he has presented to the reading public the life stories of legends such as Clark Gable, Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, and Doris Day, to name but a few. Being a lesser-known name when compared to these big stars, then, one might wonder what it was about George Formby that spurred the author on to write his biography. "He still has a big following in the United Kingdom," Mr. Bret replies. "And I had also previously written a biography of Gracie Fields." Doing the research for the book took the biographer several years, during which he collected a great deal of material for future use in the work. "As a biographer, I don't omit anything unless it's libelous, and as most of my subjects are dead..."

    Mr. Bret's biography of George Formby is certainly a page-turner, written in a very dynamic style and full of interesting details that help us understand Formby's development both as an artist and as a person. The book also explores the singer's unusual relationship with his wife, Beryl, which sometimes looked more like a business partnership than a marital affair, and it sheds interesting light on their fundraising activities and efforts to entertain the British troops during World War II. The biography discusses at length Mr. and Mrs. Formby's open rejection of apartheid during two 1950s tours of South Africa, where they insisted, against the wishes of the authorities, on playing in front of black audiences. Their very forward stance opposing any kind of racism would, of course, cause them difficulties with the segregationist South African government, resulting in their being forced to cut short their first tour of that country and promptly return to England. I chatted about these and other aspects of George Formby's life and artistry with Mr. Bret, and now I offer the readers of The Vintage Bandstand the full contents of our conversation:

    The Vintage Bandstand: Let us talk a little about Mr. Formby's career. Before George's rise to prominence, his father, George Formby, Sr., had been one of the foremost stars in British vaudeville. What role did Formby, Sr., play in his son's future vocation and subsequent career?

    Mr. Bret: His father was his greatest inspiration, but the younger George superseded him, and now Formby, Sr., is almost forgotten.

    TVB: George Formby's success was phenomenal in Great Britain, his native country, as well as in other places such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In your opinion, why did he not achieve a similar stature in the United States?Mr. Bret: Americans have a different style of humor, and most of his songs were about the North of England, which Americans wouldn't have understood or worked out. Also, his peak was his films in wartime Britain; he only came to the United States afterwards, when it was all over.

    TVB: Your book shows that many London critics were extremely harsh on Mr. Formby mainly because of his northern English upbringing. Why was there at the time such an animosity against performers from the North of England?

    Mr. Bret: There always has been, and to a certain extent there still is, a North/South divide, almost like your Civil War at times. For a time it was impossible to be popular in both. The South had the likes of Max Miller. Gracie Fields was the only one to bridge the gap.

    TVB: We read in the book, also, that Mr. Formby was not satisfied with his movies, many of which he wished he could redo. How can you explain their enormous popularity with the viewing public of the 1930s and 1940s?

    Mr. Bret: George Formby identified with ordinary people. The plots were sillyish, and he always got the girl—conquering the North/South divide. Because he was so unattractive, the ladies were snooty and posh. It wouldn't have happened in real life. Then, after the war, with the likes of James Mason and Margaret Lockwood, this type of film became outdated. People wanted romance and adventure.

    TVB: Mr. Formby was a very unique stylish, a man fully capable of carrying a whole show on his shoulders. What do you thin were the secrets of his success?

    Mr. Bret: The fact that what you saw was what you got—no airs or graces!

    TVB: From reading your book, we get the distinct impression that Mr. Formby's marriage to his wife, Beryl, was more a business partnership than a conjugal relationship. Could you comment briefly on this?

    George and Beryl Formby in 1950
    Mr. Bret: This was northern England at the time—you made your bed and you had to lie on it. Few Northerners got divorced. She had her young men; he had his leading ladies. With her it was because she was attractive and a power in a man's world, where show business was concerned. He had the money! They argued a lot and were typical of their breed, but they could never have coped without each other—it was Beryl who made him.

    TVB: For an artist who was so immensely popular and whose recording career lasted for about 36 years, George Formby entered the studio in comparatively few occasions. Why didn't he get around to making more commercial recordings in his lifetime?

    Mr. Bret: As it happens today, he preferred to stick with the chosen formula. I would have liked him to have sung a few more serious songs, as Gracie Fields did, because he could put these over very well.

    TVB: The flap of the book mentions that you are "Britain's foremost authority on the French music-hall." As an enthusiast of the French chanson myself, I have to ask you how this passion began for you...

    Mr. Bret: I was brought up with it, weaned on Edith Piaf, coming from France and speaking the language. The only singers America had in that vein, in my opinion, were names like Jane Froman and Billie Holiday.

    TVB: In what ways does Mr. Formby's music resemble the French music-hall? And what divergences, if any, would you point out?Mr. Bret: His songs are in the same vein as Mayol and early Chevalier—they look at life as it really is, and they make fun of the more tragic aspects.

    TVB: There are many compilations of George Formby's music available on CD, including two monumental boxsets released by JSP Records. In your opinion, what is the future of Mr. Formby's recorded legacy? Will future generations still be interested in his music?

    Mr. Bret: I think his legacy is secure. He has a cult following which I feel will always be there.

    TVB: And, finally, could you share with our readers any projects in which you are currently involved? Perhaps a biography of one of my favorite French crooners, Jean Sablon?

    Mr. Bret: I covered Jean Sablon, to a certain extent, in my biography of Mistinguett. My next book, coming out next month, is about Greta Garbo, whom I met by way of Barbara at one of her shows.


    If you would like further information about the works of David Bret, you can visit his personal website.


    Wednesday, 23 May 2012

    Just A Wee Political Prediction

    Din-Dins on Friday at Number 10. Lots of grinning and gurning and kissing of rear ends.

    International Missing Children's Day, minus Winnie Bennett.

    A day which, I predict wholly without accusation, will inadvertently bring down this coalition. Can't remember who said it--other than it was someone prominent--but it's widely believed that this government farce, this trio of Shylocks wanting their two pounds of flesh, will cease to operate  in November.

    The Three Stooges--Cameron, Clegg & Cable--appear to me to be doing their best to bring this country to its knees
    Never before have there been so many poor people struggling to rise above the breadline.

    Every single day there appears to be another new tragedy and one wonders and cringes at how it will all end.

    Yet lurking in the wings of the coalition circus is one little Oliver Twist voice which cries, "Please sir, I want more!"

    Everyone wants more! Our hospitals want more. Our cancer hospices want more. Our schools want more. Dozens of genuine, heartfelt causes want more.
    Yet few have anything left to give.

    Greta Garbo: Divine Star Film Option Signed!

    Greta Garbo: Divine Star

    Film option signed!

    The Robson Press Actors' Guild

    dracula.jpgThe Cannes Film Festival is in full swing and there’s one film in particular which has caught our attention here at The Robson Press; Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D premiered at the festival. Reviews have been um, shall we say less than favourable – I believe the exact words used by The Hollywood Reporter were ‘risible gothic trash’. It’s always irritating when a great novel gets a disappointing Hollywood makeover.
    Perhaps if Dario had got himself a copy of The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker, things would have turned out better. If ONLY he’d had access to Stoker’s private thoughts and his developing style, from a veritable treasure trove of oddities, musings and anecdotes, he might have understood the author of Dracula, thus the novel, better, and produced a better film. I’M JUST SAYING.
    Whilst we’re all in the grip of film fever I also thought it prudent to bring you the best of our own stars of the screen. Who needs to go to Cannes when you’ve got The Robson Press?
    Ryan O’Neal – Ryan is, of course, best known for his role in the soap opera Peyton Place and for his roles in such films as Paper Moon and Love Story, for which he received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations as Best Actor. He is also known for his turbulent relationship with actress Farrah Fawcett, which recounts in Both of Us: My Life With Farrah
    Stefanie Powers – known for her role in Hart to Hart, Stefanie has notched up so many stage, screen and TV credits, that her name alone recalls memories as varied as her roles. She recounts these tales, as well as her relationship with actor William Holden in her autobiography, One From The Hart. Recently she starred in On Golden Pond, and has supported the Daily Telegraph’s lunch cancer awareness campaign.
    Dyan Cannon - Dyan Cannon is an award-winning film and television actress, director, screenwriter, editor, and producer. She was married to actor Cary Grant, a tale that she recalls in Dear Cary, which contains rare, personal photos and never-before-seen letters and notes from Grant. Nowadays you’re likely to find her giving out her homemade brownies at Lakers games. A Hollywood star, sports fan and provider of baked goods? Well, she has my vote.
    Michael Winner – I can’t see this being the case for anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave, but just in case you need an introduction, Michael Winner is a British film director, producer and restaurant critic, who tells the stories from his exciting life in Tales I Never Told! Of course, in later years he has become known for his catchphrase ‘calm down, dear’. Even David Cameron has used it, although to, um, less effect than the master himself.
    Esther Rantzen – we don’t just draw our authors from the movies. Oh no. Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life! graced our screens for 21 years, from 1973 to 1994. She is, of course, also the founder of ChildLine, the first national helpline for children in the world, the story of which she tells in Running Out Of Tears: the moving personal story of ChildLine’s children over 25 years
    Steven Berkoff – Steven has become known for his sinister roles over the years, from playing General Orlov in Octopussy, to saying that he finds playing evil roles 'flattering'. Of course, that doesn’t actually make him EVIL. Why would his memoir, Tales From An Actor’s Life, be nominated for the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography if he was evil?! JUST SAYING.
    p.s. We don't just publish books by film stars. We also publish books about them. David Bret's Greta Garbo is due to be published on the 20th June, and is the first to fully investigate the two so-called missing periods in Garbo's life. The first, when Garbo disappeared completely for several months, was almost certainly to conceal a pregnancy. The second occurred during World War Two, when Garbo was employed by British Intelligence to track down Nazi sympathisers. It looks like Garbo fever is also alive elsewhere; Bret has just signed an option contract for a major film, provisionally entitled Greta Garbo: Being Alone to be based on the book.


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    Tuesday, 22 May 2012

    Morrissey: Another Who Has Suffered Prejudice

    Once lunatics get their knives into you, they never know when to stop. There is little or no difference between the music-press journalists of the 1990s and the McCann supporters of today. Doesn't matter what you have to say, they don't want to listen. As Moz sings, "It's easier to hate than it is to love." But, he's still going strong, and so am I, which ultimately proves that hatred and spite do not win!
    I was invited to a Morrissey concert in 1992, and was standing at the bar next to two journalists--I won't say which publications they represented, only that one was the NME and the other Melody Maker. They were writing a review of the show before he even went on stage, and proudly boasting to each other that 'this poncy sh*t' was not going to get a good review from them, and neither was his album. Point: ALL of Morrissey's albums have reached #1 in the charts.
    The same happens when I publish a book. Fruitloops leave bad reviews, sometimes before the book comes out. I've had a couple already for the new book, and it won't be out for another month. I got some pretty lousy reviews for my Judy Garland book on Amazon--they'd read this, I'd written this. Save that there never was a Judy Garland book. It was a two-book deal I had with Anonymous. They published the first, Barbra Streisand, but went bust while Judy was in production. Point: the books sell, whatever the reviews are like.
    Though I want nothing more to do with the McCann circus, I do nip into the arena from time time to see what the chimps are up to. Today there's a lady called Joy, who has offered an opinion they don't like. The knives are out, and some. That's why I called it a day. Not worth getting het up any more about somebody else's kid. Threats, doorstep visits, nasty missives, threats, offers from hit-men to 'solve' the problem have never been my bag. I defended Morrissey from such creeps, and far from wanting me to perish in a hotel fire (as had happened with Mr Rogan) he kindly said that he would like to dust me down and place me on his mantelpiece. He's a good man, is Our Moz.

    Sunday, 20 May 2012

    Remembering Kathy Kirby

    Kathy Kirby, in the old-style NSA (No Shit Allowed) Eurovision Song Contest when everyone sang in their own language, when there was no political voting, and when the entrants all had talent, as opposed to today, when it's virtually unwatchable.
    Kathy left us one year ago today, forgotten almost but for her die-hard fans, of which I was one. I only saw her once on the stage, and she was magical. Just over a year ago I included an extended essay in one of my Brit Girls books, and was surprised when she wrote to me, thanking me for what I said. I meant every word.

    Like Dot Squires, Kathy was a difficult girl at times--in a harsh man's world, it was a case of having to be. But she was never less than the supreme professional. She could also sing anything, and in any style. Her version of Minstinguett's "Mon homme" is, I think, just as good as Streisand's. Perhaps my favourite is "The Way Of Love", the English adaptation of "Le mal de toi", a huge hit on the continent for Dalida, and in a German version by Eva.
    Like Diana Dors and Brigitte Bardot, Kathy was persistently compared with Marilyn Monroe, when in effect there is NO comaprison. DD, BB and KK are all unique and may be compared with no one.

    Saturday, 19 May 2012

    Who Wants Their Car Washing?

    For you ladies out there--and gentlemen, of course--who want to wash the grime of the last few weeks off the old jollopy. The statistics for this state that there are '49 inches of man-meat' on display here. Funny, they all look taller than that!
    Oh, and if you happen to be one of those fuddy-duddy McCann supporters....just close your eyes and imagine all six studs are Bernard Manning clones, and the buckets are full of pee. Oh, and that the jollopy is a hearse.

    Thursday, 17 May 2012

    Donna Summer Dies: One Less Homophobe To Plague The Planet

    She was only one step to the left of arch bigots such as Bernard Manning and that puerile vicar who proclaimed on News At Ten that he was happy that his teenage son had hanged himself--better that, the evil cleric said, than to havehad  the shame of his being outed as gay.

    Donna Summer made her name as a Hi-energy disco queen. She earned her spondoolies--millions of them--by way of the gay community who played her records endlessly in clubs and discos. Until, that is, she opened her mouth and the hatred came spewing out.

    AIDS, she declared, was God's punishment to the gay community.

    Naturally, this affected her career. Hi-energy was as essential to the gay scene as poppers and Peter Tatchell. They did not like it. Concerts were cancelled, records were publicly burned. The vitriol was enormous, and deserved. Freddie Mercury and Rock Hudson were in receipt of some of the most cruel tabloid headlines I have ever seen. Rock in particular had been visited by Christian fanatics--singer Pat Boone, accompanied by his wife and three daughters, armed with a message from God. It's all in my book, Rock Hudson. "I feel that God does not necessarily regard a killer any different than a homosexual," Debbie Boone said, equating gay to be as sinful as murder. The supreme insult, I levelled at her at the time, writing of her visit, "Though it probably did not hasten Rock's end, it certainly did little to make his last moments comfortable."

    Donna Summer belonged to that hate brigade, and her passing leaves me completely unmoved. Aware of her gaff, and with her career on the slide and the cash flow much decreased, she tried to say that her comments had been misinterpreted--that's after she'd first said she'd never made them.  Then she tried blaming her 'team'. Some believed her, many did not.

    Which brings to mind a comment made by the equally loathsome Bernard Manning, some years ago on The Eamonn Andrews Show upon the demise of Sid Vicious, "Let's hope the dustbin men go on strike in time for the funeral."

    Tuesday, 15 May 2012

    Rebekah Brooks: What Next For Rapunzel?

    Rapunzel has let down her hair, but will some handsome knight come sweeping up on his charger and rescue her? Or will she end up the proverbial Bird In A Guilded Cage?
    And what will happen to the maggots, wriggling around in the castle basement? Will they wriggle away--or will Big Jack Pike tsunami in and gobble the lot of them up?
    Really I should not care one way or another, but others--far removed from the murky world of the tabloids--have made it their business to make it my business, so to speak.
    I've been aware of this murky world since 1991, when a seedy journalist conned me into giving an interview about Marlene Dietrich. My friend was still alive, and urged me to go ahead with the meeting, suspicious that he would be recording the conversation. This obnoxious man had hurt her in the past, and her intention was to put out a hit on him. I won't say his name--he knows who he is, and sadly he is still with us, but enjoying the popularity of a razor-embedded dildo.
    From my perspective, the writing appears to be on the wall so far as Ms Brooks is concerned. And if the things they are saying about "the letter" are true....well, I knew the truth about that long before it became public knowledge. I guess the courts will decide what is what, in their own time.
    As for the manure lump who has taken it upon itself to extract a leaf from the David Whitfield book and write abusively to every house in the street where it thinks that I live---to inform them what a cad I am-- this ruse has also backfired. Even as I speak, I would suggest that the aforementioned manure lump take a swift dive off Beachy Head, for this would be ultimately more preferable to what has been set up for them. Attack the guilty, by all means, but leave the innocent alone!


    Monday, 14 May 2012

    The Daily Star & The Gay Dog: As Sad As It Gets

    BRITAIN’S Got Talent winner Pudsey is hiding a gay secret and has a boyfriend.

    It's a sad, sad state of affairs when this is all that a so-called major newspaper can find to put on its front page.
    Pudsey, the dog who won Britain's Got Talent, apparently bats for the other side.
    Two soldiers were killed in Afghanistan yesterday, prompting ITV to reschedule an episode of Vera, because this formed part of its storyline. And quite rightly so. Our boys deserve respect. They are dying for nothing--because a couple of politicians couldn't keep their snouts out of other people's affairs.
    Five children--six, now--died in a fire and a community is in mourning.
    And The Daily Star runs this headline.
    Recently I was involved in a nonsensical saga--no names, no pack drill--which I subsequently washed my hands of. A handful of lunatics clung to every word printed about this saga....in The Daily Star, famed only for seedy, grossly exaggerated stories, breasts, £3 family holidays, breasts, tacky journalists, and breasts. ONLY they printed the silly stories about the silly saga.
    There I rest my case. 

    Sunday, 13 May 2012

    Peter Andre: Teaching Granny To Suck Eggs I Think Not

    Peter Andre’s TV
    pop at bad lads

    So runs the header in this morning's Sun 'newspaper'.
    Peter Andre, slightly less talented than his former wife, Katie Price--who has no talent whatsoever--has now taken on the mantle of the late Clair Raynor.
    The man who would make a television series about gathering bluebells or going to the toilet on trains, if he could, is making a television series within which he will teach we chaps how to treat the ladies in our lives. If the series is successful, expect a whole dichotomy of self-help television magazines:
    Dr Shipman's Guide To Patient Care Control
    Peter Sutcliffe's Guide To Getting The Best Out Of Those Old Chisels
    Karen Matthews' Guide To Beauty & Childcare
    Rebekah Brooks' Good Hairdressing Guide

    A worthless programme to which of course there will be an equally worthless response, when the lovely Katie and her next husband (as with the Grand National there will be forty contenders at the starting post) offer their take on what makes the perfect marriage--followed (yawwwwn) by the finely-sculptured Mr Andre's "hard-hitting" documentary on the filming of the aforementioned guide to...oh, well, I think you've got the picture by now!
    Just give 'em all their own TV channel and let them get on with it!

    Saturday, 12 May 2012

    Gigi L'Amoroso

    The splendiforous Gigi Buffon.
    It's almost time for UEFA 2012, and I don't mind who wins so long as it's Italy.
    If Italy don't get through to the final, there's always second favourite Portugal. My youngest dog, Ricardo Casillas, is named after the Portuguese and Spanish goalies. We met Ricardo a few years back in Lisbon.
    Italy has been my team for as long as I can remember--never France, and certainly not England, who if they're true to form will be out in the first round.
    Three years ago when I was filming Rudy in Milan, the producer surprised me by having several of the team turn up for lunch. Later in the week we went out on the razzle with a couple of them, and nicer young chaps you could not wish to meet. We drank rather a lot of wine and sang a few Milva songs. Then it snowed for the first time in years. I think the heavens were trying to tell us something! 

    Remembering Joan Crawford: Thirty-Five Years On

    I awoke this morning and thought to myself, "Today is some special anniversary--can't for the life of me think what it is!" I zipped through the births and deaths in Wikipedia: Erich von Stroheim, Florence Nightingale the only persons worthy of mention for an international audience. Then I remembered that it's thirty-five years this weekend since we lost Joan Crawford, one of the greatest legends to emerge from the Hollywood dream factory. The star who was derided in Mommy Dearest by an ungrateful daughter.
    Joan adopted four children. Two treated her like dirt after she died, two revered her memory. I know which two I believe. If Christina Crawford really got whacked by wire coat-hangers, do you honestly think they wouldn't have noticed at her swimming school? And the son, Christopher, in and out of corrective faculties. God rewarded one with a stroke, the other with an early and largely unnoticed demise.
    In my time and linked to my career have been several ungrateful offspring or relatives of dear friends--family scions who claim to have been badly done by by their famous betters, and who of course have always been first in the queue when the time came to hand out spondoolies. Maria Riva, of whom Marlene said to me, "I love my daughter, but I don't like her very much." There was a clip of film where Riva was handling the infamous redincote for the museum in Berlin--she wiped her hands afterwards as if it had bugs. They also buried Marlene in the last place she wanted to be buried--she'd left Berlin on account of the Hitlerian regime, and since then only returned twice, once for a tour which saw them waving placards for her to go home, once to record her "geraniums" album and appear in a television show with Sandie Shaw. Then there was Damia, France's greatest singer before Piaf. I met her twice--once she served us lunch--and she was lovely. When she died some niece stepped out of the shadows and buried her outside Paris in a cemetery it takes hours to get to. Spiteful wretch! The same goes for Betty Mars, whose estranged brother popped up from the sewers to bury her at the back of beyond--this salopard even tried to prevent her friends from attending her funeral. Then there's dear old Joey Stefano, one of the finest young men to have ever drawn breath. He died at twenty-six, and was buried in Philadelphia with his father. The sister came along, decided she didn't approve of Joey having been a "cock star", and had his name removed from the gravestone. Didn't say no the six-figure windfall, of course, from Joey's film royalties. Mean witch!
    Thankfully, this will never happen to me. I'm officially "divorced" from my entire clan--indeed, I haven't seen any of them for over twenty years, and prefer things this way. My true family, aside from those living in this house, are the ones mentioned in the Acknowledgements sections of my books.

    Friday, 11 May 2012

    Lindsay Lohan To Play Liz Taylor & God Bless All Who Sail In Her

    Cast your eyes on the ravishing beauty opposite. Have you ever seen such gorgeousness, witnessed such innate charisma. This woman had it all, and she was a goddess. I could never praise her enough. She outshone everyone who appeared alongside her, and when her film career was over and illness began taking over her life, she put others first and raised millions for her AIDS charities.
    And how does Hollywood repay her?
    By making a film, Liz & Dick, the title alone of which makes me cringe because it sounds like some cheap porno flic where the only interesting bits are the zits on the models' bottoms.
    As for the casting, one gets the impression that they have written all the names of the world's worst actresses on bits of paper and dropped them in a bowl, and had Polly the parrot pick one out while hoping for the best.
    Lindsay Lohan, who in my opinion would have considerable difficulty acting her way out of a paper bag. Indeed, why not go the whole hog and use the paper bag instead?
    It's the worst exercise in miscasting since they almost cast Hylda Baker as her long lost relative, Norma Jean....aka Marilyn Monroe. So, who will be playing Dick? Justin Timberlake? Or will they pick that other sublimely untalented individual, Justin Bieber? Or maybe they'll stick with Wales and cast Max Boyce?
    I can remember some years ago how they made a biopic about Garbo & Gilbert, followed by another about Gable & Lombard...both of which disappeared down the sluice quicker than last night's dodgy Chinese takeaway.
    Liz Taylor was unforgetable...which is more than will be said for this film.
    Best to save your money, Mr Producer. Or rather, put it to better use by donating it to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

    Thursday, 10 May 2012

    Cannes Film Festival Revisited

    The Cannes Film Festival promises to be exciting this year. I can't go into details, much as I would like to, just yet.
    Have to say, festivals such as this have never really been my cup of tea: all the preening and posturing and one-upmanship.
    What I dislike most about them--pretty much putting them on a level with BBC Breakfast TV and other chatshows, is that everyone is buttering everyone else up, even though they may not be able to stand the mortal sight of them. I remember I was once on Nicky Campbell's show with Churchill's grandson and a few others--one of those discussions where everyone sits around a table and tries to put the world to rights. Someone said to me, "Isn't Will Young wonderful?"....to which I responded, "No," and everyone suddenly looked like they were in Madame Tussauds. The Campbell show was supposed to discuss a young woman who had appeared on the front page of The Sun, which as everyone knows is my least favourite chipwrap--there was a photograph of her, dead, kneeling on the kitchen floor with the syringe still sticking out of her arm. One of the guests--the operatic soprano who recently performed in a wheelchair because she had broken her leg--said she was only interested in talking about her new role. A young rock star only wanted to promote his new album, "Winnie" as he was called--Churchill's grandson was an old toad who none of us liked--was only interested in talking about his famous grandad and said that if someone wanted to stick needles in their arm, it was up to them. I was promoting Callas, ahead of that evening's supper tribute with Lord Harewood. So, hot on my Will Young rebuttal, Campbell pipes a quote from the book, "Churchill was on Onassis' yacht, and told Callas to her face that he and his wife Clementine were sick of hearing her catawaulling first thing every morning, at which the great lady turned on him with, 'And I'm sick of your moaning, so why don't you piss off, you incontinent old fart!'" Thenon the discussion became much more interesting. Winnie Jr most definitely did not like Callas after that!
    Marlene was the emblem for the 1992 Cannes Film Festival at the time of her death. There was a big poster at the end of her street. "A good time to bow out," my friend Sheridan Morley said at the time. The image is from Shanghai Express, a superb film directed by Josef von Sternberg.

    Wednesday, 9 May 2012

    Marlene: Twenty Years Passes So Quickly

    It's unbelievable that twenty years have zipped by since Marlene left us. For four years, we talken virtually every day on the phone and each time we went to Paris we would drop in at her apartment on avenue Montaine. Itself an experience, for by the time I got to know her, she was living in the bedroom--stretched out on the bed all day long, her only lifeline her telephone, and the pile of newspapers sitting next to it. Paris-Match took a picture after she died--my book, The Piaf Legend, was atop the pile.
    Marlene was fond of sticking bits of paper on the corridor wall outside her room. There was a picture of Liz Taylor, under which she had scribbled that Richard Burton should take the jewels he'd bought her and rammed them down her throat! One of Meryl Streep read, "What awful news!" A third, of African AIDS victims, read, "If they stopped f*****g, this disease wouldn't be half as widespread!" I understaood where she was coming from.
    What I didn't like was the tea she served--Earl Grey, which tasted like someone had dropped soap into the pot.
    She was also hilariously but unintentionally witty. When our friend the singer Betty Mars flung herself out of a fourth-floor window Marlene quipped, "Someone could have been hurt." When I explained that Betty had eventually died of her injuries she said, "I mean, she could have landed on someone!" Dalida's suicide she described as, "A great performance at last. If you're going to do it, get on with it. Don't keep doing it just for attention!"
    I wouldn't like to think that my friend took her own life, but something at the back of my mind tells me she might have done. Initially, she always called at 19.45 hours--sometimes an hour on either side, depending on the clocks. When we became very close, it would be at all hours--once she called at three in the morning to say Saddam had an atom bomb in Iraq! Another call lasting three hours was discussing just one song on the album I produced and compiled for her--this was released 6 May 1991, exactly a year before she died. Many of these calls I recorded--she asked me to, just in case no one believed me after she died, which is exactly what happened. On 4 May she called, "I have called to say goodbye. I am telling you that I love you, and that now I may die." Two days later I received the call from Madame Tahon, her housekepper, one hour before the media were alerted.
    I didn't go to her funeral--there were three, one in Paris, one on the French/German border, the other in Berlin where Marlene was buried. I was represented by Roger, my godfather, who had known her longer than I had. She hadn't wanted to be buried in Berlin--certainly each time she's talked about her death, which was often during those last months, she had expressed a desire to be buried in Paris, if possible at Marne-la-Coquette, near Maurice Chevalier. Her last public act was the handwritten introduction she provided for my Chevalier book.
    Twenty years have zipped by....and I still miss her.