Thursday, 29 December 2016

Are UK Tabloid Journalists The Most Puerile In The World

I am known for making the statement, "The only good homophobe is a dead one," and I shall always stand by this.

In the wake of the recently high-profile celebrity deaths, I am starting to think that this applies to some, if not the majority, of the UK's tabloid hacks.

When I was "nabbed", I envisaged, if not actually prayed for, some kind of event on the M6 to rid us of a few of these pariahs whose lives are lived to make others' lives, and those of their loved ones, an utter misery. Then the vehicle was a small the current rate, it will soon be a fleet of double-decker buses and hopefully with the stalkers and the homophobes behind the wheel.

Prior to this I lived through the horrendous headlines written about Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury, Justin Fashanu, and Joey Stefano.  Whoever or whatever these men were, they did not deserve all the poison and vitriol slung at them from the tabloids.

George Michael and Debbie Reynolds, the two most recent losses, were much-loved legends. What Sun and Mirror journalists are now writing about them is absolutely vile, yet not one of these hacks would ever be fit to lick the muck off their shoes. Now, even the Daily Express has jumped on to the bandwagon, raking up nasty and mostly speculative stories before these wonderful people's bodies have time to grow cold.

There's not much more that I can say...other than that my hopes for 2017 will be for one where stalkers' and tabloid hacks' demises will tally with if not exceed those beautiful folk that we have said goodbye to in 2016.

The big difference will be that their passing, thankfully, will go unnoticed because, by and large, they were nobodies dishing the dirt on others a million times more loved and respected than they would be in a dozen lifetimes. The world will piss on their graves.

Saturday, 17 December 2016


My great friend, Dot Squires. We were close for over 25 years. Life was never dull when she was around. She could be feisty, and some, but she told it as it was and never held back. We first met at the Sheffield Fiesta, in 1972, and towards the end of her life she lived just down the road from us. Not a day goes by when I don't think about her. Dot was one of a kind!

This is the first ever biography of Dorothy Squires, for half a decade one of Britain’s most feted singers, by her friend and confidant, David Bret. They met at the height of the BBC Payola scandal, and remained close for 26 years. In this book, much of which is told in Dorothy’s own words and confidences, we learn of her triumphs and tragedies, her love affairs—the tempestuous ones with bandleader-composer Billy Reid and the actor Roger Moore, whom she married—and those she kept secret from all but her most intimate circle.

Bret and Dorothy Squires never hold back when discussing the ups and downs of her life. Her refusal to grant Moore his freedom after their marriage failed. Her ferocious spats with “the establishment” which saw her banned on television and radio, resulting in impresarios turning their backs on her until she affected one of the most spectacular comebacks in show business history. Her fight to clear her name when she was arrested and accused of corruption. Her name being included on entertainment blacklists in France and America. Her sad and untimely fall from grace, brought about by the many frivolous lawsuits which left her virtually penniless and resulted in her being declared a vexatious litigant, and which saw her evicted from her home and taken in by friends. And finally, her lonely demise, and the fights over her estate.

Dorothy Squires’ life was a veritable rollercoaster ride of intense, frequently almost unbearable emotion, but as Bret reveals in this fascinating and alternatively moving and sardonically humorous book, it was a wonderful life.

Dorothy Squires: Troubled Diva contains over forty photographs and a complete UK and international discography. David Bret is one of Britain’s leading show business biographers. He has also written songs, published novels, two factual books about The Wars of the Roses, appeared in around thirty films and television documentaries, and made over 700 radio broadcasts.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembering the Paris Attacks, One Year On

This is Anne Sylvestre, one of France's top entertainers whose grandson died at the Ba-ta-clan one year ago today. Jeanne and I knew two of the others, one was a journalist who interviewed me for Les Inrockuptibles, the other a restaurateur from Billancourt who used to come to Barbara's concerts. Both fine, respected me, taken from us in the prime of life, as were the others.

But was it really necessary to mark this solemn, very upsetting occasion by hiring the tuneless dribble that is Sting? And why do these people always turn up in the wake of tragedies, if for no other reason than to inflate their egos just that little bit more? One thinks of Madonna, Adele, Lady Gaga, Bono, Johnny Halliday (who always charges for his crocodile tears). Are these people really interested in paying tribute to victims of terrorism, or is it just another notch on their do-gooder belt?

I rather think the latter. Think Live Aid. It was Morrissey who said that none of these people would have turned up, had it been to raise funds to help British people, and he was right. Most of these acts were already has-beens, who though performing for nothing did in the end only participate to revive their flagging careers.

Now, we have celebrities protesting against Brexit and against Donald Trump. Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg and a number of other loud-mouths sulking because they can't have all their own way. Here in the UK, celebrities were saying they would leave the country if the Conservatives got in, but they're still here. Maybe they should take a little holiday...I hear Aleppo is nice at this time of the year. Either that, or they should stop spouting. This is why we have elections, so that one side wins and the other loses. It's called competition.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Rudolph Valentino: New Publications

The new Rudolph Valentino publications.
I shall now anticipate more fake lawsuits from my stalker who feels they have a monopoly on this subject, and will anticipate Twitter being awash with posts about bullying, about suicides because of bullying, Bible quotes and pictures of saints slaying devils, and pictures of Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and of crows with cigarettes in their mouths. The former was a close friend, the latter a beloved pet.
I hasten to add that my stalker is not referred to in any of these, though I am illegally referred to in one of theirs.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Boy George Giving Himself A Pat On The Back & Insulting The Memory Of A Legend By Paying For Pete Burns; Funeral

Pete Burns & Boy George, he of the silly hats.
This may not go down well, but am I the only one who finds Boy George's broadcasting that he's paying for Pete's funeral flagrantly insulting? Pete was an icon, but instead of going down in history as one of our greatest icons and eccentrics, he will now be remembered as a penniless charity case. Pay for the funeral by all means, Hatty, but do so discreetly. Don't go boasting all over the place what a good boy you are, when we know that you're really doing it to make everyone think what a great, Geldof & Bono-esque philanthropist you are. I can name you a few people--Juliette Greco and Barbara are but two--who have secretly raised MILLIONS for AIDS victims, and ensured that none of it got into the press. These people were more interested in helping others than they were in giving themselves pats on the back. Accept the fact that you're almost a has-been, that each time we see you, rather than looking eccentric and being loved as Pete was, you make yourself look more and more of a twit. A twit who has insulted the legacy of a British great, which you once were but will never be again.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

George Formby/Joey Stefano/Rudolph Valentino: The Biographies

Part of the re-released back-catalogue. Each of these men was unique in their own field, and all three died young while at the height of their popularity. Joey is the odd-one out in that he is the only one not to be the subject of a stage play or film.

The much-revised re-issue of

Monday, 17 October 2016

Rudolph Valentino: The Ultimate Latin Lover New Biography Out Today!

New Biography: Published 17th October 2016
Includes The Stageplay


David Bret's first biography of Rudolph Valentino was published in 1998 and became a worldwide success. In this much-extended edition of "Dream of Desire" which also includes Bret's stage play based on his book, the author tells of the real Valentino, a man sexually attracted only towards other men, and whose relationships with women-particularly his two lesbian wives-brought him only heartache and despair. Moralists attacked him, the studio chiefs treated him like dirt. His manager was interested only in gaining control of his estate. When he lay dying in hospital, these people deliberated between saving him and letting him die while working out which was the most financially viable-Valentino alive, or dead, and what would happen if the truth emerged about his private life. Valentino was less ashamed of his sexuality than he was of being trapped within the image of his public persona as "The World's Greatest Lover". In 1920s Hollywood, gay men were all too often stereotyped as feeble degenerates. Not so Valentino, a powerfully-built man who excelled at most sports, and at boxing in particular. It was his persistent, totally unnecessary need to "prove" his manhood which ultimately contributed towards his untimely death.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Memories Of Aberfan Smeared By A Psychotic Father

Aberfan was like the assassination of Kennedy and the death of Elvis. We remember what we were doing that 21st October. Jeanne and I also married on that date some years later.
Here's an extract from my autobiography, Putting One's Head Above The Parapet. Ken Vickers was the manager of Millletts, where I worked after leaving school. He had a perpetually wet lower lip and looked like John Mortimer. O.B. (Old Bastard) is of course my father, George Spurr, so-named by his brother who, like the rest of us, could not stand him. To shrug off all connections with him, I changed my name. To be free of him, my mother killed herself:

 I later found out, when he had moved on to new pastures and was therefore safe from a tongue-lashing, or worse, that Ken had been a bit of a turd. In the wake of the Aberfan Disaster of 21 October 1966, when 116 children and 28 adults died after the collapse of a colliery spoil-tip, Mother organised a collection for relatives of the victims by placing a Saxa salt-tin on the shop counter. In one week she raised £21, a tidy amount at the time. A few days after dispatching this, she received a letter of thanks from the Mayor of Aberfan—and a visit from the police. Ken had reported her because O.B. had informed him that she had put the money aside for her next holiday. Later, O.B. tried to protest that he had only been joking. The police officer could not have been more apologetic after being shown the receipt and the Mayor’s letter. That evening, O.B. paid Mother a rare compliment saying that the meat-and-potato pie she had prepared for him was tastier than usual. She had exacted her revenge by swapping the usual best quality shin-beef for “Rex” dog-food!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

A Plea To Ban Tramadol After The Vet Prescribed It To Our Dog, Killing Him

Prescription painkillers are 'claiming more lives than heroin and cocaine', expert warns

  • Tramadol is currently classified as a Class C drug - among the least harmful
  • But a leading pathologist believes they should be upgraded to a Class A
  • They are taken by thousands of people each day to rid them of any pain
  • He warns they can be deadly when mixed with other medication or alcohol

Read more: 
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Also from Wakefield Express (full feature online):

'Disgraceful' vet left swab inside puppy

A VET was found guilty of disgraceful conduct after leaving a swab in a puppy following a routine operation.

Owen Davies, formerly of the Chantry Veterinary Group, on Northgate, carried out a spaying operation on Sacha, a 10-month-old labrador in September 2002.
The dog died in March last year after a "massive fibrous growth" was discovered in her abdomen six months after the operation.
During a disciplinary hearing before the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' professional conduct committee, Mr Davies, 35, told of his shock at the discovery.

This is Bozzy, our beautiful Blue Merle. In April we took him to Chantry Vets, Wakefield. He had a lame leg and swollen paw, but was happy and very noisy, and not in pain. As a precaution, she said, the vet Birgit Nordmann prescribed 50mg of Tramadol. Bozzy, she said, was "very fit for an ancient dog". He was twelve. Two days later, Bozzy was dead. He has passed blood in his urine, vomited blood, and become extremely lethargic.

We took action, and filed a report. Suddenly, Ms Nordmann who had said (in front of two witnesses) that Bozzy was fit was now saying in her statement that she had told us that Bozzy was extremely ill when she saw him. The other vets that I spoke to at Chantry Vets  followed up with a whole catalogue of lies. A stroppy Irish vet named Lisa Flood had the audacity to say that if Bozzy was ill, it was our fault and had nothing to do with the vet. A Spanish vet named Jordi Serrano swore that he had called me on the phone and given me advice, but despite sending copies of the company's phone records he got the date wrong, and there is no record there of that call because it never happened.

I will not go further into the case here as it has now moved to the next level, other than to say that in her own statement Ms Nordmann said that she had prescribed 50mg because 10mg, which might have been more suitable for Bozzy, was more expensive and that I had complained about the cost. Again, there were two witnesses. Absolute tosh! Ms Nordmann also complaints that comments I have made on social media are "ruining her life". I speak only the truth, Ms Nordmann, which I will eventually repeat under oath when this goes to court. Because of your incompetence, Bozzy does not HAVE a life.

Our aim is to have the three vets involved with this case struck off the veterinary register. Chantry Vets was a nice family practice until they began employing migrant workers who, though I have nothing against them racially, do not seem to know the meaning of the term "patient care". It would be ideal if the practice was sued out of business or closed down--a few years ago the press reported one of their vets being suspended for killing a puppy--but if this happened, this would be unfair to the genuinely nice people who work there. The receptionist and administrator in particular are extremely nice, as is the owner of the practice.

As for Tramadol, all I can say is that, if 50mg is now considered very dangerous for 170-pound humans, why would anyone want to prescribe the same dosage for a 40-pounds dog, particularly when the vet's opinion of him (though not revealed to me) was that he was seriously ill?

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Dorothy Squires: An Intimate Portrait Of A Troubled Diva...coming soon!

To be published November 2016

Hardback, paperback and digital

Many candid and private photographs + discography

Publicity Sheet

This is the first ever biography Dorothy Squires, for half a decade one of Britain’s most feted singers, by her friend and confidant, David Bret. They met at the height of the BBC Payola scandal, and remained close for 26 years. In this book, much of which is told in Dorothy’s own words, we learn of her triumphs and tragedies, her love affairs—the tempestuous ones with bandleader-composer Billy Reid and the actor Roger Moore, whom she wed—and those she kept secret from all but her most intimate circle.

Bret and Dorothy Squires never hold back when discussing the ups and downs of her life. Her refusal to grant Moore his freedom after their marriage failed. Her ferocious spats with “the establishment” which saw her banned on television and radio, and resulted in impresarios turning their backs on her until she affected one of the most spectacular comebacks in show business history. The fight to clear her name when she was arrested and accused of corruption. Her name being included on entertainment blacklists in France and America. Her sad and untimely fall from grace, brought about by the many frivolous lawsuits which left her virtually penniless and resulted in her being declared a vexatious litigant, and which saw her evicted from her home and taken in by friends. And finally, her lonely demise, and the fights over her estate.

Dorothy Squires’ life was a veritable rollercoaster ride of intense, frequently almost unbearable emotion, but as Bret reveals in this fascinating and alternatively moving and sardonically humorous book, it was a wonderful life.

Dorothy Squires: An Intimate Portrait Of A Tortured Diva contains many fascinating photographs and a complete discography.

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Gracie Fields Appreciation Society

I've encountered quite a few "appreciation societies" in my time. Some have hundreds of members, some are lucky to scrape through with half a dozen.

I remember David Niven recalling the Hungarian director, Michael Curtiz, famed for his woefully bad English. Said Curtiz during one particularly heated argument, "You thing that I know fuck nothink. Well, let me tell you that I know fuck all!"

Sadly, this applies to many of these societies run by self-educated experts for who quantity and personal possession comes before knowledge of one's subject...someone writes that Elvis wore a blue tie on 12th January 1959, and some busy little beaver will spend three weeks researching the fact that the tie was grey. The organisation paying homage to our Gracie is remplis with individuals who have it on their own good authority not just what Gracie sounded like, but what she smelled like, what it felt like to touch her...I wouldn't doubt they have a list somewhere of her trips to the bathroom and what she ate for breakfast every alternate Saturday.

None of these people were born when Gracie was in her heyday, or even when she was in her dotage. They have become experts by boasting and collecting memorabilia...records, films, newspaper clippings and such. They acquire something rare, and rather than share it...bearing in mind that Gracie shared her sublime talent and never sang for an audience of one...they boast about it: "I have one of these. It's the only one in the world, but I'm keeping it to myself because, unlike Gracie, I'm a selfish person."

They, in common with the Fuhrers of other groups and societies, also dictate to whom one may or may not speak: "You can be the most important philanthropist in the world, but you'd better not communicate with Joe Bloggs because I don't like him...he's got a record that I've never heard, or at least  he says he has, but if I've never heard it then it doesn't exist!"

Yesterday they unveiled Gracie's statue in Rochdale. I was asked for my opinion. Now, never ask for my opinion if you're expecting hearts and flowers. Roy Hudd I admire: he admires me. Sue Devaney is exceptional as Gracie, and stunningly so. But the statue I did not like, and dismissed it as "horrible". You know that it's Gracie because of where it's been erected. Stand it in line with other statues in a London museum, for example, and hardly anyone would know who it is.

The unveiling was supposed to be an important occasion. The Mayor was there and other dignitaries, but despite the auspiciousness of the event a tubby little chap had to be Twittering away like an excited little bird about to lay a decidedly bad egg.

"Look," he cried as he showed his phone to all and sundry. "Look what that awful Mr Bret's had to say about the statue!"

"You're wrong," he twittered to me, doubtless with his phone in one hand and a tub of hot-pot in the other. "But no doubt So-and-So will agree with you."

My dear boy, I am old enough to form opinions of my own and I do not need you to tell me who I might or might not associate with. You do not have the name "Gracie Fields" tattooed on your nether reasons, though nothing would surprise me. You had your moment of glory yesterday, and aside from being a know-it-all what you are doing must be applauded because you are keeping the flame of Gracie Fields burning. But you are NOT the only one, and unless you want that flame to burn your fingers you must act like an adult and not a child who has discovered an extra bag of humbugs in his Christmas stocking...and you must conclude that other people are sometimes right, and that you are not a modern-day Michael Curtiz.

Gracie Fields, Barbara, Rudolph Valentino, Edith Piaf: Statues That Are Abortions And Insulting To Their Memories

In no particular order, these are all especially vile and an insult to the great stars they are supposed to represent. One gets the impression that the sculptors were drunk, on drugs, or maybe trying to recapture images from childhood nightmares.
Valentino looks like a rent-boy who has gone home after a night on the tiles and put on his mother's bedsheets.
Gracie looks like a cross between an old washerwoman and a poor impersonation of Saddam Hussein, again dragging up in his mother's bedsheets.
Barbara looks like a badly-rolled lump of pastry to whom the artist has added an extra foot of neck. She is holding up one arm as an encouragement for the birds to shit all over this very bad joke and spare her fans the humiliation of trying to imagine that, in real life, she was a very beautiful lady.
Piaf...well, what can one say? It looks like the wax has started to melt on one of those dummies in the Vincent Price movie, just as it's being sodomised by an elephant. It's ghastly.
Indeed, they're ALL ghastly, and I for one would feel ashamed to be asked to pose for press pictures, grinning like the cat that got the cream, as opposed to gagging over these vile monstrosities. For what better way is there to INSULT the memories of these lodestars by giving the impression that one supports these hammy constructions that a five-year-old could better?

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Remembering Fritz Wunderlich

Fifty years ago, the finest lyric tenor this world has ever known passed away following a tragic accident. He was just 35, and left behind a grieving widow, small children, and thousands of grieving fans. In the fifty years since his death other tenors have emerged, but not one of these has matched the magic of Wunderlich.

His career lasted barely ten years, yet in these ten years he managed to leave us with a recorded legacy second to none. Few if any opera singers have covered so much ground in so few years, and for this we are grateful.

Montserrat Caballé wept when we spoke about him. Very early on, they worked together, though Wunderlich's great problem, if it can be deemed thus, was that he disliked singing in foreign languages. There are comparatively few arias and popular songs that he did not record in German...some in Italian, a couple in French, and so far as is known only one in English.

Maria Callas once said that her biggest ambition was to appear on stage with Wunderlich, but that neither would offer compromise: she refused to even consider singing in German, and though he would have been willing to sing in Italian, he found the thought of doing so too daunting to try.

It's rather ironic that the anniversaries of their deaths are but hours apart. Maria died during the afternoon of September 16th, Wunderlich during the early hours of the 17th.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Tribulations of John Dynham: Part Two of A Family Saga Set During The Wars of the Roses

Part Two out now. Also available Part One



John Dynham (1433-1501) rose from obscurity to become a key figure in the violent struggle for supremacy between the houses of York and Lancaster. He left his mark on British history in 1459 in the aftermath of the battle of Blore Heath when he escorted the rebel Yorkist lords, including the future Edward IV, to the safety of Nutwell, his ancestral home, then to the Calais garrison. Recovering from a horrific injury which almost cost him his life, he went on to enjoy a lengthy and glittering political career, not to mention a complex and unconventional personal life.

Twice-married, but openly gay in his private circle, Dynham survived the harsh reigns and dictates of three very different kings: Edward IV, of whom he was one of his closest friends—Richard III, whose regime he held responsible for the deaths of several loved ones, including his first wife—and Henry VII, the first Tudor king whom he secretly despised. His story is one of compelling interest—
sex, shady politics, tragedy and intrigue—and is vividly recounted in this the second part of the Dynham saga which covers the years 1466-71.

Three years have elapsed since Dynham and his lover Philip Atkyn were reunited after Philip’s capture by the French following the battle of Wakefield. Now in his thirties, Dynham is about to enter into an arranged marriage with the wealthy Baroness Elizabeth Fitzwalter, but is determined never to give up Philip. He also has to deal with the bloody Siege of Exeter, court anarchy and the attempted deposition of Edward IV, endless family squabbles, loss of a loved one by way of battle, the rapidly failing health of his much-loved young brother-in-law Nicholas Carew…and the ultimate tragedy which rocks the lives of the entire Dynham clan.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

"Putting One's Head Above The Parapet: My Autobigraphy" by David Bret

DbBooks September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-326-75835-0
270pp 95 Illustrations (58 in e-book)

French-born David Bret is one of Britain’s leading show business biographers and now dishes the dirt on himself. He speaks of his long-suffering mother and eccentric family and recalls the celebrities who became confidants: the chanteuse Barbara, Marlene Dietrich, and Dorothy Squires. He recalls other show business friends: Damia, Charles Aznavour, Charles Dumont and Serge Regianni…controversial figures Alice Sapritch, Manouche, Melina Mercouri and porn star Joey Stefano. He writes of his meetings with Peggy Lee and Greta Garbo and of his spats with Sacha Distel and Franco Zeffirelli. He reveals his friendship with Peter Sutcliffe in pre-Yorkshire Ripper days. He takes no prisoners when discussing his enemies, especially the abusive father who made his childhood a misery. He holds nothing back discussing his love affairs. Bret has been honest when sticking his head above the parapet in his best-selling books and when expressing opinions, and is unsparing when writing about himself…

Table of Contents

Aunties (of the paternal kind)                                        
Axel & Damia                                                             
“Ben” & Those Devon Churches                                              
Brit Girls Of The Sixties                                                
Dorothy Squires                                               
Dutiful Dogs & Cats                                                     
Edna (I)                                                                                     

Edna (II)                                                                    
Elizabeth Taylor                                                             
Fernand Lumbruso                                                       
George Formby & His Leading Ladies                           
Gracie Fields                                                                
Grange Farm                                                                
In Ted Robledo’s Bed!                                                 
Jacqueline Danno                                                         
Joan Regan & Peggy Lee                                             
Joey Stefano                                                                
Misery At The Mason’s Arms                                      
“Nancy Sphinctergritzel”                                               
Paris & La Chanson                                                     
Peter Sutcliffe                                                              
Portugal & The Fado                                                    
Retribution Can Sometimes Be Such Fun!                      
Richard III/Roger Normand                                          
Roma Robbers                                                             
Russians & “Vladimir”                                                 
Sacha Distel                                                                 
“Singing Star”                                                              
Sipping Schnapps With Gunther                                     
That Smiths Singer & The Queen Mother                      
Valentino & The Windy City                             
Work Study Officer                                                      
York Street                                                                  
Zeffirelli & Maria Callas