Tag Archives: News of the World

The night comedian Julian Clary joked that he had “fisted” politician Norman Lamont at the British Comedy Awards

DAVID JOHNSON, ON WHOSE ANECDOTE THIS PARTICULAR BLOG WAS ORIGINALLY CENTRED HAS ASKED ME TO DELETE THE BLOG, WHICH I HAVE REFUSED TO DO – I THINK IT IS A FASCINATING INSIGHT INTO A VIVIDLY REMEMBERED INCIDENT. HE TELLS ME HE HAS ALSO WITHDRAWN PERMISSION FOR ME TO USE HIS DIRECT WORDS – ALTHOUGH, AS HE POSTED THEM ON FACEBOOK, I THINK THEY ARE IN THE PULIC DOMAIN… STILL, ANYTHING FOR A QUIET LIFE, EH?… SO WHAT HE WROTE HAS BEEN PARAPHRASED BY ME… NOW READ ON…

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Piers Morgan’s TV guest was unexpected

Piers Morgan’s two faces: sympathetic TV ear + tabloid teeth

Last weekend in Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, he interviewed Julian Clary, whose TV career faltered in 1993 – well, in effect, it stopped for two years – when Julian appeared on the televised British Comedy Awards show and came on stage joking that he had been “fisting” the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont.

The incident is on YouTube:

Jonathan Ross’ scripted introduction says: “To crown the King or Queen of Comedy, who better than the man never known to go for a single entendre when a good solid double would do? Please welcome Julian Clary…” – so the viewing public was warned (in the unlikely event that they did not already know), that Julian Clary was known for making sexual references during his act.

The result of Julian’s unscripted “fisting” reference, however, was ‘public outrage’ – or was it?

The illuminating memory below was posted last week by theatre producer David Johnson on his Facebook page (SINCE DELETED). David’s productions this year have included shows and tours by Fascinating Aida, Stewart Lee, Piff The Magic Dragon, Rubberbandits, Alexei Sayle and Sandy Toksvig.

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David wrote that he had watched the ITV1 Life Stories interview of Julian Clary by Piers Morgan.

He said he found it difficult to watch because of Piers Morgan’s  own personal involvement in what had happened at the 1993 Comedy Awards. He said Piers Morgan – who was Showbiz Editor of the Sun at the time – was responsible for the ‘public outrage’ that started in the following day’s issue of the Sun.

David had been in the press room of the London Studios on the night of the British Comedy Awards.

He was sitting next to Piers Morgan in the room. The ITV Duty Log (of viewer’s complaints) was being relayed to a small adjoining room.

To put what happened into context, David pointed out that Norman Lamont had actually been booed by the Comedy Awards audience when he had gone on stage to present an award.

When Julian Clary made the “fisting” reference, everyone in the room laughed and, according to David,  Piers Morgan observed that most viewers – particularly Sun readers – would not actually know what the word “fisting” meant.

Some complaints did come in from viewers – but about a joke over (David thought he remembered) a puppy. No viewers complained about the audience booing Lamont nor about the actual Julian Clary “fisting” joke.

However, near the end of the Awards show, comedian Michael Barrymore (who, at that time was at the height of his popularity) mentioned Julian Clary’s joke and accompanied it with a fisting mime.

“We’ll have to run it now!” David remembers Piers Morgan saying and Piers rushed off to phone the Sun newsroom.

The next morning, remembered David, the Julian Clary story was spread over the front page of the Sun.

Several months later, Piers Morgan was promoted to become the News Of The World’s youngest ever editor.

Now, here on ITV in 2013, was the person who had caused Julian Clary’s misery – Piers Morgan – appearing to sympathise with his victim.

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Julian Clary in 2008

Julian Clary knew nothing of it

When I read what David Johnson had written, I thought to myself: Why on earth did Julian Clary agree to go on the Piers Morgan show – even though all this happened 20 years ago?

Comedy writer Jim Miller asked that very question on David Johnson’s Facebook page. He posted:

“Well, Julian must have known that it was Morgan who ‘hounded him and made him miserable and suicidal’. Yet he chose to do the interview with Morgan. I don’t get your point, other than that everything is for sale in pursuit of a little telly exposure?”

In response Julian’s friend, writer, producer and film critic David McGillivray posted:

“Actually he didn’t. He found out when I emailed him David’s revelation yesterday.”

* * * *

THAT WAS THE ORIGINAL BLOG, AS POSTED. BUT THEN THERE WAS A FOLLOW-UP MESSAGE FROM DAVID JOHNSON WHICH WAS ADDED SEVERAL HOURS LATER…

In this additional piece, David Johnson said it was the Sun’s thuggish writer Garry Bushell who actually wrote the piece which was published the next morning. Bushell’s piece argued that Julian Clary should be banned from live TV. David said this started off a homophobic campaign against artists including Julian Clary and Graham Norton and that it lasted for as long as Garry Bushell was writing for the tabloids.

He said that Garry Bushell’s defence of himself in 2005 – “This isn’t about homophobia. It’s about a fair deal for fellas. We watch telly too” was only to be expected and that he was glad to realise it was Garry Bushell himself – not Julian Clary – who ultimately lost out and became unemployable because of his material. David said Garry Bushell had barely worked since 2007 and was an active UKIP member.

MORE EXPLANATION ABOUT THE CHANGES TO THIS BLOG IN THE FOLLOWING DAY’S BLOG HERE

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The sex abuse stories swirling around dead Jimmy Savile spin out of control

Liberal Democrats rate my blog above normal education

My blog three days ago about the Have I Got News For You Jimmy Savile transcript faked by SOTCAA continues to get a large number of hits. This can only be helped by the fact that, this morning, it is oddly recommended by the Liberal Democrat Voice website as one of its 8 Must-Read Articles for Liberal Democrat Party members and supporters.

It comes in as No 2 in a list of Must-Read Articles, above Free Schools: The Research Lab of State Education, Debunking the Myths Around School Choice and David Cameron’s Inflexible, Thatcherite Party is Being Exploited by Ed Miliband. I will be fascinated to read what is in the Liberal Democrats’ next election manifesto.

I am very grateful for the recommendation, though confused at the political importance or implications of my finely-compiled piece or, indeed, any political significance in Jimmy Savile.

The Daily Mail today seems to disagree.

I am a great admirer of the Daily Mail’s professionalism – something that has brought me a lot of criticism, not all of it constructive…

Should you believe a headline with ?

But, this morning, the Daily Mail is using Jimmy Savile as part of its ongoing BBC-bashing campaign in an astonishingly slapdash and sloppy down-market piece headlined: WAS THERE A SEX RING INSIDE THE BBC? – Jimmy Savile’s colleague ‘procured girls for him’.

It reads like something out of the Sunday Sport.

When I was a student, my main lecturer in Journalism was the Production Editor of the now-closed-amid-shame News of the World. He pointed out to us that, when a question mark was used in a newspaper headline, it often meant that the newspaper itself did not believe the story, but it was just too good a story not to run.

Two scumbags connected by a dodgy caption in the Daily Mail

Today’s Daily Mail article claims an un-named BBC person (who denies it) introduced girls to Jimmy Savile for sex and had sex with them himself. There is also a photo of disgraced Gary Glitter with a caption saying Rocker Gary Glitter has already been implicated in the alleged sex ring. But there is no mention anywhere in the article itself of Gary Glitter.

Now, there may well have been a ‘sex ring’ inside the BBC in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but I severely doubt it. Rampant randiness abounded and I’m sure still does. But an organised sex ring? Unlikely.

The Daily Mail article starts “The Mail has been told that a BBC employee was allegedly given the task of procuring girls for the presenter and other men to molest…”. But there is no mention of any “other men” in the article. It is journalistic ‘bigging-up’ of a slender story.

The article talks of “a former beauty queen” who claims she had sex with Savile because “I just thought this might make me famous” and, a week later, was raped by his ‘accomplice’. The Mail says this beauty queen is “named only as Sandra” but then publishes a full-length photograph of her. The “named only as Sandra” reference is intended to sound mysterious and protective of a victim’s privacy but is bollocks when they print a clear, identifiable picture of her.

I have no reason to suppose her rape did not happen and take place in a BBC office and it is appalling, but the Daily Mail does not help its/her case by quoting her as saying: “There must have been people around because I could hear radio shows going on”.

She could hear more than one radio show being transmitted from some nearby soundproof studios?? That seems unlikely to me, bordering on the surreal. But it is a detail some hack journalist might add in to make the story more vivid.

In today’s newspaper, a second woman who worked as a “waitress at a drinking club in Marylebone” tells the Mail about Jimmy Savile “trying to have sex” with her. The Mail then says it put the “rape allegation” to Savile’s alleged accomplice.

This “rape allegation” can only refer to the beauty queen rape but, by putting the reference immediately after the waitress’ story, the Mail article by implication subtly heightens her groping/sexual assault (which is bad enough) into a full rape.

The ‘accomplice’ told the Mail “he could not remember a drinking club in Marylebone” and the Mail does not name it. No reason why it could not if it existed. This is sloppy reporting.

The Mail says the BBC is now conducting “a forensic examination of documents relating to BBC programmes going back for more than 40 years”. I really doubt that what the Mail says is true.

We could have a long debate about the word’s Latin origin, but ‘forensic’ in everyday speech means “the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime”. I really doubt that the BBC is employing forensic scientific techniques to examine the physical composition of the documents themselves.

It is sloppy journalism and sloppy witch-hunting.

It simply muddies the clear waters around the vileness of Jimmy Savile. The clue was in the name – Jimmy sa vile.

Meanwhile, the So It Goes blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith tells me: “I don’t know if anyone in Vancouver has heard of Jimmy Saville.”

Maybe they have other things on their minds.

She tells me her neighbours include “a mysterious sailor from Manchester who lost his ability to speak… a pair of evangelist Vikings who distilled moonshine from mango peelings… an Australian plumber who has spent time in jail in Afghanistan… and there is the story of a luxury yacht stolen by a renegade tuna fisherman and his wife… that story also involves a midget and his mother….”

Life goes on. The world spins, not yet totally out of control.

Just a little odd.

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Filed under Journalism, Newspapers, PR, Rape, Sex

An extravaganza of comic political ego unleashed at the Edinburgh Fringe

Scots comedian Des McLean is Tommy Sheridan

I am at the Edinburgh Fringe to see comedy shows, so what better this afternoon than a 90-minute play about a disgraced Socialist leader?

Especially as that leader is the OTT, almost cartoon-like, Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan and the play – I, Tommy – is written by Rab C.Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison.

It is a rollercoaster of a story and this is a humdinger of a production.

Just to re-cap, Tommy Sheridan of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) was accused by the News of the World of going to a swingers’ sex club in Manchester. Tommy sued for defamation, the newspaper paid damages, but then Strathclyde Police investigated, prosecuted Tommy for perjury at the original trial and Tommy was imprisoned. He has now, enterprisingly, in the last few weeks, tried to reclaim the moral high ground by painting himself as a lone hero facing the disgraced, Murdoch-owned, phone-hacking behemoth of News International.

So he’s an anti-hero? Is that why Ian Pattison chose to write the play and negotiate what was a potential legal minefield?

Ian Pattison at Edinburgh Fringe this week

“It’s the character,” Ian told me when I asked him this week. “And the story. It’s the story of a small political party that appeared to be on the brink of if not great things then considerable things. They had six MSPs in Holyrood (the Scottish Parliament) and looked set to build, but then they imploded when Tommy decided to take on the News of the World over these sex allegations.

“A wiser course may have been just to admit it, if he did it, – but, of course, he insists he didn’t – and take a year in the sin bin. That’s the traditional method of dealing with those kind of things if there is truth in them. But Tommy decided he was going to clear his name and took them on. And that was the point of no return. Once you go down that path, well, nobody can quite tell how things will unfold. But certainly from the SSP’s point of view, it was the beginning of the end for them. So it was that kind of trajectory which interested me.”

The play is fast, lively and funny – the story of a Scots ‘Tam O’ Ranter’… Ian has captured the rabble-rousing rhetoric, the sometimes meaningless sloganising and soundbites of a populist politician in full flow.

It’s a barn-storming performance by Scots comedian Des Maclean, gifted with a brilliantly written script. It is also a play of surprising depth about a charismatic real-life character in a story filled with almost child-like optimism and lechery.

“It was such a big story,” Ian Pattison told me, “and Tommy was such a popular guy. He managed to get his side of events all over the press, whereas his party co-workers – the other SSP people – were not as charismatic as a group and made a political decision that, if they couldn’t support Tommy, then they wouldn’t oppose him, which left a media vacuum which Tommy was able to fill with his own version of events.”

I, Tommy + SSP – Sex, Socialism, Perjury

There is a running motif throughout the play of Tommy’s somewhat eccentric mother singing To Dream The Impossible Dream, which pretty much sums up a story so OTT it would be ridiculously unbelievable if it were not true.

I mean, for heaven’s sake, Tommy went into the Celebrity Big Brother house with rap singer Coolio and Mini-Me from the Austin Powers films! You could not make it up.

The play is introduced as “an afternoon of broken dreams, backstabbing and treachery” and you could also add an awful lot of laughter.

Ian Pattison has only met Tommy Sheridan once – shortly before the play emerged.

“Well,” Ian told me, “I suppose you would want to get an idea of what it might be going to be like.”

“What was Tommy like?” I asked.

“Very polite,” replied Ian.

So far, Tommy Sheridan has not sued.

He is too canny for that.

Ian Pattison has cleverly avoided the potential legal pitfalls and Tommy Sheridan has emerged as a morally ambiguous anti-hero in Ian Pattison’s first Fringe production.

Why is it Ian’s first Fringe outing?

“At this stage of the game,” he told me, “I just wanted to see what else I would like to do and, never having done the Fringe, this seemed like a good opportunity. Probably not a sensible move for a man of my advanced years, but I seem to be still here and vertical, which is always a bonus.”

If this does not become a movie or a TV production, then Tommy Sheridan is not the fascinatingly charismatic (if ultimately failed) politician portrayed in this extravaganza of amoral egotism.

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The tsunami of anarchy which will be released by the death of newspapers

Last night, I went to the Fulbright Lecture at the British Library, given by the Financial Times’ editor Lionel Barber.

The subject was “Adapt or Die: The Future of News and Newspapers in the Digital Revolution”.

In 2009, more than one hundred US newspapers closed down and, in 2007-2009, newspaper advertising revenue fell by 10% in Germany, 21% in the UK and 30% in the US. Circulations for printed newspapers are falling like lemmings as readers and advertisers move online.

One saving thought seems to be that people may be prepared to pay for comment and analysis, though probably not for general news. The Financial Times is in the fortunate position of being a niche newspaper. It mostly reports on a specific subject area where people are prepared to pay for analysis, comment and specialised reports.

But newspapers in general have not been delivering news for the last 50 years.

I am ancient enough to have been at college doing Communication Studies (radio, TV, journalism, advertising) when the first issue of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun was published.

The guy who supervised the journalism part of our course was the Production Editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. On the morning the first edition of the new Sun was published, he went through it page-by-page with us, pointing out that all the main stories were not News as such: they had all been reported in the previous evening’s TV news or were, in some way re-heated old news.

After that, I paid closer attention to what was actually printed in newspapers and developed my taste for the Daily Telegraph. If you look at most newspapers, you can actually visually see that they are magazines. The Guardian is a prime example. Look at its news pages and you see big rectangular blocks of text which analyse and/or give insight into news stories. But they are almost never reporting new News.

The Daily Telegraph has lots of columns with different little inches of different stories, most of which have not been included in the always superficial TV and radio news. I blogged a couple of months ago about how I once met a Daily Telegraph sub-editor at a party who hated working at the paper for exactly the same reason I loved reading it. People would yell across the room at him: “Give me a three-inch story!” not caring what the actual story was.

And, except at election times, the Daily Telegraph tends to keep the old-fashioned division between news and comment (which most US newspapers also maintain).

Newspaper and TV News editors used to be – and still are – gatekeepers to what is considered news. But, with the internet, power has in theory moved from publisher to reader.

In fact, forget gatekeepers. Forget gates. Think dams. One gigantic dam behind which is all the water in the world.

In the past, newspaper and TV News editors were in charge of dams which kept most of the water behind their dams and let a few selected trickles through. Now the mother of all dams is opening and uncontrolled, uncontrollable amounts of information are going to be unleashed not just day-by-day but second-by-second.

In my erstwhile youth, if you wanted to find out facts, you had to go to a library. Librarians and the publishers of encyclopaedias were the damkeepers of knowledge. Now Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg and their ilk are opening the dams which should result in almost all (and, in theory all) current and past knowledge being available instantly anywhere in the world.

If you are sitting on a camel in the middle of the Australian desert outside Alice Springs then, on a 3G device, you are now able to instantly find out which films are being screened at all the cinemas in Glasgow tonight or which dates the Emperor Caligula ruled Rome – and you can download and read a copy of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield or Homer’s Iliad.

In future, it seems, all news will be available to everyone pretty-much instantly via Twitter, Facebook and every other social network known and as yet unknown to man and woman. The first news of the US attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May came on Twitter.

What will be needed is what, last night, Lionel Barber was understandably most scathing about – so-called news aggregators like The Huffington Post (which sometimes carries my blogs), The Drudge ReportThe Daily Beast and even Gawker, whose slogan is “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”. At the moment, these (depending on your viewpoint) could be said to pirate other news sources and regurgitate the selected news.

The Financial Times currently employs 130 foreign correspondents to collect and interpret news abroad. What will be needed in future, I presume, is some way of analysing, interpreting and compacting news from several hundred million correspondents including the blogosphere.

Newspapers may become aggregators.

No, I have no idea how or if that will happen.

And I have no idea what will happen.

But traditional newspapers were dead 50 years ago; they just did not know it.

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How Charlie Chuck got into showbiz and what’s next at the Edinburgh Fringe

Next week, I am organising – if that is the word – Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe – five events over five days to celebrate the memory of the late great godfather of British alternative comedy. Things seem to becoming together fairly well.

Yesterday morning, Paul Provenza agreed to take part in the first Malcolm Hardee Debate on Monday 22nd on the proposition that “Comedians are Psychopathic Masochists with a Death Wish”. I will be chairing the debate which will, in theory, be serious but, with luck, include lots of laughs.

Paul will be flying in from Los Angeles this Thursday in time for next Monday’s debate. He is perhaps most famous on this side of the pond for directing The Aristocrats movie. Also on the panel for the Malcolm Hardee Debate will be “the godmother of Scottish comedy” Janey Godley and Show Me the Funny judge and doyenne of Fringe comedy critics Kate Copstick. There will also be a forth, hopefully jaw-dropping panelist who cannot be confirmed nor named until later this week.

I think it’s quite an interesting line-up, especially if I get that fourth surprise and surprising guest. It starts Malcolm Hardee Week on an interesting level and the week ends with the likes of Puppetry of the Penis, Frank Sanazi and Charlie Chuck in the two-hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on Friday 26th.

Which I why I went to have tea and two fried eggs with Charlie Chuck yesterday lunchtime.

He is living in a flat in Dalry House near Haymarket in Edinburgh. In the late 1600s, a rich bloke called John Chiesley owned the house. In 1688, he divorced his wife who wanted a lot of his money in settlement and the local magistrate Sir George Lockhart told John Chiesley he should pay it. He didn’t take this news well. He shot the magistrate dead the next year. They arrested him, chopped off the arm he shot the gun with and hung him. The ghost of ‘Johnny One Arm’ was said to haunt Dalry House until 1965 when a body was found in the garden – a 300-year-old one-armed corpse. The hauntings stopped.

“I suppose,” Charlie Chuck suggested, “after he were dug up, he figured I can’t be bothered any more.”

But Charlie Chuck had other problems when he moved into the house for the Fringe.

He told me: “The woman upstairs seen me going in and out of the building with long hair and a bicycle I’d borrowed and a balaclava hat on me head because of the rain and she called the police. They came and talked to me and they went upstairs and they told the woman:

It’s Charlie Chuck. He got a four star review in The Scotsman.

“The woman felt awkward about this, so she comes down knocking on my door with a pink cake she’s baked to say sorry. She had looked on my website and seen all about Cakey Pig and One-Eyed Dog and she’d made me a big pink cake shaped like a pig’s head and she said it were Cakey Pig.

“I were a bit apprehensive at first and thought Oh, I hope she’s not put nowt dodgy in it, but she’s a lovely lass and she’s from Texas. I said to her At least it’s not the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I got on great with her and she might be coming to see the show tonight.”

Charlie Chuck – or, rather, Dave Kear – the man who is Chuck – covers an extraordinary range of British showbiz history in music and comedy, from meeting Bill Haley and the Comets through playing as a drummer in a soul and a hippie band to performing at US air bases in Germany for US troops going off to Vietnam, many of whom never returned… to being part of a highly successful German Oompah band and performing on the mainstream British holiday camp circuit before turning to alternative comedy, Malcolm Hardee, fame on the James Whale TV shows and The Smell of Reeves & Mortimer.

Charlie Chuck’s career mirrors enormous social changes in Britain over the last 50 years.

At one time in the mid 1960s – well before his TV fame in the early 1990s – he owned six houses and became a horse race tipster – he was banned from three betting offices for being too successful. He had inside information: he knew someone who was married to a multi-millionaire who sold meat to Morrison’s supermarkets:

“She knew by looking at a horse if it were fit,” he told me.

“My dad were a coal miner for thirty year. I had a rough upbringing in Leeds. I remember one old woman was found half-eaten by a rat. What changed me life were sitting down and having dinner with the team from the Carry On films.

“I used to be a dustbin man but I strained myself and they put me on road sweeping – picking dead dogs up. I had two dustbins, a flask on one side and a radio on the other. I was also playing part-time as a drummer in a band called Mama’s Little Children. We had an agent called Eddie who also managed The Troggs, but they weren’t famous then.

“Round about 1961 or 1962, Eddie got us booked into Battersea Park in London. It were a three-day event for the News of the World. Roger Moore was there because, at the time, he were famous as The Saint on TV and Sean Connery because he were James Bond and there were Cheyenne off the TV and the cast of BonanzaDan Blocker and all that lot – and James Mason. Then there were lots of bands who were famous at the time: The Fourmost, The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans.

“So, on Friday night I were a road sweeper… then Saturday I’m in Battersea Park at this mega-event held in three compounds… When I went out of the compound, I were mobbed. People were mobbing me thinking I were maybe one of the Swinging Blue Jeans cos I had long hair. There were that many celebs and bands they didn’t know who I were, really, but they thought I might be famous. And I thought Well, this is fantastic!

“When I went back in the compound, away from the public, of course, I were a nobody. Mama’s Little Children and The Troggs were doing the gig for free – cos we weren’t famous. But I met all these people and we sat down for dinner – big long table – and I were sat next to The Pretty Things and Charles Hawtrey from the Carry On films.

“On Sunday night, I came back home from this exhilarating experience and I were picking me dustbins up on Monday morning in Seacroft in Leeds. I thought Bloody hell! I don’t want this!

“That was in the August. In November, me and two of the lads who worked at Burtons the tailor and another who were a taxi driver – we all turned professional and all went to Germany. We were out there playing gigs until January. My wages as a dustbin man were £11 a week; but in Germany, I got £53 a week and we toured with Tony Sheridan who the Beatles had played with.

“It were great. That were how it all started.”

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The link between gangland Edinburgh and “The Sex Life of a Comedian”

Comedy performer Dave Thompson has been telling me more about his new novel The Sex Life of a Comedian, which I blogged about yesterday. Dave famously got fired as Tinky Winky in the TV series Teletubbies because, after a lengthy period playing the iconic purple creature, it was suddenly said his “interpretation of the role had not been accepted”.

The plot of his novel involves a stand-up comedian on the UK circuit who gets a job wearing a blue furry costume in a world-famous television show but then gets fired. The story involves drug-fuelled celebrity sex romps, the Mafia and wild parties aboard luxury yachts.

Dave tells me: “Although the novel is fictitious, I’ve drawn from the landscape I’ve worked in and mixed real events with made-up ones. That’s why one of the main characters is a promoter from Edinburgh with gangland connections.”

So I was particularly interested to hear more about the section of the book in which the central character, at a celebrity sex party, accidentally spurts on a member of the mafia…

“Well, yes,” Dave tells me. “I have done gigs overseas for promoters who were organised criminals. In one country which shall remain nameless, I found myself working for comedy promoters connected to the IRA.

“The local mafia had tried to extort protection money from them, but found themselves up against IRA tactics. The mafiosi came round to ‘teach the promoters a lesson’ for not paying them protection money, but the IRA guys beat up the mafia guys with baseball bats and threatened far worse if they ever came back. The beating was so severe the mafia left them alone after that.

“I had a great gig that night and, after the show, there was a party in the nightclub where the gig was held. I had some business to sort out with one of the promoters and we went back to my hotel room to do this. He and I hit it off and had a convivial chat and a drink from my mini-bar. When we returned to the party, people who knew the promoter looked very anxious.

“As soon as I was separated from the promoter, I was asked if I was okay. I said I was fine and didn’t understand why they were so concerned. It turned out that the man I’d invited to my room was notorious for his temper and they thought we were gone so long because I’d offended him and he was beating me up.

“There’s a lot more about their criminal activity that I can’t talk about because they could recognise themselves and I might end up like the mafiosi who annoyed them.

“I think there’s a mutual attraction between organised crime and show business – each lends glamour to the other.

“At the height of their power, the Kray Twins used to hang out with celebrities in the West End of London and Barbara Windsor was married to East End villain Ronnie Knight, who was jailed for his part in the £6 million Security Express robbery in 1983.

“He escaped and whilst he was on the run in the Costa Del Sol, taking advantage of the lack of an extradition treaty between Britain and Spain, he owned a nightclub called ‘Club R Knights’.

“I was invited to the opening night party and met Ronnie. He was very pleasant and pulled me a pint of lager. Barbara Windsor had already left him because she couldn’t stand the Spanish heat and he had another blonde partner, who looked very similar to Barbara Windsor. I had a long conversation with her and was impressed by how well-read she was.

“I had been invited to the party because of my girlfriend at the time – a pretty blonde actress and singer who appeared in West End musicals. Her mother and stepfather owned a villa near Fuengirola on the Costa Del Sol. The stepfather was from Essex, had a huge black Rottweiler and was a friend of Ronnie Knight’s. He took us to lots of parties thrown by ‘geezers from Essex’.

“We were warned never to ask anyone what they did for a living as this was contrary to etiquette. The stepfather told me that, whenever I took my girlfriend to a restaurant, I should tell them he had sent us. That way, we got the best table, free drinks and the meal was be less than the menu price.

“One evening we were relaxing by her mother and stepfather’s pool and the English language radio station was running a phone-in competition for couples in love. The stepfather told me to phone in and mention his name and, immediately, my request was played on the radio and we won a bottle of champagne.

“I never saw the bottle of champagne because, soon after we got back, the girl dumped me in favour of a criminal, who subsequently beat her up.

“That relationship is long over but she and I are still good friends. Years later we posed naked together for the News of the World.  One of the characters in the novel is partly based on her.

“As for Ronnie, the News of The World later paid him £45,000 to stage-manage his return to Britain, so he could see his mum before she died.  He was arrested and sentenced to another seven years in prison.”

Dave also tells me:

“I’ve checked the sales figures on the book again and it’s looking very encouraging!”

I am not surprised.

You can buy The Sex Life of a Comedian here.

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Is Rupert Murdoch really any dirtier than anyone else in the British media?

The whole News International scandal has spiralled into some ridiculously insane combination of conspiracy theory and witch hunt. It has become an excuse for drooling Ed Miliband – the man with the mesmerising mouth – to get more TV airtime and to leer at the camera in an increasingly unappealing way. I seem to remember it was the Labour not the current Conservative government sucking up to Rupert Murdoch’s empire 2005-2010

I have no love for the Metropolitan Police who have been deeply corrupt since way before the Richardson Gang were ever rumoured to have a Met Assistant Commissioner in their back pocket.

But, yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of the Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson getting attacked by former London Mayor ‘Red Ken’ Livingston because it was reported in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times that he (Stephenson) had received five weeks of free hospitality (worth £12,000) from Champneys health spa while recovering from the removal of a pre-cancerous tumour in his leg at a time when the News of the World’s now-arrested former Deputy Editor Neil Wallis was doing PR both for the Met and Champneys.

In fact, the boss of Champneys was a personal friend of Stephenson. Why the hell would he check who handled PR for Champneys?

Perhaps the Met Commissioner should not go around accepting £12,000 gifts – even if ‘accepting gifts’ is a long-established tradition of Met officers – but the swirling implications were that it was all somehow part of the phone hacking scandal.

Then I switched on the TV to find John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee which is due to question former News of the World editor Rebekah née Wade now Brooks tomorrow. He was being asked if he was going to resign as chairman of the committee because flame-haired Rebekah was a Facebook Friend of his.

Hellfire! If Facebook Friends count for anything, I could never review a comedy gig and would get arrested as an accessory after the fact in many a dubious minor crime.

The fragrant Rebekah had already been arrested.

And then, yesterday afternoon, Sir Paul Stephenson resigned!

We are now at a point where the UK’s largest-selling newspaper has been closed; the UK’s most powerful newspaper executive has been arrested; the UK’s most important police officer has resigned; and there is a smell of Witch Hunt in the air.

It feels like Westminster politicians – recently exposed by the press in the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal – are gleefully taking their revenge while Open Season lasts. And the media are playing dog-bites-dog in the Rupert Murdoch morality stakes.

But, as someone tweeted, in the recent Twitter flurry of Shakespearean Murdoch quotes – Let he who is without PIN hack the first phone…

What and where is the line you don’t cross in journalism and PR?

The News of the World clearly crossed it.

Erasing the voicemail messages of missing (later known to be murdered) 13 year-old Milly Dowler, collecting the telephone numbers of dead British soldiers’ families, 7/7 terrorist bombing victims and so on… perhaps, in the US, even trying to get the personal phone numbers of 9/11 victims. That is not acceptable.

But presumably most people would accept phone hacking, secretly recording and secretly filming is entirely acceptable to expose some people’s criminal acts: murderers, paedophiles and fraudsters, for example.

When it comes to celebrities, it is only slightly more iffy; but most people probably reckon invasion of privacy comes with being a celeb… and they enjoy reading the resultant titillation.

So where exactly does the line lie?

It is like PR in showbusiness and the media.

Where is the line?

In the early 1970s, there was a sex-for-airplay scandal revealed by the News of the World. Janie Jones was supplying prostitutes to BBC Radio 1 DJs on behalf of record labels wanting their artists’ records to be played on air.

On BBC TV’s Top of the Pops (which had varied producers over the years) it was often assumed ‘perks’ were required if you wanted your rising but not yet mega-famous group to appear on the make-or-break chart show.

Where is the line? A gift of a bottle of booze? Supplying cocaine (or ‘flowers’, as I think many record companies called it on their lists of expenses)? Prostitutes? Blackmail?

When BBC TV, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 or Sky buy a major blockbuster movie, the distributors tend to tell them they can only have it if they also buy a bundle of less-good movies as part of the deal. That feels like good marketing by the distributors, rather than blackmail or corruption.

It is equally common for agents, managers and PR people to tell TV producers that, if they want an ‘A’ list star on their show, then they will also have to have a lesser, up-and-coming ‘D’ list starlet on the show. I think most people would accept that as a strong negotiating stance.

There is the case of a famous, high-rating TV chat show where the producer asked a PR person for major star A as a guest on the show. It would have been a coup for the show. The PR said, “Well, if you want A on the show, it would be nice if you could also put X on the show.”

X was a struggling starlet.

The chat show producer said No – because she wasn’t really right for the show and it would, in a way, have lowered the show’s perceived standard in guests.

It was then implied conversationally that “we wouldn’t want the photographs to be made public, would we?”

Every week, that particular PR person turned up at recordings of the show with different lovely girls on his arm – sometimes three girls – a blonde, a brunette and a redhead. The TV producer was a bit of a philanderer; it was for him to choose whether he wanted the blonde, the brunette or the redhead. Or two of them. Or all three. After the show, they would all go back to a London flat where there were mirrors on the walls.

Yes, indeedy…

You and I can see as clear as crystal that there were cameras behind the mirrors. The producer was obviously more of a philanderer than a great thinker.

He thought the mirrors were just sexy.

It was reminiscent of British film star Diana Dors, who used to hold orgies at her house. On  one occasion the great British comedian Bob Monkhouse ended up in bed with some girl or other and heard a rustling behind a mirror. He discovered it was Diana Dors and her chums looking on: something they liked to do.

As did the PR in this case.

Whatever the reason, X the struggling starlet did appear on the high-rating TV chat show.

Had the PR person crossed the line? Or was it just strong negotiating?

If she scratches your back, you may have to scratch mine.

It is not a lone case.

There are even rumours of a British PR person who has photos on the walls of his private office of famous people caught in flagrante.

It shows he is powerful.

The rumours run that he also has naked photos of an ex-member of the Royal Family.

True? Or just a strong negotiating position?

Where is the line?

Is Rupert Murdoch really any dirtier than anyone else in the British media?

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