Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tiger Baiting

Sunday papers are full of crap: I don't get the whole Tiger Woods or John Terry issue. If the CEO of, say, Marks and Spencer slept with the wife or girlfriend of one of his fellow directors, he wouldn't lose his job or damage the brand. Terry should sue, and Woods should just continue being the best golfer in the world and fuck the mimsy sponsors who won't back him.

I'm sure there's a 'squeaky-clean' or 'don't get caught' clause in their complex contracts, but what I don't understand is why Gillette should drop Woods from its ads, assuming that men who like sports and buy disposable razors are somehow horrified because some chest-enhanced 'model' has given Tiger a blowjob in his Mercedes. Surely they'd identify with him even more?

Photo: Paddy Briggs (Wikimedia Commons)

I suspect two things: Gillette's marketing tells them that their razors are bought FOR men but BY women, and it's tabloid-fed women who are 'outraged' by Tiger Woods' infidelities. As, probably, are the wives of directors of Gillette.

The tabloids' hand-wringing over the events is in a class beyond hypocritical. Nothing new, of course, but the way in which they salivate over the details is flesh-eating: after they effectively created the social climate in which 'football hunks' and 'page three stunnas' are so made for each other that every gymslip slapper in Essex invests her pocket money in fake tan, hair extensions and Juicy Couture in an ultimate aspiration to shag a third division reserve player.

A bright friend of mine says 'sports personality' is one of his favourite oxymorons. You could add 'professional footballer' to that.

If I've understood the story correctly, Terry has been stood down from his job as England Captain because one Wayne Bridge, the man whose former fiancee Terry is alleged to have bedded, might be unable to work effectively alongside him in the team, and their football playing might suffer as a result.

If so, they're not professionals because the definition of a professional is to do for a living something to a consistent standard that might waver and vary if you were an amateur. So if that does happen, sack Bridge for not doing his job, don't victimise Terry.

It is impossible to imagine any other profession, except perhaps the General Synod, in which the mating of Man A with the ex-fiancee of Man B should result in action for dismissal from his job. And why doesn't Man B accept that an ex-fiancee is just that, a girl you've finished with who is herself now a free agent. The only person with any rights of disappointment in this whole issue is Mrs. Terry. And she'll be the first to suffer now he's lost his job.

I'd never heard of Vanessa Perroncel, the 'French swimwear model' at the centre of the affair. But she's now represented by Max Clifford which guarantees blasting across the cover of all the cheap gossip mags available for 90p at your local supermarket and bought by women who really should be spending their child benefit on something more nutritious.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Soapstar to Rock Star, almost


You could be forgiven for thinking that a sitcom actress who pockets thirteen million dollars a season for Will and Grace might indulge herself with any kind of vanity project including hiring a band and the Vaudeville Theatre for a debut week in the West End.

But this isn’t a vanity, Mullally has worked with her backing group ‘Supreme Music Program‘ for twelve years and her range of vocal styles is extraordinary: from blues to country and Sondheim to Stones she nailed song after song with a deft and personal attack, attack being the operative word when her rock voice reaches a controlled screech in a trailer-trash banger like ‘Fancy’ by Reba McEntyre or Ryan Adams’ ‘Shakedown on 9th Street’, but tender and connected in perhaps her best piece, Randy Newman’s luminous ‘Real Emotional Girl’.

Many of the songs are about death and some of the self-pitying country music teeters on the edge of ironic although the audience remained unsure whether her delivery was straight, or tongue-in-cheek.

Whilst Mullally has successfully laid the ghost of ‘Karen Walker’ in the States, partly through a series of disastrous television projects, it’s harder to escape in the UK where Channel 4 daily repeats keep it fresher - and much of Tuesday’s audience was sibilantly disappointed that this wasn’t ‘Karen with a K’ aping Liza with a Z and giving her camp and bitchy all to an in-crowd.

Sexual overtones spike the whole set, in the post-show Q&A Mullally defended her choice of many songs written specifically for men and for which she resolutely wouldn’t change the gender, partly to attest to the authenticity of the piece, but also ‘If people see me performing as a man - so what’, an attitude loudly appreciated by the substantial sapphic claque in the stalls.

Downside is that this is a lazy concert, Mullally told only one averagely funny anecdote about her boring tour guide in Prague and seemed reluctant to engage with the audience, perhaps for fear of resurrecting Karen. She has pitching problems and it’s hard to tell whether it’s refreshingly honest that she re-started a couple of numbers to find the right key, or under-rehearsed.

She could do with a script, and a director to tighten the presentation, but the music’s mostly a knockout.

Continues at the Vaudeville Theatre 8pm each evening until Sunday 21 February, with two shows Saturday and Sunday at 4pm and 8pm. Box Office 0844 412 4663, top price £47.50.

Friday, 12 February 2010


What are you supposed to feel when someone you don’t particularly like has died?

What are you supposed to feel when someone you perhaps actively disliked dies in a suicide pact with his wife?

In a bored moment I was Googling the names of ex-colleagues when I discovered this article about my first boss, Ernest Lewis, with whom I worked for four and a half years in the Works & Buildings Department of Southampton University.

Unable to contemplate a life apart from his wife who had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he wrapped the pair of them in a blanket and they drank liquid morphine after typing a carefully worded note and leaving a message for their daughter to call the next day.

I’d like to say he was my mentor, guide and friend but actually he was a rather peevish piece of work – mysoginistic, homophobic, pedantic, Scots and completely humourless and every afternoon at exactly ten minutes to five he lit up a foul-smelling pipe: if he was an example of anything, it was what I didn’t want to grow up to be.

What surprises me is that someone I’d thought of as so mediocre should do something so dramatic to end his life, although the typewritten note and the time-delay message to the daughter have a ring of pedestrian detail that is accurate. And I have a sneaking admiration for how he was able to score two fatal doses of morphine.

If you had to draw a picture of the suburban middle-class man, it would have been Ernest – never Ernie - in his tweed jackets, bicycle clips and whipcord trousers in shades of dun, lovat and fawn rotated by the seasons and I’m fairly sure purchased by mail order from an advert in a ‘respectable’ newspaper.

His middle-middle tastes extended to his Austin Metro Vanden Plas, lifelong membership of the Conservative Party (both he and the wife were tub-thumping Tories, he on the county council, she on the city one) and his protective description of his home as a detached bungalow ‘in one-sixth of an acre’. In Hampshire, where acreages are measured in thousands, this struck me as particularly hopeless.

Somewhat laughably for a small-time Thatcherite politician, he kept in the filing cabinet in our office a bottle of sherry once given to my female predecessor at Christmas by a furniture salesman and exhibited as an ‘awful warning’ against corruption in public service as though by accepting such a cheap gift, one could be influenced in the placing of University purchase orders.

Back in the carbon-paper seventies the hierarchies of our office life were beyond Dickensian, Ernest believed in the perfect order of ‘one man, one girrrrl’ rolling the R’s in his lowland Scots accent as if to emphasise the repetitious misogyny of his attitude to secretaries.

When I opted to do my own typing rather than wait for work to be returned, it was seen as some kind of failure on my part, rather than an increase in efficiency. We had a bit of a run-in once with a rather bluestocking Warden of one of the Halls of Residence, whom he described as ‘perpetual spinster, too ugly even to make a lesbian’ … in a way, reacting against these outrageous attitudes helped to frame my burgeoning liberal opinions and rebellious sexuality. When I came out, and decamped to London for a boyfriend and a job paying three times what I’d earned at the University, he was too bitter to come to my leaving party.

Sad man. Sad life. But sad death, too.