BOOK REVIEW / Void between celebrities: 'Educating William' - William Cash: Simon & Schuster, 16.99

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The Independent Culture
WILLIAM CASH, after two years as West Coast correspondent for the Times, has written up the experience as his 'memoirs'. Yet the book purports to do something more, namely 'hurl a few javelins into the fruity and crazy caboodle that is modern Tinseltown'.

Sadly, his missiles appear to have missed their mark: Tinseltown remains unwounded, not to say oblivious of its supposed assailant. Cash, on the other hand, has come off from the encounter rather badly, his reputation tattered and his book tattooed with poison barbs from the review pages. If he were to take the honourable course, he would promptly fall on his own javelin.

Cash knows little of honour, however, as Educating William makes eye-poppingly clear. His one contact in LA is a producer called Beverly, with whom he had started an affair during the Cannes festival. He shacks up with her on his arrival, but alas, he twigs pretty quickly that she's not the hotshot player he imagined, so it's curtains for Bev. Having dumped her, he goes in search of different access to the Hollywood beau monde, and by an unlovely combination of brass neck and dogged persistence he gets there too. Soon enough he's lunching with - and fawning over - Jackie Collins, who explains a few things about celebrity while Cash affects innocence: 'I have always had a problem with Hollywood celebrities. I don't know who most of them are.' But once secure inside the Beverly Hilton for an Oscar night bash he soon forgets about his 'problem' and reels off a long list of the stars present.

Throughout the book Cash pretends to despise what he calls the 'celebrity circus', and jeers at both hacks and hoi polloi for perpetuating its 'booming global influence'. On Oscar night he sniffs at the 'group of Dad's Army star-gawpers', which might sound more convincing were the author himself not such a shameless celeb-hound. That Hello] style interview with Ms Collins ('Her dark brown hair was thick and glossy. The tan was perfectly even') is merely a prelude to a wearisome round of sycophantic self-promotion. He gatecrashes a party to dance with Madonna; he hangs around Sharon Stone, who (sensibly) turns on her heel when he introduces himself; he queues for a 15-second chat with Liz Taylor; he goes for a drive and a drink with neighbour David Hockney; he faxes Andrew Lloyd Webber and is invited to cocktails; at Swifty Lazar's post-Oscar party 'I entered into showbiz gossip columnist fantasy land'. Bravo, William]

Even when a scoop of genuine significance comes his way the story is pressed into service as another episode in His Brilliant Career. Safely immured within Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion while the LA riots blaze outside, Cash suddenly finds himself in demand as the lone British hack on the spot: so it's another notch on the CV as Bill does a report for the BBC, then impromptu live links for New Zealand television and ITN.

The book comes larded with quotations from Evelyn Waugh, who also took a vituperative line on Hollywood. The comparison does not do Cash any favours - while he is certainly Waugh's equal in tweedy snobbishness, he has none of his satirical verve. The problem with Brits descending on LA, he decides, is that 'about 90 per cent of them are broke - and, often, not very talented'. Not a good idea, that sentence.

In a whingeing reply to his critics in the Spectator, the author claimed that jealousy explains the book's hostile reception. Au contraire] Clapping shut Educating William I felt sorry for the poor booby, given that nobody - parents, colleagues, publishers, editors - told Cash to bin the whole thing. Didn't he have a single true friend?