Case of the fat food critic and his handsome impostor
Wednesday 23 December 1998
Counsel: Your name is..?
Plaintiff: Justin Curleigh.
Counsel: Is that your real name?
Plaintiff: Of course not.
Counsel: Then why did you give it?
Plaintiff: It is the name by which I am known. As Justin Curleigh, I have become one of the most feared and respected restaurant critics in the land. My word alone could bring a restaurant giddy success beyond its wildest dreams.
Counsel: Or, no doubt, empty it?
Plaintiff: Not necessarily. I have given restaurants such bad reviews that you would think the proprietors would go out and commit suicide, but they have had no effect at all.
Counsel: Could you name one of these insensitive restaurants?
Judge: Just a moment, just a moment. Excuse me for butting in, but I had no idea that McDonald's was a restaurant. I thought it was a burger joint.
Plaintiff: It is, my Lord, but they insist on calling themselves restaurants, as if real creative cooking took place on the premises. It is for that reason that all restaurant critics from time to time, almost as a joke, go and review their local McDonald's. They always loathe the experience. They always say so in print. It never has any effect on McDonald's business.
Judge: I see. Carry on.
Counsel: Now, Mr Curleigh, you write a regular column for several top papers and glossy magazines.
Plaintiff: I do.
Counsel: At the top of your column there is a photograph.
Plaintiff: There is.
Counsel: But it is not of you.
Plaintiff: No, it is not.
Counsel: Is it not extraordinary that your column should bear someone else's picture?
Plaintiff: Not at all.
Counsel: What is the point?
Plaintiff: To allow me to eat my meals in peace.
Plaintiff: Willingly. One of the hazards of being a top restaurant critic - and also author of Justin Curleigh's Top 100 Restaurants in Britain, of which I have some signed copies in court with me...
Counsel: That is neither here nor there.
Judge: On the contrary. I'd like one.
Plaintiff: That's very kind of you, my Lord. Do you want it signed to anyone special?
Judge: Yes. Just put: "To one of the kindest judges a man could ever hope to meet ..."
Plaintiff: No problem.
Counsel: To return to the case in hand, why do you have a photo of a stranger above your column?
Plaintiff: It is one of the hazards of being a top restaurant critic that one is easily recognised and given preferential treatment. It must be very hard, for instance, being Craig Brown, whose picture heads his column and whose noble domed head is instantly recognisable. I would not be surprised if he sometimes went out to eat in a false moustache - though, of course, a false moustache is always tricky if you are eating a posh meal and you are not used to it...
Counsel: Perhaps a hat, then?
Counsel: Or a wig?
Plaintiff: Be that as it may, I wish to avoid that sort of awkwardness. And that is why my employers and I have agreed that my column should be headed by the face of another.
Counsel: In fact, the person in the photo is very different from you.
Plaintiff: That is the whole idea.
Counsel: He is young and quite good-looking...
Counsel: Whereas you...
Plaintiff: Watch your words, young man!
Counsel: Then how would you describe yourself?
Plaintiff: Middle-aged and portly.
Counsel: I think we can all agree on that. So where is the problem, Mr Curleigh?
Plaintiff: The problem is that the young man in the photograph has started posing as me! He has started booking in at top restaurants and eating very expensive meals, using my name!
Counsel: That is certainly very difficult. And what is this young man's name?
Plaintiff: Justin Curleigh.
Counsel: He has the same name as you? What a coincidence!
Plaintiff: Not at all. He changed his name to Justin Curleigh by deed poll.
Counsel: Just to get free meals?
Plaintiff: So it would seem.
More of this extraordinary case tomorrow...
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