Media: Scandal on the screen

The National Enquirer is coming to your living room soon.

Mike Walker, the gossip editor of the National Enquirer, is about to reinvent the American scandal sheet as a coast-to-coast nightly television programme. On the brink of his debut as a TV host, Mr Walker is brimming with the self-confidence of a chap who is regularly described as a journalistic legend.

"I don't consider myself a gossip columnist - I'm a historian," he says. "I could teach a course in Hollywood gossip. I'm Professor Walker of Whisperology."

He speaks enthusiastically of the world of Hollywood gossip non-stop for two hours. "My proudest moment," he volunteers, " was when I revealed that Roseanne and Tom Arnold had tatooed each other's names on their arses. It was, wow! My editor said: `Look Mike, are you sure? Because Roseanne is the sort of woman to pull her pants down to prove you wrong.' But I had two eyewitnesses for that story."

Mr Walker has been on the Enquirer for a quarter of a century and his Behind the Screens diary has a readership of 17m. "I have sources everywhere," he says, "at the top of the industry, but also among the hairdressers, the masseuses... the girls who do the body waxing. That's a great story - girls bringing their boyfriends to their body waxer. That's a `talker'. Like the time I reported that haemorrhoid cream reduces wrinkles. Another `talker'."

This, according to the National Enquirer, is the "hard gossip" which readers, and now television audiences, "crave", and it puts in the shade "kissy-butt, soft sofa" British television chit-chat. "Nigel Dempster's job would bore me to death, and my readers," says Mr Walker. "All those country houses."

The show will feature Mr Walker doing a fast-paced monologue, interviewing babe reporters in the field, and chairing discussions with other gossip experts. The love lives of the rich and famous will feature heavily. "We will have reports on the top 10 Hollywood lovers with real quotes," he says.

The challenge is to convert a printed magazine into gripping television - something which has often failed in the past. USA Today tried it, as did People magazine but, says Mr Walker, "they didn't even make a blip". He believes the Enquirer may succeed where others have failed because, as luck would have it, he is a natural as a television host. When MGM saw the pilot "they were amazed, saying wow, Mike, you really can perform!". And, he says, "I was writing it, too".

He has already hosted two one-off programmes, described in National Enquirer literature as "sensational syndicated specials which garnered phenomenal ratings". Mr Walker imagines great ratings in Britain, too. He may be disappointed - the shows have been sold not to a leading terrestrial channel, but to the minority Granada digital and satellite channel, Granada Plus.

Never mind, Mr Walker is on a roll. He seems ready to make the leap from minor celebrity to superstardom. "I went to the editor of the Enquirer and said: `Look, it's real simple - I want to be a legend and the quickest way to achieve that is to make the Enquirer a legend.'" And so the TV show was born.

His belief in his craft is clear. But is his career not, to be frank, built on tackiness? Or worse, on invasion of privacy? "We have clear standards. We do not venture inside people's homes... but in a public place people are fair game."

The Enquirer, he says, would never have set up the husband of moralist chat-show host Cathy Lee Gifford, entrapping him in an affair with a big- busted ex-stewardess, as did the paper's downmarket rival The Globe. The rule of thumb, as reflected in American privacy laws, is whether someone has an "expectation of privacy". Pictures of Joan Collins looking dreadful in her own garden were not published in the Enquirer, but Fergie half naked and sucking toes in a villa in France was fair game on the grounds that the villa was rented and surrounded by woodland which, she should have known, would have been infested with hacks bearing long lenses.

He puts the Enquirer on a higher moral plain than British tabloids. It would not gratuitously call someone fat or ugly, he says, or carry nasty pictures of Paula Yates with her boobs hanging out. However, it would be OK to report pop star Paula Abdul "looking porky" - because that's a story, especially if video images of her were secretly being electronically squeezed.

The lines are fine, but Mr Walker is a world expert on drawing them. Does he ever have doubts? Experience angst about the nature of his job? It's a good question, he says, because yes, he does have angst, but he thinks he has assuaged it by writing his first novel, Malicious Intent - a racy tale of a gutsy Hollywood woman, Charmian Burns, being pursued by a handsome star columnist, Cameron Tull.

Mr Walker's agent is very enthusiastic about its prospects. "She told me: `Once we establish you as Harold Robbins, we will then go on to establish you as Norman Mailer.'" Right now she is, he says, going through his slush pile of previous attempts at fiction and "saying wow". It is a word Mr Walker hears quite often these days.

`National Enquirer Presents: Love, Marriage and Divorce, Hollywood Style', and `National Enquirer Presents: 25 Years of Scandals' will be shown on Granada Plus later this year

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments