Media: The Word On The Street

WHAT IS going on at The Sunday Times? Its columnists seem to be fleeing en masse. Meg Matthews is giving up her Yeah! column in Style, reportedly because her husband Noel Gallagher is unhappy at seeing their life in print. Meanwhile, Zoe Heller has departed to the Telegraph, while Robert Harris, the star left-leaning columnist, and Ferdinand Mount, his opposite number on the right, have dropped out of recent issues. The paper says that the pair will be returning some day soon. But, as one senior insider says, to lose one star columnist is misfortune; to lose four is rather more than carelessness.

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IT WAS once said that the McTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival was the biggest job application form in the TV business - so often did those giving it shortly leave their jobs for fresh fields. Unfortunately, those jockeying to be next director-general of the BBC can't wait until the festival in August to get noticed, especially as only one person will get to present it. Luckily David "two brains" Elstein, C5's chief executive, can arrange his own lectures. As Oxford's first News International visiting professor in broadcasting, he has been lined up to deliver a series of highbrow talks. The subject is the history of the political structure of British broadcasting (1949-1999), a subject bound to interest the kind of people who appoint DGs. Invitations have gone to the press, but we wonder whether the BBC board of governors have got theirs yet.

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SEX SELLS newspapers, hence the photograph of a red-feather-boa-bedecked Kate Winslet in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. But not too much sex, mind. At least not on the front page, where readers learnt that Ms Winslet was in London for what the paper coyly called a "feminist monologue". Only inside did they learn that the tract was in fact called The Vagina Monologues.

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WORKING AT Customs and Excise obviously generates a particular brand of humour. A call made to its press office last week found a harassed press officer asking if we could call back: "Half a ton of cocaine has just been found in Essex and we're completely snowed under." We waited for the other shoe to drop, but it never did.

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THE CLASSIFIED pages of The Stage are not only the place to find actors and strippergrams for The Vanessa Show. It caters for all desires from the wilder shores of show business. A highlight this week was an advert for a "Meatloaf impersonator". Not a plea for someone resembling a stodgy American dish, but a tribute band that had mislaid its own plump front man. Such are the vagaries of fame. One week we hear that William Hague once had a picture of Mr Loaf (as it says on his passport) on his wall, and now there's enough demand to merit a tribute band.

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IN A more innocent age, at one daytime chat show the most valuable document wasn't the book of actors' agents, but a list of repeat guests. It was known as the "gobby punters book" and was indexed by opinion. One year there was much consternation when the most eloquent racist was found to have died.

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