In an interview this week with a Sunday newspaper, Piers Morgan said: "I can't stand whingeing celebrities, who whine about the hell of being famous." I couldn't agree more, although this perfectly reasonable aversion makes him an odd choice to present The Dark Side of Fame, a series of interviews with celebrities whining about the hell of being famous.
First up was the former Baywatch star and Playboy centrefold Pamela Anderson, to whom Morgan seemed about as averse as pigs to muck, enthusiastically describing her breasts as the most famous of all time, "with a fame and career all of their own". This career also extends to giving interviews on their own, at least if Morgan's dancing eyes were anything to go by. At first I naively thought that he kept glancing downwards all the time to consult his notes, until I realised that all he was consulting was Pammie's cleavage. And maybe that's fair enough. For a time in the 1990s, The Daily Mirror, edited by Morgan, might as well have been printed in that cleavage, so fundamental were her breasts to the success of the paper. It was good to see Morgan, a man known for his humility in the same way that Andy Murray is known for his golf swing, so humbly acknowledging one, or more accurately two, of the stepping stones in his rise to the top.
Anyway, stepping stones aside, was it a good interview? Morgan has spiced up the news agenda in recent months with his interviews in GQ magazine, in which he got the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to admit that he had slept with "no more than 30 women", and more recently teased some controversial thoughts about date rape from Dame Helen Mirren. Watching him in action with Pamela Anderson offered some insights into his technique. He is relentlessly matey, jocular and charming, and flashes his newlywhitened teeth at every opportunity, but behind the smile there lurks a vulpine instinct for the kill.
As Anderson chuntered on fairly cheerfully about the relationships she has had since splitting up with the serially misbehaving rocker Tommy Lee, father of her two sons, Morgan slipped in the stiletto. If she didn't mind him being critical for a moment, was she being altogether fair to her children by getting involved with one unsuitable bloke after another? It was a reminder, not least to Anderson, that Morgan didn't get to edit one of Britain's best-selling tabloids without being sanctimonious, judgmental, and knowing just when to hit the nail on the head. Still, she kept her cool impressively, and even ended the interview sitting obligingly on his lap, while Morgan, done with the flitting eyes, gazed unblinkingly at her breasts and chortled, mischievously and toothily. It was an oddly familiar mischievously toothy chortle, with vivid suburban English overtones, and some time later I realised why: Morgan has subconsciously modelled his chortle, if not his whole persona, on that of Richard Briers in The Good Life. He has become the Tom Good of Sunset Boulevard.
In The Price of Property, the first of a four-part series about a modern British obsession, the ghosts of Tom and Barbara popped up again. A woman with the apt name of Joy recalled buying a flat in Elgin Crescent, in Notting Hill, for £12,000 in 1966. Her flat is now on the market for £875,000 and she is cashing in to "live the good life" in Surbiton.
The presenter Jon Henley made no attempt to conceal his envy of Joy and other beneficiaries of the boom in property values. He bought a flat in Acton, west London, for £35,000 in the mid-1980s, and sold up a few years later for what he thought was a decent profit. He then lived abroad for 20 years but has returned to find himself emphatically priced out of the London housing market. That little flat in Acton is now valued at £250,000, and Henley spent much of the programme reeling with astonishment at this and other examples of property prices going through the roof. If only he had been toying with a stuffed pepper I would have been transported uneasily back to the dozens of dinner parties I went to in London in the 1990s, at which property prices vied with schooling as the principal topic of conversation, and those of us who attempted diversionary tactics by invoking the form of Arsenal FC, or for that matter the breasts of Pamela Anderson, were treated like weirdos.
Of course, the presenter of a series called The Price of Property can't be condemned for banging on about the price of property, although I did feel that Henley was being a little disingenuous when he pointed out that a house should foremost be a home, rather than an investment. He seemed pig-sick at the idea that the London property ladder had fallen with a clatter behind him, with nary a thought for all the fun he had in 20 years of living overseas, safely away from all the negative equity-flavoured crème brûlée.Reuse content