It's true - top talent breeds tantrums

Click to follow
THE WORLD'S most creative people really are as egotistical, temperamental and undisciplined as their reputations suggest, according to a book to be published next week. Their egos must be massaged and their rebelliousness indulged, it seems, because creativity cannot be mass-produced.

Some of the biggest names in Britain's creative industries - such as Michael Grade, former head of Channel 4, the publisher Paul Hamlyn and the film producer David Puttnam - admit that working with the best talent can be excruciating. Lord Hamlyn said: "Some of the big bestselling authors are pretty obnoxious." And Lord Puttnam, whose films include The Killing Fields, commented: "I've had chunks of my life made miserable by other people's egos."

In Tantrums and Talent: How to get the best from creative people, Winston Fletcher, a former advertising agency boss, shares the wisdom of those at the top of Britain's television, film, publishing, advertising and record industries on how to encourage talent. He argues that because outstanding ability is so rare, the creative manager who employs talented people must learn to live with their tantrums, although this does not mean that managers can never crack the whip.

The legend of the temperamental talent is well founded. Tony Kaye, the advertising genius turned film director, took out cryptic critical advertisements in the American trade press and asked for his name to be removed from the credits of his first movie, American History X, after the studios re-cut it. The singer Grace Jones battered the chat show host Russell Harty with her handbag when he turned to talk to another guest. Michael Green, head of the Carlton television group, is notoriously volatile.

Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of the BBC, said employers had to put up with the tantrums of the outstandingly talented if they wanted the best. "It may be difficult, but does that mean you won't work with Callas? How likeable was Callas? By all accounts, not at all. To say you can only work with those you personally like... would be impossible."

Mr Grade admitted that he had worked with many creative people whom he could not stand, but added: "They wouldn't know I couldn't stand them. They never know that."

The managers list various ways of dealing with their creatives to try to avoid outbursts. Jeremy Isaacs, former head of Channel 4 and then of the Royal Opera House, said: "You endlessly have to cheer them up, to reassure and flatter them."

However, Alan McGee, who discovered Oasis and founded Creation records - which he has just announced he will leave next year - employs a different tactic.

He said: "Sometimes to make great music, it's not about being nice. I convince them everybody is against us. It's the band against the world. They feel their backs are up against the wall. Then I convince them we're going to fight this together. And we do."

Mr Fletcher, now chairman of the documentary film company Brook Lapping Productions, said the image of the wild and difficult artist was often fostered by the creative people themselves. "It kind of allows them to get their own way. But it is also fostered by the people who work with them, because then they can say the creative people are impossible - `How can you work within budget when you're dealing with mad people?'"

Mr Fletcher said creativity was a word that had only been in dictionaries for the past 40 years, yet was now at the heart of government and business thinking for enterprise in the 21st century. He added that ideas and talent could rarely be explained rationally, whereas management was supposed to be rational.

"This means there is an underlying and unavoidable clash of cultures... when managers find themselves in control of creativity. Creators' innate rebelliousness inevitably leads them to dislike taking orders," he said.

But creatives be warned: even the most talented can throw a tantrum too far. Wally Olins, the branding expert, said: "Sometimes it isn't worth paying a high emotional price for talent - and you have to get rid of them."

THOSE FAMOUS FLOUNCES IN FULL

HENRY KISSINGER

The former US secretary of state allegedly walked out of a live recording of Radio 4's Start the Week in June after Jeremy Paxman suggested he had been a fraud to accept the Nobel peace prize.

THE BEE GEES

In October 1997 the pop trio dramatically stormed off Clive Anderson's All Talk television show after Anderson revealed that the group had once been called Les Tosseurs and told them: "You will always be tossers to me."

CHARLIE WATTS

The Rolling Stones drummer marched out of a US chatshow in 1992 after the house band insisted on joining in with his jazz quintet.

TREVOR McDONALD

The former News at Ten anchorman exploded with rage after being "Gotcha- ed" by Noel Edmonds. He ran out of the studio screaming "I am not a comedian, I don't do this!" after being tricked into reading out a series of ridiculous messages, some in a Scottish accent.

ELTON JOHN

The 1996 documentary on John's life for ITV, entitled Tantrums and Tiaras, revealed the pop star losing his temper countless times. One of the more memorable occasions was while he was playing tennis at a hotel in the south of France. A female fan shouted "Yoo-hoo" and waved to him. This was too much for John, who strode off the court to book an immediate flight home. "It pisses me off," he fumed. "I take my tennis very seriously. I don't like people waving at me."

DIANA ROSS

In September this year, Ross took exception to being frisked at Heathrow airport. In retaliation, she grabbed the breasts of the young woman who had searched her, yelling: "How do you like it?" She was arrested for assault.

LIAM GALLAGHER

The overlord of the over-reaction, Gallagher is well-known for his countless tantrums. One of the more famous was when he allegedly headbutted Ben Jones, a British fan who tried to take his photograph during an Oasis tour of Australia last year.

JONATHAN THOMPSON

Comments