Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Why is poor Michael still waiting?
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The Independent Online

BEARING IN mind how his uncle Lew revelled in the knighthood and then the peerage with which his towering contribution to the entertainment industry was rewarded, the absence of Michael Grade's name from another honours list is striking. At 63, the newly-appointed executive chairman of ITV - he starts the job a week today - is already a year older than Lew was when he received his knighthood in 1969. Seven years later he had become Baron Grade of Elstree, chosen as the location of the studios of ATV, with which Lew's name was synonymous.

Perhaps the controversial circumstances in which Grade jumped ship from the BBC to ITV a few weeks ago did not help. Perhaps his time at the BBC - the period of post-Hutton retrenchment - was deemed insufficiently worthy of honour, culminating as it did in the stand-off with the Government over the licence fee. Perhaps he still has the albatross round his neck of "pornographer-in-chief". Or perhaps offers of ennoblement are pouring in, and Grade is refusing them all.

MEANWHILE, congratulations to Daily Mail legend Ann Leslie on her damehood. It's some 40 years since, as a young reporter on the Daily Express, she scooped Fleet Street's finest when she headed out to Heathrow Airport to meet Muhammad Ali and ended up speeding off with him in the back of his limo. She's continued to do things her way - and now we have the interesting sight of plain Paul Dacre commissioning a knight in Sir Max Hastings and the female equivalent in Dame Ann.

WHEN Jonathan Freedland turned his hand to fiction, he produced a successful thriller, The Righteous Men, under the pseudonym Sam Bourne. His boss at the Guardian, editor Alan Rusbridger, hasn't had quite such luck with his own brand of fiction, a trilogy of children's tales about the intelligent animals of Melton Meadow Zoo. The last of the series, The Smelliest Day at the Zoo, is due to be published next month, and he must be hoping for a rather more enthusiastic response than the previous two garnered. "An average read for young children who aren't bothered about sophisticated texts," was one reviewer's comment. It remains to be seen whether it outsells Rusbridger's earlier tome of an altogether different kind - A Concise History of the Sex Manual, 1886 - 1986.

THANK HEAVENS for the Daily Mirror, without whose devotion to clarity we might all remain in the dark about executions. On Friday they explained to readers how Saddam would be hanged according to the tenets of the Iraqi Penal Code set up by himself in 1969, and managed to find some nice simple graphics to accompany it: the hood, the overalls, the cell, the "frog-marching" Iraqi guards, the 15-foot gallows, the Muslim clergyman... But their nerve failed and, instead of a picture of Saddam actually swinging in mid-air, they ended with a picture of an "unmarked grave" - a brilliantly evocative patch of wet mud. Why, we almost felt we were there...

ONE OF soul legend James Brown's last performances came at the inaugural BBC Electric Proms back in the autumn. He was quite a catch for the festival organiser Lorna Clarke, who spent months negotiating to bring Brown to the Roundhouse, where he took his place alongside The Who, Kasabian and Damon Albarn's new band, among others. Clarke - head of programmes at the BBC's 1 Extra digital radio channel - looks back on the achievement with understandable pride, and is delighted to have a tangible reminder of Brown's visit in the unlikely form of a hairdryer.

"Brown's list of requirements in his contract was rather longer than we were used to," she recalls, "and among the thing she wanted in his dressing room was a domed, hooded hairdryer. He cared enormously about his appearance, and if you watch his Roundhouse performance you'll see that his hair never moves. The only problem was that soon after he arrived in his dressing room, word came that he needed a second hair dryer. So the stage manager was sent off to find one, and he think he bought one at Argos. When the Brown entourage moved on, one of the hairdryers was left behind, and the stage manager didn't know what to do with it. So now I have it at home. I'm never going to use it - but I won't get rid of it either. Knowing it had been used by James Brown does rather put a different perspective on it."

MORE traffic expected between the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. The latest report is that the Mail's news editor Chris Evans is making the move to the great digital empire in Victoria. The route has certainly ben cluttered of late: the Telegraph's deputy editor Neil Darbyshire, columnist Tom Utley and former Sunday Telegraph editor Sarah Sands have all hailed cabs to Kensington, while the irascible Simon Heffer and Mail executive Tony Gallagher have headed in the other direction.

GOOD old William Shawcross - still defiantly positive about Iraq. Writing in the latest Spectator, he lists all the ways in which the country is enjoying an economic upturn - among them that "construction is doing well". You don't say, Willie!

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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