Matthew Norman's Media Diary

A treat for Speccie drama queens
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The Independent Online

At the risk of straying dangerously close to self-promotion, I must report that I am now working quietly on a fourth. Working titled I Am A Hamburger, this work - which will seek to marry the light touch of Auguste Strindberg to the Weltschmerzian social realism of Ray Cooney - will tell the life story of Paul Johnson, the most sane and rational of the Speccie's columnists. The title refers, of course, to Paul's idiosyncratic translation of JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" in his irreverent comic novel, The Americans. The late Kenneth Moore has been approached for the title role. Dame Judi Dench is already lined up for Paul's saintly wife Marigold, while Christopher Eccleston has shown some initial interest in playing their son Luke, the Channel 4 chairman best known for shrinking Pizza Express pizzas.

Without giving too much away, the play will be episodic in form, illuminating Paul's life through a series of dramatised columns, such as the one in which he looked out from the drawing room of his Bayswater home and imagined in clinical detail the impact on London of a hydrogen bomb. It's still early days, of course, but any West End theatre tempted to discuss it may be reassured to know that serious interest in sponsoring the production is being shown by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, manufacturer of Prozac.

IN THE latest edition, meanwhile, it's a delight to find the gang observing the niceties due a fresh human corpse with such elegance. Charles Moore remembers Ted Heath with an anecdote showing the late PM in a peculiarly charmless light, while the Milanese catwalk model Simon Heffer cannot embark on a Stephen Byers piece without a preamble regarding Sir Edward's traitorous ushering of this country into Europe. Now, even more than ever, it is essential that the spirit of 30-year- old Thatcherite battles be sustained, and my hat is doffed to the pair of them.

SOME OF us are more charitable towards the still-warm cadavers of political opponents, so a fond farewell to John Tyndall, founder of the National Front. Mr Tyndall had a lively sense of mischief, and once illustrated a gloriously homophobic article in one of his neo-fascist journals with a caption below a picture of myself and Peter Mandelson suggesting we were lovers. Sorely missed.

BBC SENIOR management continues to show the sensitivity for which it has always been so tremendously respected. Two days after chairman Michael Grade announced that an executive bonus scheme is to be limited

to 10 per cent of salary (down from a still modest 30 per cent), and with thousands of employees living in dread of the old tin tack, staff at BBC Worldwide were invited to a splendid bash. They had already received envelopes containing the wherewithal - glue, cardboard, etc - enabling them to express their creativity by making their own name badges. Then last Tuesday, coaches pitched up at TV centre, home of recent picketing, to take some 200 staff from various BBC magazines to a party in a banqueting suite at London Zoo, where they were encouraged to bond by sitting down to eat and later dance with strangers from other publications. At a time of historically low morale, it's impossible to overstate the value of such an exercise. Certainly it's worth a great deal more, in terms of emotional uplift, than the £20,000-£30,000 the outing - replete with unlimited bananas and lashings of PG Tips - is thought to have cost Johnny Licence Fee-Payer.

I'M A little baffled, once again, by a Daily Mail headline. "A Lady of the manor?" this one derisively asks of Madonna. "You must be *!@*! joking". We all know how delicate Mail editor Paul Dacre is about coarse language (his morning news conference has come to be known to staff as The Vagina Monologues, due to the frequency with which he affectionately addresses them by the C word), but what expletive adjective can there be with five letters? Answers on the traditional postcard please.

FINALLY, APOLOGIES to top-ranked BBC newscaster Huw Edwards for the fortnight's absence that has kept him from this page. As part of the continuing drive to stamp out the foolish rumours about Huw not being the reincarnation of Richard Dimbleby, I am pleased to quote correspondence from a reader. "A couple of years ago, the great man granted a lunchtime interview in Wesley Chapel, one of a series with well-known people," runs the e-mail. "He confided in us that he was one of only three BBC front-line staff (the others were Andrew Marr and Jeff Randall) authorised to edit his own material. So there you have it... not just any old autocue reader." As if anyone ever thought otherwise.