Media Diary: Oliver Duff
On the wrong end of Julie's schtik
Monday 17 March 2008
Having dumped her vestments outside the charity clothes shop and renounced plans to sit a theology degree, Julie Burchill is returning to journalism. She is also working on her own television films, following 2005's lesbian teen drama Sugar Rush. Burchill says she has completed a TV script, Scars and Stripes, to be made by BBC2. "She seems to know much more about this than we do," claims a BBC drama publicist. "It's not anything we've heard of. Nothing has been commissioned and no one in commissioning has heard of it." It's obviously at an early, pre-publicity stage. So I leave a polite voicemail on Friday morning for the queen of spleen, asking for more details, if appropriate, and wishing her a pleasant weekend. Ten minutes later the mobile rings: "I'm Sara Lawrence. I've just had a cross phone call from my writing partner Julie Burchill. She sounded very angry. What are you leaving her a message for? Why are you asking? Don't you believe her? Why do you want to know? It's part of a massive project called "Decades", alright, 30 films covering 1970 to 2005, each one covers a year. Catherine Tate's doing one, Hanif Kureishi, Ian Hislop. Ours is a love story. Maybe you should do a bit of research. Perhaps you should email Julie to apologise." Two hours on, and I am given an exclusive extract of Ms Lawrence's writing, in the shape of an unprompted email. The missive informs me I am "an absolute prick" and "an asshole" for enquiring about the Scars and Stripes project. She continues: "Why don't you fuck off and get an ACTUAL story. Moron." Dear Sara! Slow down, don't gabble.
After being told her words might appear in print, she emails again: "SORRY! Looks like I indeed have the 'wrong end of the stick'. Am sure you're a very pleasant and charming man!!" Big kiss ladies! XX
Moving just a few ice cream stalls down the Brighton seafront, we find an old friend, the broadcaster and Donald Trump of the south coast, Simon Fanshawe. Fanny – I believe we know one another well enough to drop the graces – styles himself as an expert author on manners, despite his occasional Tourette's-style outbursts. Yet it is poor web etiquette to impersonate someone else online. So could whoever is pretending to be Fanshawe on the dating website Gaydar please desist? Immediately.
Although you parade using Fanny's beaming face, we know who you really are: you are 41, called Hew (his middle moniker) and come from Hove. You are a Caucasian writer looking for one-on-one sex with someone younger; for intelligence, engagement with the world, laughter and unconventionality. You are light and intense, fun and serious, ambitious and compelled by social change. When are you not cooking for friends, you are laughing, drinking, or snuggled up on the sofa trying to persuade someone that Marmite tastes better on cold toast with cold butter. All of which information should allow the upstanding gentlemen of Sussex Police to identify the imposter. Sighs Fanny: "The trouble with Gaydar is that you can take [other users'] pictures off and put them on your desktop and then upload them as your own. I suspect it's someone being mischievous."
Emergency cafetière to Kim Catcheside! It was all a bit early for the BBC's social policy correspondent when she had to go live on Thursday's Today programme. Catcheside, there to talk about the new incapacity benefit tests announced by Alistair "gottle of geer" Darling, seemed to suffer a disorientating Sarah Kennedy moment. She stuttered and stalled along until: "Apparently it's ... something called, um ... Amy Toby, or something." John Humphrys: "AME DEL." Catcheside: "Amy Dell. That's right, Amy Dell that's it, sorry I knew it was somebody's name. [Sharp intake of breath]. They can spend money they think they're going to save later on." Catcheside was actually searching for the (admittedly dull) acronym explaining departmental expenditure. Explains a studio source: "Let's be polite and say that Kim is not the brightest of risers and she also has children to prepare for school. For a while we had a problem when she was broadcasting from home: she kept slurping her coffee just as she was preparing to go on air. We'd all hear it down the other end of the line. So the editor had to ask her to come in to the office to file after that." Such draconian measures have slipped and Catcheside is again lesser spotted in White City. Perhaps the Today editor and merman impersonator Ceri Thomas could relax his employee's caffeine embargo, for the benefit of the nation's welfare reforms.
A charming footnote in Stephen Robinson's fascinating new Bill Deedes biography. A couple of years ago, the newspaperman's eldest son Jeremy Deedes, the former chief executive of The Telegraph, went to the Canary Wharf offices to see his axe-wielding successor Murdoch MacLennan. Arriving for his appointment, Jeremy assumed that the downcast fellow tidying up magazines in the new chief exec's anteroom was a cleaner. It in fact turned out to be John Bryant, the newspaper's short-lived then-editor.
Good to bump in to bouncing Elaine Bedell, the Beeb's entertainment commissioner, at the Haymarket launch of I'd Do Anything, Andrew Lloyd Webber's new vehicle to discover three Olivers and a Nancy for his forthcoming musical based on the Dickens oeuvre. Lord Lloyd-Webber has made quite an impression on our Elaine. "He is very charming," she gushes. "He's got huge charisma, he is Andrew Lloyd Webber... he is THE expert, and I guess that's quite seductive." Watch yourself!
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