Diary: HuffPo's Mayer culpa

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The Independent Online

This column's preferred soft-rock crooner, John Mayer, was upset to read the esteemed online organ The Huffington Post hinting he'd reunited with ex-girlfriend Jennifer Aniston last week.

HuffPo's story, entitled "John Mayer & Jennifer Aniston BACK TOGETHER? [sic]" was based on the flimsy evidence of some inter-song banter at a gig in LA, where the singer told fans: "I believe in second chances! You might have been a pain in the ass the last time around, but you can still start over again."

JM, prone to vague onstage platitudes whatever his romantic situation, blogged an irate response to the story, calling it "fabricated, cobbled together and misleading". He singles out HuffPo ahead of the celeb rags as "even if they're obnoxious... [they] know where they stand". HuffPo, by contrast, is "a stripper wearing glasses... an insolvent law student willing to dance for a few extra dollars". JM's suggested headline for follow-up pieces such as this one is: "John Mayer Slams HuffPo: Go F**k Yourself!" But something tells me my editor won't be keen to use it.

* The Labour leadership candidates have tried every trick in the modern electoral playbook, including bombarding party members with texts requesting their support. But Ed Balls, who's keen not to be left in the dust by the brothers Miliband, may have sealed his fate among Essex-based members with the following: "'There is an alternative'. Ed Balls Q&A @ Sports Club, Springhouse Rd, Corringham, SS17 7QT. Thu 2 Sep@ 3pm. Just turn up & hear why Ed is gaining support."

I fear the event will be poorly attended: Mr Balls's team chose to send the text at 9am, on a bank holiday. One Labour member whose lie-in was rudely interrupted tells me: "I definitely won't be voting for him after this."



* The implicit support of Peter Mandelson might also have done for David Miliband, but that will hardly bother the Dark Lord, whose book sales will doubtless benefit. Mandy was on fine form in conversation with James Naughtie at the Edinburgh Book Festival this weekend. With Alistair Darling and Menzies Campbell in the crowd, he straight-facedly defined the adjective "Mandelsonian" as meaning "subtle, strategic, hard-working and ultimately very loyal".

Asked whether he'd consider donating the profits from The Third Man to charity – as Tony Blair plans to do with the proceeds from his memoir – Mandy replied, subtly and loyally: "I'm tempted to say he can afford it."

* Publishers across the Pond were flustered when a bookstore assistant in Martha's Vineyard gave President Obama a precious advance copy of Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, to read on vacation, weeks before its publication today. The book's UK publishers, Fourth Estate, won't release it until 23 September, so I was surprised to learn from a source really rather close to this column that a second-hand bookshop had sold him/her a proof copy ("not for sale or quotation") of Freedom some two months ago, long before even Obama got his hands on it.

As this bookshop is in a media-saturated north London postcode, my source could only assume it was donated by some well-connected but careless literary editor. The cover price is £20; my source acquired it for a mere £6.95. "It was in June, possibly even May," said source says, "before I'd even registered that Franzen had written a new book – and that's saying something, considering how much hype there's been." The shop has also recently yielded pre-publication copies of Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City and Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn, among others. He/she won't, however, disclose its exact location, for fear of cutting off such a rich supply of reading material.



* Cricket and gambling have enjoyed a long and happy co-existence. Just ask keen poker player Phil Tufnell, whose portfolio of advertising endorsements includes partycasino.com. Or, indeed, Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, who, having written about the Pakistan match-fixing scandal in yesterday's Telegraph, revealed he was off to Australia to film a TV commercial for Betfair. For the Ashes. "Quite ironic," he tweeted ruefully, "with what's been going on."

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