The Feral Beast: Keith lends his body to science
Security's secret weapon
Sunday 15 July 2012
Keith Allen may spend more time making chutney than taking drugs these days, but he's happy to oblige in the name of science. The former hell-raiser and father of Lily Allen is involved in a Channel 4 documentary studying the effects of MDMA on the brain. He is among a number of celebrities who have been administered the party drug, which is a pure form of Ecstasy, and then had their brains scanned. The study is being conducted by leading researchers at Imperial College London, Professors David Nutt and Robin Carhart Harris. But the perils of working with celebrities became apparent during filming at the Imanova Centre at Hammersmith hospital the other day. I'm told that one of them tested positive to cocaine, so had to be turned away. The documentary is scheduled to air in September, though nobody involved would reveal any details. Keith was busy rehearsing his Olympics-themed pop opera, which he's performing at this week's Llangollen Fringe Festival. He is also Master of Ceremonies at today's posh annual jamboree in Painswick, near his Cotswold home. Who needs MDMA?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That was William Morris's mantra when he set up the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (Spab) in 1887. So members of Britain's oldest heritage body will be surprised to learn that their popular magazine, Cornerstone, has been axed for no apparent reason, and its editor, Robin Stummer, has left. It follows the arrival of a new director at Spab, Matthew Slocombe, after Philip Venning retired after 28 years. Slocombe confirms Stummer's departure when I call. "He is going, and we don't have a new editor," he tells me. "The next edition of the magazine will appear, but whether it is called Cornerstone, I can't say. The name may change, but not the quality or interest." Stummer is a former Guardian journalist who took over Spab's newsletter in 2000 and turned it into a glossy quarterly, attracting writers including Bill Bryson, Ken Russell and Germaine Greer. He apparently owns copyright to the name Cornerstone. He declined to comment, saying he was taking legal action, but Slocombe played down the crisis. "We will certainly have a magazine. It just may not be called Cornerstone."
Leo Tolstoy took a dim view of governments, writing that "the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens". So one wonders what the great writer would have made of news that his great-great-grandson has become an aide to Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Tolstoy has been appointed a cultural adviser to the Russian President, with a brief to address issues ranging from literature to music. This may seem regrettable, as he has given up his post as director of the family country estate, Yasnaya Polyana, which has been untouched and open to the public since 1921. But Mr Tolstoy still has the museum's interests at heart: he has already got it onto a federal funding programme, and has plans to get visitor numbers up to half a million a year. Anyway, the new director is his wife. Who's exploiting whom now?
Following an item last week about Kew Gardens naming a flower after an entertainer, I can reveal his identity to be the comedian and musician Tim Minchin. To be precise, the gardeners didn't name the Strelitzia reginae after Minchin, because that's apparently too complicated. But Minchin's lanky ginger locks do have something of the orchid about them, and he's apparently writing a song about the flower's seed. It won't be the weirdest thing he's done.
Let's spend the night together
An explosive new biography of Mick Jagger, claiming he slept with dozens of famous men as well as women, has got the lawyers foaming. A Rolling Stones spokesman tells me they're planning to sue author Christopher Andersen and Simon and Schuster, who published the book in America. The book is due to be published in Britain later this month by Robson Press, a small imprint of Iain Dale's Biteback Publishing, founded only last year. "I'm not going to say who Mick has and hasn't slept with," says the spokesman, "but it's filled with plain inaccuracies. It's got Mick and Keith going to Dartford Grammar, when Keith went to Dartford Tech then Sidcup Art College." An extract released early last week told how, in 1973, Angie Bowie walked in on Jagger and David Bowie in bed together, and was so stunned the only thing she could say was: "Do you want some coffee?" But in a fuller extract yesterday, she is quoted saying: "Do you want some tea?" It's all in the details, eh?
See a doctor
John Reid – remember him? – made at least one contribution to public life, when he damned the immigration service as "not fit for purpose". So will the ex-Blairite minister, now Lord Reid of Cardowan, stand up in the upper house to damn G4S – the security service behind the Olympics fiasco – as similarly useless? Probably not. Since 2010, Dr Reid has trousered £50,000 a year from G4S as a "group consultant".
Roman Polanski said in May he was working on a film about the Dreyfus affair, with his friend the novelist Robert Harris working on the script. Now I can disclose that Harris's next novel will also take the Parisian scandal as its subject, and will be called D. The espionage thriller is due to be published by Hutchinson in autumn 2013. Meanwhile, Harris's wife Gill Hornby is carving her own career as a novelist, having signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown. I understand she landed a six-figure deal, practically unheard of in these dreary, penny-pinching times.
Best friends for ever?
When Alex James put on a festival at his farm last year, the dream turned sour after supporters were left unpaid, including the village primary school. The Blur cheese-maker has made amends, and is planning a second event. Trouble is, this one could prove embarrassing too. For he has got his New Best Friend Jamie Oliver to take part. Jamie has been mouthing off against the Government, because he's cross he's no longer the go-to celebrity on school dinners – that's now Leon founder Henry Dimbleby. Alex and the PM are mates, as Kingham is in Dave's constituency. Dave makes a point of going to local festivals, and supported Alex last year. But will he make it this time? Or will he snub Alex to snub Jamie? Awkward.
Manet talks – and walks
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has three weeks to raise £500,000 to "save" a Manet. The portrait of Mademoiselle Claus was sold by its private owners to a foreign buyer for £28.4m, but can be bought by the gallery for £7.8m, thanks to a temporary export ban. Last week, museum director Christopher Brown held a fund-raising "Manet walk" round Oxford. But readers of the Oxford Times website have savaged his campaign. One, Sophia, accuses Brown of turning the Ashmolean, which has had a £61m refurb, into "a passing imitation of Peter Jones". Ouch!
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