Genius moments: January 2008

That's a diabolical decision!

He was a famously stingy defender for Liverpool in the 1980s, but you'd think Alan Hansen might relax a bit now he's a gazillionaire pundit on Match of the Day. Apparently not, says The Sun: the former Scottish international is so tight-fisted that, after recording a piece at home for a show, he billed the production company for the cost of the gas fire he'd had on during filming. Sensational penny-pinching, Gary!

Author unstuck by glue factory

Joan Brady was not the first literary author to turn to the pot-boiler, but was surely the first to blame it on sniffing glue. Sort of. Brady won the Whitbread prize for her 1993 novel The Theory of War, but when she churned out Bleedout, a thriller about a convicted killer suspected of beating a blind lawyer to death in a library, as her most recent novel, Brady blamed her transition from heavyweight bestsellers to crime stories on living next door to the Conker shoe factory in Totnes, Devon. Apparently, fumes from the factory made it impossible to concentrate to the degree that her literary work required, and nudged her towards the less rigorous territory of blood and guts. After a long legal battle she finally got an out-of-court settlement worth £115,000 – not a bad result, really, given Bleedout also sold a very healthy 50,000 copies.

Sarah Silverman's bedroom farce

More than six million people have seen Sarah Silverman's "I'm fucking Matt Damon" video on YouTube, but like many viewers outside the US, we British really didn't have a clue why the US comedienne and actor were singing about shagging "on the bed, on the floor, on a towel by the door..." Still, he's easy on the eye, she's not bad herself, and the vid was funny enough for us to figure out the back-story: that the video was an in-joke involving Silverman's on-off boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel, which was itself part of a longer-running in-joke about Damon storming off Kimmel's chat show, and that Kimmel responded to Silverman's song and video with his own, "I'm fucking Ben Affleck". Do keep up.

Who needs Mary Poppins?

With her actor partner David Thewlis in tow, good northern lass Anna Friel arrived in Hollywood to begin a six-year contract on the TV show Pushing Daisies and announced that the couple didn't want their three-year-old daughter Gracie coming over all Californian Valley Girl – so they were hiring a nanny from Lancashire. "I'm northern and I always will be," she told the Daily Mirror. "Now Gracie's talking with northern mannerisms. She's like, 'Eh up, Mummy likes things neat in't trailer.' She's adorable." You can take the girl out of Rochdale...

Hooray for Henry Conway

Do Tories get involved in sleaze? Does the Pope have a balcony? Derek Conway's payments to his two sons totalling £80,000 were just another parliamentary scandal until the press got a load of number-one son, Henry. Who cared how little he'd been doing for his money, Henry was, so he said, "blond, bouncy and one for the boys". As his father ate humble pie and younger brother Freddie kept a low profile, Henry partied the worries away. The highlight of his flamboyant 15 minutes was his arrival at Mahiki in a horse-drawn carriage dressed as a Regency dandy, complete with riding boots, jodhpurs and cravat...

Tell me, what do you do?

Prince Philip took his tendency towards gaffe-making up a notch when he mistook Hollywood star Cate Blanchett for a film technician at a party. The Oscar winner introduced herself as "working in the film industry", which the Prince took at face value. "The Prince began discussing his DVD player, which he said was broken," revealed a courtier. "He said, 'There's a cord sticking out the back. Might you tell me where it goes?'" The palace responded without apologising: "We do not comment on private conversations. The Duke of Edinburgh meets so many people on engagements. These are often film stars."

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