Elton John report 'a fiction'

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The Independent Online
A HIGH COURT libel jury was told yesterday about the Hollywood Hills party where Elton John ate nothing - because he was not there.

The court was told that the guest list included Billy Connolly, Pamela Stephenson, the novelist Jackie Collins, Barry Humphries, David Hockney and pop music executives.

John Reid, the pop star's manager for 23 years and the host of the party last December, said Mr John was 2,000 miles away at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He said that a report in the Sunday Mirror that he hugged the star and told him 'You're too thin. You mustn't overdo this dieting thing, Elton,' was untrue.

The 46-year-old pop star was in court again on the second day of his libel claim against Mirror Group Newspapers.

The Sunday Mirror's story on 27 December, headlined 'Elton's Diet of Death' and 'Secret of Slim Elton's Spitting Image', quoted Mr John as telling party-goers about his 'don't swallow and get thin diet'.

It said revellers saw him chewing party snacks and spitting them into a napkin. Doctors were quoted as saying the diet was a form of the slimmers' disease, bulimia.

Mr John says the article made him out to be a sham because he had won a long battle against the illness and publicly warned other people about it.

He seeks compensation for distress and damage to his reputation plus 'exemplary' damages because the story was published recklessly.

Mirror Group Newspapers admits the story was untrue but denies libel. It says it was an honest mistake by its sources, the article was published in good faith and it has offered to publish a 'generous' public apology.

Frank Presland, Mr John's solicitor for the past 10 years, said the singer regarded as 'preposterous' the newspaper's explanation that its story was an honest mistake resulting from mistaken identity.

He said his client refused to accept the apology unless it recognised that the story was unfounded fiction and was published irresponsibly.

The case continues today.