Who's Who admits boyo's boyo (and half the Groucho)

Tom Jones, Lenny Henry and Gary Lineker are among the new entrants to the top people's directory, reports Glenda Cooper
Click to follow
THE BOYO from the Valleys has at last made it to the heart of the British Establishment. For services to the knicker and Cuban heel industries, Thomas Jones-Woodward - also known as Tom Jones - has been included in the 1996 Who's Who.

The rocking crooner, who has been lusted after since he first sang It's Not Unusual more than 30 years ago, has made it into the hall of greats this year along with athlete Sally Gunnell, meteorologist Bill Giles, opera singer Lesley Garrett and clothes designer Nicole Farhi.

His Who's Who entry reveals that Tom, 55, made his singing debut at the age of three, and has had "many international hit records" and his own TV series, This is Tom Jones. The raunchy star describes his recreations as music and history.

In contrast Lenworth George (Lenny) Henry's recreations include "[being a] funkateer, reading quality graphic novels, going to nursery, pretending to be a soul singer, being with friends and family and cooking". Bill Giles goes for "golf, gardening and one-man weather show".

Another new entry, Terry Venables, England's football coach, reveals his multiple talents. While taking Crystal Palace from the third division to the first in the late 1970s, he also found time to co-write three TV series about a detective, called Hazell.

Venables is joined by three other new soccer names - player-turned-broadcaster Gary Lineker, commentator John Motson, and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson - while from rugby, player Jonathan Davies and commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith have been selected.

From the fashion industry, Nicole Farhi has only made it in this year, although she started designing in 1968, and founded the chain French Connection in 1973, Nicole Farhi Co in 1983 and Nicole Farhi for Men in 1989.

Perhaps the fact that she opened Nicole's Restaurant in 1994 tipped the scales. Her hobby is sculpture; John Galliano, now at Givenchy, does not give any, instead listing his many awards, including British Designer of the Year (twice).

Some of the more bizarre recreations listed include Barry Humphries's "trailing my coat", Robert Ross's "country dancing" (he was born in 1912) and Miles Kington's "falsifying personal records to mystify potential biographers".

This year's new entries throw an intriguing light on British society. Those rising to the top of today's Establishment flock to Soho clubs such as Peg's, the Soho House, and above all, the Groucho. Among its members listed for the first time this year are the actor Michael Elphick (star of Boon), Robbie Coltrane, Gary Lineker, Lenny Henry and Richard Wilson (the actor who plays Victor Meldrew).

The form of Who's Who has changed little since it was remodelled in 1897. Then it cost 3s 6d (about 18p) for 5,000 entries; today it will set you back pounds 95 for 30,000 entries. The main principles laid down by Adam and Charles Black were that there should be a wider choice of subjects than in existing reference books, and no one should be able to purchase his or her entry.

Everyone accepted the invitation to take part that year, except Joseph Chamberlain and Lord Salisbury. WS Gilbert at first declined to supply his details, but when the editor submitted for his approval an entry that read "WS Gilbert, journalist, writer of the libretti for Sir Arthur Sullivan's operas", Gilbert immediately completed the questionnaire.

The membership of the Who's Who selection board is a fiercely guarded secret, "to keep them from being pressurised by those desperate to get a mention", according to a spokeswoman for the book's publishers.

A privileged few are included automatically: archbishops, bishops, members of parliament, senior civil servants, national newspaper editors, Oxford and Cambridge professors, and peers. The criteria for who else gets in are somewhat less clear. The spokeswoman said that names are put forward to the selection board: "We read the papers and do general research and sometimes people send in names."

Who's Who's detractors, such as Harold Brookes-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, claim, however, that it takes many famous people years to make it into Who's Who. "Jilly Cooper had been famous for 25 years before she was allowed in," he says. "And at the same time they put in all these baronets, 80 per cent of whom are unknown."

In its defence, Who's Who says that people who have been asked to give details do not always return their forms in time, so it may take some time before their names appear in print.

Of those approached recently by Who's Who, only a few have refused to be included. The Barclay twins, the reclusive property tycoons, have refused to take part for three years in a row, and former Lonrho boss Tiny Rowland has always turned down the offer as well. "Who's Who is so egotistical - filling in those little forms. I couldn't care less," he said yesterday. "I've never bought it; I've never looked anyone up in it. It's just like reading the list of richest people. And they always have such absurd hobbies."

And Brookes-Baker? He has not been approached. And, he says, "I don't think I ever will be."