CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT : Porn King and I ... a stroll in Hay ... Sher height

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RED Shoe Diaries, a saucy series about female sexual fantasies from erotica maestro Zalman King, and starring dreamy X-Files star David Duchovny, is, I see, finally getting an airing, albeit on Sky. Originally Carlton bought the American cable TV series (in which our hero, devastated because his girlfriend's just committed suicide, embarks on a journey into the female psyche via contact ads). Alas, the material (tame enough) proved too hot for them. All this reminds me of a curious chat I had at the time with Zalman King, director of 91/2 Weeks and Wild Orchid and just about the nicest soft porn supremo you could meet. We only just got started when the door flew open and an oddly familiar figure leapt in like spring-heeled Jack and leapt out again with a cheery "Sorry, mate!" The elegant, Gaultier-clad sex-meister chuckled softly, and I observed: "That looked like Jimmy Pursey."

"Oh, you know Jimmy?" he exclaimed. "We were just having lunch in Le Caprice! Let's call him in. Hey Jimmy!" he yelled, and Jimmy couldn't have bounced in more quickly if he'd been listening at the door. "She done me! I get to 39 wiv'aht having one and she done me!" he bellowed, pushing in young Jack William Pursey in a baby buggy, followed by wife and nanny. Mrs Pursey, who looked about 17, had just finished working with Zalman King on a film version of Delta of Venus. What's Zalman like as a director, I asked her, making the best of the bizarre interruption. She gave a shy smile, but didn't bother to open her mouth because Jimmy answered for her. We rapidly entered interview hell, with the tape spooling round, time passing and the unstoppable Jimmy mouthing off about films, music, fatherhood, and any stray thought that floated through his cranium.

But who is this Pursey fellow, you ask? Why, the grizzled old singer of punk band Sham 69 (sample lyric: "'Ersham boys, 'Ersham boys, laced- up boots and corduroys, they call us the Cockney caaaaah-boys!"). Still gigging, still belting it aht, although "Sham's so cold now, the audience has broken up into hippies, mods and skinheads, I don't like to look at 'em". I was glad to hear, when Jimmy finally packed up and headed for the door, that he had to get back to Hersham before tea time, but still, punk's favourite Cockney numbskull has evidently gone up in the world. After all, "We're going dahn Le Caprice" doesn't exactly have punk credibility. And there's still a chance that designer punk Jimmy will pop up some day in a sex film by Zalman King.

n BUT enough of this, and down to matters literary, and the Hay-on-Wye festival. Last week I settled myself in a bijou house-ette in the centre of Hay (well, Hay is all centre, really) and started taking in some of the events. Didn't fancy the Poetry Squantum. Firstly, it's a completely stupid name. Secondly, no sexy poets. Who the hell is Christopher Mills or Deryn Rees Jones? I'm sorry, if it isn't the Poet Laureate or that nice cuddly James Fenton I don't wanna know. And thirdly, listening to five poets starting to write a poem, in the middle of writing a poem and nattering about the poem they've just written strikes me as on a par with watching your tights dry. So instead ... Margaret Drabble proved surprisingly witty on the topic of Angus Wilson, bitterly railing at the numbers of people who've contacted her since her biography came out to say "If only you'd asked me, I could tell you a tale about Angus ..." The friend who wrote: "Angus's affair with Truman only lasted a few months, so won't be of interest for your book" only just saved his life by adding: "Joking!"

MOST of Hay packed into the Midland Marquee to hear rival crime writers Robin Odell and Martin Beales slug it out over the sensational case of the Hay Poisoner, Major Herbert Armstrong. Did he or did he not dispatch his wife with arsenic? Their polite acrimony ("With respect, Martin ..." "But that's just what he didn't do, Robin") was given added piquancy by the presence of Margaret Armstrong, the poisoner's daughter, who spoke movingly about her lifelong sense of stigma. Soon we were all pondering with authority such topics as the suspect box of chocolates, weedkiller, Mrs Armstrong's homeopathic medicines and the social make-up of 1920s Hay.

n "DOESN'T Antony Sher look old?" murmured everyone when a silvery-haired Old Testament prophet took the stage with Sarah Dunant - before we realised the legendary chameleon had merely undergone a bleach job for Titus Andronicus. Dunant herself has metamorphosed from a bespectacled blue-stocking into a wild gypsy-woman, with a riot of curls cascading down her back and a skittish demeanour. Her shower of superlatives ("This dangerous book ... What I think is so very brave about this book ... But this isn't a bad serial killer novel, it's a very good one") made even Sher, no stranger to self- esteem, look faintly alarmed. "Isn't he short?" we thought, gazing at Sher at the post-gig party in a tiny tent. After seeing him in last year's thumping great Tamburlaine the Zulu at the Barbican, it was rather a disappointment to watch him skipping daintily under the guy-ropes, glass in hand.

RICHARD Dawkins and Matt Ridley get the brain-baffling boffin award for their brilliant discussion about DNA and Darwinism.

The river of DNA that flows through time and through us; will a propensity to be incompetent in the use of contraceptives be the dominant characteristic of the future? Could you breed a parrot with the innate ability to say "Good Morning"? Dazzling concepts whizzed in the air above the conjuring pundits. Dawkins plea for science to be promoted as literature was scarcely necessary.

n A TOUCH of Dawkins magic might have lifted the Everyman Debate into something extraordinary too. What does, or should, constitute the canon (or cannon, as the programme had it) of literary classics? Dame Iris Murdoch and John Bayley looked like they'd wandered in from a daycare centre for the distressed, and promptly nominated, respectively, supernaturalist John Cowper Powys and comic novelist Barbara Pym. "Erm, isn't he rather pornographic?" interjected chairman Michael Schmidt of Carcanet publishers. "Yes, but with a gentle hand ... He enjoys himself," replied Dame Iris, mischievously. So it's not so much platonic dialogue in the Bayley household, as wife smouldering over a little light porn while hubby titters in the corner with his Barbara Pym.

SAW film director Bruce Robinson wandering about looking handsomely grizzled after his chat with Mark Lawson on screenwriting. Yeah! Respect! Withnail & I! This got me to thinking about a strange conversation I had recently with Richard E Grant. It appears that Grant, along with director Robinson, has been bearing a grudge for years against Geoff Andrew, film editor of Time Out, the London listings magazine. This animus has been festering ever since the release How to Get Ahead in Advertising, unfairly dished, quoth they, by the despised Andrew. Strangely, Grant seems to be under the impression that the portly Geoff is some kind of thrusting young cinephile. "Never mind," said Grant grimly, dismissing thoughts of the bounder with an impatient wave, "the way I see it, I'm a little bit older, bigger and richer than he is". Eyeing the slender, fresh-faced Grant and contemplating the bibulous Geoff in my mind's eye, I murmured, "Well, richer, certainly ..."

n CHRISTOPHER Fowler, the horror writer, was in the East End of London the other day, shooting a pic for the cover of his forthcoming novel, Psychoville. Pretty rum book it must be, but let that pass. The young- gun photographer, who specialises in wacky club flyers, has roped in two mad-looking models: the male a glistening slab of meat, the female 6ft 2ins, fierce and bald. In this shot she's wearing a blonde wig and outrageous outfit; she looks, so my chum says, "like Doris Day from hell". As they take the pics, two tinies trot by, heading off to school. "Oh look," says one of them. "It's Lily Savage!" It's come to something, hasn't it, when primary school children mistake perfectly normal women for drag queens.

Remember the gent I dispatched to Europerve in Amsterdam, having decided that the Hay festival was more my scene? He returned after four solid days of partying with a roll of film, clinical exhaustion and total amnesia. When we get the pictures from the developers his memory flickers back. Here you see Spick, formerly an Essex Man but now a pattern-cutter for DeMask, Europerve organisers and fashion designers. As you can see on the left, Spick got quite steamed up in his chemical warfare suit, which proved irresistible to the ladies; also pictured is Angela Murray from Murray & Vern, couturiers to the fetish set. The kinky crew reeled from party to party (some pix are, sadly, unpublishable), besporting themselves with some very surprised flamingoes at Amsterdam Zoo, rocking in the crypt of a church-cum-fetish club and outraging the Dutch with their vodka and lager consumption. The best overheard? Tired clubber to chap rummaging through his vinyl codpiece: "You're welcome to it mate. I've taken so much amphetamine I haven't seen it for two days."

Photograph by RICKY WELLS

THE LIST

MEAN MEANINGS: New

entries to Collins latest edition of its Concise Dictionary (published last week) offer a glimpse of joyless life in the Nineties. They include carjack; drive-by shooting; dysfunctional; ethnic cleansing; fundholding; gangsta rap (characterised by misogynous lyrics); grunge; generation X (born between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, highly educated and underemployed); nerd; quangocracy; slaphead; whammy; wuss (feeble person). Meanwhile, new definitions of old words demand user caution: jungle (now fast electronic dance music); mouse (computer tool); baggage (may be emotional and to be got rid of); mother (could be "of all battles").

TODAY is the feast day of Saint Petroc, sixth century abbot, a Welshman who came south with his followers and made his headquarters in Cornwall. Petroc lived as a hermit on Bodmin Moor and like many saints had an affinity with wild beasts. He is said to have tamed terrible monsters and even befriended a dragon from whose eye he removed a splinter. One day, deep in theological debate with Saint Wethinoc, a beautiful cloak came down from heaven. The two saints argued for hours that the other should have it, until, no doubt tired with the debate, God sent down a second cloak. Many Cornish churches are named after Petroc, including one in Bodmin from which a medieval casket said to contain his remains was stolen last year.

4 June, 1913: Emily Wilding Davison (above), fell under the king's horse at the Derby. She had been trying to catch the reins in order to attach a suffragette banner. One of the most militant members of the movement, she had been arrested eight times for activities which included stone- throwing, setting fire to letter boxes and attacking a Baptist minister whom she mistook for Lloyd George. Born in 1872 in Blackheath, Emily was an English graduate who had worked as a governess and teacher before being converted to the cause of women's suffrage. In 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst was on hunger strike and expected to die. Emily intended to provoke a ninth arrest in order to make a speech in court about Mrs Pankhurst's situation, but died of her injuries four days after the accident. Thousands of people accompanied her coffin through London.

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