Editor-At-Large: Better a quick death than a painful life

Tony Scott was a lovely bloke in a town full of creeps, and generous to his crews

Share

I'm not sure why the death of Tony Scott affected me so much, but it has. We met in the Seventies when he was a top advertising director – he used my house to shoot a bra commercial in which glamorous semi-naked women played snooker. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. We don't know exactly why he chose to end his life by jumping off a bridge in Los Angeles – a dramatic gesture that seems to echo a scene from one of his brash action movies – but in death he made headlines in a way his recent output seldom achieved. His biggest hit, Top Gun, made in 1986, had obvious shortcomings – the relationship between Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise never seemed that believable. But Georgio Moroder's hot soundtrack and Scott's over-the-top editing style were a potent mix, and millions of us were seduced by this luscious piece of brilliant entertainment. Forty-eight hours before his death, Scott had met Tom Cruise to discuss a sequel.

By all accounts he was a lovely bloke in a town full of creeps – hospitable, generous to his crews, happily married with 12-year-old twin sons. He is said to have left notes in his car for his family. There are rumours he was suffering from inoperable brain cancer and had not told anyone. If that's the case (and it was denied by his wife), was choosing death selfish or understandable? Is it cruel to deny your children a father, or kind to spare them the sight of their dad deteriorating horribly before their eyes?

Tony Scott wasn't much older than me – and his death has made me worry about what quality of life is worth pursuing. He lived in a town where youth is king, where macho men rule the roost. He smoked huge cigars every day, drove fast cars, collected powerful motorbikes and thought nothing of climbing a sheer rock face. His life was as brash and high volume as his movies. Was he, like so many of my generation of baby boomers, a Peter Pan who couldn't face imperfection – who decided it was better to go out with a bang than a fizzle?

Last weekend, I had dinner with a doctor who charges rich people €3,500 for a full body scan, and then tells his patients what tumours they are likely to develop and what lifestyle they should adopt to prolong their lives. He personally only ate one meal a day, and was advocating a restricted diet, favouring certain fruits and vegetables. It all sounded a bit repulsive to me – if you're wealthy enough and prepared to shun a whole load of enjoyable activities like drinking and eating, then maybe you can hang around till you're 90. Would I do that? Years of discipline in the vain hope of buying a bit longer on the planet?

Plenty of people do – my friend eats raw chillies every night, sprinkles linseed on his fruit, and drinks gallons of hot water every morning, his secret for longevity. Tony Nicklinson wanted the right to say he'd had enough. Tony Scott seems to have decided that a quick end is preferable to a slow and painful one. I think about death every day. And I'm in Scott's camp.

Bottom's up

My partner's favourite television series of all time is Bottom, starring Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. The boxed set sits in pride of place next to the telly, and he watches the show mouthing Richie and Eddie's every word from memory, laughing uncontrollably as two dishevelled incoherent men hit each other brutally for hour after hour. Bottom is a man thing – a cult that completely bypasses 90 per cent of the female audience, like Men Behaving Badly, or Robson Green's Extreme Fishing. There was huge rejoicing last week in our house at the news the BBC is reuniting Rik and Ade in Hooligan's Island, to be transmitted in 2013, 18 years after the original series ended.

Leigh Francis's alter ego, Keith Lemon, is the modern version of Bottom – I once foolishly agreed to appear on his panel show Celebrity Juice, and decided afterwards I'd never work with children, animals or Mr Lemon again. He insisted on calling me Margaret and farting every time I spoke. Keith is filthy 100 per cent of the time, and is very persuasive (obviously, he got me to participate in his "fun"). In his new film, gorgeous Kelly Brook appears in bed with him, and Fearne Cotton, Chris Moyles, Jedward and Peter Andre all contribute. I am almost tempted to see this movie, after it received terrible reviews and one critic described it as "the most staggeringly perfunctory piece of filmmaking I have ever seen". I doubt that will deter its target (male) audience.

Wise Elisabeth

In 1995 I delivered the prestigious MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival and my comments about working in an industry dominated by the "M people" (male, mediocre, middle-class, middle-aged) made headlines around the world. Gradually, women rose to real positions of power – Liz Forgan was appointed Director of Programmes at Channel 4, Dawn Airey took the same role at the new Channel 5, and Jana Bennett became Director of Vision at the BBC.

But in the cosy world of the luvvies running this event, time stood still, in spite of age and gender issues constantly making headlines: the removal of Arlene Phillips from Strictly, the sidelining of Miriam Phillips from Countryfile and research showing that the BBC has far too many male faces onscreen in their news and factual coverage. No further women were thought suitable to give this lecture – until last week, when Elisabeth Murdoch used it to defend the BBC and the licence fee, unlike her father and brother who used the same platform to rubbish the corporation. She kicked off by wondering how much I had offended the committee, berating them for taking 17 years to ask another female.

It will probably take another decade to find another acceptable woman. And she will probably be the next Director General

Thumbs down

Northumberland has a beautiful coastline with miles of sands and photogenic Holy Island, atmospheric castles, from Bamburgh to Dunstanburgh to Alnwick, and millions of acres of empty fells and hills for solitary walking – a fabulous destination in all weathers. But some misguided county councillors think they have a better way to attract visitors – promoting the country as a cheap booze destination for Scots when the minimum price of alcohol north of the border is fixed at 50p a unit from April next year. They reckon towns such as Carlisle, Berwick and Morpeth, will be flooded with savvy scots shoppers pending just £3.50 on a bottle of wine compared to at least £4.70 back home, and plan to set aside money for an advertising campaign. Are these the kind of tourists local tea shops, hotels and B&Bs want? I very much doubt it.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Bookkeeper

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Small Family Accountancy Practi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £50,000

£18000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is recruiting for ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager / Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B software supplier, spe...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Application Analyst - Data, SQL

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing SaaS (Softwar...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

'You’re just jealous', and other common misconceptions about the Protein World advert

Hannah Atkinson
Dave Brown's cartoon for the 28 April edition of The Independent  

After five years of completely flaccid leadership, I'm glad something 'pumps up' David Cameron

Joe Sandler Clarke
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence