John Walsh: Simon Cowell, the Booker awaits you

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I went to the Man Booker Prize dinner at the Guildhall on Tuesday and bags of fun it was: the crush of 500-plus literary titans, agents, publishers and alternative-investment managers from the Man Group, the hot frocks of the ladies (the top three were wrapped around Amanda Ross of the TV Book Club, Mariella Frostrup and the poet and gossip writer Olivia Cole), the yummy rump of lamb, the sound of the impeccably patrician Sir Jonathan Lloyd distastefully trying the words "podcast," "app" and "available for download" on his tongue before confessing: "I find myself on unfamiliar ground here."

Then there was the chocolate pudding, the little videos of the final six authors discussing their work in what looked like a draughty and deserted art gallery, the caterers' gratifying commitment to quantity of wine (gallons) rather than quality (Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz), and the rumour that former winner Alan Hollinghurst was heard asking his publisher if his new novel will qualify for the 2011 Booker or the 2012...

The huge shout that greeted the announcement of Howard Jacobson's victory, however, was new – it was the kind of yell you hear from a crowded pub when England have scored the 89th-minute winner against Argentina. Also unusual was the little hiatus after Sir Andrew Motion, chair of judges, said: "The winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize is..." But the Tantalising Pause is, of course, completely standard in reality TV shows, from Masterchef to I'm a Celebrity... And I wonder if the Booker ceremony will become less elevated and more televisual in the future.

Imagine it: "The Text Factor 2013". Random floodlights pierce the darkness. Hurtling cameras zoom in on heftily made-over, shortlisted authors as they turn their heads to gaze sulkily at the lens, while a wind machine softly agitates their blow-dried hair. One by one they read from their works, while the audience noisily whoops, almost drowning out their words. At the judges' table, Louis Walsh, sorry, Mark Lawson, struggles to make himself heard: "Salman, I've watched you improve on every step of this journey, and you're close to realising your dream tonight..."







A bit of the old razzle-dazzle

The world of the yacht-owning super-rich never ceases to amaze. What, for instance, happens to yachts in times of global recession? Do their owners look around their opulent state rooms with rotating circular beds, their extravagantly furnished grand saloons and wraparound-windowed bridges, their umpteen pools, their helicopter-landing pad and mini-submarine, and think: "Hmmm. This is costing $3.5m a year just to maintain. Am I sure this is the best possible use of my money?"

According to the new Vanity Fair, some owners do have such qualms – and then find that there's nobody in the world to whom they can sell them on, so they're stuck with their 200ft floating white elephant. How tragic that is. How we weep for them. But one clever solution occurred to the Cypriot construction tycoon Dakis Joannou. He was planning his fifth yacht a couple of years ago, when he met the US artist Jeff Koons, who is best known for his glass figurines of himself and his ex-wife Ilona having sex, but who commands the biggest auction prices of any living artist.

Joannou asked Koons if he had any ideas about colour. Koons said, "Razzle Dazzle", which was the term used for camouflaging battleships in the First World War. Joannou commissioned Koons to go ahead – and the result is the weirdest-looking yacht you've ever seen. From a distance it resembles an explosion in a Liquorice Allsorts factory; close up, it seems to be constructed from Lego. But because it's a Koons original – the biggest Koons artwork in the world – its value is far more likely to increase rather than depreciate, no matter how knackered the engines become, or how threadbare the furnishings. Ingenious, I think you'll agree. God forbid it should, you know, sink or something.







It's enough to make me lose my appetite

The news that the management of Pizza Express has hired an actor called Karl to train its waiters and waitresses in the art of flirting should strike terror in the hearts of the chain's loyal customers. I've eaten there about a million times over the years and the transaction at the table is always the same. The waiter offers a menu. You wave it away, uttering the words: "American Hot please, and a glass of Nero D'Avola." Your companions or children utter their own (invariable, week-after-week) pizza choices. The waiter goes away and, thereafter, all he ever says to you is "black pepper?"

Do you really want to have a waiter sidle up to you in his blue and white stripey uniform, gaze into your eyes and say, "Hiiiii. Can I interest you in a hot Sloppy Giuseppe?" Would you like to have the waitress whisper in your ear: "You wanna try a Leggera, big boy? It's got a hole in it"? Do you want your fragrant lady friend to be assailed by impertinent suggestions that she could do with something hot inside her? Of course not. And one shudders to think what liberties could be taken with dough balls.

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