Miles Kington: Osama and Madonna; a phone call away from reinvention

'Did you propose Madonna as a model to Osama bin Laden? Not very tactful'. 'He adores her', said Adrian. 'He's got all her videos and singles'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I had to go up to London the other day to take part in a pro-Iraq war demonstration just outside Westminster (they treated us very well, I must say) when who should I bump into while walking down Whitehall but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street. Adrian is in PR, an industry which has attracted its fair share of criticism, but as he has often said to me: "A profession which has attracted David Cameron and Lady Wessex to its ranks can't be all bad. Or do I mean, can't be any good?"

Adrian was walking down the street talking on his mobile phone to someone, though it was difficult to tell whether he was having a good time or not. I have often noticed in Britain that we British have very little telephone body language. It is impossible to tell from a distance if a call is going well or not. On the Continent it is quite different. The Spanish and Italians, and French too, gesticulate a lot when they are talkingand they have translated this habit to the world of mobile phones and do all their shrugging and going pouf! even when the other person can't see them doing it.

So I fell in step beside Adrian to try to hear what he was talking about. "Yes, I realise you have had a low profile these last few months, Osama," he was saying. "I know you feel I should have got you in the papers more. But it's not entirely my fault..."

He stopped. I stopped.

"You'll have to step out of your cave, Osama. The reception is not very good. You're breaking up..."

However, contact had been broken and Adrian switched his mobile off. "What was all that about, Adrian? You're not still representing Osama bin Laden,are you?" "Come and have a fruit tea and I'll tell you all about it," he said, and he steered me into a place called Camomile Lawn which I can thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes having little bits of dried fruit put in a paper sachet and soaked in boiling water for five minutes, then drinking the residue.

"Poor old Osama is like any other fading celebrity," said Adrian. "He is desperate to stay in the limelight. When other people are given the credit for 9/11, he wants to tear their eyes out. He is insisting on putting out yet another video putting the record straight, as he puts it. Osama, baby, I tell him, nobody ever believes people when they say they are putting the record straight. Anyway, isn't it about time you DID something?"

"Me?" I said. "Like what?"

"Not you, twit," said Adrian. "Our friend, Osama. Between you and me, he has been basking in the reflected glory of 9/11 for far too long."

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You want Osama bin Laden to do another big bombing? Just to get back in the news?"

"You're twisting my words," he said. "You can get back in the news without killing people. Madonna is doing it. She's back on a world tour which features her in a Crucifixion pose. You wouldn't think Madonna would be back on top, but there she is. She hasn't sung songs from the Cross before, you know."

"Did you propose Madonna as a model to Osama bin Laden?" I said. "Nor very tactful. Christianity is not his dream creed, you know."

"He adores Madonna," said Adrian. "He's got all her videos, and singles, Osama has. Not as a singer, of course. But as a mistress of reinvention. That's why I want Osama to reinvent himself." "As what?"

"As an eco-warrior," said Adrian. "I want him to battle against global warming, for the rain forests. Be a champion of the greens. Look at David Attenborough. Eighty years old, and on the front of the papers this week! He has finally come out and said that we humans are laying the place waste. Bingo - the headlines! The Prince of Wales is using the same technique. So is David Cameron..."

"Still," I said, "Osama bin Laden as a force for good? Osama the Saviour? That's going to take some getting used to. I know you are good at representing hopeless cases but..."

His phone rang again. "Hello? Hello? Radovan! Radovan Karadjic! How the devil are you? Look, I've had an idea..." I let him to it. It's a tough life in PR.