Miles Kington Remembered: How a famous court case became a soup opera

Answer me yes or no. Do you deny that you are aiming at celebrity status through your restaurantactivities?
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The Independent Online

(4 November 1999.) Today I bring you the last extract from the sensational High Court case in which an ordinary diner-out, Ernest Thesaurus, is suing the celebrity chef Oskar Louis Polo. In an unexpected twist yesterday, counsel accused Mr Thesaurus of attempting to become the first celebrity restaurant customer. As Mr Thesaurus reeled, counsel pressed home his advantage.

Counsel: Answer me yes or no. Do you deny that you are aiming at celebrity through your restaurant activities?

Thesaurus: How is it possible to become famous merely by eating out?

Counsel: Oh, it is easily done.

Thesaurus: Give an example.

Counsel: Certainly. Mr A A Gill became notorious for being barred by certain restaurants.

Thesaurus: OK, I'll give you that one. But give me another example.

Counsel: Certainly. Mr Michael Winner is famous for his restaurant behaviour.

Thesaurus: Mmmm. Touché. But how do you suggest I myself am intending to become famous?

Counsel: By recourse to the law courts. This action against the celebrity chef Oskar Louis Polo represents one avenue to fame for you. But you have other court cases pending, do you not?

Thesaurus: Do I?

Counsel: I think so. I think you have an action pending against The Corn Dolly Tearooms, for serving scones made of genetically modified wheatflour.

Thesaurus: Ah. Yes, that is so.

Counsel: And against television chef Antonio Pintadini, on the unusual grounds of excess hygiene in his kitchens.

Thesaurus: Yes, I believe undue hygiene can kill inspiration.

Counsel: You have an action against The Ivy restaurant, on the grounds that it is wrong for a restaurant to be named after a poisonous plant. I believe that you have half a dozen other actions pending against eating establishments. There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this. You are aiming at cheap notoriety!

Thesaurus: There is nothing cheap about bringing such an action.

Counsel: Alright! You are aiming at expensive notoriety. Are you not suing a branch of McDonald's restaurants?

Judge: Is that true?

Thesaurus: Yes, my Lord. I am suing them on the grounds that they are not entitled to the name.

Judge: Not entitled to be called McDonald's?

Thesaurus: No, my Lord. Not entitled to be called "restaurants". The name "restaurant" presupposes the creative input of a chef. As no such thing exists at a McDonald's, where everything is pre-packed and pre-supplied, they should not use the name "restaurant".

At this point there was an uproar in the public gallery, with much shouting.

Judge: What on earth is going on? Who are these people?

Chorus: We are the McDonald's legal team, my Lord, the most feared bunch of prosecutors in the world – outside, perhaps, the ruthless French law team that protects the name of "champagne" – and we warn you that any scandal uttered against our hamburger heaven clients will be stamped on ruthlessly!

Judge: You seem remarkably litigious.

Chorus: Oh be warned, be warned! It is also scandalous to call someone litigious! We are always ready and eager to sue anyone who calls us litigious!

Judge: While in my court, you will sit down, stay quiet and not make cooking smells or leave greasy wrapping-paper behind. I will not have my courtroom turned into another episode of The Archers."

More uproar and shouting.

Judge: Enough! You McDonald's lawyers must be booted out.

Chorus: We are not McDonald's lawyers! We are a completely different set of trouble-makers. We are The Archers Fan Club, and we resent your implication that what has gone on this week on radio has been merely a soap-opera trial. The trial of Tommy Archer has been a more instructive case than most real court cases, including, if we may say so, this one!

Judge: You may not say so! You are all guilty of contempt! At times I wish they hadn't banned capital punishment! Clear the court! Case adjourned! Book me a table for one at the Ritz for lunch!

The case of Thesaurus vs Oskar Louis Polo may be resumed soon, but not, I think, in this space.

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