Replying to a request for an interview from Lynn Barber, Lucian Freud wrote, "I see no reason why I should be shat on by a stranger." It says something of Freud's dislike of publicity that the reply that another journalist, Geordie Greig, received to his request could be considered, by contrast, something of a breakthrough: "Dear Mr Greig, Your suggestion of interviewing me for my Tate show next year makes me sick. But if I am alive then I will consider it."
Freud saw no point in submitting to journalistic portraiture. It's hard to say – without having ever met him, since his assistant last year very politely refused my request – exactly why he avoided press, but it's likely to be as simple an explanation as just having so much damn work to do. Freud did occasionally give in and agree to talk to journalists, but usually under circumstances that deflected the attention away from himself (for instance being interviewed together with his friend the painter Frank Auerbach).
For most of his celebrated years though he was a member of the exclusive club that hope that their work, and work alone, will resonate with the public, and that no sharp-witted intermediary is necessary. What difference would a Lucian Freud soundbite about David Cameron's policies or Tracey Emin's quilts have made? Nothing at all, I'm bound to admit – and the more interviews one gives, the less those soundbites matter.
Plenty of others besides Freud have, wherever possible, avoided interviews and yet enjoyed fame and success. Think of Kate Moss, Banksy, Alan Bennett, Paul Scholes and Jonathan Ive (the inventor of the iPod and Apple's best-kept secret, just in case you couldn't picture his face). Rebekah Brooks was doing pretty well ducking interviews until recently, and so was Andy Coulson. Then there are those for whom No always meant No: Thomas Pynchon, or Harper Lee, who never gave an interview for 50 years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Jackie O spoke not a single word in public about JFK's murder. The Queen has never deigned – and why should she? Whether through shyness, cynicism about the press, lack of time or as part of a careful PR plan, interview avoidance far from diminishes fame and allure.
The face-to-face encounter won't die, though, simply because the best of them are too much fun to both write and read. I also take some heart in the arrival of a new European edition of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine – the original featured celebrities in conversation with each other – due to launch in 2012. Yet I have a grudging respect for those like Freud who have rarely given us the chance to get close. Petulantly, the press often end labelling these people "hermits" when they are far from it. JM Coetzee is called "a recluse" but according to those who've met him, he is simply not interested in doing publicity. The same goes for Kate Bush, who shockingly only gave one interview for her last album. "I'm not some weirdo recluse," she was forced to insist to Mojo magazine (in an interview long enough that they were able to splash it over 16 pages).
Often, there's a very sensible reason for celebrity reticence. In 1980 a schoolboy reporter managed to get an interview with Steve McQueen, who had turned away from publicity late in his career. What's the reason for your silence, asked the young hack. "For one thing, I don't have anything to say," apologised McQueen. Paul Scholes might have said the same thing before overcoming his shyness in 2004 to answer a reporter's question about his typical day: "Train in the morning, pick up my children from school, play with them, have tea, put them to bed and then watch a bit of TV." Hold the front page....
Can we see a bit more of this royal wedding?
It's a shame we won't be able to watch it live on BBC1, or enjoy an extra day off work, but I'm rather looking forward to the non-royal Royal Wedding of the summer. Apologies to those of you who aren't yet aware of this happy event (this isn't the Telegraph after all).
On Saturday, Zara Phillips, who is not a royal, not officially anyway, and Mike Tindall, captain of the England rugby team, are getting hitched up in Edinburgh at Canongate Kirk. The whole affair is very much not being underwritten by the taxpayer – aside from the sizeable security bill covering the core members of the Royal Family – and the sense of lèse-majesté begins on Friday night at a pre-wedding party on the former Royal Yacht Britannia, decommissioned to many regal tears in 1997. The next day, the Queen is hiring out Holyroodhouse for the reception, despite it actually belonging to her.
The economies don't end there. Under pressure from HM, Zara has reportedly been forced to turn down a £1m deal with Hello! magazine. It's far from the £100 wedding lately being promoted by the Rev David Newton of Gilderstone Baptist Church, but adds some weight to Tindall's recent claim that our royals are "good, fun people, all of them. They're just a normal family." If only they'd let us gawp a bit more, as at any other regular multimillionaire WAG wedding.
Pub-quiz team names that capture the zeitgeist
Thanks to reader Alan Perry, who shared my pain at trying to come up with pub quiz team names that are at once witty and fitting. Some might say the latter, at least, was well covered in our name "Malakas" – the friendly Greek form of address that, confusingly, means both "mate" and (apologies for the less nuanced English translation here) "wanker". Alan wrote to tell me his team name is also The Malakas, but that I might consider a variation, another that's a timely choice for the holiday season. "Did you know that the word "pajero", as in the Mitsubishi make of car, is the Spanish for malaka?" Thanks Alan, I'll give it a spin.Reuse content