Best buds Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un: He isn't the first to cuddle up to a dictator

Some people will do anything for money

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Let's face it, we've all done it: had a few too many sherberts and then gone on record to defend a murderous despot who's had one of our compatriots banged up for no good reason. So we can all have felt for ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman, who's attracted global opprobium for his comments about Kenneth Bae, the Korean-American doing 15 years' hard labour in North Korea for allegedly trying to overthrow the state.

Rodman had tried to make the case that Bae deserved all he'd got, but he rapidly backtracked, blaming the booze for his ridiculous outburst. Still, his bromance with Kim Jong-un shows no sign of abating. Last year, Rodman paid the first of several visits to see his new best mate, implying that he was planning to lobby on Bae's behalf. Termed "basketball diplomacy", it brought to mind an outburst from the American reporter Gloria Emerson, interviewing John Lennon in 1970 about his peace campaign. "You've made yourself look ridiculous," she sneered. "If it saves lives..." he began, but she cut him dead: "Oh, my dear boy, you don't think you've saved a single life, do you?"

Rodman has made further visits to see the person he calls "a good-hearted kid" - apart from talking about Kenneth Bae, this most recent one involved singing "Happy Birthday to you" to Kim at a basketball game. That'll be the same "good-hearted kid" who recently had his own uncle executed.

Perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on Rodman, who's following a rich American tradition of supping with the devil (actually, it's not just Americans: there was our own Gorgeous George Galloway kow-towing to Saddam Hussain back in the 1980s). Mariah Carey's a repeat offender: in December she did a gig in Angola for President Eduardo dos Santos, who has a habit of having dissidents thrown into crocodile-infested rivers, and whose daughter has somehow managed to become Africa's richest woman.

That wasn't the first time Carey's sung for dodgy punters: in 2008 she performed for the Gaddafi family at a New Year's Eve party, although she did apologise and promised that the royalties to her song "Save the Day" would be donated to a human rights organisation. The next New Year's Eve the Gaddafis got Beyonce, while Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Lionel Ritchie and Timbaland are others to have taken what activists call "dictator cash" from the fallen Libyan ruling family, though Beyonce, 50 Cent and Furtado later gave their fees to charity.

And there are more: Kanye West sang at a birthday party for the grandson of the Kazakhstan dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev; Jennifer Lopez apologised for singing "Happy Birthday" to the notorious president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymkhamedov; Sting appeared at a festival organised by the daughter of the Uzbek president Islam Karimov; Seal crooned at a birthday party for the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov; and Michael Jackson agreed to make a rcord with the King of Bahrain's son (though he was later sued for breach of contract). Is there a conclusion to be drawn from this? An all too simple one: some people will do anything for money.

Next week: Cliff Richard at an al-Qaida stag do…

Video: Rodman sings 'Happy Birthday'

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