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Celebrities vs. Journalists: This was the week that Alec Baldwin and Rihanna fought back

Trading personal insults with journos on Twitter is a fool's game

Celebrity never sleeps, so it was perhaps inevitable that one of the Hollywood elite would step up and try to upstage James Gandolfini at his own funeral. There is, it seems, no occasion too sombre that an actor won’t think about pulling focus from the main attraction, even if that main attraction is a corpse. 

So it happened that while most mourners were still digesting vol-au-vents and reflecting on the good times, one, Alec Baldwin, embarked on an angry rampage in full view of the world, trampling memories of tender eulogies and tears underfoot like the Incredible Hulk with a hangover. The trigger – and with the irascible actor, there doesn’t need to be much of a trigger – was an article on Mail Online which suggested that his wife, Hilaria, had been tweeting about yoga, smoothies and romance during the funeral service on Thursday.

With a wilful disregard for irony, Baldwin instantly took to Twitter to defend her honour. It began with the sort of lame, sub-gangster cyberthreat – “Someone wrote that my wife was tweeting at a funeral. Hey. That’s not true. But I’m gonna tweet at your funeral” – that would have Tony Soprano spinning in his grave. It soon spiralled into something nastier. Minute by minute, his ire grew – “I’m gonna find you George Stark, you toxic little queen. And I’m gonna fuck… you… up” – until he finally exploded and did the unthinkable – deleted his Twitter account. By that time, he had become the story.

Baldwin has form, of course. He was notoriously caught on answerphone calling his 11-year-old daughter “a rude, thoughtless little pig”. And when the theatre critic of The New York Times deemed his recent Broadway turn in Orphans a “mutating cartoon of a performance”, he responded with a review of the reviewer on the Huffington Post.  “Ben Brantley… is not a good writer. [He is] an odd, shrivelled, bitter Dickensian clerk who has sought to assemble a compendium of essays on theatre, the gist of which often have no relationship to the events onstage themselves.” He has what they call in LA “anger issues”.

Baldwin is not the only celebrity to hit the warpath this week. Rihanna was incensed by an article (in the Daily Mail) which branded her a “poisonous pop princess” and questioned her “toxic” influence on young girls and her fashion sense that “invites rape”. Retaliating via Instagram, the pop star described the journalist Liz Jones as “amateur”, “bitter” and a “sad, sloppy menopausal mess”. The whole episode should probably be locked up, along with Sex and the City 2 and the cupcake craze, in a box labelled “Embarrassing Moments in the History of Womankind” and forgotten about.

But that is a difficult thing to do. The lines of communication have opened up, and the considered right of reply has been replaced by knee-jerk responses tapped out in anger. There is no such thing as tomorrow’s fish and chip paper any more. One bad news story can rumble on in an echo chamber of insults for days, but hurling personal slurs at a professional writer is a fool’s game. Whether Baldwin’s wife was tweeting from the pews or not is irrelevant. It must be infuriating to read negative stories about oneself and one’s loved ones, but there is a time and a place for retaliation, and in the wake of a wake is not it. Here, as in most cases, a dignified silence would have been the best response. But then no one ever stole the limelight by staying silent.

Lay off the sweet things, or you'll get toothache

There was a magically shrinking child and another magically expanding one. There were raving Oompa Loompas, a flying glass lift and rivers of molten chocolate. And there were costumes so bright and sets so toothsome they gave you spots in front of your eyes. What there wasn’t, though, was a single good song. Which is a shame because Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is supposed to be a musical.

The show, directed by Sam Mendes, opened in the West End this week to a red carpet which buckled beneath hype, a hundred A-listers and Barbara Windsor. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to it. It looked magnificent – the designers having run riot in the props department like kids in a sweetshop. Beneath the brilliant surface, though, the theatrical pickings were slim.

I hesitate to say this in a time of spending reviews, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might prove that it is possible to splash too much cash on a show. Roald Dahl’s tale of greedy Augustus Gloop and spoiled Veruca Salt preaches the virtues of moderation and making the best of what little you have – even if, like Charlie Bucket, it’s simply a head full of dreams. With this sickly, over-the-top spectacle, Mendes and co have totally missed the message.