Guy Adams: In the land where free speech is sacrosanct

LA Notebook
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The Independent Online

I've no idea whether Warren Beatty really has slept with 12,775 women, as claimed in a new biography. But I do know that I really, really enjoyed reading the gory details of how the 72-year-old star lost his virginity at 20 and then supposedly seduced an average of one new female a day throughout the ensuing 35 years before settling down in 1992 to faithful domesticity with his current wife, Annette Bening.

Mr Beatty is particularly partial to spanking, claims Peter Biskind's scholarly tome, and has devoted life away from the screen to sexual encounters including "daytime quickies, drive bys [and] casual gropings." His libido even prompted Joan Collins to end their relationship because, "I don't think I can last much longer. He never stops. It must be all those vitamins he takes."

These revelations, I think, belong to a brand so extravagant that they could only belong in Hollywood. Where else, after all, would Mr Beatty have been able to seduce (among others) Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Julie Christie, Madonna and Carly Simon – who chronicled his bedroom manner in the song "You're So Vain"?

Where else, more to the point, would Mr Biskind have found a publisher willing to put his biography into print? Not in Britain, that's for sure. Mr Beatty has claimed the book contains "many false allegations" and most UK celebrities, in his shoes, would have already applied for an injunction and be hoping for a disgustingly large compensation cheque.

Americans do things differently, though. Despite it being a comically litigious nation in most other respects, libel and privacy laws here are oddly liberal. Indeed, it's virtually impossible for a public figure to sue a writer or journalist. Free speech, in other words, is considered sacrosanct.

Interestingly, people who defend Britain's laws say that without them public figures would be unable to defend their reputations. But America's celebrity classes do fine without them. In fact, for all his complaints, I can right now think of about 12,775 reasons why Warren Beatty's market value has never been higher.

The 'diet' that's not a diet

Taco BellL, the ubiquitous purveyor of pseudo-Mexican junk food, is bombarding US consumers with adverts starring a woman called Christine Dougherty who claims to have lost 54 pounds on what the chain calls its "drive thru diet".

This involves eating lots of cheap tacos in which (and here's the "healthy" bit) the normal cheese topping has been replaced with salsa. Taco Bell's small print, which presumably they think customers will be too stupid to read, carries my favourite disclaimer of modern times: the "diet" regime "is not a weight loss programme".