Guy Adams: One Englishman the US doesn't like

LA Notebook
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The Independent Online

I know we're still meant to be purring contentedly about Danny, Kate, and all the other local triumphs, but I wanted to share news of a British export to California who has been stealing headlines for all the wrong reasons.

His name is Stephen Fowler and until very recently, he was a prosperous, respectable ex-pat. Then he appeared on the US version of Wife Swap – and in a single hour of television caused more damage to Anglo-American relations than the Boston Tea Party.

Fowler, an environmental entrepreneur, shared his house in San Francisco with Gayla Long, a homely, burger-chomping, truck-driving mother-of-four from a town called Randolph (pop: 55) in rural Missouri. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a clattering snob, who repeatedly criticised Long's weight, told her "your two languages seem to be bad English and redneck" and at one point boasted: "I probably earn more in a week than you do in a year."

In a particularly unfortunate incident that has since gone viral on YouTube, Fowler added: "What's wrong with the United States is that in the middle of the country, people are, frankly, just like you... under-educated, over-opinionated, and overweight."

This slur caused ructions. Since the show aired, Fowler was thrown off the board of two charities, received death threats (after his phone number was published by the Facebook group "I cannot stand Stephen Fowler"), and inspired a website: www.stephenfowlersucks.com.

Midwestern newspapers have meanwhile dubbed him a "pompous British ass" and "smug, arrogant, elitist English bastard".

That much may be true. But a small (and perhaps patriotic) part of me does wonder if Mr Fowler's middle-American critics, who are no-doubt impeccably educated, ever heard the old Shakespearean saying about protesting too much.

Who's laughing now?

Top local "suit" Peter Chernin's exit from News Corp came as a mild surprise. Last week, one of Fleet Street's sharpest Los Angeles correspondents received a solid tip that he was leaving – but a spokesman for Rupert Murdoch's firm brazenly claimed that the suggestion was "laughable".

Applause for thought

Spotted from the press gallery at Sunday's Oscars: several men employed to patrol the red-carpet carrying luminous placards saying: "Applause!"

Upon the arrival of a guest who was not sufficiently famous to be instantly recognised, they were raised – and the dutiful crowd responded with a barrage of squeaky cheers. It is perhaps a sign of the times that the signs needed raising for Sir Ben Kingsley, (veteran of 50 films, and former Oscar winner), but not for Brit-packer Robert Pattinson (leading roles one, Oscars: nil).

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