Terence Blacker: When truth and its showbiz cousin collide

Share
Related Topics

The shaggy media millionaire and poet Felix Dennis has just confessed to murder. In a newspaper interview with Ginny Dougary, he told of an event, some 25 years ago, when a man he knew behaved so badly and violently towards a woman and her children that Dennis decided to take action. "In the end, I had a little meeting with him, pushed him over the edge of a cliff," he recalled. "Weren't hard... I killed him. That's all you need to know."

At the time, Dennis was happy for this boast to be on the record but later he retracted it as "hogwash", claiming he was drunk and suffering from the side-effects of prescription drugs when he talked to Dougary. Nonetheless the interview, murder and all, has been published. Dennis, rather sensibly, has let it be known through a spokesman that he will not be suing. The police are said to be uninterested.

Did the murder take place? Or was the old scallywag goosing up his own interview with a bit of fantasy violence? Nobody, it seems, particularly cares. At a time when the distinction between conventional reality and versions of "reality" presented as media entertainment are becoming increasingly blurred, it is the story that matters more than any kind of boring, objective truth.

Book publishers spotted this trend some time ago. What readers have always wanted is a story but today they are more demanding. Fiction is no longer quite enough. The dangerous edge of real pain, suffering, fear and, of course, redemption is what is needed. So memoirs, abused childhood, Holocaust survival, terrible experiences in the criminal underworld, are what sell. Significantly, when some of the stories turn out to be fake – and a distinct whiff of exploitation hangs over the entire genre – public enthusiasm abated not one whit.

On the occasions when real life collides with its dodgy showbiz cousin, there is only one outcome: fakery wins every time. This week has seen the resolution of an intriguing legal battle between a New Yorker called Jeffrey Lemerond and the film company that produced Borat. In a staged incident, Lemerond was provoked by Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character and lost his temper. The scene appeared in the film and in its marketing. Lemerond argued that someone going about his daily business should not be subjected to international humiliation and ridicule and have no redress against those making money out of his embarrassment. No dice. A judge has thrown out the case, concluding that the sequence was "newsworthy".

But there are still a few people who cling to the old-fashioned idea that things that are filmed are not necessarily more important or significant than the quiet, small stuff of everyday existence.

A mayor in Chile has caused amusement by disrupting the production of the new James Bond film in his town of Baquedano. No film company, he said, should have the right to take over an entire town, banning people from the streets and enforcing its rules with the help of special forces and water cannon. Portraying a Chilean town as Bolivian, "even in a fictional film", could cause misunderstanding and difficulties in real life, he said.

This man should be invited to the next Oscars ceremony to remind those bigheads of the media that, in spite of their best efforts, the world is not yet a film set. According to Carlos, Daniel Craig, as the great James Bond, was rather less than heroic as the mayor made his unscheduled appearance. Bond fled. Now and then, reality has the last laugh.

No problem with this Maria

Anyone who believes that the best kind of music is not primarily classical, jazz, or pop, straight or experimental, old or new, but simply good music, should try to get down to London Bridge, where the extraordinary Maria Friedman is appearing at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

With the help of a razor-sharp 11-piece band, Friedman, left, sings a genre-busting selection of songs from composers as various as Henry Purcell, Randy Newman, Suzanne Vega, Stephen Sondheim, Kate Bush and Jacques Brel. It is the kind of intense, intimate evening which the fringe theatre does best – a joyous, moving celebration of love, life and, above all, music. She is there until 4 May.

* Yet another revered British institution is under threat. The construction worker, with his cheery wolf-whistle of appreciation at passing women, has been deemed to be out of step with 21st-century life, by none other than the building company George Wimpey.

"Savvy and sophisticated" women visiting a Wimpey home are likely to put off by navvies whistling at them, according to the firm's marketing director. Their partners may find it insulting. There will probably be outrage. Surely, it will be said, savvy, sophisticated women and their sensitive menfolk can look after themselves.

But, as Wimpy has recognised, the wolf-whistle is not innocent. It is an expression of power, and has an undertow of menace. It is the building-site equivalent of City firms requiring women to visit lap-dancing clubs to prove they are "one of the boys".

The only worry is that Harriet Harman, nanny to the nation, will introduce yet another piece of clunky government legislation, the Sexual Harassment by Whistling in Public Places Bill.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high