The old-school Thai who left US babes lusting after a royal Etonian stud-muffin

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The Independent Online
It is surprising to find that Eton College - that citadel of all things modern, go-ahead and cutting-edge - has no web site to call its own on the Internet. It's got a gigantic computer network, sure, and the capacity to e-mail the rest of the world, but no actual database of facts 'n' info about the nation's most famous school. So it must have been quite a shock when one of the computer beaks, surfing listlessly around the globe the other day, discovered the existence of something called "The Unofficial Eton Web Page". Further enquiries revealed a tale of opportunism, lust and transatlantic intrigue. The site had been established, the college discovered, in Los Angeles by a 33-year-old Americanised Thai former male- nurse called Wtin, who developed an obsession about Eton after reading Stand By Your God, a memoir of life among the boaters, fives courts, wall games and people called "m'tutor", written by the novelist Paul Watkins. Mr Watkins, whose narratives of Hemingwayesque derring-do (Calm at Sunset Calm at Dawn, In the Blue Light of African Dreams) are currently in the hands of the Hollywood film studios, possesses the kind of reckless good looks that make people swoon over Hugh Grant, and it's possible that the impressionable Wtin had a slight, manly crush on him. At all events, the site was set up, and the Internet hummed with data, as Old Etonians were grilled for information about their beloved alma mater, for the benefit of gawping Los Angelenos. Then Wtin got through, via e-mail, to a genuine, living, breathing 16-year-old Eton scholar, actually at the college, with whom he proceeded to embellish his web pages. Together they constructed a virtual reality tour of the school, a glossary of slang "chambers", "the bill", "getting a ticket") and other vital bits of Etoniana. It was then that the Eton beaks discovered the existence of Wtin's web, but rather than hit the roof, they approved of it. With remarkable phlegm, they even contacted Wtin to correct a few factual errors. But then they discovered something of which they simply could not approve. Can you guess? It was the Comment page of the web site, where e-mails arrive from all over the world. And an embarrassing number of American ones bore the same message: "I want to shag Prince William". Ever since a picture of the Prince of Wales's elder son had been included on one of the web pages, the female college population of California had gone into a collective frenzy. "How," one girl wrote with a trace of desperation, "can I get into his class?"

It was too much for Eton. They contacted Wtin. Look here, old boy, they said. Won't do. Bit near the knuckle. Bit infra dig. Can't have gels from the dominions expressin' interest in 13-year-old royalty. Close down that bit, would you, there's a good fellow... And amazingly, the old-school Thai did just that - leaving hordes of lust-crazed American babes frantically contacting any Old Etonians with an e-mail address, asking for news of their hero. I've a print-out of one such communication in front of me. "How can I get in touch with Prince William?" it breathes. "He's such a stud-muffin."

The first thing to say about Will Self's book launch is that there weren't any primates there. The novel is called Great Apes, the party venue was Regent's Park zoo, the Monkey House is hardly a banana-throw away from the Member's Lawn where we stood but, hope as we might, no trace of gibbon, chimp or mandrill interrupted the to-ing and fro-ing of literary types. Across the patio steps, demure waitresses carried canape-trays full of mini-pizzas, tiny samosas and lines of amphetamine sulphate - no, all right, I made that up. But everywhere you went, people were making awful jokes about planes, lavatories, heroin ("You mean this is a Bring Your Own Drugs party?" a woman asked beside me. "Shouldn't they have said that on the invite?") and Brian Mawhinney, who shopped Will Self to the police. "Is Brian Mawhinney pompous or sanctimonious?" asked John McVicar, the former desperado, "I rather think the latter". When not conversing like a rural dean, McVicar evinces a nicely old-fashioned line in hatred, especially for the hectoring delivery of politicians (most especially the way Tony Blair says "Look..."). This being the first al fresco launch party of the year, there were babies everywhere, most notably Ms Fernanda Amis (six months, cupid-bow mouth) who slumbered throughout the proceedings while her parents Martin and Isabel held court under the trees. Lisa St Aubin de Teran, popularly known as Lisa St Pancras de Traincrash, was there, and Ian McEwan, and Ed Victor the super-agent, and Cyril Connolly's daughter Cressida, and Ian Hargreaves in his Cosa Nostra black shirt, and Maureen Freely and Hugo Williams and Joan Smith ... David Reynolds of Bloomsbury (publisher of Great Apes) was ecstatic about his recent acquisition of a cache of 20,000 letters written by Hunter S Thompson, king of gonzo journalism and Will Self's spiritual godfather. The author himself, six- foot-five in a serious suit, loped about looking as though, on the whole, he'd had enough of media people and journalists for a while. When toasted by his publisher, Liz Calder, he brandished a copy of the book and said, "This is a moral tract without a conclusion. Work it out for yourselves, cunts." It's puzzling to watch this intelligent and charming man displaying the conviction that he absolutely must live up to the image that the world and his own career have imposed on him.

Last night saw the most controversial bit of Coming Out on American screens since the arrival of Rosemary's satanic Baby. It was the moment in Ellen, the weekly comedy series, when the eponymous heroine suddenly revealed to the world that she was a lesbian. Everyone in America has known about this revelation for several months; it has been in all the papers and debated briskly on talk shows. In fact it's such a non-revelation that ABC, the television company responsible, had to bolster the episode by pulling in a handful of extra stars (Oprah Winfrey, Demi Moore, kd lang) to guarantee healthy viewing figures. What's more interesting than the sexual orientation of the leading lady, however, is the argy-bargy in the advertising world. According to the Wall Street Journal, the major car companies which would normally advertise in this slot have been fleeing like rabbits before any mention of the L-word. Chrysler, who took the commercial slot in previous episodes of Ellen, said they wanted to avoid a "highly polarised or emotional environment", poor darlings; General Motors wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot steering column; Ford made a handbrake turn and skedaddled.

Then Volkswagen stepped in. Not only would they accept the dodgy hinterland between the lesbian outpourings, they said, they would take the opportunity to unveil a new advertisement. And now the whole universe of American culture-watchers are pondering what it means. The advert, for a VW Golf GL, shows two laid-back guys at traffic lights, spotting an abandoned old armchair. One of them likes it, stows it in the back of the Golf and they drive off again. Further on, they discover it's horribly smelly.

They stop, dump it and drive off. That's it. Does it have some sly association with Ellen's discovery? Are the two chaps gay? Is the battered armchair a symbol of domesticity, to be embraced and then discarded? Or is it an image of sexual experiment, to be tried out (so warm, so squishy, so tufty, so apparently familiar) but found wanting? Only a Media Studies seminar at Berkeley could straighten this one out.

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