Chef serves restaurant critic a taste of rejection

Wednesday 14 October 1998 00:02 BST

WHEN GORDON Ramsay, the ex-footballer turned Michelin-starred restaurateur, threw A A Gill, the Sunday Times restaurant critic, out of his new restaurant on Monday night, he was continuing an honourable tradition.

Mr Ramsay was angry at Gill's description of him when the critic reviewed his previous restaurant, the Aubergine, as a failed sportsman who acts like an 11-year-old. On Monday, he ejected Gill and his party, including actress Joan Collins, after they had ordered, but before being served, from his new premises, simply called Gordon Ramsay. The restaurant, in Chelsea, has been warmly received by most critics.

His reaction - and Dior's treatment of The Independent - are the latest in a long line of occasions when the creative force has found criticism just a little too hard to take.

In 1979 the provocative theatre director Steven Berkoff was said to have threatened to kill Nicholas de Jongh, then theatre critic of The Guardian, for suggesting that Berkoff's Hamlet was "fatally miscast".

And Bernard Levin, who once wrote reviews for The Times, tells how he was gripped by a moment of fear when he found himself on a train platform with the late playwright John Osborne. Osborne, who lived his life in a rage, hated critics and was threatening to push Levin under an oncoming train.

Although Osborne tried frequently to ban all critics from his plays, the ban as a form of revenge has really only taken off since the early Nineties, started by Hollywood publicists.

American stars as diverse as Julia Roberts and Bianca Jagger have used publicists to exact revenge on journalists whose comments they dislike and Warner Brothers once banned all of its stars from appearing on GMTV because of an unflattering comment about Ms Roberts.

Publicists in America get away with their demands for copy approval and flattering pictures because so much of the media is celebrity driven.

Adding to the phenomenon has been the concentration of whole stables of stars in the hands of a select few media managers in Hollywood whowield massive clout.

In the UK, showbusiness publicists have tried to import the same techniques. In 1994 Corbett and Keene, the publicist for stars such as Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, blacklisted Sue Summers, a newspaper writer on film and television with 20 years' experience, from interviewing its clients after she wrote a negative piece about Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian film director.

Summers' crime was to describe Bertolucci as a man with a "potential pounds 33m turkey under his typically Italian English tweed jacket", after seeing his film Little Buddha. She then received a letter from Sarah Keene of Corbett and Keene, accusing her of gratuitously causing "pain''.

In the less glamorous world of lower-division football the reporter ban has spread like wildfire. Football teams believe they are one of the best local stories around and see no need to pander to reporters whom they think give them a hard time.

The reporter ban has been used most frequently by Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City. She banned the Birmingham Post sports reporter Andy Colquhoun from the press box as well as threatening bans on reporters from local radio and the Birmingham Evening Mail. Mr Colquhoun was not terribly put out by the ban because the Post had its own box at the ground.

Several other clubs - including Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Carlisle United - have all banned local football correspondents. Perhaps Mr Ramsay, who once played for Glasgow Rangers, is just going back to his roots.

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