Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (26/09/10)

Too powerful for Forbes

Sunday 23 October 2011 02:41

Maggie Smith Peter Hall, Charles Dance, Penelope Wilton – it would be quicker to say who wasn't there – were among the luvvies at the opening night of Krapp's Last Tape. But by the time everyone had tried to be the last one in, the play was more than 10 minutes behind schedule, and the critics were getting bored. One, thought to be from the Daily Express, began shouting "come on!" and "get on wivvit!" and a slow handclap broke out. Afterwards, with everyone posing to be snapped, it took just as long to leave. Since Beckett's surrealist masterpiece only lasts 50 minutes, could this be the first known occasion of a play taking longer to arrive at and leave than to watch?

Nicholas Parsons, the lovable voice of Just a Minute, can't charm everyone he meets. In his catchily titled new book, With Just a Touch of Hesitation, Repetition and Deviation: My Life in Comedy, he recalls asking a member of the public for a lift during the Edinburgh Festival in August. "'Could you be very kind?' I said. 'My taxi didn't arrive, and I am due on stage in 10 minutes. Would you be really generous and give me a lift up the hill?' He looked at me intently and said, 'Are you one of those celebrities?' I said, 'Yes, I suppose you could call me that.' 'Well,' he said, 'there are too many of you bastards in the city at this time of year' – and sped off."

Can we ever trust the internet again? As TripAdvisor faces legal action over bogus reviews, news reaches me that someone has been going round the web pretending to be, er, Theresa May. A woman in the Home Secretary's constituency of Maidenhead thought she might have more success scuppering a proposal to build a takeaway if she posed as May. She lodged the phoney objection with the council, which posted her comments on the online planning portal. They were taken down before a decision was made, but the incident has alarmed councillors welcoming online comments from the public. May has expressed concern, though a spokesman sniffed that it was "fairly obvious" the comments weren't hers.

Stan Madeley is the Henry Root de nos jours, having written bogus letters to dozens of unwitting celebrities and organisations. A compilation of his greatest hits reveals the Daily Mail's splendid "Answers to correspondents" section – the page that invites readers to answer difficult questions – was among his victims. Madeley's response to the question, "What is the fate of the nation's liposuction fat?", is vintage: "My wife Sandra has run a liposuction clinic for 25 years. In the early days I was involved in the disposal of the fat... we would often sell liposuction fat as a heavy lubricant for marine use. Nautical friends claimed that human fat was the best way to grease their prop shafts. We have also sold our fat for the manufacture of bowler hats and as an ingredient in loam."

Red faces at the BBC website, after editors were forced to repost a video from its Athens correspondent, Malcolm Brabant, having removed it after receiving complaints from Greek government supporters. Martin Bell has weighed in to condemn the BBC's spinelessness in not sticking up for its foreign correspondents. The footage showed demonstrators at a rally throwing shoes, but was claimed to have been faked. Shoe-throwing is a sensitive issue in Greece. So perhaps it wasn't a good idea to make Christos Papoutsis home secretary – papoutsis means shoemaker in Greek.

Dragons' Den is so over, at least according to one leading businesswoman. Michelle Mone, owner of Ultimo bras, the biggest knicker firm in Britain, once turned down a chance to be on the show's panel because she was not rich enough. But now that she has the readies she's lost interest. "I was asked to join way back in the first series," she says, "but back then I didn't have the sort of money you need to invest. But it's lost its sparkle. It needs a complete overhaul. It needs to recreate itself." Besides, she adds, she doesn't much rate the other panellists except Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones.

Another day, another launch of a pointless magazine. The latest comes from an unlikely source, Eric Pickles, one of our favourite Tories. It's called Elected and is all about how to "share best practice and innovation", a sort of how-to guide for anyone spending public money, or how-not-to these days. It sounds suspiciously like one of those money-wasting council magazines that the Tories are supposed to be clamping down on, and is owned by something called the Social Equity Group. Uh-oh, don't say it's publicly funded? "No, we're a private venture," says a spokesman, reassuringly. "It's a business like anything else. We're just trying to do some good." Phew!

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