Thursday, July 21, 2016


1966....and now
  August 5 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Caesars Palace, the ancient Rome-themed hotel and casino that has been the red-hot center of Las Vegas's biggest sports and entertainment events.

  Originally it was going to be called the Cabana Palace, then it was the Desert Palace but when it opened its doors for the first time, the greeters dressed as gladiators and waitresses in Cleopatra outfits made it clear it was Caesars Palace.

as it was in 1966
  It holds so many memories for me: I interviewed Sammy Davis Jr in his sumptuous suite there; talked and shared a pizza with Cher in her dressing room after her show there; I watched from backstage as Willie Nelson performed and later went to his suite where an assistant called Snake supplied the marijuana.

   And I was ringside at some of the most memorable fights ever staged in the outdoors ring---Sugar Ray Leonard vs Tommy Hearns; Roberto Duran vs. Hearns; Marvin Hagler vs Hearns and vs Leonard; Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield, when Fan Man stopped the fight by parachuting into the ring....etc. etc.   
 room key card from ten years ago

  The anniversary celebrations started in June so while I was there it seemed only right to drink a toast in Gordon Ramsay's Pub and Grill, a lively pub-restaurant opposite the hotel's Colosseum

 theatre, which recently hosted the US premiere of Jason Bourne.

  Some of the movies that have been made there include Ocean's Eleven,The Electric Horseman, The Hangover, Rain Man, Iron Man, The Big Short and many more.

  So here's to another 50 years!

Saturday, July 9, 2016


   Of all the bad ideas Hollywood has come up with over the years, rebooting the classic 1984 movie  Ghostbusters with an all-female cast has to rank as one of the worst ever.
    Fans of the original movie, a unique mixture of supernatural horror and irreverent comedy,  have taken to the internet to vent their fury and rage, calling the new movie racist and unfunny and berating the filmmakers as greedy and unoriginal. 
     The trailer has officially become the most-disliked movie trailer in YouTube history, beating out jihadi recruitment videos for the title. 
  The original, which starred Bill Murray, shattered box office records for a comedy, nabbed two Oscar nominations and sparked a global phenomenon. The new movie stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as four female Busters who are battling their own neuroses while combating a phantom menace that threatens New York City.
  It has been condemned as racist because the black actress Leslie Jones portrays a blue collar New York city municipal worker while the other three are scientists.
Poster for the original Ghostbusters
  And while the original theme song is ranked as one of the best movie themes of all time the new song, by Fall Out Boy has been roundly panned.
  I saw a 15-minute clip of the movie at a Cinemacon screening in Las Vegas and it seemed neither funny nor scary...just pointless.
   Now the director, Paul Feig, has hit back. "Haters, attack me all you want but when you attack and insult my cast, you’ve crossed the line," he says. "Grow up and leave my cast alone.”
   During an interview in the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Melissa McCarthy says she tries to ignore the cirticism, much of which was launched as soon as the movie was announced. "If someone wants to spew hate and tear down women I prefer to keep it out of my life,"
   Leslie Jones says:"When people started asking me about the gender stuff  I would say 'It's not a man thing, it's not a woman thing, it's a Ghostbuster thing.'"
  Time---and box-office results---will tell. With a reported budget of $150 million the movie has to gross an estimated $400 million worldwide to break even.

Friday, July 1, 2016


 What a tumultuous ten days in London!

 With the Brexit referendum, the disastrous performance by the English football team, the beginning of Wimbledon tennis, 100,000 people at the gay pride parade and lunches, dinners and drinks with friends, there wasn't a dull moment.

  Oh, and the East End film festival, too.

  The fact it rained for part of every day did nothing to dampen the  lively atmosphere in the pubs or prevent drinkers standing outside on the pavements.

  But first, Brexit. And it's a total mess---nothing but chaos and confusion.   
  Not only is Britain now bitterly divided but the Conservative party is split into factions following the announcement by David Cameron of his resignation while the Labour party is still headed (at the time of writing) by Jeremy Corbyn, who is so unpopular that scores of frontbenchers have quit in recent days, leaving him with a seemingly impossible task in filling the vacancies after 172 of his MPs backed a no confidence motion in his leadership

Gay Pride in Trafalgar Square
   To further muddy the already bemired political waters Boris Johnson, whom everybody thought was the favourite to replace Cameron, has announced he will not now be running for the leadership of the Conservative Party and consequently the job of Prime Minister: he has been stabbed in the back by the charisma-lacking Michael Gove, who had previously been his strong supporter and is now contesting the leadership with Home Secretary Theresa May, which is ironic considering that Boris has now received the same treatment he meted out to Cameron. 
   But as always with any crisis in Britain, while the newspapers, radio and television are full of news, analysis and predictions it is in the pubs where the true debate is carried out and the voice of the ubiquitous Man in the Street is heard.

Leadenhall Market
In a pub in rainy Leadenhall Market, a lunchtime favourite with City businessmen, a well-dressed, clearly well-educated drinker told me he had voted Leave to "keep the migrants out." Someone else said he had voted Remain because Britain needed migrant workers and Europeans working in the City of London finance houses. One said it's all about trade deals. No, it's the economy. Cynics believe that, the Leave vote not withstanding, nothing will really change.

In despair: England manager Roy Hodgson
    It has been a turbulent ten days and while Brexit remains a contentious topic for discussion, every male in every pub is agreed on one thing----the England soccer team, which was dumped out of the European Championships after losing to lowly Iceland, are a useless bunch of overpaid, arrogant, incompetents who all should be replaced immediately. 

  Finally something everyone agrees on!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


   Sad news from England where Jimmy Nicholson, one of Fleet Street's great crime reporters, known as the Prince of Darkness, has died.  
   I worked with Jimmy on the long-defunct Daily Sketch in the late 1960s and I still have fond memories of the laughs and drinks we shared, although he rarely bought a drink himself: there was always someone willing to pay to keep him drinking to hear his stories.   
  Jimmy, who was 89 when he died, was a character who could have been created by Damon Runyan. Some of his sayings are now part of journalistic legend---"I've been at every siege since Troy," he liked to boast. And, "I've been on more doorsteps than a milk bottle."  
  He earned his Prince of Darkness nickname because of the Dracula-style black cape he always wore. 
  Of all the crime reporters of his era he had probably the best contacts with both the police and the villains. Freddie Foreman, Frankie Fraser, Charlie Kray, Charles Richardson, the Great Train Robbers ---he knew them all and when they eventually ended up behind bars he would visit them in jail and they would repay him with exclusive stories.
  Current head of the Crime Reporters Association, John Twomey of the Daily Express, said: “Jim was one of the best connected journalists I’ve ever met.
“Everyone knew him from chief constables and commissioners, judges, leading barristers, senior detectives right down to rookie officers and the security staff at the Old Bailey.
“And everyone talked to him and knew they could trust him – for him that was the key to getting stories. He didn’t have much time for press releases and police communications officers with their media strategies.
“He was an old-fashioned reporter who got his exclusives in the old-fashioned way – going out and meeting people and making contacts.
“Although he never tired of talking about his past successes, the Moors Murders, the Krays, the hunt for the Brink’s-Mat robbery gold and many more, it was a track record that any crime reporter would give his right arm for.
“And what’s more, he had enormous fun along the way. It’s sad to think that he’s gone.  Legend is a word bandied about too often.  But Jimmy Nick really was one.”
  Simon Finlay, now editor of Downs Mail, told Press Gazette: “Jimmy Nick was a legend and an inspiration to young reporters like myself who would meet him at the Old Bailey back in the early 1990s.
“He was hugely respected and admired. His one-liners and gangster movie patois were hilarious.
“I was with a hack from the Daily Star in the Wine Press one night when Jimmy greeted us with the immortal words: ‘Look, it’s the hitmen from Mothercare.’
“Fair play to him – he cadged our fags and never bought a drink. We’ll miss him.”
  All of us who knew him will miss him. 

Monday, June 13, 2016



   Ellen DeGeneres will be at Wimbledon this year but not merely to watch the tennis. Her aim, she says with a face so straight it's impossible to tell if she's serious or not, is to confront the Duchess of Cambridge, whom, she says, is a distant cousin.

   "She refuses to admit  it and I don't know why," she tells me, "but I am going to be at Wimbledon and if my cousin Kate is there I'm going to bring the DNA chart with me. Kate Middleton and I are distant cousins and I don't know if she thinks I'm joking, but I'm going to confront her."

   According to the New England genealogical society she and the Duchess of Cambridge are 15th cousins, related through
a man named Sir Thomas Fairfax and his wife, Agnes Gascoigne, who lived in the early 1500s.

  "It wasn't my idea but someone brought me the chart and surprised me," says Ellen, who is 58 but looks a good ten years younger.  
 "I think sometimes people grow up feeling you are supposed to fit some kind of pattern and are supposed to look how society says a 58-year-old woman is supposed to look and dress and act," she says. "A lot of us just fall into that and become what we think we are supposed to become.

  "I never did and I never want to and I dont care that people know that I am 58 because I think it’s just a number and your spirit and your energy level is what your real age is."

Thursday, June 9, 2016


 Picking which of the new TV shows will still be around at the end of the year is always a hit and miss affair. But judging by the rapturous reception at the premiere screening and the splashy beach party that followed, TNT's Animal Kingdom looks like a good bet.
  Hundreds of people crammed into the open air launch party, held in a security-guarded area adjoining the Venice Boardwalk at the foot of Rose Avenue. The street was blocked off to allow the army of valet parkers to do their work while a live band, photo booths, stunt cyclists and skateboarders soaring up and down a giant curved ramp and a busy bar all added to the freewheeling fun.
Animal Kingdom is a gritty crime drama about a working class family who run a criminal empire in the sleepy California beach town of Oceanside. Ellen Barkin stars as Janine "Smurf" Cody, the head of the family and the mastermind behind its illegal activities. Her sons do her bidding while indulging in booze, drugs and women. 
  "I just love being one of those rare women who get to play a part where she doesn't have to apologise for being a bad person," says Barkin.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


   Disney unveiled it's highly-anticipated animated summer movie Finding Dory at a screening and lavish dinner reception in Beverly Hills among predictions that  it could bring in a massive $115 million on its opening weekend. 

  But tropical fish lovers are not happy. They fear that Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo, could lead to a run on blue tang fish in pet stores and endanger the fish in the wild. 
The success of  Finding Nemo led to a huge demand for orange clown fish at pet stores. In fact, some kids even flushed their Nemos down the toilet to set them free---as depicted in the movie.

  In the same vein, but back in 1961, many doting but stupid parents succumbed to their children's demands for Dalmatian puppies because of the movie 101 Dalmatians, leading to hundreds of puppies being abandoned when they grew older and the kids became bored with them. 

In the new film, Dory is a blue tang but unlike orange clown fish, blue tangs cannot be bred in captivity, and the movie could actually endanger the population of blue tangs in the wild.

An online petition with more than 100,000 signatures asks Disney to run a warning before "Finding Dory", urging people not to buy blue tangs as pets.

  In Finding Nemo, Dory helped anxious clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his son Nemo after a school field trip goes awry. Marlin reappears in Finding Dory and helps the forgetful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) on her quest to be reunited with her mother (Diane Keaton) and father (Eugene Levy)

  Finding Dory hits theaters in 3D on June 17,