Thursday, March 31, 2011


© Shelby County Register
Dozens of photographs of Martin Luther King’s assassin James Earl Ray have been released by the Shelby County Register in Memphis, Texas.

All photographs were taken by photographer Gil Michael upon the request of the Shelby County Sherrif’s office to prove that Ray was not mistreated when he was booked into jail for the April 4, 1968, murder of Martin Luther King.

James Earl Ray was arrested seven weeks after the asssasination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Texas.

With the exception of one, all photographs and negatives were sealed and kept by the sherrif’s office and never shown publicly.

Ray, who died in prison in 1998, signed a release form, allowing them to be seen after his death.

“I hope they rekindle the memory of the civil right smovement,” Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood told the AP. “A lot of the memories are being lost or people are taking the civil rights movement for granted. People did sacrifice their lives to that movement.”

“Of course, Dr. King is the perfect example of that.”

The photographs will be unveiled to commemorate the forty-third anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. 

© Shelby County Register

© Shelby County Register

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Ginger Lynn
Isn't it amazing how quickly the vultures descend whenever there's a tragedy or misfortune to be cashed in on? The other day private love letters written more than 60 years ago by Elizabeth Taylor miraculously appeared and are for sale to the highest bidder. Now, that tacky purveyor of tat Ginger Lynn is trying to make some quick bucks out of the troubled actor Charlie Sheen, who had a brief fling with her some 20 years ago when she was, she proudly says, the first "adult movie star" (she means porn actress) he consorted with.
Sheen in $500 red shirt
Along with such classy items as used panties, stained lingerie and blurry Polaroid pictures, Lynn is offering for sale for a minimum bid of $500 a letter Sheen wrote to her when he was in rehab in 1990. Another $500+ will buy his red shirt (as seen in People magazine!).
 All very unappetising. But what else can one expect from a saleswoman whose motto is: "If it's naughty and you know it, get it here?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


As a self-confessed former drug and sex addict himself, Russell Brand understands and sympathises with his pal Charlie Sheen.

"If Charlie is unwell, as the media believe, then it's not entertainment and not a subject for amusement," Brand tells me when we meet at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.  "I happen to know Charlie and I like him. My opinion is that Charlie Sheen is cool. I've had problems myself and would certainly make no judgment of him." 

Brand, who boasts that he has slept with literally thousands of women, including nine in one night, has been married to singer Katy Perry for six months and is a doting and faithful husband although he says: "Marriage was a massive, massive transition for me but the longer I stay married the more I like it."

Appropriately enough Brand is playing the wealthy alcoholic playboy Arthur in the remake of the 1981 comedy which starred Dudley Moore.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The long-simmering controversy over whether or not Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie actually had sex on camera during a graphic love scene in the 1973 film Don't Look Now has surfaced again.

Yes, they did, says former Paramount executive Peter Bart, who claims in his new book that he was on the set watching as it happened.

No we didn't, says Sutherland in an email to the New York Daily News, adding: "Not true. None of it. Not the sex. Not him witnessing it."

The scene is one of the most notorious "did they or didn't they?" moments in movie history. It has long been rumoured in Hollywood that the sex was real and that outtakes from the scene have been viewed in private Beverly Hills screening rooms. 

Bart claims in his book Famous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob (And Sex) that he had visited the set as a young studio executive as the scene was being filmed and he had no doubt that the sex was real. 

The stars have always maintained that the apparent explicitness was due to good acting and directing in what was an unscripted improvisation.

Both Christie, now 69, and Sutherland, 75, were in their 30s and at the height of their careers when the  movie, a psychological thriller adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier, was released.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Elizabeth Taylor had only been dead for little more than a day when suddenly, out of somebody's woodwork, came 66 love letters she wrote more than 60 years ago. The letters, written when she was 17-years-old to her then-fiance William Pawley Jr, the son of a wealthy American businessman, "reveal a blossoming woman who --- even though called the most beautiful woman in the world---had insecurities just like everybody else," according to RR  auction house which is putting the letters up for sale in Hollywood in May.

The letters also "provide a window into the young starlet’s personal life,” according to Bobby Livingston, VP of Sales and Marketing for RR Auction.  He adds, “The letters begin in March 1949, a few days after Taylor and her parents left their vacation home in Florida, where Pawley was located, for California so Taylor could work on a movie.  The letters dry up around the middle of November of that year as their relationship ended.”

 It is impossible to know what Elizabeth Taylor would think of private letters she wrote so long ago going up for auction as soon as she is dead, but it seems probable that, even if she remembered their existence, she certainly would not want them made public now.

  And the fact that the Pawley family---if that's where the letters came from--waited until she died before auctioning them off, indicates they think so, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Winslet with co-star Guy Pearce (left) and director Todd Haynes
Kate Winslet was the star of the New York night at a party in the Plaza Hotel's recently refurbished Grand Ballroom following the premiere of Mildred Pierce, the HBO mini-series in which she stars. Photographers swarmed the barriers on 54th Street outside the Ziegfeld Theater, where the premiere was held, and later outside the Plaza, clamouring for shots of the Oscar-winning actress, who looked decidedly chilly in her Stella McCartney cocktail dress.

But further downtown, at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Soho another star, Johnny Cash, was being remembered at the opening of an exhibition of iconic shots of the singer, taken by Jim Marshall, one of the greatest music photographers of all time.
One of the chief photographers at the Monterey Pop Festival and at the original Woodstock, Marshall, with more than 500 album covers to his credit, was the only photographer granted backstage access at the Beatles' last concert. 

Marshall, who died last year aged 74, knew Johnny Cash since 1962, became close friends and shot photographs for five of his album covers, capturing him as no other photographer did. 
The Morrison Hotel Gallery exhibition and sale focuses specifically on Marshall's extensive Johnny Cash archive, and features approximately 20 prints.

With Bob Dylan
With June Carter Cash at home in Hendersonville

In concert at San Quentin
In the chapel at Folsom Prison

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ELIZABETH TAYLOR. February 27 1932-March 23 2011

Since her death, hundreds of thousands of words have already been published around the world about Elizabeth Taylor and I don't intend to add to them. But on the basis that one picture is worth at least a  thousand words, here is---to my knowledge--- a previously unpublished picture of the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actress which my friend photographer Theo Kingma found somewhere in the archives.

FOOTNOTE: In 2001 when Elizabeth Taylor was announcing the best motion picture winner at the Golden Globe awards she inadvertently started to announce the winner before even listing the nominees.

Always possessing a quick wit, when the show's producer, Dick Clark, frantically called to her from offstage during the live telecast alerting her to the gaffe, she calmly smiled and said: "Oh, I guess I'm more used to receiving awards rather than giving them."

Saturday, March 19, 2011


For several years, in the late 1970s and early 1980s I was good friends with Jason Miller, the writer and actor who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play That Championship Season and was Oscar-nominated for his role as the priest in The Exorcist.

We drank in the King's Head in Santa Monica, where we indulged in long, drink-fuelled discussions about art, literature and life, went to parties in Malibu and hung out at the beach house he was sharing at the time with fellow actor and longtime friend John Mahon.

Then Jason moved back to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania to write the Great American Novel and we lost touch. It was a shock when I heard he'd died in May 2001, aged 62, although the venue of his death----Farley's Eatery and Pub in Scranton---seemed poignantly fitting.

Now the actor, who always preferred the theatre to movies, is back on the Broadway stage, appropriately enough in That Championship Season, which he wrote when he was 32.

His son Jason Patric, who is starring in the production with Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth and Brian Cox, keeps Miller's ashes in an urn on stage. "I don't think it's closure," says Patric, who for years was estranged from his father. "I'm trying to get on that same spiritual wavelength as that 32-year-old who, at that moment, was genius."

I know Jason would be proud and delighted that his son was finally recognising and appreciating his talents.

Friday, March 18, 2011


The death of former Shadows bass guitarist Jet Harris brought back long-forgotten memories of a time in Chelsea in the mid-1960s when I was working on the Chelsea News and living in a bed-sitter (studio to Americans) in Oakley Street just off the King's Road. The drummer Viv Prince, then with the Pretty Things, lived upstairs and Jet Harris had the basement flat. At the time he was recovering from a serious car accident with his then-girlfriend, singer Billie Davis, and he spent a lot of time locked in his flat, playing music and apparently drinking heavily. I rarely saw him and when I did he was usually surly and uncommunicative. Even Viv Prince, who got along with everyone, failed in his attempts to persuade Jet to venture up the stairs to share one of the red-hot curries that Viv, when he was not with me in the Chelsea Potter, seemed to always be cooking on his one-ring gas burner for a constant stream of female visitors, giving the house the permanent aroma of an Indian restaurant.  Strange but fun days!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Just how much of a life of luxury will the
   soon-to-be Beckham baby girl have to look
   forward to? Well, if this is any indication...

   When David and Victoria were in Los Angeles
   they missed their U.K. dogs, so they sent
   a private jet to pick them up from London
   and fly them over. When the dogs got to
   America it became apparent that they
   weren't comfortable in the California heat.
   So they were put back on the private jet
   and flown home again. The cost of this kind
   gesture? Around $150,000..

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Has anyone noticed the striking similarity between the actress Martine McCutcheon (left) and the royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton (right)? And the similarities don't stop at looks. In the film Love Actually Miss McCutcheon plays an ordinary, pretty girl who manages to court, and finally catch, one of the most important men in the world.
How romantic and implausible!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Back in 1946 a movie named Mildred Pierce was the talk of the Oscars. Its star Joan Crawford won the Best Actress Oscar and the film earned five other nominations.
The story of a woman who proves she can be successful and independent after her husband leaves her but cannot win the approval of her spoiled daughter, it ran for 111 tense and gripping minutes.
Now Hollywood has got its hands on it and is retelling the story for television. But this time it has been stretched and elongated to run for a marathon 350 minutes--- five hours, 50 minutes of HBO peak time viewing over three nights--with that very British star Kate Winslet in the title role.

Having seen an advance screening I can report that it is worth seeing and Kate Winslet, who is in virtually every scene, does an admirable job.
But 350 minutes? It would be quicker to read the classic James M. Cain 1941 novel on which it is based.

Monday, March 14, 2011


This is thought-provoking. If it's true it proves that the best computer is the human brain. If it's a hoax, well, it's still pretty interesting. What do YOU think?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


That ardent devotee of Watford Football Club Elton John tells me his three month old son Zachary already has a complete Watford outfit thanks to club manager Malky Mackay and, he says, he can't wait to take the lad to his first game. "I want hm to grow up supporting Watford as I've done all my life," he said. "If he decides to support Chelsea, I'll kill him."
I had to point out that I am a Chelsea supporter and have been for many years.
Elton's reply? "Bad luck, mate."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


For more than a decade I was a boxing writer, covering nearly all of Mike Tyson's fights for the Daily Telegraph, along with the title fights of Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, and  Lennox Lewis's ascension to the world heavyweight title.

During that time I became good friends with photographer Micky Brennan, a former Photographer of the Year, whom I had known slightly in Fleet Street and with whom I later spent a lot of time at ringsides, in sweaty gyms, at training camps and in dressing rooms across America.

Micky continued to cover boxing long after I was moved to other beats, and he went on to become one of the world's most eminent boxing photographers. Good friends with both Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, he amassed a wonderful portfolio of pictures, which included portraits of Muhammad Ali and every one of his opponents through the years.

Now his work is being recognised and memorialised in the form of a massive art installation at the L.A Live center in Los Angeles. The installation, created by artist Michael Kalish, consists of approximately 1,300 speed bags arranged to create a likeness of the athlete and based on a photograph of Ali taken by Micky at Deer Lake, Pennsylvania in the late 1970s.

The installation, titled "reALIze," stands 26 feet wide, 23 feet high (at its highest point) and 25 feet deep. The art work is scheduled to be unveiled March 25 at Nokia Plaza at L.A.

To read more about the art project visit Micky Brennan's LA Times story

*"1977 Portrait of Muhammad Ali," an archival fine art pigment print 48 x 62 inches, signed by Ali and Michael Brennan, is available in a limited edition of 20 and is published by Artworks Editions/Artworks 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Quite a contrast between the lives of these two dogs sleeping in doorways and scavenging for food in Cartagena and these California dogs who have toys to play with, sleep on living room couches and have chicken cooked for them every evening. The only common denominator is that when they're awake the doorway dogs seem equally as happy as the pampered pooches.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


 While in Cartagena I landed an interview with Colombia's President, Juan Manuel Santos, who attended the London School of Economics, speaks fluent English and is familiar with the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper I work for.
The successor to President Uribe, President Santos took office in 2010 and knows full well the problems facing Colombia, a poverty-stricken country riddled with drug and terrorist-related violence.

  He is determined to attract more foreign investment and he tells me he is overseeing plans for a new port city of 150,000 people to be built in the south of Colombia by a private developer with Chinese money. "It is a very big project and it is already well underway," he said.

  Another of his priorities is ensuring every child receives an education and when I spoke with him he had just attended the opening of a new school in a run-down shanty town on the edge of a lagoon on the outskirts of Cartagena. "Education is of primary importance and every child
should have the opportunities offered by good schooling and good teachers," he said.

  To some, Colombia's problems are insurmountable, but President Santos seems determined to confront them head-on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Many times when stuck in a traffic jam of cars heading for the beach parking lots or circling the downtown area vainly in search of a vacant meter because all the public parking structures are full, I have despaired of life in Santa Monica. The tranquil little city I knew when I first moved here has long gone and been replaced by an oversized, bulging-at-the-seams tourist attraction where the city council has placed desire for dollars far above quality of life for residents.
At least, so I thought.
Then this week along comes news that National Geographic has named Santa Monica one of the top ten best beach cities in the world. Not just in America---in the world. And there's more: The city's Bloomingdale's boasts the best store design according to the Retail Design Institute; the Penthouse at the Huntley had the best restaurant design of 2010, says the Zagat guide; the Umami burger is the burger of the year according to GQ magazine. And it goes on....all in all more than 50 accolades were earned last year by the city.
So maybe it's not so bad after all....until I get my next parking ticket.


  It's always a pleasure seeing Nicole Kidman, whom I first met 21 years ago on Batman Forever. A lot of water under the bridge si...