Thursday, April 28, 2011


Jodie Foster tells me she didn't fancy kissing a stubbly Mel Gibson for a scene in their new movie The Beaver.

So Foster, who directed as well as co-stars in the dark drama, ordered Gibson: "Shave your face!"

Jodie and Me
She explained: "It was the sex scene and I told him that he had to shave because if he was going to kiss me a whole bunch of times, I was going to get red and it would last into the next day.

"He was so worried about getting me all scratched up that not only did he shave but he also did all this exfoliation stuff so his skin was like it was completely raw.

"I had jeans on and he started rubbing his face on my jeans and when he sat up his face was completely broken out. The rest of the day he was saying, 'She's an animal! Look what she did to me!'"

Monday, April 25, 2011


Despite all the millions of words and many hours of television time devoted to the upcoming Royal wedding, very little has been said about Kate Middleton's Uncle Gary, who seems to fill the role of the family Black Sheep.

Gary Goldsmith, Kate's mother's brother, a tattooed computer millionaire, until recently lived a hedonistic bachelor's life with his lap-dancing girlfriend in a mansion called Casa Bang Bang on the island of Ibiza where he was filmed giving an undercover investigator cocaine and offering to set him up with prostitutes.

Insiders say the Middleton family were conflicted about whether to invite him to the wedding or not and decided that he could go the ceremony at Westminster Abbey but not to the Queen's afternoon reception and Prince Charles's nighttime party.  Then someone realised that the prospect of Uncle Gary heading for a London pub after the ceremony and holding forth about the family wedding was a recipe for disaster. So now, having agreed to drop his girlfriend and clean up his act, he will be attending every wedding event. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Katrina---not invited
One of Kate's relatives who definitely WON'T be at the ceremony or post-wedding parties is her cousin Katrina Darling, a 20-year-old burlesque dancer who works the cabaret scene in Sunderland.

Her signature act, aptly titled God Save The Queen, ends with her dressed in nothing more than red nipple tassels and a tiny thong.

Dubbed the "North-East's original Cheesecake Sex Pistol" on posters for her performance, she covers herself in balloons in one of her acts and then pops them one by one.

Her other props include fire jets and an eight-foot python.  
She and Kate are related because her grandmother Jane Darling was sister to Kate's great-grandfather Thomas Harrison.
The 20-year-old dancer had no idea she was related to Miss Middleton when she created her regal striptease last year. But it has since emerged from her family tree that the pair are second cousins, once removed

Friday, April 22, 2011


With flowers and a surfboard.....
......into the water
To surfers up and down California's Central Coast, Marilyn was their surrogate mom. She would drive them to surfing contests, feed them, care for them and was always there to celebrate their triumphs and sympathise with their disappointments. 

When Marilyn died of cancer recently it was as if they had all lost a mother.

  So, on a recent chilly Thursday morning they paid their tributes to her at an unusual but sincere surfing memorial ceremony in the tiny beach town of Cayucos. 

  More than a dozen surfers, led by Marilyn's son Christian, who had flown in from Hawaii for the event, jumped 30 feet into the sea from the rickety Cayucos pier, clutching their surfboards and bunches of flowers.

  Forming a circle in the water they said a prayer for Marilyn while onlookers clapped and threw more flowers. 

  Marilyn's daughter-in-law Nikki, who, with her husband had grown up on the Central Coast before moving to the Big Island, handed out flowers and took photographs of the ceremony-in-the-sea.

 She and Christian will be returning next month for a more formal memorial service to be held in Santa Barbara, which more than 300 surfers are expected to attend.
Surfers' tribute

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Seems like I've arrived in the tiny California town of Cayucos in the middle of a crime wave sweeping the Central Coast.

 Police and sheriff's officers appear to be having their resources stretched to breaking point while dealing with incessant calls from concerned residents reporting "crimes" ranging from illegally parked shopping carts to noisy parrots.

Here are some extracts from the police logs published in the two local newspapers, The Tribune and Bay News:

*A resident reported that a shopping cart was in front of a house. 
*A person said two people on bicycles were looking at children. Offficers who responded said the two were merely looking for a restroom.
*A resident reported that a stepping stone was taken from his yard.
 *A resident called the police department to report that a police car was parked outside her house.
*A resident said a man looked over her fence and talked to her dog that morning and did the same the day before at 4a.m. Officers advised the resident of her options.
Rush hour in Cayucos
*A woman complained that a parrot on a man's shoulder was squawking at her.
And, most bizarrely,
*A man called police from Iraq saying subjects were using his wife's email account to have drugs sent to 1417 Riverside Avenue. Officers said there is no such address.

Phew! With crime so rampant across the area it'll be a relief to get back to relatively crime-free  city of Santa Monica. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Fresh off the boat
A 200-mile drive along California's central coastline between Ventura and San Luis Obispo is a passport to a different world ----a world of deserted beaches, rolling hills blooming with wildflowers and tiny seaside towns with names like Halycon, Harmony and Cayucos,

deserted beaches

.Here, the fruit and vegetables have been picked earlier in the day from the surrounding fields and fish can be bought straight from the fishing boats, caught the same morning. And the prices? Crab is $8 a lb, sardines $2 a lb and halibut is $13 a lb

Sadly, not everything along the coast is copacetic. Seals and other marine animals are being washed up dying and dead on the beaches, poisoned by demoic acid, a toxin transmitted from small fish and shellfish.
  Newspapers and local television stations are carrying warnings about the dangers of eating contaminated seafood.

  Maybe barbecuing and eating those sardines we bought off the boat the other night wasn't such a good idea.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Gruesome: The book (left) shows how people's faces were to be cut open and stitched back together - but makes no mention of anaestheticGruesome: The book (left) shows how people's faces were to be cut open and stitched back together - but makes no mention of anaesthetic

  If you thought nose jobs were a relatively new procedure pioneered by Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeons, think again. 

They were being carried out as long ago as the early 1800s. But in those days they were done without anaesthetic---just a burly surgeon's assistant to hold the patient down.

  A book published in 1833 called Surgical Observations On The Restoration Of The Nose; And On The Removal Of Polypi And Other Tumours From The Nostrils has been discovered at a house clearance sale in England. It was written by a surgeon named John Stevenson  Bushnan as a guide to other surgeons and includes gruesome diagrams showing how people's faces were to be cut open and stitched back together.

The text describes how surgeons should use scalpels, knives, pins and needles to carry out the operations but makes no mention of anaesthetic or pain relief, only instructions as to how an assistant should hold the patient still

One section reads: 'The patient being seated on a chair, behind which an assistant holds the head firmly against his breast, the operator thrusts a small pointed scalpel into the left side of the cavity before the sunken point of the nose, and by an incision proceeding obliquely upwards, cuts through the soft parts as far as the nasal process of the frontal bone. A similar incision is then made on the right side.'

It lists useful tools for the job, including scalpels, knives, scissors, quills, pins and needles. The extensive list of nose jobs includes methods of restoring depressions of the nasal ridge, improvement of the nose by transplantation from neighbouring parts, and restoration of the entire nose from the forehead and from the scalp.

It's enough to make you shudder at the thought of it! 


Saturday, April 16, 2011


  The ancient Mexican language of Ayapenco has been spoken for centuries.  It survived the Spanish conquest and has seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now it's at risk of dying out because there are only two people left on earth who can speak it fluently---and they're not talking to each other.

Manuel Segovia
  Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 yards apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. They avoid each other and people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other's company.

  "They don't have a lot in common," says Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco. Segovia, he says, can be "a little prickly" and Velazquez, who is "more stoic," rarely likes to leave his home.

   The dictionary is part of a race against time to revitalise the language before it is too late. "When I was a boy everybody spoke it," Segovia told the Guardian newspaper.  "It's disappeared little by little, and now I suppose it might die with me."
Although it survived the Spanish conquest, Ayapeneco is believed to have gradually disappeared as a result of compulsory Spanish education, migration of its speakers and urbanisation. 
  Segovia, who denies any active animosity with Velazquez, spoke Ayapaneco with his brother until he died about a decade ago. Segovia still uses it with his son and wife who understand him, but cannot speak more than a few words themselves. 

  Velazquez reputedly does not regularly talk to anybody in his native tongue anymore.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Presidents, movie stars, CEOs, playboys and Woody Allen all eat there. L'Ami Louis, a little bistro on a Paris sidestreet near the old Les Halles market is a favourite dining spot for British and American visitors, all of whom regard it as their own special secret. 
L'Ami Louis

It is certainly not cheap---a foie gras appetiser costs the equivalent of $79, a glass of house red wine is $19 and lunch for two costs around $400.
But according to the respected restaurant critic AA Gill, L'Ami Louis has earned an epic accolade ------it is, he says, without a doubt, the worst restaurant in  the world. 

In a fine piece of writing in Vanity Fair Gill says the restaurant's interior, painted a shiny, distressed dung brown, gives you the feeling of being in a second-class railway carriage in the Balkans. 

The waiters, he says, are "paunchy, combative, surly men, bulging out of their white jackets with the meaty malevolence of gouty buffalo" and lurk like extras for a Gallic version of The Sopranos. Customers' coats are flung into a luggage rack with no regard for anything in the pockets, while the menu, he says, is "brief and bloody."  The wine cellar is behind the lavatory "in a crypt that smells overpoweringly of fetid bladder damp."

And the food? The foie gras is "an intimidatingly gross flab of chilly pate with a slight coating of pustular yellow fat, dense and stringy with a web of veins." The escargots are "like dinosaur boogers" while the veal kidneys en brochette were welded together  into "a gray, suppurating renal brick" and, Gill adds: "They don't taste as nice as they sound."

Dessert is "four balls of gray ice cream and something that had once been chocolate."

So next time you're in Paris and someone recommends L'Ami Louis ----be warned!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


 Wherever he's hiding, Osama bin Laden is probably doing what all Arsenal fans are doing right now---gloomily contemplating yet another season without a trophy. 

Football fan
Yes, amazing as it sounds, the notorious terrorist is a diehard Arsenal supporter. 

It was while he was in London in 1994 in search of funding for terrorist ventures that he became fanatical about Arsenal and was a regular at Highbury's Clock End for their home games. He was reportedly on the terraces during the north London side's run up to the final of the European Cup Winners Cup, according to the book Bin Laden:Behind the Mask of Terrror by Adam Robinson.
Highbury Stadium

  The man who was involved in a plot to massacre the American and British teams at the 1998 World Cup in France apparently told friends that he had never seen passion like that of football fans. The Arsenal games were the first he had seen since he had taken an interest in football during kickarounds while growing up in the Middle East. 

   He became so smitten with the team that he bought a replica shirt for his eldest son and other gifts from the club's souvenir shop before narrowly avoiding extradition to Saudi Arabia and returning to Sudan. 

The Arsenal 1994 team
   When Arsenal executives heard that bin Laden had been a regular on the terraces they promptly banned him, and Robinson reports that for a while a curious chant was often heard emanating from the stands: "He's hiding near Kabul / He loves the Arsenal / Osama / Oh oh oh oh!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Madonna and Kabbalah bracelet
Celebrities who have followed Madonna into the mystical world of Kabbalah, the Jewish religious organisation that follows a set of esoteric teachings, may now be having second thoughts.
Ashton Kutcher---with bracelet
The organisation, which adherents believe explains our true purpose in the universe and to which Madonna has reportedly donated $18 million, is currently the focus of a federal investigation into alleged income tax fraud and has also been hit with several civil lawsuits claiming that the Kabbalah center has pillaged the bank accounts of wealthy followers, according to a Newsweek investigation.

 It is unclear whether Madonna is aware of the extent of the questionable practices at the centre, or that some of the centre's detractors have labelled it "Jewish Scientology."

Celebrities recently photographed wearing Kabbalah bracelets include Ashton Kutcher, Mick Jagger, Lindsay Lohan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zac Efron and Yankee's slugger Alex Rodriguez.    

Monday, April 11, 2011


A new biography of Glenn Ford by his son Peter paints a less-than-flattering picture of the actor, who died in 2006 aged 90. According to Ford Jr. his dad was a Jekyll-and-Hyde character who devoted all his time and emotions to acting and none to his family. But to me, the actor who starred in the Sheepman, 3:10 to Yuma, Jubal and other classic Westerns, will always be remembered as an entertaining raconteur and a thoughtful and considerate host. 

  I had to go to his house on Oxford Way, behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, in 1980 to interview him for an Australian magazine about his plans for a sheep ranch somewhere in the Australian outback. Because he thought I was Australian he laid in a case of Foster's Australian beer ready for my arrival. I didn't disillusion him and we spent a very pleasant afternoon talking and working our way through the beer in the English-style pub he had in the house. 

Ford's house on Oxford Way
He told me that one of his problems at the time concerned Rita Hayworth, his neighbour and former lover, who persisted in throwing her empty champagne bottles over the hedge into his garden. 

His house, by the way is currently up for sale, priced at $6,900,000.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The Fighter, the  movie about boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward's battle to a world title, earned seven Oscar nominations and continues to rake in the money at the box office. 

Yet his story pales in comparison to that of a real Irish fighter, Wayne McCullough, the former world bantamweight champion, who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles during a long and eventful career, during which he was never stopped or knocked down.   

  Wayne, known as the Pocket Rocket, encountered bombings and shootings in his native Belfast, crooked managers and promoters, controversy over the Irish flag, a problem with the Northern Irish national anthem, a mis-diagnosis of a brain cyst which kept him out of boxing for two years and, through it all, he fought wherever and whenever he could, taking on all comers and winning fans around the world for his dogged, relentless attacking style. 

  It's quite a story. Born in Belfast's Shankhill Road in 1970, he was brought up amid sectarian violence when boys either joined the UDF or the UDA --- Protesant gangs ---or went to the gym. He opted for the gym and forged his amateur career in the face of prejudice and bias against a Protestant fighting in the mainly Catholic sport of boxing.

He won a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but was excoriated by critics for carrying the tricolor flag of Ireland.  He moved to America and turned professional where he won the world title. But his problems mounted outside the ring where he was paid by bounced checks, swindled by his then manager-promoter out of $750,000 and two days before a homecoming fight in Belfast was refused a licence to box by the British Boxing Board of Control because doctors found a cyst on his brain. One blow to the head would kill him, he was told. 

  He returned to the U.S., did the rounds of 15 doctors, who assured him that the cyst was not on his brain and not dangerous so, after two years, he was licenced to fight again in Nevada. He returned to Belfast and fought there for the first time in seven years to a rapturous reception. After more problems with management, his wife Cheryl took over his career. His last fight was three years ago when he was 37. A few days before, he injured his back while sparring and could hardly walk. He wanted to postpone the fight until he was fit but his then-promoter insisted he went through with it. 

Amazingly he was ahead on two judges' scorecards when the injury forced him to quit after six rounds.  

Five years ago Wayne McCullough was named the World Boxing Council's first Ambassador of the World for Peace and Goodwill in Sports. 

There's plenty if any filmmakers out there are looking for a rambunctious, rowdy, heart-warming story they couldn't do better than contacting the Pocket Rocket.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Laurie (left) with his band

  Hugh Laurie is currently the highest-paid actor on U.S television  for his role in House, but the question now being asked about him is: Can he sing the blues?

   A talented pianist, guitarist and saxophone player, the British actor is nevertheless raising eyebrows with his musical foray into blues music of the Deep South on an album called Let Them Talk, which is being released in mid-May. 
  On it he sings some blues standards such as Swanee River  and St. James Infirmary mixed with other songs which have rarely been heard since the 1920s such as Police Dog Blues and Whinin' Boy Blues.

  Music critic Lindsay Johns asks: "Will Laurie’s blues album actually be any good? He is an Anglo-Saxon male educated at Eton College playing a style of music traditionally the preserve of elderly African-American gentlemen, usually from the Deep South, telling of lives of privation and pain. Should music born out of a racialised crucible by historically disadvantaged and oppressed communities be dabbled in by others?"

   Laurie, with typical humility, says: 
 "I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south. I could never bear to see this music confined to a glass cabinet under the heading Culture: Only to be Handled by Elderly Black Men. That way lies the grave, for the blues and just about everything else. Shakespeare performed only at the Globe? Bach only played by Germans in tights?"

Or as one old Mississippi bluesman famously said: "It ain't where you're from---it's where you're at."

Saturday, April 2, 2011


The things animals have to put up with to humour their humans! First this three-year-old Labradoodle looks like she's dye-ing of embarrassment after being made up by her New Zealand owner to look like a tiger. Her owner says she did it to bring laughter and amusement to the community. 
"This is such a nice way to make people smile and give them something to talk about," she said. 
The dog doesn't look as if she's smiling.


Then there's Tai, the 42-year-old elephant who, after starring in the new Fox film Water For Elephants, was transported to a Santa Monica hotel to stand in the parking lot posing patiently with journalists who interviewed her co-stars, Reese Witherspoon and Rob Pattinson, but rarely spoke to her. 
Me, Tai and her co-star  (Photo: Theo Kingma)

And yes, I'm as guilty as the rest but at least I chatted to her and she waved her trunk (gratefully, I think, but somewhat alarmingly) at me.

Fortunately Reese Witherspoon was on hand to exercise a calming effect on us both.

Friday, April 1, 2011


photo by Santa Monica History Museum

Long before there was an Arnold Schwarzenegger or the famed Muscle Beach in Venice, there was another Muscle Beach that began its storied journey in the 1930s, in Santa Monica, just steps from the Santa Monica Pier. Known for being the "birthplace of the physical fitness boom for the 20th century," it is also credited for bringing the sport of bodybuilding into mainstream culture.

Over the next 10 years, as more families began to own cars, Santa Monica became a prime tourist destination, prompting acrobats and gymnasts to flock to the beach and perform their stunts in front of giant, rowdy crowds, according to Tom
Viscount, writing in the Santa Monica Daily Press.  A large, raised, wooden platform rimmed with seats was then constructed to better accommodate the sea of spectators.

In the 1950s and 60s, writes Viscount,  Muscle Beach began to attract celebrities, such as Kirk Douglas, Hercules Unchained star Steve Reeves, Mae West and Jayne Mansfield, who all reveled in being a part of the circus and  its  larger than life performers. Ms. Mansfield actually found love here, marrying Mickey Hargitay, one of the bulging musclemen. Joe Gold, who founded Gold's Gym, and other future icons of the fitness world, were also a part of the scene. 

By the late '50s, most of the original cast of characters who had built and defined the spirit of the early days of Muscle Beach were gone and so was the fun and lightheartedness..In their place came serious, pumped-up bodybuilders posing in thong-like bathing suits.
 Muscle Beach's image was then severely tarnished by a sex scandal involving underage girls and a couple of the well-known bodybuilders. This scandal and a series of injuries were factors that led to City Hall eventually closing the park in 1959. It would be almost two decades before Muscle Beach would rise again in a place called "The Pit," at Venice Beach.


  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...