Thursday, January 26, 2012


With Hagman, Duffy, Gray and new cast                                                                                   Photos: Theo Kingma

Not Southfork
  It's been more than 20 years since the final episode of Dallas was screened on American television but now the main members of the original cast have met up again at Southfork for a new, updated version of the twisting saga of the oil-rich Ewing family.
  I looked in at the Dallas studios where Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray are filming the tenth episode of the new series, along with a cast of young newcomers bringing fresh flavour to the dirty dealings of J.R his family.    
  Hagman is now 81 but his J.R. character is as Machiavellian as ever. "You've got to really pay attention to this show because things happen so quickly and people get stabbed in the back so fast by their loved ones," he told me. "I keep reading the scripts and saying, 'My God, how far are they going to go with this?'".
  And by the way, the fence I'm leaning on might look as if it's part of the famous Southfork ranch but in fact it's a painted backdrop in the studios in downtown Dallas.
  Clever people, these filmmakers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


$50 chair
Moana Surfrider Resort and Spa
  Spending a few days on Oahu ostensibly to interview the stars of the new Warner Bros. movie Journey 2: Mysterious Island but in reality to get some Waikiki sand between my toes and warm Hawaiian sun on my back. 
  That was easily accomplished on my first day here---but at something of a price. The grandly-named, impressive looking but not-quite-luxurious Moana Surfrider Resort and Spa, where I am staying, has found a way to ensure that sun-seeking guests pay for the privilege of acquiring a sun tan in relative comfort.
  Towels can be borrowed free of charge but anyone wanting to sit on a chair on the beach in front of the hotel is charged $50---yes, $50---for the day.
   Smokers have it even worse. A friend of mine who hasn't yet given up the habit and has to diligently search out corners and alleys where smoking is still tolerated, is smarting over the $11 he is charged for a packet of cigarettes.
   Yes, it's paradise----but at a price. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


  When Russell Brand made jokes at the expense of the Jonas Brothers and their purity rings in 2008 at the MTV Video Music Awards, the comedian had to contend with many, angry young fans, and now, fellow Brit Ricky Gervais is in similar hot water.
  After making a joke about Justin Bieber at Sunday night’s Golden Globes related to a paternity claim scandal from late last year---"the only way he could impregnate a girl is if he borrowed one of Martha Stewart's turkey basters"---.Ricky was hit with a slew of angry messages from Bieberites online.
 “Getting out of town now. Bieber fans aren’t happy with me," he tweeted.  “That’s some scary shit. Ha ha. Bye LA. hello NY!”
 Ricky also found himself a dog for a little (literally) protection.
“OK. I’ve got enough protection against Bieber fans now,” he wrote, posting a photo of himself with the tiny hound.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


 Having spent the best part of three long, crowded hours on the red carpet at the Golden Globes (in the course of duty, not fun, believe me!). I have no doubt as to who was the undisputed star of the afternoon. 
  While the pundits raved about Reese Witherspoon's dress, George Clooney's charm and Brad and Angelina's star power,  Uggie the dog was outshining them all.
 The adorable Jack Russell terrier who is the canine star of The Artist, drew applause and laughter all the way up the carpet as he rolled over, hid his head in the paws and stood up on two legs.
  Uggie, who previously had a role in Water for Elephants, clearly has a big future in movies, although he is now ten years old ---70 in dog years. Still, if Christopher Plummer can win a Golden Globe at 82, why not Uggie?  

Saturday, January 14, 2012


  I looked in at the rehearsals for this year's Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and was interested to see Ricky Gervais, who will host the show, prowling around the tables, inspecting the cardboard cutouts bearing the names of the stars who will fill the seats at the show. 
  Checking out where his targets--sorry, subjects---will be sitting? Preparing his ammunition?
  Ricky, whose comments last year about some of the star guests were greeted with hilarity in some quarters but went down like lead balloons in others, isn't saying. 
  "All I'm saying is nobody knows what I'll be saying," he said enigmatically.

Friday, January 13, 2012


       For someone who claims he doesn't campaign for awards, George Clooney is certainly in all the right places and getting plenty of publicity: red carpets, trendy restaurants, receptions, parties---the man seems to be everywhere at once.           
    Not long ago I was a guest at a private party he hosted in a room at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a few friends and journalists before the premiere of The Descendants in which he stars and for which he has already picked up a few awards. 
   He dutifully shook hands with everybody, posed for pictures and made Hollywood small talk. It was a star-worthy performance.
     Seeing him on the red carpet at the Palm Springs film festival the other day and at a party in New York's trendy Cipriani restaurant the next prompted me to go back through my notes to an interview I had with him at the Toronto Film Festival back in September. 
    "It's harder selling a movie than it is making it in a weird way," he told me. "You're much more exposed so I've closed some of those curtains. 
   "I'm harder to get to. Honestly, it's true. I don't do junkets anymore because that's not selling the movie, that's selling me and I don't really see any use in it so I've really backed off those kind of things just to have a normal life."
    Hmmm. Well, if you say so George.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


 Can't say I'm too surprised at the news that Russell Brand and Katy Perry have decided to call it quits after 16 months of marriage. When I talked to him about a year ago, while he was promoting the movie Arthur, the former heroin addict who claims to have slept with literally thousands of women, including nine in one night, seemed somewhat shell-shocked.
  “Marriage was a massive, massive transition for me,” the 35-year-old Brand told me.  “While material or carnal pleasures are temporarily exciting, love endures, and one has to work hard at it.”
  It seems that he didn't work hard enough and the lure of carnal pleasures was too great. Or, as he reportedly told a friend the other day: "Let the good times roll again."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


  Sobering news out of London where police officers have been ordered to avoid "flirting" and accepting alcohol from journalists.
  Elizabeth Filkin, the former parliamentary commissioner for standards, warned of the "fraught issue" of drinking with reporters as she outlined a new framework for officers coming into contact with journalists.
  In a guide issued at Scotland Yard, officers are also urged to keep a note of any conversation they have with journalists. 
  When I was working in Fleet Street---admittedly many years ago---that would have been sufficient for a furious outcry from both police and press, who relied to a great extent on each other--- the police for money and free drink and the press for information. 
  In fact if a crime reporter didn't have several good police contacts he could ply with drink and pump for information he wasn't up to the job.  
   I once spent a month in Winchester covering the trial of the IRA bombers who bombed the Old Bailey and other targets in London. Every evening after court adjourned journalists and police who were there for the trial got together either in the hotel bar or one of the pubs in the city for a night of drinking, swapping stories and general rowdiness.
  It wasn't unknown for some female members of the press corps to spend the night in a room that wasn't theirs and close friendships were formed. 
  I used to drink regularly with an officer in the Bomb Squad attached to Scotland Yard and he remained a good friend and contact for all the time I was in Fleet Street.

  In her review of press-police relations in the wake of the phone-hacking inquiry, Filkin said drinking with officers may be seen as "inappropriate hospitality".

  She said there were "some very serious issues" relating to contact between journalists and police which "eroded trust from the public".
  The report urges officers to "watch out" for "late-night carousing, long sessions, yet another bottle of wine at lunch - they are all long-standing media tactics to get you to spill the beans. Avoid."
  "Inappropriate hospitality", late-night carousing, long sessions, another bottle of wine----what Miss Filkin doesn't realise is that they were all an integral part of  police-press relations. 
  What will the police do now they have to pay for their own drinks? 
   And where will the journalists get their information?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Body of woman found dumped in woodland on Royals' estate

  A murder investigation is under way after the remains of a woman were discovered by a dog walker on the Queen’s estate at Sandringham. Police say they are looking at missing persons reports and cold cases across the country.
 The body was found in woodland on the Queen's estate in Norfolk on New Year's Day, but there is no indication yet of when the woman died, or how.
Officers cordoned off a large area of woodland less than a mile from where the Royal Family gathered for Christmas.
 Residents said forensic officers had spent more than 24 hours scouring a line of trees bordering farmland.
 The scene is a stone’s throw from the Royal Stud where the Queen oversees the breeding and training of race horses.
 One estate worker, who declined to be named, told the Daily Mail that the police operation has been shrouded in secrecy. He said: "It is completely cordoned off. It looks like they have closed a big area.
 "The Sandringham stud is less than quarter of a mile away and the Queen rides across this country. What is really strange is that no one knows anything about it. On the estate everyone knows everything about what is going on.’
  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are in residence at the estate, accompanied by the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their two young children.
 More than 200 people live at Sandringham, including farmers, foresters, gamekeepers and gardeners.
  It is also a popular tourist attraction that includes huge swathes of farmland and woodland as well as orchards and fields of soft fruit, sprinkled with idyllic rural properties.
 The house and private gardens cover 59 acres, but the estate also has 590 acres of woods and open countryside in a section that is open to the public free of charge all year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012



  Elton John is moving ahead with plans for a film based on his life. He has hired writer Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliott, and says: "We'll be making an announcement about it very, very soon.  We have a director on board and then it's just going to be a matter of getting the script exactly the way we want it."
  He has a wish list of people he wants to play him but top of the list by far is Justin Timberlake. "He played me before in a David LaChapelle video of Rocket Man and was superb," he says. 
  The movie will be a surreal look at his life. "I just don't want it to be a normal biopic because my life hasn't been like that," he says. "And it only goes up to when I go into rehab in 1990. It starts with me going into rehab and ends when I come out."


  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...