Friday, April 25, 2014


Phil and Ruth: The early days
 A little over 40 years ago Phil Elwell from Birmingham, looking in vain for a British pub he could drink in, decided to open Ye Olde King's Head. He took over a dive called the Brass Bell on what was then Santa Monica's Skid Row in Santa Monica and he and his wife Ruth worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week to establish it as a stronghold and social club for both Brits and Americans in the area.  
  In the early days regular visitors included Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, Graham Chapman of the Monty Python troupe, Oscar-nominated actor Jason Miller, Alan Price, Cary Grant, Davy Jones of the Monkees and many others from the worlds of film and music. Nicole Kidman used to stop in for bangers and mash when she was married to Tom Cruise and on one memorable occasion The Who's wild man drummer Keith Moon was banned for simulating sex on the floor in front of the bar.
Phil and Ruth today
Noel Gallagher performed there and former England captain Ian Botham turned out for the King's Head cricket team. Kate Winslet would pop into the King's Head shop when she was living on Ocean Avenue with Sam Mendes and Kate Beckinsale came in to watch the football on television.   
  And so it went on.....the names would fill a giant book and the photographs that lined the walls in Phil's day were a testament to the literally hundreds of famous visitors who made the pub their temporary home.

  Phil and Ruth sold the business, which by then had grown to take up the whole block, some seven years ago and retired to the desert but they return regularly, most recently for a party to celebrate the pub's 40th anniversary.
   There, during a long night of drinking and dancing with music supplied by D. J. Stubbsy, they renewed old friendships and saw regulars and staff they hadn't seen for years. 
   "Nothing's changed," marvelled Phil. "Tonight it's just the same as it always was. But Santa Monica---that's really changed. Now it's a big, busy city. It used to be a village."

Monday, April 21, 2014


Bryan Singer....accused of sexual abuse
   Interesting to see that once again Bryan Singer is at the centre of sexual abuse allegations made by someone who alleges the A-List director sexually abused him and other young men.
  Michael Egan, in a lawsuit filed late last week, alleges Singer provided him with drugs and alcohol and flew him to Hawaii in 1999 for sex on more than one occasion.  Singer is alleged to have offered the aspiring teen actor a role in an "X-Men" film if he gave in to his sexual demands, while threatening to destroy his career if he didn't.
   "I was a piece of meat," Egan, now 31, told reporters.
   It is not the first time allegations of sexual abuse involving Singer have surfaced.  I remember back in 1998 when he was an up-and-coming director filming Apt Pupil five teenage extras filed lawsuits claiming that they'd been subjected to sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment and other outrages by Singer and his film crew.
   The boys claimed that although they'd been promised that their roles wouldn't involve nudity, once they entered the set for a shower scene they were commanded to strip and forced to stand naked for more than four hours as the cameras rolled. 
   They claimed they were subjected to "ogling, leering and subjective glances."
   The lawsuits, which named Singer and at least seven others as defendants along with Phoenix Pictures, were eventually ruled to have no merit and no criminal charges were filed. 
   Egan's suit claims Singer "manipulated his power, wealth and position in the entertainment industry to sexually abuse and exploit the underage plaintiff through the use of drugs, alcohol, threats and inducements which resulted in plaintiff suffering catastrophic psychological and emotional injuries."      
  The lawsuit says that most of the alleged sex abuse took place at parties hosted at an Encino, California, mansion, by a man who Egan and two other young men successfully sued in 2004 for sex abuse. The men won a $4 million judgment against him, but Singer was not a defendant in that case.
  "The parties were typically sordid and featured sexual contact between adult males and the many teenage boys who were present for the parties," the current suit says. The teens were seduced by the "distraction of alcohol and drugs," it says.
  "The nature of the parties was well-known and notorious among many men in the Hollywood entertainment industry," the complaint says.
  Singer allegedly gave Egan "drugs, including cocaine, a pill identified as 'green triangle' which is believed to be a reference to the drug Ecstasy, Xanax, Rohypnol, pain pills believed to be Vicodin or Percocet, and alcoholic beverages," the suit says.
  Singer is one of Hollywood's most successful directors and producers, having directed two installments of the "X-Men" film franchise and a Superman movie in the past 15 years. His next film, "X-Men: Days of Future Past," is set to hit theaters on May 23.
  Fox, the studio distributing the X-Men movies, is distancing itself from the lawsuit and issued a statement saying: ""These are serious allegations, and they will be resolved in the appropriate forum. This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately."

Friday, April 18, 2014


  The death of literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Mexico City had a particular resonance for me because both Gabo, as he was known, and I had the same favourite bar in Cartagena although we were never there at the same time. 

   Gabo lived in a house by the city wall just a few hundred yards away from the Whiskeria Zorba while on my visits I stayed at an hotel directly opposite. After a nightcap in Zorba on my way back to the hotel I would sit on my balcony and watch the comings and goings of the bar's eclectic clientele long into the night. 

   Although the bar had only a few rickety tables and chairs it had atmosphere and character galore and it was there, at his regular table that Gabo, according to his brother, wrote most of Love In The Time of Cholera.

  The Whiskeria Zorba is now gone, demolished in the name of progress to make way for who knows what. 

  But for its regular customers, like the literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it will live on.
   Photographer Theo Kingma captured the bar and its customers in its heyday.  

Friday, April 4, 2014


Tim De'ath and Roy Hodgson. Pictures: Getty Images
  The England World Cup football squad will be getting a taste of Hollywood-style catering in Brazil.
   Manger Roy Hodgson has hired Tim De'Ath, who catered for the cast and crew of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, to look after the squad's culinary needs.
  Tim, who is the player liaison officer at West Ham and who is a partner in  a restaurant in Chelmsford with some of the players, including Andy Carroll, is leaving nothing to chance. He will be making advance sorties to all the kitchens of hotels where England could stay, including those in the knock-out stages, checking they have all the facilities the needs. 
   Among the sauces and accessories he will be taking with him will be tubes of Wasabi paste, bottles of peri-peri sauce, Tabasco sauce, sweet chilli dipping sauce, English mustard, seaweed sheets, dried apricots, custard, bars of organic chocolate, herbal teas, jam and bottles of brown sauce. Gone are the days of boxes of Mars bars.
   England's first game is against Italy in the steamy jungle heat of Manaus on June 16.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomrrow
   With the World Cup only three months away Hollywood is beginning to realise the tournament will be bigger than its biggest summer blockbusters and will certainly wreak havoc on moviegoing in Europe and Latin America.
    So, mindful of the fact that in 2010 more than 3.2 billion people---nearly half the world's population---tuned into the World Cup and nearly one billion viewers watched the final between Spain and Holland, the jittery studios are rethinking their release plans to avoid the
tournament, which begins on June 12 in Brazil and ends on July 13.
   The re-worked schedules mean there will be a pileup of big summer movies both before and after the tournament, with Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow being brought forward to early June and other big movies, including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the Wachowkis' Jupiter
Ascending and Guardians of the Galaxy all opening in late July and early August.
  "The World Cup causes a glut of product after the games," says Paramount international president Anthony Marcoly. "With most summer blockbusters, the core audience is identical to that of
the World Cup and it is far too risky to compete with the World Cup and generate the huge box-office returns needed."
   While most of the major studios have decided to avoid the World Cup, Fox has decided to go head to head with it and is planning to release two movies intended to appeal to females and families---the
romantic drama The Fault in our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and the animated How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  "We decided to take the World Cup head on," says Craig Dehmel,

senior vp international at Fox.


  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...