Sweet memories of The Brits

Robbie Williams at the Brit Awards 99

Robbie Williams at the Brit Awards 99

It occurs to me that one of the things I can do with this blog is recount various hilarious stories, old and new, of life in the television fast lane. And of life in the slow lane, now that I’ve pulled over to let the boy racers get past. I’m observing the speed limits these days so I’ll see all those boy racers at the roundabout or the next set of roadworks.

You do know I write this whole blog with my tongue stuck firmly in my cheek, don’t you? So when I use a word such as “hilarious” it is to be taken lightly or not taken at all. As my best friends will tell you, I am not a funny person. If others occasionally find me amusing it is by accident rather than design. I merely aim to tell it like it is, or like it feels or felt to me at the time.

So, the Brit Awards take place tonight. I have just heard Chris Evans closing his breakfast Radio 2 show and swapping Brits memories with Ken Bruce. Both agreed that even the Brits amount to just another awards show which goes on for too long. I would add that despite the glamour even the most famous and apparently self-assured faces are slightly on edge on the night.

I have been to the Brits twice and my main question is: why the hell are they held on a weeknight? If you are a corporate guest of, say, ITV (who broadcast the Brits to an expectant nation) then once you are past the rock-concert-meets-film-premiere style security you drift to one of the corporate hospitality tables where you are plied with alcohol and so-so food before the actual awards start. There is pumping music, but you are in an echoey and initially quite cold arena (I went to Earl’s Court) which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for dinner with 7 like-minded souls. Table in the middle of this vast, dark aircraft hanger, madam? This way, please.

So you eat. You drink a lot, if you do that sort of thing. Then the awards start. On comes a star presenter or Davina McCall or a series of different presenters for different awards categories. It’s a tough audience to play to. At some point the screaming masses are let into the place, wearing wristbands and lacking access to anywhere except the pit in front of the main stage. Another lot of people – presumably mortals – file in to fill the rows and rows of seating around the place. Quite what the general public make of the corporate few, noshing their noodles at candle-lit tables on a specially constructed dias in full view of the rest of the proceedings is anyone’s guess. But at that point in the evening, none of the music or tv executives present actually care.

As I said, I’ve been to the Brits twice, both times courtesy of someone who was far too nice for the TV industry but hasn’t actually left it. Once Robbie Williams was the star turn and his Let Me Entertain You did exactly what it said on the tin. But Williams was already entering the stage of his career when he became disaffected with fame and his acceptance speech for one of the awards he garnered that night went something like this: “This is for my nephew. This was when your uncle Robbie was famous.” During half of his turn, Williams didn’t even trouble himself to mouth the words to his hit. Why bother, when several thousand adoring fans are singing for you.

The other year was the year Geri Halliwell appeared on stage from between a set of giant prosthetic ladies’ legs. The sets were quite good and, in that strange way of the turning world, I later discovered that the creator of Halliwell’s vaginal stage entrance lived in Suffolk close to friends of ours. I wrote about that at the time elsewhere.

So good luck to all of tonight’s Brits nominees and the various hacks and media executives assembled to adore and schmooze. Enjoy your night, especially if you are a guest of corporate hospitality. Try not to be sick before you leave and remember where your ride home is to be found at the end of the night. I shall be watching on ITV.


The question we’re all asking

Chris Evans. BBC

That question is, of course, has Chris Evans changed? The DJ who went AWOL from Virgin Radio despite owning most if not all of it and who parted company with Radio 1 somewhat acrimoniously back in 1997. His brilliance became self-importance and he paid the ultimate price – years in a celebrity wilderness.

Now Evans is back on top after a successful run as Radio 2’s drivetime host and, from today, hosts the coveted Radio 2 breakfast show.

The question is: is Evans really a matured, more rounded character? Will he go home to his wife and young son after working at ungodly hours (7am til 9am) and eschew the long lunches that were his downfall ten, 15 years ago? For the sake of the BBC and Evans’ listeners I hope he has changed. But I feel a youthful part of myself dying as I make that wish.

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Ishoos with Twitter

stephenfry.com/blog. (C) Samfry Ltd 2009

Don’t get me wrong: I love Twitter. Just like I love Facebook and I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. We have an open relationship. I put my photos etc on Facebook, where I track who my so-called Friends are (a lot of them are colleagues, but it’s all a blur these days). I feed my status updates through from Twitter where I have very few followers, some of whom I don’t know from Adam. Or Eve.

But just as I don’t call in to radio shows with tips on what I do that’s a bit nutty but effective (pace Chris Evans‘ Radio 2 drivetime show – anyway my nuttiness is too freaky and involves not getting hair in the plughole), so I’m not sure I should be following celebs on Twitter. It’s fun to know that Jonathan Ross‘ wife had cupcake ice cream for breakfast yesterday and I’ve just watched this amusingly short interview with Stephen Fry after he tweeted about it. But I’m beginning to feel like I did in the early 1980s when I had a pash on a particular pop star and simply HAD to own every magazine that ever published an interview or photo spread with him. (That wasn’t hard in 1982 – you just had to buy Smash Hits every week and the occasional Just Seventeen.)

I can write off following Messrs Ross and Fry as a professional duty. As a journalist and blogger, I should experience these things so that I can comment on them. But in another sense I’m not exactly their “public”. I listen to Jonathan Ross, as regular readers of this blog will know only too well, and am a great admirer of Fry. But I’m more likely to come across them professionally than those who are truly members of their “public”. I guess this is a case of boundaries blurring once again. For now, Twitter is fun in a mildly distracting and sometimes fulfilling, information-sharing way and if it ceases to be so I imagine we’ll all just move onto the next thing.

PS: If you’re desperate to know who my girlhood crush was on, it was George Michael and I don’t care that he turned out gay and slightly rotund. Love forged in youth knows few bounds.

Do you love/hate Twitter? Go on – leave a comment. You might enjoy it!


Edgy? What do you mean, edgy?

Frank Skinner. BBC

With the newspapers still attempting to stir up controversy over presenters like Jonathan Ross, let’s remind ourselves of what edgy actually means. I’m going to try to be quite brief.

A couple of other people are also pondering this subject. Well, loads really. Frank Skinner has made a special edition of Panorama about swearing and has shared his views with The Independent. There was also a dreadful attempt by ITV’s Tonight programme to examine what offends people on TV on Friday. (Where did ITV find the guy with the glasses and the comb-over for this panel? Was he chryonically frozen in the mid-1960s and specially defrosted for the show?)

Here’s my take on the whole edgy thing. Edgy means being close to the edge, the edge of that point or line or whatever metaphor you want, that line between comfort and discomfort.

In entertainment, specifically on chat shows, that line lies somewhere between being obseqious and being an arse. It’s a line between sucking up to people simply because they are famous (leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether they have any talent which has made them famous) or being offensive, either to famous people or to those watching.

In my humble opinion, Jonathan Ross has always trodden the line between sycophancy and busting a few celebrity bubbles quite well. I still recall his Radio 2 interview with Bob Geldof, who I’ll admit is a sort of guilty pleasure hero of mine. (I’ll even admit to having seen The Boom Town Rats live.) Ross worried away at how Geldof styles himself on his passport. Is it ‘musician’ or ‘fund-raiser’? Thus he got to the heart of Geldof’s celebrity: a musician who was good for few Boom Town Rats numbers but who is much more widely known for his Band Aid/Live Aid-inspired charitable works.

Yet in that and in most interviews Ross does he manages to soothe the celebrity ego to the point that they invariably part friends. It doesn’t work with everyone. George Michael (another guilty pleasure) famously plumped for an interview with Chris Evans rather than Ross. But generally, Ross treads that line between star worship and ego puncturing.

That’s what we mean by being an edgy presenter and, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, it’s what “the kids” (those under the age of about 60) want.

Finally, finally (oh dear, I said I would be brief), where in the whole debate about taste and decency that followed the Ross/Brand row has anyone talked about British prudery around sex? Surely the concepts of sex, grand-daughters and swearing only have power over us if we let them? If we accept that people do have sex, grand-daughters are invariably the product of that act and people use shocking words to, erm, shock then swearing and sex are already a lot less fraught and a lot less liable to upset people.

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