Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Chris Patten, asked by the BBC to characterise the defining moment in his life, says it was the '15 minutes of fame' he enjoyed as a result of his governorship of Hong Kong. He tells a story by way of illustration. 'I remember shortly after I had come back from Hong Kong, walking near my house in France, and meeting an old gentleman who asked me where I came from,' he says. ? told him the village and he said: "Ah, have you met the great man from Asia who has just moved in there?" So I said no, I hadn't. And he said: "Ah, he was a great man - the governor of Saigon! " '

Few things could be more unappealing than Michael Barrymore's determination to stage a comeback, with the inevitable grinning, mugging and flirting with coach-party grannies. (Not because of the body in the swimming pool, mind - just because he is Michael Barrymore. What he does in his private life is probably his own affair.) Happily, his public seems to be voting with its feet. What gossip-writers like to call 'theatreland insiders' affirm that advance sales for tickets of his one-man show at Wyndham's Theatre, due to open in September, are so far 'catastrophic'. The Stage's box-office expert, who goes under the nom-de-guerre of 'Boffo', explains it thus: 'Nobody is going to fork out L37.50 for the West End's answer to Fatty Arbuckle.'

Since everyone's at it, how about another Campbell conspiracy theory? Here's the thing. You are the bagpiper-in-chief, and your number is looking to be up unless you can establish that the BBC is a purveyor of speculation, innuendo and simple untruth (which, you ruefully note, is a usurpation of your own customary role). So you allow a senior political journalist, say, Andrew Marr of the BBC, to be briefed off the record that you are definitely going to resign. Hullabaloo ensues. Then you deny, firmly and unequivocally, that you are even contemplating quitting. Then you stay obdurately put: thus proving yourself right, the BBC to be nothing more than a malicious rumour mill, and obviating the need for a resignation. Well, it may sound silly but it's certainly what I'd do in the circumstances.

Failing which, of course, Alastair will have to find a way of scraping together a crust in the private sector while he labours on preparing his diaries for publication. Westminster talk has it that he has been approached privately by the American news network CNN.

The sidelines of Hollywood superstars. For Paul Newman, it's salad dressing. For Scan Coombs, it's bling-bling streetwear. For Kevin Costner? Centrifuges. As controlling shareholder in Costner Industries, Texas, the star of ,Sizzle Beach USA and Field of Dreams told this year's Offshore Technology Conference that his new centrifuges could one day clear oil spills the world over using something called 'small footprint reciprocal rotation'. 'This is a very proud moment for me for what started out nine years ago,' he said as he unveiled the new technology. 'Common sense said to me to stop, many, many times. Business wisdom told me to stop, many, many times. . . . ' Nevertheless, he persevered. See what you can achieve when you follow your dreams!

As this column noted a fortnight or so ago, it was game of the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, to have published his salary (a tidy L253,000 pa) in his own newspaper, as part of his entry in the paper's list of the nation's 100 most powerful media movers and shakers. …

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