Thursday, 30 July 2009

Paris and Pixels

Time to rejoice, as Paris Hilton lays claim to yet another media platform in her quest for global domination. This time, she's leveraged her international celebrity to launch a new game for mobile phones in India.

Despite a title that makes Paris sound like she's challenging Indiana Jones as the world's pre-eminent treasure-hunter, Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest is actually a Bejeweled-style game that involves lining up three jewels of the same colour. Oddly enough, the game would have worked just as well with brain cells, but may have been tougher to market.

The game also features lots of images of "Hilton parading her jewels", which can't have been too challenging for her, since she already made a video doing just that. Players are teasingly invited to 'hop on board her private jet and travel the globe' in search of new and precious jewels. Move over Tomb Raider right?

But as riveting as all of this sounds, what's really interesting is that Paris seems to have finally found the ideal platform to present her brand - after all, mobile phone games are notorious for being mindless, irritating and poorly rendered. Much like the monotone, finger-nosed thought-vacuum herself.

Still, credit where credit's due - the girl knows how to self-promote. She's currently touting a new documentary called Paris, Not France where she aims to recast herself as the brain behind the brand. Claiming that 'Paris Hilton' is just a ditzy character she created, the 'real' Paris is apparently not a slut or an airhead.

So Paris and her mother Kathy found it particularly hard seeing Hilton Jr's most notorious moment referenced in the film. Speaking at a red carpet screening in LA, Kathy told reporters "It's very tough...I can't believe they kept that part in there. I thought they kept that part out. It's going to be very hard for us to watch." This is obviously a woman who never had to sit through a season of The Simple Life.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Who can't handle the truth?

Famous for his temperamental nature, affinity for starlets and a fondness for Colombia's leading export, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans wrote a spectacular tell-all memoir called 'The Kid Stays In The Picture'. The introduction sets up his warts-n-all approach to autobiography, explaining that "There are three sides to every story. Your version, my version and the truth."

So it's interesting to see that Dan Abrams, a TV host, legal commentator and web entrepreneur is setting up a new website called based on the same fundamental approach. The purpose of the site is to separate fact and fiction on celebrity-related stories, in the hope that it will shut down some of the erroneous non-stories that proliferate over the internet's garden fence.

The idea is that gossip-hungry celeb watchers can use the site as a fact-checker, the next time they see a story they want to know more about. So if you want to know the truth about Britney's role in a Holocaust drama or George Clooney's psychic connection to his dead pot-bellied pig, GossipCop will set you straight. There's even a handy little thermometer to help you assess the where the story sits on the rumour-to-real scale.

Unfortunately, this seemingly noble venture is just another tool enabling celebrities and their PR-mies to manipulate the meaning of the word 'truth'. We live in a world of CelebDaq, where coverage means value. If truth was what really mattered, there'd be no exclusive interviews, stories based on 'insider' leaks, or features that start with " rumoured to be..."

As this story points out, we don't actually care whether a story is true or not. We learn as much about celebrities from the false stories as we do from the official coverage. GossipCop may well prove to be a hit, but only because it aggregates lots of celebrity stories in one place. But for a site that represents itself as authoritative, it's weird that truth is a depicted as a sliding scale. Call me old fashioned but I always though that words like 'fact' and 'truth' were absolutes.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Romper Stomper temper temper

Has anyone else noticed a shift in the way Russell Crowe is being talked about lately? The one-time concierge-worrier has clearly turned over a new leaf and is wandering the streets of Britain doling out random acts of kindness like Oprah Winfrey in Lincoln green.

Russell has always been the strong, sensitive type. After all, he once accosted TV producer Malcolm Gerrie, believing him to be responsible for editing down coverage of Russell's reading of a poem called 'Sanctity'. Let's also not forget that he also famously smacked a hotel employee with a phone because he was unable to get through to his wife back in Australia.

But things have clearly changed for the ass-kicking Kiwi (not Australian as most people believe). Now he's filming Robin Hood with Gladiator-director Ridley Scott, someone has obviously realised that Russ needs a little help repositioning himself as a helpful hero, rather than a rage-driven fist-clencher.

The first beneficiary of Russell's new-found benevolence was lucky old Denise Yarde, a boom microphone operator on the set of Robin Hood. Arriving late to work because her car had died en-route, Denise was somewhat irritated by Russell's insensitive remarks. Probably never having heard the Christian Bale tapes, Yarde decided that she could talk-back to the temperamental A-lister, saying "Well, I suppose it's Ok for you, Russell, you've probably never had to worry about finding five grand for a new car." According to reports, Crowe was instantly put in his place, apologised and gave the plucky mike-dangler £5,000 to put towards a new car.

More recently, Russell popped into a Cancer Research store in Sunningdale, Berkshire. Perhaps he wanted to buy a brown tea cosy and some old Beano annuals. Anyway, so inspired was he by the hard working volunteers, he spontaneously made a £1,000 donation. All very unplanned and genuine, right down to the fact that the Daily Star were soon there to interview the star-struck shop staff.

Given the fact that Russell's new movie is all about a misunderstood criminal who makes grand gestures of generosity to the poor and needy, this all seems a little cynical and obvious. But I could be wrong. Maybe this isn't the grand invention of an imaginative PR team, and Russell really is just a misunderstood pussycat. And he'll punch anyone in the face who dares to disagree.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The pictures of Doreen Gray*

A couple of alarming pictures have been printed in today's papers that highlight the level of photoshopping talent currently residing in record companies and advertising agencies around the world.

Two women, at either end of the fabulous fifties, and often applauded for their age-defying appearances, have been snapped looking rather more ordinary than we're used to.

Twiggy, a woman who has represented fashion and glamour for over forty years looks like she should be buying frozen sausage rolls in Somerfield. And Madonna, whose yoga and exercise regime would put a pentathlete to shame has been snapped modelling Gollum's biceps. Somewhere in a greenscreen studio, Andy Serkis is practicing his 'Vogue' moves.

On the one hand, these unauthorised images should make regular women feel a little more contented about their own battles with the ageing process. But equally, they prove just how much artifice exists in our image-obsessed world. Suddenly that mirror doesn't seem quite so intimidating, does it?

* It's a joke

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Life on the small screen

When Aaron Spelling died in 2006, he left behind a phenomenal legacy of TV greats that included Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, Starsky and Hutch, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and The Love Boat. He also left behind one of the most dysfunctional families since the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Having made his name, and a not inconsiderable fortune, as a purveyor of glossy soap opera, there's a poetic justice in the fact that his life started to imitate his art. Weirdly, the whole feud kicked off back in 2006 and when daughter Tori joked about her mother Candy's eBay habit, and was summarily excommunicated. This event also co-incided with Tori's decision to leave her husband of one year and get engaged to someone else.

Shortly after all this erupted, Aaron Spelling died of a stroke aged 83. Tori maintained that she and her father had reconciled their differences before he died, but Candy took longer to thaw out. Despite the fact that Aaron's half-billion dollar fortune was expected to be divided three ways between Candy, Tori and her brother Randy, in fact the two kids only received $800,000 each.

Thankfully, Aaron raised Tori with a great work ethic, albeit one founded on nepotism. So she went out and got herself a reality show about her and new husband Dean McDermott attempting to run a bed and breakfast. At the same time, she and Dean also debuted another new production, baby Liam. Given the reports that Cindy was in the delivery room at the time, it would seem that the pointless feud had run its course.

But just as soap operas love to end on a cliffhanger, this story still had a few more chapters to play out. Coming on like the Lady Macbeth of Beverly Hills, Candy kept the acrimony alive and well by writing a book about the family estrangement and blaming Tori's self-imposed exile for killing her husband. So not the stroke or the oral cancer.

It seems that hell hath no fury like a widowed socialite with bugger-all else to do with her time. Her latest attempt to keep the fires burning is an 'open letter' to her daughter posted on gossip website TMZ. In it, the woman once famed for having a room home used solely for gift wrapping, shows her generosity of spirit by publicly denouncing her daughter for conducting her life in front of the cameras. Which is completely different to airing your dirty laundry on the internet.

Still, as with all of Spelling's TV shows, the plot will run and run until the audiences get tired and find something else to follow. In the meantime, perhaps Candy should follow her own advice, "You're responsible for what you do. Life isn't just a show. And your families can't just be props." Wise words indeed.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Mother knows best

If you're not already familiar with her pouting puss, this is Nadya Suleman, currently one of the most recognisable faces in America. But her notoriety isn't because she happens to look like Angelina Jolie dressed as Pete Burns for halloween. She also has a uterus that's seen more action than Jerry Bruckheimer.

Suleman shot to fame back in January when she gave birth to a busload of babies, thanks to some heavy-handed fertility treatment and a hunger for fame. The media was quick to rename her 'Octomom', in reference to the octuplets she successfully delivered, although it actually made her sound more like a multi-limbed super-villain, rather than a woman with a more prolific womb than Mrs Walton.

Unfortunately, the tide of public opinion soon turned on Ms Suleman when it emerged that she already had a fairly extensive brood. In fact, the eight new arrivals were taken home to their six other siblings, all conceived through IVF. It didn't help matters that Nadya was also raising her kids single-handedly, and living on a combination of food stamps and disability payments.

At a time when most new mothers would be busy worrying about sleep deprivation, feeding patterns and sore nipples, Nadya was appointing the Killeen Furtney Group to handle her public relations. In early February she appeared on NBC in an exclusive interview, claiming that she wasn't selfish, and that society was 'unfairly judging her' because she was a single mother.

By cleverly politicising a peripheral issue, the opportunistic Octomom managed to avoid the wider concern behind the public's distrust. I'd hazard a guess that most people were more dubious about the motivations of a mother of six, who struggles to provide for the children she already has, actively seeking further IVF treatment.

So we should hardly be surprised to learn that Suleman has successfully negotiated a way of providing for her 14 offspring in the only way she knows how - by selling them to a TV network.

In a move that feels a lot like the parents who sold their children to travelling 'freak shows' in the nineteenth century, Nadya has signed with a British TV production company to make a new reality show. Each of the kids will earn $250 a day for the 71 planned days of filming over the next three years, netting the family somewhere in the region of quarter of a million dollars. No wonder Nadya's turned that trout-pout upside down.

When countless thousands of people are prevented from being loving parents by beaurocracy, legal restrictions, or messy seperations, it's infuriating to see how cavalier some people can be regarding the wellbeing of their children. Sadly, the ability to successfully carry a foetus to term does not automatically qualify someone as a good parent. That doesn't happen until after the baby's born. And Nadya's not off to a great start.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Ignorance is bliss...

Once again the Daily Mail sets the standard for journalistic integrity, this time by commissioning a critic to condemn a film he hasn't even seen.

Deftly side-stepping the issue of 'unseen' reviews by publishing Christopher Hart's piece on Lars Von Trier's Antichrist under the banner of debate (rather than the reviews section where the film is also savaged by Chris Tookey), the Mail clearly has no problem running a story based on second-hand information.

In his critique, Hart decries "a movie that plumbs grotesque new depths of sexual explicitness and violence", stating proudly that he has not seen, nor has he any intention of seeing, the film which was nominated for the Golden Palm at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

He gamely argues that "You do not need to see Lars von Trier's Antichrist to know how revolting it is. As Ernest Hemingway said of obscenity... you don't need to eat a whole bowl of scabs to know they're scabs."

Which I suppose is true. The same as me saying that I don't need to read the Daily Mail to know that it's full of misleading propaganda, lazy assumptions and reactionary indignation.

Now this wouldn't be a Mail story without some reference to Eurocrats and tax-payers, so it comes as no surprise that Hart feels it is journalistic duty (unlike, say, actually watching the film he's reviewing) to 'find out more' from the Danish Film Institute which co-funded Von Trier's film. He never actually makes clear what he intends to discover, but when they fail to co-operate he lazily assumes that "you can be sure that they in turn are funded by the EU and so by my taxes - and yours."

Perhaps more ridiculously, Hart labels the film 'torture porn', despite the Mail's other review (posted by someone who had at least seen the film) stating "For a start, this is not torture porn."

In an era when film critics are becoming an endangered species thanks to cutbacks in newspaper publishing, perhaps Hart needs to try a little harder to represent his profession. With the chief movie reviewer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops coming under fire for daring to give a positive review to the "homosexual propaganda film Brokeback Mountain" and Sony being sued in 2005 for inventing film critic David Manning to write bogus reviews, one might think that those who survive the cull would try to maintain the integrity of their chosen vocation. But then again, why try to apply logic to anyone associated with the Mail?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Bitter Queen vs King of Pop

Despite their reputation for flakiness, celebrities are usually a reliable bunch. For instance, Britney will always be a trashy, inarticulate mess, Jordan will always find something excruciatingly private to discuss with a paying publication, and Rupert Everett will always say something shockingly ill-advised whenever he has a new product to plug. Unfortunately though, Rupert seems to work less than Victoria Beckham's smile muscles, and so we don't hear from him nearly enough.

Thankfully, with new Channel 4 show The Scandalous Adventures Of Lord Byron to promote, Rupert's crawled out from under a plastic surgeon to speak bluntly about anything that takes his fancy. This time around it's Michael Jackson and the very notion of celebrity that bear the brunt.

Having already labelled Jackson a freak, Rupert added that "He looked like a character from Shrek. He was a black to white minstrel." Pointedly ignoring the medical issues affecting Jackson's skin-colour, Everett's rapidly derailing train of thought elaborated on the racial issue, commenting that "He personified the pain and anxiety of a black man in a slave country." If anyone can claim to be an expert on the complexities of race relations in 21st Century USA, it's bound to be an ex-rent boy whose last role of note was that of a comical headmistress.

But according to Rupert, Jackson's death heralds a bigger event - the end of celebrity culture as we know it. Comparing the extremes of modern celebrity to the last days of Versailles, he wonders how much more bullshit we can take about celebrities. Well, I don't know about him, but I can handle plenty more. Which should be good news, since at least it means there'll still be an audience the next time he wants to talk publicly about his time as a junkie, or perhaps slate service men and woman for always "whining about the dangers of being killed."

Then again, it shouldn't really come as a surprise that he spends so much time talking out of his arse, since he's had so much plastic surgery that it's practically next to his mouth anyway.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The meaning of Diva

VH1 has announced that it's going to be interrupting its highbrow programming (including 'Charm School with Ricki Lake' and 'Megan Wants a Millionaire') to bring back an old favourite. After a four year absence, we can finally start looking forward to the 2009 edition of VH1 Divas.

Airing back in 1998, the first VH1 Divas concert was staged to help raise money for the channel's "Save The Music Foundation". Despite the impressive names in the line-up, most people actually tuned in to see how any venue could possibly house the titanic egos of some of music's biggest names. Sharing a stage (but presumably not a dressing room) were Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey.

Particular attention was paid to Carey, who has a well-documented reputation for diva-like behaviour, and Franklin - the biggest diva of them all (in circumference as well as talent). Thankfully, the only histrionics on the night were the vocal kind, and VH1 were sufficiently happy to make the event an annual one.

Over the years the show played host to the biggest female names in music, including Patti LaBelle, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Cher, Mary J. Blige, Donna Summer, and (weirdly) Elton John. At the time people questioned Elton's eligibility, only to be reminded that, in contemporary terms at least, he was the quintessential diva - a vast talent dwarfed by shrieking demands and a complete absence of humility.

Now with the concept being dragged out of early retirement, the carefully tweezed eyebrows of the entertainment business are being raised once again. But this time it's not the gender of the acts that are causing consternation, more the status. So far, only four stars have been named, with Kelly Clarkson considered the veteran of the group that also includes Leona Lewis, Adele and Miley Cyrus.

Given that Adele and Leona only really found fame in the last 18 months, and Miley has yet to graduate beyond the Disney channel (come to think of it, she hasn't even graduated high school), it's hard not to feel that the true diva is a dying breed. Being a great singer is one thing, but the appeal of the diva lies is to be found in the inaccessible prima donna, not the quality of the live vocal. Grace Jones is a diva, even though her voice sounds like the belch of dishwater disappearing down the drain.

As great as I'm sure their performances will be, I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by the idea of an all-star show where the talent just gushes about "How amazing it is to be here". The show's called Divas, so we want people who refuse to leave their dressing room until there are enough humidifiers to create a thundercloud. Still, they've got a couple of months to turn into monsters. My money's on Leona.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mad as a box of frogs

Websites and gossip magazines just love to pit celebrities against one another. And since genuine catfights are few and far between, they have to engineer opportunities to force their readers to take sides. The easiest and seemingly most popular route is to find celebrities who've worn the same outfit and encourage their readers to vote for who looks best. Sadly, going on her recent form at least, it'll be some time before we see Lady GaGa on those pages.

In the past couple of weeks we've seen her wearing gigantic hats, gimp masks, spirograph headgear and a studded leather corset that shoots fireworks from its breasts. Needless to say, GaGa's not a girl who shuns the limelight. Many people seem to find her annoying and pretentious, but I think they're missing the point.

Just like Sacha Baron Cohen, Stefani Germanotta (her real name in case you were wondering) is a performance artist who has brought her character into the real world to enhance the audience's engagement with the product she's created. In doing so, she's found a clever way of maintaining interest and intrigue. And the knock-on effect of all this is that she's made US chart history by being the first American act to score three number ones from a debut album.

Ordinarily, new artists explode onto the scene with a smash hit song, release an album and then accept the law of diminishing returns with each successive release until they have a second album to launch. GaGa understands the power of a campaign (as this great article recognises) and has managed to keep her profile high even now, almost a year after the album debuted.

Asked about her 'art' in Maxim magazine, GaGa named David Bowie and Andy Warhol as her inspiration. "Warhol said art should be meaningful in the most shallow way. He was able to make commercial art that was taken seriously as fine art, to use something simple and shallow and take it to another planet. That's what I'm doing too." But just as importantly, she doesn't seem to take any of this pretentious post-rationalisation too seriously. Then again, it's hard to take anything seriously when you're dressed like a Muppet mass grave.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Girls just wanna claw each other's eyes out

If the papers are to be believed (note to self: never believe the papers), there's trouble brewing on the set of Iron Man 2. According to reports, which amount to little more than tip-offs from anonymous sources keen to make a quick buck, Gwyneth Paltrow hasn't exactly rolled out the yoga mat for franchise newcomer Scarlett Johansson.

Having played improbably-named love interest Pepper Potts in the first film, Paltrow was probably expecting a beefed-up role in the sequel. Instead, it seems that Gwyneth is seeing red about Scarlett, who's onboard to play Black Widow, a Russian spy, in the big-budget follow-up.

Speculative stories have been hitting the web for a couple of months now, suggesting that Paltrow and Johansson are at loggerheads. Strangely, one report even went so far as to suggest that Gwyneth was trying to physically 'deflate' Scarlett by sharing her personal trainer and doing daily workouts together. Sharing and togetherness - hardly the first signs of a woman gripped with insane jealousy.

In typically nonsensical style, the Daily Mail once again manages to state 'fact' and then negate it within a couple of paragraphs, by saying that Gwyneth is planning to boycott a promotion in San Diego later this month, only to then quote a spokesman who rubbishes the entire story.

But there's no smoke without fire, or so says conventional wisdom. The problem is, stories like this tend to emerge whenever successful women come together.

There was the rivalry between Sharon Osbourne and Dannii Minogue on The X-Factor, and then, when the Wicked Witch of the West (coast) left, the rivalry passed on to new judge Cheryl Cole. The Sex and the City movie was almost a no-go due to the supposed in-fighting between Kim Catrall and Sarah Jessica Parker, and even when the movie was finished the rumours persisted, over ridiculous details like who stood where on a photoshoot. And who can forget the time when All Saints broke up over a jacket that Shaznay and Natalie both wanted to wear at a Capital FM Christmas concert?

The funny thing is, these exposés never seem to surface about male stars. Were the papers full of made-up stories about George Clooney and Brad Pitt battling over who stood where on the Ocean's 11 poster, or punch-ups between Shane and Kian in Westlife?

There's a fundamental misogyny at the heart of all this, that weakens the position of every one of these women each time these rumours are presented as fact. And once again, it means that they have to work twice as hard, and keep their noses twice as clean, just to be treated as equals.

Weirdly enough, Gwyneth herself may have put her finger on it when talking about the clash between Pepper Potts and the Black Widow in the plot of Iron Man 2: "The men want it to be, like, 'Ooh, the girls are fighting over Tony,' but it's not as standard as that. There's a weird male catfight fantasy."

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bad guys beware

Looks like Jack Bauer could soon be hanging up his jump-leads and heading off to Boca Raton to enjoy the early bird specials at Denny's. With the news that NBC is about to launch a new reality show about terrorism, it's fair to assume that there'll be no longer be any need for fictional anti-terrorist types.

The Wanted is a bold new concept in docutainment, teaming up journalist Adam Ciralsk with retired Navy SEAL Scott Tyler, retired Army Special Forces officer Roger Carstens, and former U.S. intelligence official David Crane. Together this elite squad of arm-folders will hunt down accused war criminals and terrorists who are currently living "in plain sight in the U.S. and Europe". Although they're going to have to come up with some clever ways of injecting excitement, since it hardly takes Holmes and Watson to uncover something 'in plain sight'.

When 24 and Alias premiered in September 2001, ABC and Fox were understandably unsure about whether their shows would find an audience. Despite wildly different tones, both focused on undercover agents fighting terrorists both within the US and overseas. Airing just weeks after 9/11, the shows struck a chord with a bruised national psyche, and went on to be massive hits. While Alias descended into sci-fi mythology and familial discord, 24 expanded its grip on America's perception of terrorism and, in particular, Islamic fundamentalism. Season 4 depicted the attempts by a Turkish Muslim family to execute a terrorist attack on US soil, and played on people's deep-seated fears of the enemy next door, so much so that Fox was pressured into recording a Public Service Announcement in support of the 'American Muslim' community.

So it will be interesting to see what impact a 'reality show' about the possibility of terrorists living right under our noses will have on the more impressionable viewers. NBC previously courted controversy with a similar show called “To Catch a Predator” which showed police officers and journalists trying to catch possible sex offenders. As well as claims of entrapment, and the fact that many of the accused ended up having their charges dropped, the sensational nature of exploitative 'factual' shows like TCAP serves only to enhance paranoia and suspicion.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to also question the integrity of a show that runs with a strapline 'Truth is the real weapon' and then pursues people who are accused, rather than convicted, of terrorist connections. Who cares if they're guilty right? It's all about the hand-held cameras, rapid-fire editing and other cinematic elements that have been added into the mix, such as sweeping helicopter shots and a command centre for the team. And how do the ethics of journalism sit with news teams helping to create the story, rather than impartially reporting on it?

I wouldn't be surprised if The Wanted turns into a massive hit for NBC, especially considering the frankly alarming comments that its target audience have posted beneath this news story about the show. As would-be viewer Gary Ogletree says, "Special Ops guys beat actors and phony scripts any day." Indeed, there's no reason why phoniness should be limited to the dramas.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Mischa's meltdown

With Britney all fit, shiny and rehabilitated, the world's media must be delighted about Mischa Barton's breakdown. Police were called to her house on Wednesday to assist her with an undisclosed medical issue, and she was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Since then, it's emerged that she has been sectioned under Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institute. This means that authorities can keep someone involuntarily if they present a danger to themselves or others, or suffer from a mental disorder.

Over at Heat magazine, they're probably feeling a little guilty, since they ran Mischa's pictures on their cover last week. The coverline screamed that the 23-year-old OC star was out of control, stating that she was too gaunt in January, and bloated by June. Just days before her breakdown, she spoke to Life & Style magazine about the Heat cover to insist that she was "healthy and comfortable". Despite a generally upbeat perspective, Mischa also expressed frustration at having to "address the same non-issues on a repeated basis."

Of course, that didn't stop websites like Hollywire running pictures taken on Tuesday with the headline 'The mess that is Mischa Barton pre-meltdown photos'. It helps that the not-particularly-startling images were accompanied by copy stating "You can tell just by the way her face looks that she is completely vacant and bloated from some sort of drug abuse..." Whether or not Mischa has had a drug-induced breakdown is yet to be determined, but it's good to know that in the meantime there are tabloid hacks out there willing to state it as fact.

Also comforting is the fact that Mischa has the support of the people around her at this difficult time. People like the spectacularly named Bingo Gubelmann, producer of Mischa's new movie 'Homecoming' which premiered this week without its young star in attendance. Speaking to US Weekly, Bingo said "It's frustrating. And it's not ideal, but I'm not going to sit here and trash her because we're young as a company and we've got to live and learn." Maybe someone in the publicity team had a word with him, because within 24 hours he was telling Access Hollywood how professional she was.

Hopefully, Mischa will get the care and attention she needs to find her way back to the top of her game. After all, this is a girl who was winning rave reviews at the age of eleven for her performance in acclaimed drama Lawn Dogs. But maybe, just maybe, the media will also take a moment to question their complicity in pushing people to the brink, only to pull out the zoom lens gleefully as they tumble over it.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Acceptable in the '80s

Take a good look around. La Roux is at the top of the charts with an album that sounds like it was scraped together from a bunch of Yazoo out-takes. The A-Team, the Smurfs and T.J. Hooker are all being lined up for big-screen reinventions. And Patrick Dempsey is still one of the hottest actors around. It's safe to say that the 80s is no longer the forgotten decade.

The latest relic from the era of head-bands, leg-warmers and Wincey Willis to be hauled back into public consciousness is the ground zero of jazz hands, Fame. Starting out as a surprisingly gritty drama by Alan Parker, the original film followed the endeavours of some of New York's most compelling young talents. And a dull girl with a cello. But thanks to some toe-tapping tunes, energetic performances and a pair of very short shorts (thanks Leroy), the movie was a massive success and even won two Oscars.

Smelling a franchise, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was quick to recruit as many of the movie's unknown cast as possible, and lined up a weekly TV show. Despite being a staggeringly formulaic and amateurish production, it was another smash hit. For a while at least. New song and dance numbers were incorporated into every episode, and the cast regularly took to the road for extensive tours as "The Kids From Fame". Finally, in 1987, the show was cancelled and the cast shuffled off into relative obscurity, before being temporarily dragged out of it for one of Justin Lee Collins' nostalgia-fests on Channel 4.

So now, here we are anticipating Fame for a new generation. The trailer (embedded below for your viewing convenience) seems to tick all the right boxes. An R&B update of the iconic theme song, young people giving it their all with steely determination, and lots and lots of stretching. Unfortunately, what has changed is the context.

Back in 1980, Debbie Allen's voiceover declared "You've got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying ... in sweat." So how is the movie going to work in an era when fame costs nothing? These days, fame is a simple commodity that can be acquired by being born, being hysterical, or sticking a wine bottle up your Jacob's Creek. There's no longer any need to pay in sweat, since any bodily fluids will suffice. Talent has become entirely incidental, and at times seems diametrically opposed to the very concept of celebrity.

Equally, breakthrough success is equated with selling-out. Instead, integrity and genuine creative expression live underground, on self-financed record labels and in independent arthouse movies.

Sadly, the sweetspot where talent and fame do actually converge is a troublesome nexus for many. The entertainment world has lost countless talents decades before their time because the conflicting pressures were just too great. As Irene Cara once sang, "I'm gonna live forever..." but only figuratively speaking.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Hello Joe, whaddya know?

Another week, another big-budget, would-be blockbuster being half-heartedly hawked by an indifferent star more famous for appearing in a state of undress. Last time it was PR liability Megan Fox, trying to concurrently promote and distance herself from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

This time around, there's another explosive popcorn-fest based on a popular range of toys, all that's changed is the gender of the star. Channing Tatum is a one-time Abercrombie & Fitch model who has managed to forge a reasonably successful acting career thanks to some moderately acceptable performances and the fact that he makes Greek gods feel insecure.

So here he is, headlining a smash-in-waiting, and the publicists manage to bag him a prominent cover feature with leading men's magazine GQ. So how does he talk up his latest opus, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra? He says "I hope it does OK." Brilliant.

The studio's marketing team must be absolutely cock-a-hoop at that glowing recommendation. If that's how excited he is about the biggest movie of his career to date, I can't wait for the DVD commentary - 100 minutes of grunting as Channing does a punishing regimen of ab-crunches, pausing occasionally to say "Oh yeah, I'm in this."

Still, Sienna Miller's no better. Despite the fact that no-one can recall anything she's ever done (other than Jude Law and Balthazar Getty), she confidently states "You know, GI Joe, it's not going to be the best acting work we've ever done." No Sienna possibly not. But going on your current form, it's the best chance you've ever had of actually being seen by a paying punter on the big screen.

They say any publicity is good publicity, and in the case of GI Joe it's probably the best they can hope for. After all, the film has been dogged with negative press for months. At one point the rumour mill reported that director Stephen Somers had been fired partway through filming. This is the man who gave us Van Helsing and The Mummy Returns, two films so bad that they're possibly in breach of the Geneva Convention.

Whatever happens, in a few short weeks we'll know whether this misfiring and underwhelming publicity campaign has worked or not. I imagine that the film's tagline is ringing in the marketing department's ears right now: "When All Else Fails, They Don't". We'll see.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

We demand a recount

An interesting development in the X-Factor camp today, as news emerged about plans for controversial contestant Laura White's debut single. Once fêted as the favourite to win, Laura caused a public outcry when she was shockingly voted off by the judges in the fifth week of the contest.

Such was the impact of the scratchy-voiced warbler's sudden departure, people rushed to accuse ITV of a 'conspiracy'. Adele, Lily Allen and Alesha Dixon all weighed in on the subject, speaking out in interviews and blogging about the injustice of it all.

Weirdly, the topic even made the Houses of Parliament as Culture Secretary Andy Burnham contradicted himself, saying "MPs should resist the temptation to comment on editorial matters although the temptation is great in my case, having seen the wonderful and talented Laura White very harshly voted off X Factor on Saturday."

Despite the fact that she had a thoroughly affected singing style and a voice that could worry livestock, she was the darling of fans of 'proper music'. These natural enemies of all things popular thought that she was an authentic artist, rather than a complicit pop puppet. No-one ever seemed to point out that she was simply rehashing the Amy/Duffy/Adele 'white girl soul sound' that was so very now... 12 months ago.

With the X-Factor excitement now a dim and distant memory, the contestants are starting to re-emerge from their recording studio hibernation to share the fruits of their labour. Schoolgirls' favourite Eoghan Quigg sadly fell at the first hurdle with an ear-raping album of wretched covers described by PopJustice founder Peter Robinson as the "worst album in the history of recorded sound".

So understandably the pressure's on to ensure that Laura doesn't follow in the dragging footsteps of little Eoghan's sneakers. And her management have come up with a fairly innovative idea to ensure that they can't be accused of screwing it up.

It was announced today that Laura's fans will be given the chance to decide on the song that she releases as her debut single. Having questioned whether she even wanted a career in music after her disappointing exit from the show, her mind was changed by the "immense amount of support" she received from fans. So now she's repaying the favour by allowing them to decide on what happens next with her career. Let's just hope that her loyal supporters actually bother to vote this time around.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Here comes trouble...

It's been a long time coming, but it looks as though Amy Winehouse has finally turned a corner, straight into a hair salon. After eight months in St Lucia, where she has been busy recording her third album, getting herself clean and 'causing untold human suffering', she's looking healthier than she's been in years.

As well as putting on some much needed weight and having the worst of her wretched beehive hacked off, she's even discovered sleeves, meaning her arms look more like arms and less like the mischievously graffiti'd walls of a child's nursery.

She originally flew out to St Lucia before Christmas for a much needed holiday from her busy life as a tragic piece of performance art. But before too long she fell in love with the island and decided to stay. Her record label even stumped up the cash to allow her to record her new album there. In the meantime, she spent her time getting banned from various bars and hotels, and adopting a bunch of stray dogs.

Not everyone on St Lucia was delighted about La Winehouse's residency, with some people treating her stay more like a troublesome infestation. But with Rentokill unable to solve this particular problem, ex-government spokesperson Jeff Fedee decided to take matters into his own hand. Calling Amy a "tattooed reptile", he suggested that "She would be a menace... to St Lucian society, because the demons that inhabit her tortured body will still have to be fed." Which is probably a little extreme, given that Amy's worst crimes were drug-dependency and a propensity for appearing in loose denim cut-offs.

Hopefully this means Amy's put the worst of it behind her, and is finally strong enough to wrestle her sixties-throwback crown from the thatched head of the Welsh pretender to the throne. A new album would be nice too.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Duncan's blue period

These days, if you're a celebrity with a product to sell, it's no longer enough to pop up on a chatshow and press the flesh with whoever happens to read the questions off the autocue. You have to give something of yourself - a confessional tidbit that the papers can claim as an exclusive, and it doesn't matter how personal the details are. In fact, the more explicit the better.

This weekend, Katie Price proved herself the master of this dark art, using a recent miscarriage in an attempt to attack the alleged insensitivity of her estranged husband. Worried that he was winning the majority of the public's support simply by getting on with his life, Katie decided it was time to get her acrylic claws out.

It seems that the management of recently reformed boyband Blue may be advising a similar strategy. With a major tour to promote, singer Duncan James has revealed in an exclusive interview with the News of the World that he's bisexual. Despite crafting a reputation as a permanently priapic ladies man, it turns out that Duncan was into more than just 'One Love'. "Yes I was labelled a womaniser, and yes I did sleep with a lot of women. But there were tell-tale signs I was that way inclined. I've always been theatrical and loved being on stage."

Aside from describing himself as 'that way inclined', and his use of 'theatrical' as a one-size-fits-all euphemism, Duncan claims to be happy and at peace with his lifestyle. It also means that twice as many fans have a chance of being invited backstage at the forthcoming concerts. So that's good news all round.

Following last month's shock announcement that the reunion was 'partly about the money', I'll be interested to see what the other three boys in Blue can come up with when the News of the World come knocking for further exclusives. Failing that, I suppose the dubious tabloid could always just tap the lads' phones and see what comes up.

Good idea? You be the judge...

With the seventh season of Strictly Come Dancing heading to screens in the Autumn, the BBC has announced some big changes to its flagship show. Clearly inspired by American Idol and The X-Factor's attempts to shake up the talent show format, bosses have axed Arlene Phillips and replaced her with Alesha Dixon, the photogenic winner of the 2007 series. They've also revealed plans to bring in Darcey Bussell in the latter part of the series. But not everyone's happy about these changes.

According to the Daily Mail, which has a sixth sense for grumbles of discontent, the dancers on the show are incensed that they'll be judged by an 'amateur' with limited dancing experience. Clearly they've never seen Paula Abdul dispensing singing tips on Idol.

Fiona Phillips has also waded in to give her perspective on the decision. Writing in The Mirror, (probably with her face contorted into that characteristic sneer of hers) she criticised the choice, saying "Since when was Alesha Dixon a choreographer? And who, outside the chattering class pastures of the broadsheets and the Royal Ballet, cares about Darcey Bussell?". It's a stupid comment really, although hardly surprising if you ever endured one her painful interviews on GMTV, since no-one has said Alesha is a choreographer. Phillips herself admits that Arlene's caustic comments infuriated viewers, and maybe that's precisely why the ex-Mis-Teeq singer is such a good choice.

There's always a danger on any of these shows that the egos of the judges dominate proceedings and the contestants get sidelined into supporting roles. Every show needs a Simon Cowell - a plain-speaking, blunt-to-the-point-of-cruelty judge, but that needs to be countered with more empathetic personalities. Otherwise they might as well just replace the judging panel with a group of feces-hurling monkeys. Having gone through the show as a contestant (and wowed people with her natural dancing talent), Alesha is in a great position to give considered feedback on how the performers fared in the spotlight. She might not be able to critique their lines or timing, but that's what the other judges are there for.

As for those who've suggested that it's another case of the BBC's 'ageist' hiring and firing policy, I suggest they take a look at the show's host. Bruce Forsyth, a man whose earliest performances were on a zoetrope, actually considered legal action against newspapers that speculated he was leaving because of his advanced age. So who's really ageist here?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Grief is the new black

After yesterday's epic send-off, rumoured to be viewed by over 31 million people in the US alone, and costing the city of Los Angeles $1.4 million, everyone is fixating on the nature of grief in today's celebrity-obsessed world.

Despite almost constant news coverage since his death, and a Lazarus-like resurrection in music charts around the world, the turnout for Jackson's memorial was somewhat underwhelming. The city of LA anticipated around 250,000 mourners would converge in the streets to pay their respects, but in fact only around 1,000 bothered to show. This meant that the 3,240 police officers deployed to steward the crowds outnumbered the mourners 3-to-1.

One case where the grief was perhaps underestimated, was little Paris Jackson, breaking down as she paid an emotional tribute to her father. Many children whose parents die young are denied the opportunity to even attend the funeral, and this is something that can stay with them for decades, having been denied the chance to say 'goodbye'. But Paris, finally free of her father's all-encompassing paranoia, was allowed to step forward and defend his reputation as the perfect dad. In doing so, she was able to answer his sneering critics and remind the world that, innuendos aside, he genuinely loved his children. But some critics are unhappy about this, speculating that Paris was exploited, seemingly cajoled into taking centre stage and casting off the weird veil we'd seen her in for every previous public appearance. I think everyone's just surprised that Michael Jackson managed to produce three apparently normal, well-adjusted children.

It wasn't just Michael's close family who came forward to share their memories of the begloved one. In the last week or so, anyone who ever met him, spoke to him or opened up their shop for him came forward with their own personal recollections of the man who was not Billie Jean's lover. Uri Geller, clearly mourning the last vestige of his media relevance, spoke at length (and frequently) about his friend, even speculating about what actually killed him. Liz Taylor began by issuing a statement to say that she was too upset to issue a statement, before then issuing a statement about her broken mind (as if we needed further proof). And Madonna managed to stop crying long enough to announce that she couldn't stop crying.

And then there's the memorial service itself. Aside from some wildly varying vocal tributes, and a selection of ill-advised hats modelled by the Jackson sisters, what really stood out were the appearances by people who never actually met Michael Jackson. Queen Latifah, John Mayer and Jennifer Hudson all paid impassioned tribute to the pop legend, despite never having encountered him face-to-used-to-be-a-face. Interestingly, the most talked about appearance of the entire show was a 12 year-old boy. Rather than accusations of impropriety, this pre-teen showed up to offer his interpretation of Michael's 'Who's Loving You'. Shaheen Jafargholi had originally shot to fame in the most recent series of Britain's Got Talent, and it was clear from the start that he was a big fan. In fact, he was due to duet with Jackson next week for the first of his shows at the O2. Instead, here he was rubbing shoulders with Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie, with his idol laying in a casket stage right.

The fact is, it doesn't really matter whether the people eulogising Michael Jackson actually met the man or not. The fact is, they knew him. They knew him the same way every one of his fans felt that they knew him. Because that's the nature of celebrity, of a life lived in the public eye. There's an emotional connection between performer and audience, and it doesn't matter whether that audience is made up of the great unwashed or the great and the good.

Now, can we finally change the subject?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Liberty Ex

Talk about 'physician heal thyself'. Having tried her french-tipped hand at singing, presenting and marrying into the Scott-Lee clan to maintain her fame, tangerine dream Michelle Heaton has found a new career. For just €200 an hour, you could employ the luminous lovely to give you a top-to-toe style makeover.

Having recently won tens of new fans by acting like a petulant perma-victim in this year's Celebrity Big Brother, Michelle has turned her 'unique' fashion sense into job she can really sink her expensive veneers into.

Unfortunately, trade may prove less than brisk, since Michelle regularly found herself at the top of the charts (in Heat's Worst Dressed list). In fact, she never met a gaudy print, ill-fitting boob tube or bedazzled thong that she didn't like. With a personal look that's less 'footballers' wives' and more footballer's cheap mistress, Michelle is a curious choice for celebrity stylist. Perhaps Anne Widdicombe had already been snapped up.

I suppose we shouldn't really be surprised that Michelle has shown the tenacity to land this new role, given her expertise as a professional celebrity. In the past she's appeared in Celebrity Wrestling, Celebrity World Cup Soccer Six, Celebrity Weakest Link, Celebrity Come Dine With Me, Celebrity Big Brother and The Celebrity Agency. In fact, she's been doing it so long that most people would have trouble recalling how she achieved fame in the first place. Thankfully, those of us with poor memories were reminded back in March when she publicly announced her retirement from music to pursue other opportunities.

Form an orderly queue ladies...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Paramount makes a splash

Well, it seems like the folks in Hollywood have managed to successfully scratch their way through the barrel's base, and are now tunneling towards the earth's core.

Turning beloved TV shows into disposable, memory-violating monstrosities has long been a viable course of action for any studio bereft of ideas. But now it seems they've run out of worthy properties and have turned their attention to any old garbage with name recognition. This summer, Will Ferrell came a cropper with a big budget adaptation of Land of the Lost, a show remembered only by stoners (and let's face it, how good can their memory really be?). Now, possibly the worst show ever broadcast is being mooted for the 'reimagining' treatment. That's right, Baywatch is heading for a big screen near you.

As well as running for an astonishing 12 years and spawning an equally awful spin-off (Baywatch Nights), the show achieved its place in pop culture legend as the most watched TV show in the world. At its peak in 1996, it was being watched by more than 1.1 billion people in 148 countries, most of them with the curtains drawn I imagine.

Unashamedly milking (steady now) its premise for all it was worth, Baywatch used slow-motion to such an extent that an entire season played at regular speed would probably only run for about an hour and a half. And yet viewers tuned in religiously every week to see their favourite characters, the hot one, the short-haired one, the brunette one and the black one run up and down the beaches of Malibu carrying a giant plastic lozenge.

The show's creative team, a genuine case of the infinite monkey theorem if ever there was one, occasionally attempted to add plots to its already overflowing D-cup. We had smugglers, street gangs, pollution and even skin cancer, and yet all anyone really remembers is the two manadatory musical montages that cropped up in every one of the 241 broadcast episodes. Well, that and the awesome 'Current of Love', by Germany's favourite soft-rocker David Hasselhoff, which became the show's iconic theme song.

The writer selected for the project is Jeremy Garelick, who scripted Jennifer Aniston's The Break Up, and its said that he plans to turn it into a comedy. Unfortunately, he also claims never to have seen the show, which explains why he mistakenly believes that his approach will be a welcome change.

Because Baywatch was always fully aware of how ridiculous it was. After a po-faced first season which almost got it cancelled, the budgets were slashed, the proper actors were sacked, and a bunch of comically inflated playmates were cast in their place. Selected for their ability to fill a red swimsuit and read off cue-cards, they weren't expected to act or emote, just stand, run and swim. In that order. And the viewers lapped it up, laughing along with the show's preposterous attempts at drama.

This could all end up like Scary Movie - an embarassing spoof of something that was a tongue-in-cheek joke in the first place. But as long as the actresses are cast for their ability to inhabit a swimsuit rather than a character, I'm sure it'll be a resounding success. As for the T.J. Hooker movie, don't get me started...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Pots and kettles

Who doesn't love Kelly Osbourne? Actually that's a rhetorical question, you don't need to answer. Despite looking like a Pizza Express doughball in a bad wig, and having no discernible skills or talent, she loves to lay into anyone else vying for attention in the public eye. As opinionated as she is ill-informed, she's always game for a knuckle-gnawingly awful soundbite about someone more famous.

In fact, type 'Kelly Osbourne attacks' into Google and over 200,000 results come back. Paris Hilton,Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse and the Spice Girls have all felt the sharp end of Kelly's overworked tongue. Although, technically, Amy was defriended rather than attacked. Big difference apparently.

This week, Kelly's turned her beady eye on flavour-of-the-month Lady GaGa. Although she grudgingly admitted liking GaGa's music, she condemned the eccentric popstrel as being a butterface. But the hypocrisy doesn't stop there. Kelly also said "I just wish she'd keep her mouth shut. She talks way too much and has too much attitude."

Still, this casual venom should hardly come as a surprise, given Kelly's unique heritage. After all, this is a girl who fondly recalls the times when her mother Sharon would get her and Jack to shit in a box, then send it to any journalists that had annoyed her. With that in mind, I'd love to see the criteria for Celebrity Mother of the Year, which Sharon won in 2006. Maybe Kerry Katona was busy that year?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Do I amuse you?

An interesting report was published 18-months ago that confirmed once-and-for-all an alarming prejudice. The UCLA-Harvard study analysed almost 20,000 films and determined that the odds of Oscar success heavily favour dramas over comedy. More specifically the researchers found that actors were nine times more likely to be nominated for acting in a drama than any other genre.

The annals of film history are littered with great comedy performances that have gone unrewarded. The best that most performers can hope for is a nod in the supporting category - take a bow Whoopi Goldberg for single-handedly making the otherwise awful Ghost at least watchable.

So spare a thought for Sacha Baron Cohen, a man whose commitment to method acting makes Robert DeNiro look like Ben Affleck. Often dismissed as little more than a trickster comedian, Cohen is actually an extraordinarily committed actor. Think about it - his performances as Ali G were so believable that he actually managed to convince otherwise intelligent people that he was in fact black, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Then came Borat in a bright green mankini, fooling the credulous and the cretinous all over the US with his bushy moustache, disarming naivete and casual racism. All it took was a new outfit and a different approach to facial hair to completely transform Cohen into an unrecognisable Kazakhstani journalist.

When that movie grossed over a quarter of a billion dollars, film studios were desperate to sign up Cohen for more of the same. But there was concern that with Cohen now Hollywood's hottest enfant terrible, he would be unable to dupe the public all over again in a new guise. But they underestimated his chameleonic commitment.

So now we find ourselves anticipating the imminent release of Bruno, charting the adventures of Austria's pre-eminent flamboyant fashion doyen. Throwing himself into the role with gusto, Cohen risked life and limb to expose the homophobia lurking in America's heartland.

As well as sneaking naked into an unsuspecting hunter's tent, simulating sex in a hot-tub and offering Dr. Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute, a blow job, Cohen has also stayed in character long after the film's completion.

In doing so, he has turned the film's staggered premières into a kind of experiential showcase that further blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction. But given the uncomfortable issues he scrutinises in his films, perhaps that's exactly what's needed. Let's just hope that Oscar is paying attention...

Friday, 3 July 2009

Katie pays the Price

Oh Katie. It was all going so well. You'd successfully managed the transition from zeppelin-chested trollop to horse-riding, child-rearing, book-authoring (cough), advice-giving everywoman. Suddenly you were championed as an inspirational celebrity mother by women who usually view Page 3 models with the kind of warmth and empathy that they usually reserve for people who drown kittens.

But you didn't know when to stop. Without any fear of being over-exposed (literally or figuratively) you charged into yet another series of fly-on-the-wall fakeumentaries, following your exploits in LA. But it didn't quite work out. It turns out that America already has its fair share of plucked, tucked, pinned and lifted talent vacuums. Turning up in your babydoll T-shirts and ridiculous Ugg boots, you were surprised to find that the birthplace of plastic surgery was a little more sophisticated than perhaps you'd given it credit for. To quote The Castle, the greatest little movie of all time, "The secret is to make them real, but not too real, just real enough to know that they're fake."

But you don't handle rejection particularly well, so you took it out on poor Peter Andre. OK, so he has about as much depth as a leatherette friendship bracelet, but he manages to stay remarkably upbeat, despite the fact that he couldn't sell a CD if he worked in HMV. Maybe you've lived your life in front of the cameras for so long that you forgot they were there. Either way, you chose to belittle Peter for the sake of entertainment, reminding him that everything he had was down to you. And he walked.

When Dwight Yorke dumped you before the birth of your son Harvey, you cleverly managed your reputation, distancing yourself from 'Jordan' and rebranding yourself as 'brave single parent' Katie Price. What a shame you didn't have your wits (or for that matter a decent management team) to help steer you through these troubled times. As a consequence, your fan-base appears to be dwindling as people suddenly find themselves warming to Peter Andre - in itself a concept as troubling as a plague of locusts or a rainstorm of blood.

Just like in any divorce, there's a point where the couple's friends have to decide who they're closest to. Making comments about Peter's 'shortcomings', calling him names via Twitter, and generally acting like an objectionable slattern have given people pause to think about who deserves their support the most. Should you decide to write another follow-up to your best-selling debut novel, you might want to consider 'Fallen Angel' as a title.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The elephant in the room

To say that they spend their time designing outfits that beautify and celebrate the female form, the most successful fashion designers are a breathtakingly unattractive bunch. For instance, Karl Lagerfeld looks like Billy Idol's blind granddad, and Donatella Versace resembles a hard-up porn star carved out of a giant pork scratching.

So I'm interested to see that the latest pop star to try her hand at fashion design is a woman who has a less than conventional grasp on modern beauty. Beth Ditto, a singer who is to glamour what Britney Spears is to mental health, has launched her own fashion range. And she did so in characteristically unique style, like a harlequin painted on the side of a hot-air balloon.

Thankfully, all of her funky, fashionable pals were on hand to ensure that the fashion magazines will actually run photos of the launch, rather than just Slimmer's World and perhaps the British Medical Journal.

Grabbing most of the press coverage was Kate Moss, who turned up to support her outsize pal, having successfully launched a fashion range of her own for Sir Philip Green's Top Shop chain. Interestingly though, it was Kate and her adventures in clothing design that might have inspired Beth's own foray into fashion.

Back in 2007, Beth's group The Gossip was approached to make a bunch of in-store appearances at Top Shop, presumably to lend an air of cool to the stuffy high-street brand. Unfortunately for Sir Philip, Beth uses her mouth for speaking her mind, as well as filling with cake, and she fired off a scathing response. Given that the only thing in Top Shop that might have fitted her was the changing room, Beth slated Top Shop for trying to book her band to appear in a store with no plus-size range.

She said: "I want to design, I want you to make clothes for big girls, big boys, I want you to make big sizes. I don't want just your money or the cred of hanging out with Kate Moss, which is fine, but it's not want I want in life. I want more. I want what she gets."

Thankfully, for gigantic women all over the country who want to look like they were dressed by a vengeful lunatic, Sir Philip was obviously listening. His plus-size chain Evans commissioned Beth to design an exlusive range for them.

Whether or not regular women will choose to follow in Beth's deep-set footprints remains to be seen. But at least she got her wish, right down to the specifics of hanging out with Kate. See kids, dreams do come true.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Nice work, if you can get it

Carrot-topped, fair-weather lesbian and one-time actress Lindsay Lohan has found herself a lucrative alternative career, simply by turning up to things.

Back in May she arrived in London, hot on the comfortable heels of her ex-galpal Samantha Ronson, and desperate for a reconciliation. For most mere mortals this might involve a heart-felt note, the occasional phone call or maybe even a relaxed lunch date.

Li-Lo had other ideas though, and decided that she needed to find a way of turning up at the places where Sam was likely to be. Keen to fly under the radar, Lindsay contacted the nightclubs where Sam was heading and negotiated high-profile paid appearances. That way she could turn up at a club, surprise her wayward ex with a cheeky mojito, and pocket a few grand simply for waving on a carpet.

It must have worked, because Lindsay seems to have made 'attendance' her primary revenue source. This week Lindsay celebrated her 23rd birthday early, with an all day party in Las Vegas that she hosted at the MGM Grand Resort Hotel & Casino. During the course of the day, Lindsay showcased five different outfits and danced to a Michael Jackson playlist. Nothing too unusual there, except for the fact that she was paid $70,000 for hosting the bash. I suppose the money must have helped cushion the blow that none of her actual friends bothered to show up. Maybe they all needed paying too.

The good news for Lindsay, other than the fact that she's managed to render herself utterly inconsequential and still be paid for the privilege, is that she's third time lucky. She'd originally planned to hold her 21st birthday at the Pure nightclub in Las Vegas, but that was put on hold when she was carted off to rehab. The following year, obviously stressed out by her busy calendar, she turned to a PR company to find corporate sponsorship for her party, but to no avail.

So hurrah for Lindsay, who's shown the world that chronic dependency issues, a fluid sexuality and the work ethic of a four-toed sloth can still bring in the big bucks. And let's also spare a thought for the nightclubs that have so little to distinguish themselves that booking the one-time star of Herbie:Fully Loaded seems like a good idea to raise their profile. As Tears for Fears once sang, it's a Mad World.