Saturday, 31 October 2009

Stating the obvious

In an interview with cosmetic dentistry's coffee-table magazine-of-choice Harper's Bazaar, Victoria Beckham has finally admitted what the rest of the world knew long ago.

The stick-thin airbag tester has finally issued a mea culpa for anyone who had the misfortune to overhear her attempt at a solo career, admitting that her singing career was a mistake.

Displaying a momentary flash of self-awareness, Victoria told the magazine "People never believed the solo singing career, and it wasn't the real me." That slapping sound you can hear is the inventor of Auto-Tune hitting his forehead in despair. After all, 'Easy V' (as she was christened in the Spice Girls' debut single Wannabe) has a voice that makes ex-bandmate Geri Halliwell sound like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

It's not all bad news though, as Victoria joyously reveals that she's finally where she belongs - although weirdly, that's not an eating disorder clinic. Apparently, the world of fashion has embraced Victoria to its bony ribcage and applauded her love of corsetry and boning. Steady now. 

Like all fashion icons, Victoria's look is evolving over time. Her latest image breakthrough is something she calls a 'smile'. Ever the innovator, the po-faced pugil stick claims "I've mastered this smirk; it's a smile that isn't a smile." Much like her voice, that isn't really a voice. 

Friday, 30 October 2009

Peaches and Haggis

It's been a big news week for the church of Scientology. Ordinarily, L Ron Hubbard's sci-fi pyramid-scheme-turned-religion only hits the headlines when Tom Cruise picks a fight with post-natally depressed women or John Travolta attempts to reassert his heterosexuality.

Nowadays, it seems as though they're operating the kind of one-in-one-out policy normally found on the door of a nightclub that contravenes fire safety regulations.

At the start of the week, the big story was Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis leaving the church over its mistreatment of gay people. In a letter addressed to Tommy Davis, the head of Scientology's dubiously-named Celebrity Centre, Haggis accused the church of denying gay rights by sponsoring Proposition 8. The proposition was added to the California ballot in November's general election, to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples only, in doing so, overturning same-sex couples' constitutional 'right' to marry.

In his letter, which was published on a blog about Scientology and has since taken the internet by storm like a drunk guy buying beer, Haggis also attacked the church's policy of 'disconnection', which involves severing all ties with people who disparage the religion. After 35 years of loyalty, Haggis has decided that he's undergone his last audit.

But it's not all bad news for the religion so weird that it makes the Mormons look normal. They may have lost one high-profile talent, but at least there's another one waiting in the wings to take his place. Failing that, Peaches Geldof is also free.

Sir Bob's pointless progeny, who must make the Hiltons feel like proud parents by comparison, has spent the last few months exploring her spiritual side and decided that Scientology is religion for her.

In an interview with hard-hitting journalist Fearne Cotton (Jeremy Paxman must have been busy), the Boomtown brat has been talking up her intellectual side. Keen to distance herself from her hard-partying image, she'd like to point out that she's more interested in Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. Apparently, waiting in the doorway of Borders for the rain to stop is enough to qualify her as an intellectual.

More importantly, Peaches claims to have been a Scientologist for "a while now", since she's keen to make herself a better person. I'm just wondering whether the fact that I wish she was a better person makes me a Scientologist too.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The sound of a million hearts breaking

Well, it may have taken almost fifty years, but it looks like one of the most on-and-off-again relationships in the history of Hollywood is finally over. And it's a sad day for the millions of fans who hoped that the shiny, happy couple would be able to work through their differences.

In retrospect, the clues were always there that something was amiss. She was a fashion model, and he was an Olympic gold medalist turned hair stylist. He'd always been dogged by salacious rumours that he and longtime companion Allan Sherwood were more than just friends. And when he appeared in public in 1993 sporting a new earring, the muttering grew louder. By 2004, their spokespeople announced that the couple were to spend some time apart, largely because he was reluctant to marry.

Now it seems as though Ken has finally thrown caution, and his beard Barbie, to the wind. He's here, queer and plastic fantastic.

Palm Beach Sugar Daddy Ken is the latest edition from Mattel, aimed at adult collectors, but available to anyone with $82 to spend on ten inches of plastic. With the hair of Bob Downe, and the dress sense of Octopussy-era Roger Moore, the dapper fellow comes with a tiny little airdog, a bottle of Evian and flip flops.

According to the website, Ken offers "cool sophistication in breezy Palm Beach! Sporting a dashing jacquard-patterned jacket with a light pink polo shirt and crisp white pants, Ken doll is ready for Palm Beach social season, sunning by the pool and a stroll with his little companion." What's not yet clear, is whether or not those molded underpants will finally be removable. If not, Ken's social season is likely to be as dry as his tinderbox hair-do.

Curb your indignation

As one of the co-creators and head writers on Seinfeld, Larry David made the character of George Costanza, brought to life by Jason Alexander, a cariacature of his own social ineptitude. But when Seinfeld ended there were clearly sides of Larry's personality which still needed the chance to air themselves. And so 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' was born, in which Larry plays an exaggerated version of himself, attempting to get through life as a multi-millionaire malcontent.

According to the way he portrays his own neuroses, it would seem that Larry's main goal in life is to offend and annoy everyone he meets. Now it seems that his tactless insensitivities have crossed over into real life, as the latest episode of the long-running, largely improvised comedy, have caused a whole new level of offence.

In the rather implausible plot of the new episode, Larry was on medication which made him pee with excessive force. As a consequence, his accidental splashback left a rogue droplet on the face of a portrait of Jesus, hanging in his employee's bathroom. She and her mother became convinced that the droplet was a miraculous tear, and felt the need to share their holy artifact with the world.

Unfortunately, the Catholic League of America, not usually known for its sense of humour, was not amused. Bill Donohue, the organisation's president, said in a statement, "Was Larry David always this crude? Would he think it comedic if someone urinated on a picture of his mother? This might be fun to watch, but since HBO only likes to dump on Catholics, and David is Jewish, we'll never know."

Donohue must never have seen the episode where Larry was labeled a 'self-hating Jew' for whistling Wagner, or the time when Larry mistook a contestant from the TV show Survivor as someone who had 'survived' the Holocaust.

It would seem that the target for Larry's humour here, is the fanatical faith of people who insist on seeing meaningful signs in contrivance and coincidence. The people who recognise the face of Jesus in a plate of manicotti, on a stack of pancakes, or on the back of a toilet door in Ikea.

Larry David's skill is to poke fun at the foibles of modern life - from phonecall etiquette and disabled bathrooms, to terrorism paranoia and inappropriate language. It's only fair that, occasionally, religious convictions might enjoy the same level of scrutiny.

It's just a shame that the Catholic church is willing to allow its persecution complex to get in the way of enjoying some of the finest comedy on TV. If they weren't so keen to see themselves as the butt of every joke, they'd realise that this whole story is really just a splash in the pan.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

File under 'no shit Sherlock'

Somebody, somewhere is scratching their head thinking "Well, who saw that coming?" And the rest of the world is making its best 'mental' face in response. This week, Microsoft made the embarrassing admission that it has had second thoughts about sponsoring the forthcoming special edition of Family Guy, "Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show".

The omnipotent software giant had originally paid for the exclusive rights to the half-hour programme of sketches and shorts, performed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein, who plays Peter Griffin's long-suffering wife Lois. The plan was for the show to run without any ads, instead being funded by Microsoft which hoped to see its new operating system Windows 7 'seamlessly' woven into the show's content.

Although the show will still be broadcast on the 8th November, Bill Gates' baby will not be involved. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft executives attended a recording of the show and were horrified to discover that the show's characteristic shock humour has not been watered down.

Maybe it's just too hard to work references to Windows 7 into jokes about incest, tampons and the Holocaust. Either way, the humour went down about as well as Lady GaGa being asked to pick up a new outfit in Primark.

This Monday, Microsoft stated that "We initially chose to participate in the Seth and Alex variety show based on the audience composition and creative humor of 'Family Guy,' but after reviewing an early version of the variety show it became clear that the content was not a fit with the Windows brand."

Thankfully, Family Guy has weathered tougher storms than this, having faced cancellation more times than Kerry Katona's checkbook. It's now something of a comedy institution, and has even spawned its own spin-off. But anyone who has ever watched the show would know that its association with Windows made as much sense as Baby Gap sponsoring a Gary Glitter comeback tour.

So the big question is, why did no-one at Microsoft recognise the disparity sooner?

The point of sponsorship is to find a platform that sits comfortably with your brand and your consumers. But if it's going to work, you have to prove that you're a fan too. It's no good simply picking a property that shows up in the media research as being popular with your target audience.

Unfortunately, it seems as though Microsoft still has some way to go before it's able to understand exactly how its users enjoy themselves. After all, they did feel the need to create an instructional video telling people how to throw a Windows 7 party.

Writing about Microsoft's staggeringly inept 'viral' film, Barbara Lippert noted, “They think...that people will want to host parties in their houses because it’s so great. But the script is so fake, with all the sales messages in there… if this is what they think is hip, it’s just so sad — and poignant.”

But maybe Microsoft isn't as naive as the critics are willing to assume. Perhaps they've realised that everyone loves an underdog. Could it be that all of these marketing misfires are just a really smart way of winning back the sympathy of a cynical generation, tired of Apple always getting it right? Having watched this video several times now, I'm willing to believe that anything is possible...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

I think I'm gonna hurl

The world of sport has always had a tricky relationship with homosexuality, with few successful sporting stars ever feeling confident enough to stick a trainer-clad toe outside of the closet. Most people can name Martina Navratilova or Billie Jean King, and occasionally someone might bring up Justin Fashanu, before recalling how badly that ended.

No-one knows exactly why homosexuality and team sports go together like Jodie Marsh and underwear. Some suggest it's the aggressively macho atmosphere on the terraces, others wonder whether there's an inherent fear that all the homoerotic bonding might be misconstrued. But whatever the reason, it's always big news when a prominent sporting figure decides to suck the bullet and come out.

Over in the Republic of Ireland, everybody's talking about hurling goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack, who told the Irish Mail that he plays for the other team (as well as Cloyne and Cork). As the popular Gaelic sport's first gay player, one might expect a few shockwaves, but in fact, Cusack's teammates have been charmingly laissez-faire about the whole thing.

Displaying an endearing naivete about the power of innuendo, Cusack's inter-county colleague Cathal Naughton claimed "We’re all fully behind him, he’s a great man and has so much for all of us." In the world of hurling, it seems that everyone's a winner.

With the 'Dieux du Stade' calendar now entering its tenth best-selling year and David Beckham appearing on the side of buses in underwear so snug that a Chippendale might reject it for being too revealing, it's clear that some pockets of the sporting world are finally cottoning on to the power of the pink pound.

However, it takes brave players like Donal to wake sporting institutions up to the fact that, for many gay followers, interest in the game goes much deeper than the tightness of the shorts.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Holdin' out for a director

I'm afraid it's bad news for fans of the eighties' 'boy-meets-girl-falls-foul-of-preacher-plays-chicken-in-tractor-teaches-best-friend-to-dance' classic Footloose. Its long-awaited remake will have to be hastily repositioned as 'really-long-awaited', with the news that director Kenny Ortega has left the project citing 'creative differences' with studio Paramount.

The original movie is something of guilty pleasure for those of us who grew up on the films of John Hughes. In the place of realistic teenagers and quotable dialogue, it gave us Lori Singer on top of a truck, Kevin Bacon wearing jeans so tight he revealed more than in his Wild Things nude scene, and the most homoerotic montage of all-time.

Apparently, the fall-out between director and studio came about largely because of a dispute over the tone of the movie. Ortega wanted a big song-and-dance musical, whereas Paramount were pushing for a dramatic treatment more in keeping with the original.

Given his track-record as the choreographer on Dirty Dancing, and the director of all three High School Musicals, Ortega's passion for jazz-hands could hardly have come as a surprise to the producers, so why did they appoint him in the first place?

As with any remake, the challenge is to find a way of telling the story in a new way, whilst retaining the essence of the original that the fans hold dear. Unfortunately, films like Footloose play best in the VHS-fuzz of nostalgia rather than the cold light of day.

It sounds as though he Paramount execs need to hold a slumber party to reconnect with the movie itself, rather than the legend. Chances are, they'll be begging Ortega to come back before Bonnie Tyler even changes key.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

No laughing matter

The problem with 'alternative comedy' is that, as its very name implies, it runs contrary to conventional views of acceptability. Still, that doesn't seem to stop the mainstream press from creating an outcry every time a comedian makes a joke that falls outside of approved humour boundaries.

The latest comedian to fall foul of this unwritten rule is Jimmy Carr, who is currently facing a barrage of criticism for a joke that he's been telling on his current UK tour. Towards the end of his show at the Manchester Apollo on Friday, he said "Say what you like about these servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re going to have a fucking good Paralympic team in 2012."

Within hours the backlash had started, with all the papers running predictably indignant stories boasting headlines such as "Fans stunned as Jimmy Carr insults our Afghan heroes" and "Fury at comic's amputee gag". Sadly, in the rush to condemn the lanky, doll-faced comedian, not one of the newspapers bothered to consider the real target of Jimmy's joke. Or, for that matter, the painful truth behind it.

The first sporting event for disabled athletes was held in 1948, when Dr Ludwig Guttman arranged a sports competition at Stoke Mandeville hospital for World War II soldiers who had suffered spinal injuries in combat. In 1952 Dutch athletes joined the competition and the modern 'Paralympic' movement was born. So, if nothing else, Jimmy is simply making a factual statement about how participation in Paralympic sport has offered injured soldiers rehabilitation and support for over sixty years.

But that's not nearly as interesting as being disgusted on someone else's behalf. So the papers are full of outraged commentators weighing in with their half-baked opinions on Jimmy's gaffe. Real-life Ross Kemp Andy McNab acknowledged that amputee servicemen do compete in the Paralympics, but stressed condescendingly that "it's not a subject for humour" as though servicemen and women would never use gallows humour as a coping mechanism.

Even more cluless are the politicians. Conservative MP Patrick Mercer takes the traditional Queen of Hearts approach, saying "This was a remarkably dim and foolish thing to joke about. It’s not funny and this man’s career should end right now." Likewise, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth commented "Our Armed Forces put their lives on the line and deserve the utmost respect." Of course, they also deserve effective armour, but that's not something Ainsworth would want to get into. Especially since the right military hardware could have prevented many of the injuries that Carr was referencing in the first place.

This revisionist view of recent history is precisely what Carr was satirising in his act. Given that he visited injured troops at Selly Oak military hospital and Headley Court rehabilitation centre earlier this month, Jimmy is all-too-aware of the sacrifices made by our brave servicemen and women. But he presumably has a lot less time for the cynical politicians who find any opportunity to put a positive spin on the depressing parade of statistics that have been leaking out of the Middle East, since we first invaded Afghanistan in late 2001.

Jimmy has since offered a full apology, saying “I’m sorry if anyone was offended but that’s the kind of comedy I do. If a silly joke draws attention to the plight of these men then so much the better but that was not my intention." Funnily enough, I think that's exactly what he's accomplished. And if I was serving in the military, I'd be a lot happier about Jimmy's war efforts than by the threat of an imminent invasion by Katie Price to 'cheer up' the troops. Haven't they suffered enough already?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The diva and the darkness

In the run-up to Christmas, everyone with a new album to plug is coming out of the woodwork in an attempt to drum up some publicity. In recent weeks Robbie Williams, Whitney Houston, Michael Buble, Alexandra Burke and Westlife have all rocked up on the X-Factor stage (in varying states of sobriety) to showcase their new material. Even resident judge Cheryl Cole had a go, performing whilst dressed as the little drummer boy after a battle with a shredder.

Unfortunately, for acts like Katherine Jenkins (whose operatic stylings have become the soundtrack to a million tedious dinner parties and drives to the gymkhana) it's a little harder to find the right platform to advertise their wares.

So far, the stunning Welsh warbler has proved fairly effective at finding an audience thanks, in part, to a symbiotic relationship with the Daily Mail, which at one point portrayed itself as her self-appointed media guardian. After all, they were the ones who kick-started her career with a free CD in The Mail On Sunday - perhaps there were no 8-track Simply Red concert recordings to give away that week.

Unfortunately, Katherine's later revelations about drug use jarred with the paper's readership and suddenly its coverage of the deep-throated soprano took a more critical turn.

Making matters worse, Katherine's burgeoning success meant some changes needed to be made. So it was out with the old and in with the new, as she ditched the manager who'd first put her on the map and signed with major representation that could help her crack the notoriously difficult US market.

Managing to speak, even with a mouthful of sour-grapes, dumped Svengali Brian Lane told the Mail "Sometimes when an artist becomes successful, they start to believe their own hype. I’ve managed a lot of people but I’ve never had anything like this happen before." Given that the other 'artists' on Brian's roster included Yes and Daley Thompson, it's likely he was telling the truth.

With Brian now a distant memory, and the Mail keen to portray her as the Mariah Carey of Classic FM, Katherine's having to find new ways of publicising her new album. Even so, it's a little strange that she'd choose Piers Morgan's Life Stories in which to do it. Especially since the story that has been leaked to the press ahead of the broadcast is Katherine tearfully recalling a terrifying encounter with a would-be rapist.

Katherine's records are an acquired taste at the best of times, but they're rendered almost unlistenable when combined with the mental image of her fighting off a sex attacker in an alleyway. Next time, maybe she can just spring for a few more 30 second TV spots, and maybe a shuffle round the floor on Strictly Come Dancing.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Pammy's platinum pool problems

After death and divorce, moving house is the third most stressful life event. And no-one knows this better than home movie enthusiast and celebrity hepatitis sufferer Pamela Anderson.

Having spent her entire adult life transforming herself into a living Barbie doll, she's now on the home strait and has been busy building her very own dream beach-house in Malibu. Except that it's not exactly going to plan.

She originally bought the property for £850,000, but has since poured millions into it, ultimately running $3 million over budget. Maybe on reflection, tiling the entire swimming pool in platinum was an unnecessary indulgence.

It seems that Pammy's assets may be considerable, but they're not limitless. So with money running out and the pressure building, the silicon stunner has had to go to extreme measures to keep her head (and other bits) above water.

She recently revealed that she's had to move into a trailer park with her boyfriend Jamie Padgett and sons Brandon and Dylan. Although, with two kids, a new boyfriend, a pick-up truck full of g-strings and hair so straw-like she could wear it in bales, she shouldn't have too much trouble fitting in.

But as well as finding an appropriately familiar living space, she's also managed to pick a nice little earner that's not a million miles from what she knows best. The industrious icon has signed up to appear as the Genie in Aladdin at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

Since her role was announced, ticket sales have rocketed by 800%, presumably thanks to dads across south London suddenly expressing an interest in the cultural heritage of pantomime.

It might initially seem like a rather left-field choice for the life-saving lovely, but actually, it makes a lot of sense. Think about it - tight costumes, duff dialogue, preposterous scenarious, heaps of innuendo and plenty of audience interaction. If that doesn't sound like Baywatch, I don't know what does.

She's got the look

It's customary for rich woman of a certain age to find charitable works to fill the days of their retirement, and Joan Collins is no exception. But it seems that Alzheimer's, sick children and breast cancer aren't enough for St Joanie - she's decided that there are whole swathes of the British populace requiring her benevolent attentions. In new ITV show Joan Does Glamour, the Jurassic Jezebel offers to help sweatpant-clad no-hopers get in touch with their inner glamourpuss.

With barely concealed malevolence, the 76-year old actress counsels all manner of poorly dressed schlubs by sneering at their tattoos, poking their muffin-tops and asking of their belly-button rings, "What does it do?" Given that entire species have evolved since she last set foot inside a supermarket, the sight of Joan Collins navigating the aisles of a supermarket is a little like watching Anneka Rice attempting to find Shakespeare's birthplace with only Kenneth Kendall's cryptic clues to guide her.

At one point, she spies a shelf of Andrex toilet tissue and assumes that it's for toilet training puppies, since the packs have labradors on them. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Joan is unfamiliar with the concept of toilet paper, since she may well have been strapping herself into a pair of Depends for the last decade.

In a show with so many unexpected delights, it's hard to pick a favourite moment. There's the scene where Joan gives one woman style advice whilst dressed in a sailor's cap, striped sweater and deathly-white make-up, suggesting that Marcel Marceau is her style icon, as well as the inspiration for her naturalistic acting technique.

Or how about the moment when, reflecting on the advice of legendary make-up artist Allan 'Whitey' Snider, who told Joan it's all about "skills not surgery, base not Botox"? In amongst her nostalgic reflection, she neglects to mention the importance of smearing the camera lens with enough Vaseline to lubricate a bull elephant orgy.

What the show really illustrates, other than the fact that people are happy to be insulted just as long as their attacker is famous, is just how disconnected one can become after half a century of celebrity. For instance, Joan sneerily derides one frumpy housefrau for wearing something "I would dust my silver with" as if she's often to be found up to her elbows in Brasso. Likewise, it's a little rich critiquing people for their lack of style, when perched on a barstool with belly-rolls threatening to burst free from an animal-print lamé top, or wearing shoulder-pads you could land an Apache on.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Size isn't everything

Surely a contender for grimmest show title ever, 'Unstapled' is the latest addition to the ever-growing genre of 'Fading one-time star surrenders self-respect whilst pursuing final glimmer of celebrity' TV.

This time, it's Carnie Wilson's turn in-front of the cameras, as she wanders the world, poking strangers in the shoulder-blades and forcibly reminding them that she used to be in a group called Wilson Philips.

Boasting the kind of pop music heritage most groups can only dream of, Wilson Philips was made up of the daughters of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson and The Mamas and the Papas twosome John and Michelle Philips. Thankfully, despite Brian and John's tentative grips on reality, the girls inherited their ears for harmony, rather than their mental health issues.

The band's debut album went on to sell ten million copies, making them (at the time) the best-selling girl group ever. But despite the group's success, Carnie was struggling with her own demons. She may have had the voice of an angel, but she also had the appetite of a rugby team. In every photo shoot, Carnie was tactfully placed behind her slimmer cohorts, like a backdrop with a face.

Tipping the scales at almost 300lbs, the voluminous vocalist took the bold step of undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 1999. Ever mindful of the fans, she kindly consented to broadcasting the operation live on the internet. In the end, she lost an astonishing 150 pounds (which in modern pop currency equates to two and a half Saturdays) and showcased her belittled bod in a Playboy spread.

Sadly, since her initial slim-down, Carnie's weight has fluctuated like the polygraph needle on a Katie Price lie-detector. But now it's full steamed-rice ahead for the yo-yo dieter as TV network GSN brings 'Unstapled' to TVs everywhere.

According to the official press release, the show will address Wilson's 'weight issues', but aims to focus primarily on her fledgeling business and family life. In reality though, it's highly likely that her relationship with food will remain centre-stage, especially given the telling language used in the report.

Whether it's Carnie talking about viewers wanting "to see more of me", a cheesecake-making business that will allow her to "bake in bulk" or the fact that there will be "plenty of fodder for the show", it's clear that piled plates are never far from anyone's mind.

The gender agenda

With 'jobs for the boys' thankfully becoming a thing of the past, most businesses are embracing comprehensive diversity programmes to ensure that their workforce is representative of the wider populace. Public sector organisations especially understand the need to reflect the communities they serve.

David Cameron, the quintessential sheep in wolves' clothing, has announced that he intends to impose all-women shortlists in certain constituencies at the next General Election to ensure that female candidates are able to stand. With only 19 women MPs out of 195, it's clear that the Conservatives have some work to do if they're to convince the voters of Britain that they're a party of the people. But as the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Showing a customary lack of respect for the sacrifices made by her forebears, Anne Widdecombe was one of the first to speak out, labeling Cameron's decision as "an insult to women". Given how willing Anne has always been to sabotage other women's rights, I guess she would be the expert.

Also voicing his dissatisfaction today, was Tory commentator Iain Dale who described the move as "fundamentally unconservative". Following a depressingly predictable line of logic, he asked "Where it will all lead? All-black shortlists? All-gay shortlists? All-disabled shortlists? All-Muslim shortlists? Not in my name." Or anyone else's you ridiculous relic.

Cameron's idea is both bold and commendable. It's also smart, since he knows full well that he'll get plenty of progressive coverage for taking a step in the right direction, safe in the knowledge that his party faithful will make sure that it never happens.

But the really depressing element of this whole story is how complicit the press has always been in maintaining the gender imbalance, through its sexist journalistic traits. Whether they're referring to 'Blair's Babes' or 'Cameron's Cuties', women are constantly being reduced to the role of decorative adornments rather than fully functioning politicians. And yes, I appreciate that may in itself be a contradiction in terms.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it...

Excitement is currently building over in the US about the imminent release of the debut CD from this year's American Idol winner. When I say winner, I don't mean the guy who actually got to yell the winner's song while being shot in the face by a glitter cannon. I'm referring to Adam Lambert, the runner-up who has successfully managed to leverage his time on the ratings juggernaut into what could be a genuinely exciting career.

Admittedly, things didn't get off to the best start. As well as losing in the final of the long-running talent show, he was forced to dress like a Borg fan at Comic-Con to perform alongside Kiss, and won the approval of Brian May, a man who is to cool what Simon Cowell is to hipsters.

Since then, Glambert (as his imaginative fans have Christened him) has been on the cover of Rolling Stone, for an interview in which he spoke openly about his homosexuality, and recording with the likes of uberproducer RedOne and Lady GaGa. He's already popular enough to have his own stalker, and be pelted on stage with dildos by overexcited female fans, who at least wanted to give him something he could use.

The music industry is waiting with baited breath to see what the world makes of one of its first 'out' young artists, especially one who is proudly provocactive (rather than creepily asexual, like fellow Idol also-ran Clay Aiken). When the latter finally crept out of the closet last September after years of denial, his fans deserted him overnight, suggesting that America just wasn't ready for a gay pop star.

Confusing things further, Adam has also posed for a teasingly ambisexual series of poses for Details magazine, alongside a semi-naked female model. Perhaps understanding that, even when the truth is 'out' there, it's good to keep them guessing, Adam teased in the accompanying interview "I like kissing women sometimes. Women are pretty. It doesn't mean I'm necessarily sleeping with them."

After all the interviews, photoshoots and tour appearances, we're now finally able to judge what Adam sounds like as a recording artist, with the release of 'Time For Miracles' from the soundtrack of forthcoming megapocalypse movie 2012. The song itself is so overblown that it makes Aerosmith's 'Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' sound like a Elmo singing a lullaby, but it's sure to be a big hit, since the video crams in enough end-of-the-world footage that viewers won't actually need to see the film.

The best thing about all this, is seeing a prophecy fulfilled. Not the Mayan predictions which give 2012 its basic plot, but the fire and brimstone attitudes expressed by some ultra-right-wing nutjobs in the US, at the prospect of a victorious gay idol. Seeing Adam stride moodily through the artfully arranged destruction as the sky falls around him, it would appear that dreams really do come true.

Time For Miracles

Adam Lambert | MySpace Video

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Coming full circle

Well this is a first - a band reunion taking place while the band still actually exists. Except that this time, the reunion will involve the original line-up rather than the three increasingly random artistes who comprise the band's current line-up.

The Sugababes have rarely been out of the news recently, with more fall-outs, fights and fake kidnappings than an omnibus edition of Hollyoaks. Events finally reached a head four weeks ago when Keisha Buchanan, the final founding member of the group was unceremoniously dumped by the record label and replaced by Jade Ewen.

Fans were quick to argue that with all three members replaced, the band (as it was originally conceived) no longer existed. And although they would continue to support the girls, it was felt that they really ought to rename the group.

Writing in The Guardian, Johnny Dee argued that it's simply a case of 'one lineup change too many' and that the band is now a laughing stock, especially since its signature sound of smart, soulful pop has now been replaced with a soulless electronic R&B sound bearing no resemblance to the band's original brilliance.

Someone's obviously been listening to the fan chatter, since it seems that Mutya Buena is now keen to turn back the clock and reform the Sugababes. Having patched up her differences with original band-member Siobhan Donaghy recently, Mutya believes that the band could be big again, and that this time they'll be mature enough to handle the pressures of fame without turning on each other.

To some, the idea of two competing Sugababes acts may sound like the most exciting thing to happen in pop music since Benny and Bjorn encouraged their band leader to dress as Napoleon. To others, it may feel more like a temporal paradox waiting to happen, like Marty McFly encountering his future self in Back To The Future Part Two. Let's not forget, it has happened before - and things got pretty ugly.

Although I wouldn't normally invoke the name of David Van Day unless I was attempting to open a hellmouth, it's worth remembering that the world once found itself faced with the prospect of not one, but two versions of Bucks Fizz. Ever the opportunist, the tight-faced egomaniac established an anti-Fizz that to compete with Bobby G's more authentic incarnation of the group. Long-winded legal wrangles aside, holiday camps up and down the country were suddenly beseiged by over-bleached middle-aged performers whipping each other's clothes off, like Gloria Hunniford performing a strip-tease.

By the time Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan get their house in order, it's likely that the world will have moved on. Nonetheless, there's every likelihood that David Van Day will be waiting in the wings with a nose-ring and a weave, ready to unveil his own unique take on Britain's favourite girl band.

The day the music died

In news that will have any middle-aged music fan sobbing into his Volvo Haynes Manual, it was revealed today that Phil Collins' percussive proclivities have come to an end.

After surgery in April to correct a dislocated vertebra in his neck, the Grammy-winner was left without feeling in his fingers. As a consequence, he's been unable to pick up him drumsticks since.

However, anyone hoping that this tragic news might mean a chance for them to regain the feeling in their ears is in for a shock, as the frozen-fingered vocalist announced that he's keen to get back in the st-st-studio.

Obviously inspired by the success of his 1982 version of "You Can't Hurry Love", Phil has decided to revisit the output of Hitsville USA and share his love of sixties soul with the wider world. The flaw in his thinking is that he intends to create a 30-track album of Motown covers, that he wants to sound "exactly like the originals".

When Gus Van Sant announced plans to stage a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho, purists were shocked by his audacity and arrogance. Since the film was already believed by most to be one of the most perfect horror movies ever created, what was the point in simply reshooting the same movie?

Some people argued that Van Sant was finally able to film certain key shots originally envisaged by Hitchcock, but rendered impossible by limitations of both censorship and technology. For film fans, this simply meant they were treated to a couple of fancy crane shots, Anne Heche's nipples and Vince Vaughn enjoying one off the wrist.

It's hard to know what the equivalent bonus features would be from Phil's double album of accurately recreated Motown songs. But as long as his fingers remain numb, we can at least hope to dodge the Vince Vaughn option.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Sublime and ridiculous

There's a technique some gentlemen employ to prolong their pleasure in situations of intimacy. If they feel that the finish line is in sight a little too soon, they simply think of something unappealing in order to cool their ardor.

For an illustration of how effective this technique can be, take a look at two of the newest additions to the cast of 'Calendar Girls' in London's West End. Presumably, anyone who gets too excited at the prospect of sex symbol Kelly Brook in a state of undress, can always cop an eyeful of sex hieroglyphic Julie Goodyear instead.

Kelly has been posing in promotional shots for the musical, alongside Corrie's one-time barmaid-cum-battleaxe. Unsurprisingly, the press have been happy to use the pictures, despite the fact that Kelly has whipped her baps out more often than Greggs bakery. As for Julie Goodyear, appearing in the raw could be a real challenge, given that audiences are more used to seeing her dressed in enough fake animal print to reupholster Peter Stringfellow's entire living room.

Despite a career littered with failed attempts as a TV presenter and talent show judge, Kelly knows where her true strengths lie. And with a couple of strategically placed Belgian buns, she could well have the entire audience upstanding.

Janet over-bites back

Sometimes, the reaction to an event is as fascinating as the event itself. Take the Daily Mail's response to its own self-perpetuated controversy for instance.

Today, in Middle England's tabloid of choice, Janet Street-Porter wrote an eloquent response to Jan Moir's grubby little one-woman attack on journalistic standards. Although best known for accent as broad as the Thames estuary and a set of teeth that could be used for cutting decorative pastry cases, the Sarf London legend has talent and integrity to spare - so quite why she chooses to write for the Mail remains a mystery.

Nonetheless, her article is a sharp riposte to Jan's ignorance, pointing out that true equality means accepting that Civil Partnerships are as diverse and varied as straight relationships. Janet also makes reference to the fact that another gay man died last week. However, unlike Stephen Gately who died of natural causes, Ian Baynham's death was indeed a consequence of his sexuality.

He was beaten and kicked to death by a group of homophobic teenagers in Trafalgar Square. As Janet points out, "the number of attacks against gay men and women in London has risen nearly 20 per cent, and in a recent survey 90 per cent of the gay men and women questioned said they had experienced homophobic insults and abuse." Sadly, Street-Porter stops short of asking where those abusers go to have their attitudes validated.

Despite commissioning this article, the Mail can't quite resist putting its own editorial spin on the whole story. Showing the kind of revisionist approach usually applied by Holocaust deniers, an article appeared in today's issue under the headline "Stephen Gately debate dominates the internet".

By calling it a 'debate' rather than an 'outcry' (their usual preferred terminology for this kind of scandal) they make it sound as though Stephen is the one being discussed, rather than Moir's sour-faced savagery. Throughout the article, carefully chosen phrases like "worldwide debate", "thousands have been moved to comment" and "an extraordinary online response" cunningly mask the true significance of the story.

Of course, Jan's disingenuous defense is also tactically replayed, particularly the opening which reads "Some people, particularly in the gay community...", suggesting that only gay people would ever be disgusted by blatant homophobia. But the final straw in this hopelessly inaccurate article is the tagged-on final line, which reads "The Press Complaints Commission has received more than 1,000 complaints..."

Would it be churlish to point out that the 1,000 complaints were lodged in the first 24 hours, and since then, the PCC has logged 21,000 complaints - an all-time record? I guess if you want fact-checking, truth or reliability, the Weekly World News is your best bet.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Houston, we have some problems

So much for the big comeback.

Whitney Houston took to the stage on the X-Factor results show tonight, acting like she'd had to clamber down a string of knotted bedsheets to get there. I'm all for the credo 'dance like no-one's watching', but Whitney took Mark Twain's advice and sung like no-one was listening.

It didn't help that she'd been stapled into a dress that was too long, too tight and too flimsy. Halfway through her performance the straps broke and for a moment it looked as though we could be treated to a glimpse of her Grammies.

Ever the professional, Miss Houston bravely soldiered on, although the expression on her face suggested that there might be a timid dresser backstage, searching frantically for a cyanide capsule.

But if the vocal performance was strained, it was nothing compared with the excruciating interview that came afterwards. Dermot gamely attempted to butter up the pissed-off performer, but their conversation had all the coherence of a drunken row outside a youth hostel.

There were concerns when it was first announced that Whitney was staging a comeback. Did she still have the voice? Sadly, no-one stopped to think whether she still had her marbles. On this evidence, I'd say they're both MIA.

Keep it to yourself

Candy Spelling is horrified, and it's not because she's seen pictures of Tori in a push-up bra. She's only just realised that, while she's been busy berating her daughter for bringing shame on the family, the world of celebrity has moved on and embraced social networking as a way to connect with fans.

Let's be clear, Candy most definitely does not approve. Writing on Huffington Post, Candy objects to the 'new media landscape' and encourages her fellow celebrities to rely on 'publicists and agents and managers' (oh my!) for all their communication needs.

Of course, that's not to suggest that Facebook and Twitter are a bad thing per se - as Candy sees it, they an still be 'terrific promotional vehicles for Hollywood'. In fact, they only become a problem when 'human emotions' become involved.

It's hardly surprising that Candy objects to human emotion, given that she displays all the maternal instinct of a wolf spider. But it's strange that Candy should be so aghast at the idea of celebs airing their dirty dry-cleaning in public, given her habit of writing open letters to Tori about her many shortcomings and posting them on TMZ.

Maybe next time she wants to share her condescending viewpoint with the wider world, she should run it past a publicist first. After all, the new media landscape that she's so wary of, can be very unforgiving. Much like Candy herself.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Styling tips for lunatics

Here's a phrase for you to contemplate: 'Katie Price's style tips'. Like 'Dr. Shipman's Guide to Caring for the Elderly' or 'Ralph Lauren's Photoshop for Beginners' this sounds like the kind of advice most sensible people could live without.

Nonetheless, noted authoress Katie (a woman whose prolific literary output makes Dame Barbara Cartland seem like JD Salinger - in both quality and quantity) has loosened the manacles of her ghost writer long enough to pen another would-be bestseller.

In it, Katie answers the prayers of all those women who dream of her lifestyle, but aren't prepared to simply settle for painting 'unclean' in scarlet letters over the front door. According to the blurb on Amazon, "Katie Price opens up her make-up bag and throws open the doors to her wardrobe" which makes her sound like a modern-day Pandora, unleashing untold evil upon the world. Still, it's a little too late to worry about that now - rather like closing the stable door after the whore has bolted.

So let's take a look at what aspiring fashionistas can hope to pick up from Katie's new book, other than a nasty fungal infection. She's clearly trying to position the book as a 'style bible' - even going so far as to identify her Ten Style Commandments - although Malleus Maleficarum might be appropriate under the circumstances.

For instance, Katie says "Make sure you match" but it's not clear whether she's talking about co-ordinated outfits or picking a new boyfriend using a mahogany swatch from the B&Q laminates department. She also tells her readers "Don't be afraid of colour" but says nothing about the terrifying effects her colour choices may have on innocent bystanders.

"Grooming - it's not just for horses" says Katie, inadvertently pointing out that your thoroughbred isn't entitled to any more dignity or self-respect than you are. More importantly, Katie believes you shouldn't "be a slave to fashion" or "worry about what other people think". But given that she's currently about as popular as a mutated flu virus, there may come a point when Katie will need to revisit some of these rules. Probably around the time that the book comes out in paperback.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Time to pay our disrespects

Regular readers of this blog will know that there is little love lost between p0pvulture and the Daily Mail, a paper so filled with bile and vitriol it takes half a pack of Settlers Tums to get past page four. However, this week, it's bloated harridan Jan Moir's turn in the spotlight, giving Amanda Platell a well-earned week off.

Since Sunday's shocking news about Stephen Gately's death at the age of 33, celebrities of every shape and size have come forward to pay their respects to the mild-mannered boy-bander. Tantrum-throwing hairpiece model Elton John called Stephen "the kindest, gentlest soul", whilst silver ocelot (well, 'fox' seems a bit of a stretch) Philip Schofield said "Poor Stephen. He was a really lovely guy."

A-to-Z list tributes aside, it's clear that Stephen's bandmates have taken the news hardest, pledging to stage an overnight vigil with his body, and displaying new tattoos in honour of their fallen comrade.

With no foul play, no evidence of hard drug use, and no suicide note, the Spanish authorities quickly determined that Gately died of natural causes, affording his family sufficient closure to concentrate on their grief. But it seems that there's no smoke without ire, at least not if you're veteran columnist and homophobic hack Jan Moir.

Proving that beauty may be skin deep, but ugly runs all the way through, Moir wrote a spectacularly offensive article, originally entitled "Why there was nothing natural about Stephen Gately's death". Bizarrely, the article managed to inflame even the cast-iron sensibilities of the Mail's regular readers, and was promptly renamed "A strange, lonely and troubling death . . ." (which is a little like declaring a gun amnesty, only to swap the firearms for knives).

In a hateful piece littered with speculation, hearsay and plain ignorance, Moir posits that to label Stephen's death as 'natural' is to overlook the 'unnnatural' aspects of his life. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that, when talking about unnatural behaviour, she doesn't mean covering old Cat Stevens songs.

She's far more concerned with the fact that Gately and his husband Andrew Cowles had picked up a young Bulgarian at a nightclub and invited him back to their apartment in Mallorca. Describing these circumstances as "more than a little sleazy" this real-world Dolores Umbridge uses the situation to condemn "the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships". In her beady eyes, the activists who call for 'tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships' are wrong to suggest that they are just the same as straight marriages. And in this sense she's right, but not in the way that she thinks.

Denied full equality, many gay people have instead taken the opportunity to define the parameters of their own relationships. Rather than looking for mainstream approval, they simply do what works for them, and as long as it remains honest and consensual, what right does anyone else have to criticise them for it?

If she was looking for notoriety, Moir certainly got her wish, with hundreds of people taking to Twitter and Facebook to voice their disgust. Even more visited the Press Complaints Commission website, which crashed under the sheer weight of traffic. Advertisers Marks & Spencer and Nestle were also quick to distance themselves from the controversy, insisting that their ads be removed from the online version of the article.

Although calls have been made for Moir to be sacked, it's unlikely that any of the invertebrates at the Daily Mail will develop enough of a spine to do the right thing, so we need to find an appropriate method of counterattack.

In the truly repellent final paragraph of her article, Moir writes that an "ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see" without ever specifiying what other slimy fluid she's referring to. But I think we all have a good idea.

In 2003, gay American humorist Dan Savage decided to name the 'seeping ooze' after bigoted right wing senator Rick Santorum. The sexual neologism he created spread quickly and soon passed into common parlance, but only within the continental United States where the name had any kind of relevance.

Perhaps what's needed here is a similar kind of 'tribute'. Who agrees that Jan deserves to have that same ooze named in honour of her? After all, Americans have elevators and candy, we have lifts and sweets. We're two nations divided by a common language. Let's bring that tradition into the 21st century.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Leona gets the upper hand

Ever since she first appeared on The X-Factor, Leona Lewis has been unfavourably compared to Mariah Carey - the reigning queen of the mellifluous mega-ballad. As well as having a similar appearance (sufficient for early tabloid coverage to refer to her as a Mariah-lookalike), Leona's way with a warble suggested that she was keen to follow in Carey's stilettoed footsteps.

But it wasn't just the papers that seized on the comparison, other performers also saw a similarity that compelled them to speak out. Demonstrating a crushing lack of self-awareness, short-term starlet Jamelia was quick to condemn the Hackney princess as "a poor man's Mariah Carey. Leona may be talented, but she's not worked as hard as me or others in the industry - fact!"

When Leona's debut album was released, the comparisons continued, especially since the CD seemed to have been carefully compiled to match Mariah's mid-nineties output, from the sappy, inspirational ballads to the mid-tempo R&B tremblers. Through it all, Leona changed keys more times than an amnesiac locksmith and showcased her world-class pipes to international acclaim.

Her success didn't go unnoticed by the octave bothering uber-diva either, although 'Mimi' was less than delighted with the prospect of competition. Showing all the kindness and compassion of Myra Hindley with a migraine, Mariah loftily claimed "I only heard her once and I didn't really hear a true similarity, particularly in the style of music. It is what it is and critics have compared me to so many people who are not really singers, and they're certainly not writers."

Interestingly, in the last two years, Leona has proved herself as more than just a pretender to the chaise-longue. And although Mariah still rules the roost in terms of sales, Leona is snapping at her mule-clad heels, not least in terms of vocal dexterity.

Whilst Leona could still score a number one by singing the Scottish Premier League scores, Mariah's live performances sound like she's just received an emergency tracheotomy involving a stanley knife and a biro. Her recent appearance on Good Morning America saw her making sounds that would normally be associated with a demonic possession - that famous five-octave voice reduced to a scratchy, screeching air raid siren.

But this week, the Godzilla vs Mothra-style battle of the balladeers took a couple of unexpected turns, as the two titanic talents had very different brushes with their fans.

At a Las Vegas concert, Mariah played the role of matchmaker by inviting two gay fans up on stage so that one could propose to the other. Not only did Mariah interrupt the performance to show her support, she even knocked back the celebratory glass of champagne, without needing an underling to position a drinking straw in her mouth.

Meanwhile, here in London, poor Leona had a rather less auspicious brush with the great unwashed. At a book-signing to promote her new autobiography 'Dreams', Leona was punched in the face by a man who had patiently queued to have his copy autographed. According to eye-witnesses, the unprovoked attack saw Leona rushing from the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones in tears. Shortly after, a scheduled appearance on The One Show was cancelled.

This cruel and unprovoked attack must have come as quite a shock for mild-mannered Leona - especially since she has carefully constructed a persona that's about as controversial (and interesting) as Ryvita. But maybe there's a silver lining to go with the bruised skin here - one that will see her finally assume her rightful place alongside the 'Imperfect Angel' herself.

Perhaps this altercation will give her the impetus she needs to start distancing herself from reality, and acting like the diva she has always had the potential to be. After all, if Mariah can learn to be gracious and considerate, maybe Leona can forget.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Raised expectations

For the last 25 years Tom Cruise has been at the top of his game, ever since he first danced in his underwear to Bob Seger's 'Old Time Rock n Roll'. In the decades that followed, he managed to find crowd-pleasing roles that enabled him to stretch his skills whilst continuing to up his cost-per-movie. But as his star rose, his accessibility seemed to fade, reaching a nexus point where he became more icon than human being.

After failed marriages to Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman, he surprised the world (and Oprah in particular) when he declared his love for ex-Dawson's Creek alumnus Katie Holmes, in a gymnastic display of couch abuse that would have DFS workers crying into their scatter cushions.

When Katie announced that she was pregnant, cynics expressed surprise that Tom had it in him, or more importantly, that he ever had 'it' in her. But nine short months later, out popped Suri with a full head of hair (and probably an agent).

Now, three years later, Suri is back in the public eye, and she's certainly making the most of her profile. Displaying a tabloid-friendly persona that makes Paris Hilton look like Nell, the toddler has got the tabloids falling over themselves to cover her every move.

The current media obsession is with Suri's footwear, since recent photos have showcased a shoe collection that would make Sarah Jessica Parker consider infanticide. Questions are currently being asked about whether it's appropriate for a three year-old to be wearing 'high heels', despite the fact that the shoes themselves are about as high as an Osmond at a Christening.

Of course, it doesn't help that Tom and Katie have also allowed Suri to experiment with lipstick, nail varnish and accessories, as well as swigging from a Starbucks cup. Maybe it's not appropriate for a pre-schooler to try out make-up or develop a caffeine dependency.

The thing is, children have always tried to emulate their parents' behaviour. Little girls will always want to copy the things they see grown-ups doing, from tottering around in ill-fitting heels to applying mascara and picking out handbags. I just think it's nice that Tom is prepared to share that kind of quality time with his daughter.

Despite all the media coverage, there is a silver lining to this story - other than the fact that Suri is likely to develop the calf-muscles of an Eastern European shot-putter. Not only has Katie Holmes managed to win the argument about her daughter's education, Suri is also likely to hold on to the coveted title of 'hottest tot' - possibly the most inappropriate accolade anyone could hope to achieve.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Breaking up is hard to do

Neil Sedaka knew what he was singing about. Break-ups are never easy. There's the acrimonious name calling, the spiteful division of property and then those first tentative steps back into the market.

So spare a thought for our lady Madonna who, exactly one year after separating from Mockney husband Guy Ritchie, is now enduring another painful split. When her marriage ended, all Madonna had to show for it was a couple of kids and a bunch of car wash sponges. This time around, the custody battle is likely to determine who gets to keep the sweaty yoga mat.

Madonna has finally called 'time' on what many thought was one of the strongest relationships in the world of celebrity. That's right, brace yourself people - La Ciccone has split from her personal trainer Tracy Anderson, after an intense three-year partnership.

Madonna has always been fit, but in the last few years she's boasted less body-fat than a pack of Quorn mince, thanks to Tracy's tutelage.

Some may argue that Madonna has taken the fitness regime a little too far, showing off those sinewy arms that looked like they were made for wrestling Hansel and Gretel into a cooking pot. More ripped than a Goth's t-shirt, the Queen of Pop seemed to be taking the stress of her failed marriage out on her sinewy self.

The press were quick to condemn Madonna for turning herself into female T-800, but Tracy leapt to her committed client's defence: "Madonna is an athlete. That's what I try to hammer into people's heads, people who criticise her for training two hours, six days a week. She's just like a baseball player or a soccer player. I don't have to scream at her because she's so motivated. Madonna will never look her age, she doesn't even look half her age – she looks 19." If this was the case, it would make Madonna the least convincing teenager since Stockard Channing last zipped up her Pink Ladies satin jacket.

According to reports, Madonna has parted ways with Tracy because she has “grown tired of the baggage that Tracy always seemed to be carrying with her." Presumably, she's not referring to an over-stuffed gym tote. It can't have helped matters when Phillippe Van Den Bossche, executive director of Madonna's charity Raising Malawi, quit his role after falling in love with Tracy.

Madonna had previously claimed "Tracy Anderson is my saviour. After two Caesareans, three hernia operations and one riding accident that left me with 10 broken bones, she was the only one who could pull my body back together into one piece." Lindsay Wagnerisms aside, the bionic superstar will have to soldier on unaided. But that's probably just as well - after all, would you dare give Madonna her marching, squatting and thrusting orders?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Putting the issue to bed

Well, it looks like the BBC can finally close the lid on the whole Anton De Beke racism fiasco, since the followers of Saturday evening talent shows have a new controversy to contend with. And once again, Simon Cowell finds himself laughing all the way to the BARB Christmas party.

If you watched the first live final of the X-Factor last night, or caught up on all the action here at p0pvulture, you'll know about Dannii's somewhat tactless comment to Danyl. The judges are clearly miffed that one contestant has outshone all the others since his very first appearance, and they weren't letting anything stand in the way of bringing him down a peg or two.

Louis told Danyl that he needed to be more likeable, an example of irony so epic that pots and kettles across the country are fearful that their iconic idiom status is now under threat. Cheryl, meanwhile, claimed that Danyl was in danger of becoming over-confident. Of course, her feedback may have been different if she'd been granted her original wish and had Danyl in her group. Unfortunately, Dannii threw caution to the wind machine, and decided to open up a whole can of worms with a comment about lyric-changes.

Changing the words to suit the singer is nothing new on shows like the X-Factor - I've lost count of the times that 'Lady Marmalade' has been rendered incomprehensible by changing the lyrics to 'voulex vous chantez avec moi', turning it into the story of a whore who offers singing lessons. All that happened on Danyl's performance, was that the gender of the person being sung about was changed to suit a male singer.

Dannii clearly felt that she was being clever, commenting on this by saying "No need to change the gender references, if we're to believe everything we read in the press." This was followed by a staggeringly painful silence, long enough for Dannii to realise that her flippant remark had crashed and burned. Danyl looked shocked, babbled something about not being ashamed of anything and Simon went into full-on indignant mode, as his protégé's enormous eyes filled with enough tears to drown Rebecca Adlington.

Within minutes, the entire internet was sagging under the weight of all the people taking to the message boards to decry Minogue Jr's supposed slight. Cries of "Sack Dannii" echoed around the forums, with Digital Spy scoring 48 pages of comments on the subject, by lunchtime today.

But was Dannii really being homophobic? She certainly denies it, making her apology on her blog and pointing out that she has spent her entire career supporting the gay and lesbian community. Indeed, she's as much of a Mardi Gras staple as overpriced lager or the stench of amyl nitrate.

In her own way, Dannii was probably trying to show solidarity by encouraging Danyl to be true to himself when performing. Let's not forget that it was Danyl who gave the interview to The Mirror shortly after his first audition, telling the world that he is bisexual. Although strangely, the Mirror has forgotten, since they were today accusing Dannii of 'outing' the young teacher.

The sexuality of talent show contestants has long been a hot potato. It's not that we've ever been short of pink contestants, but with the exception of Alex Parks (whose career showed all the longevity of warm milk) none of them have ever 'come out' - at least until after they'd won. Unfortunately, it works a little like the US military policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' which yesterday President Obama promised to end.

Dannii's real mistake was to openly reference the love that dare not speak its name on prime-time. If she'd had more than seven seconds to make her remarks, she may well have been able to articulate herself more clearly. It also didn't help that she made her comments with what looked like a sneer, but this could simply be because she has only recently regained control of her facial muscles and seems a little out of practice.

Perhaps it's for the best that tonight's results show is overshadowed by the untimely death of another out gay performer, Boyzone singer Stephen Gately. I was going to write something about Stephen's death, but I think PopJustice says it better than I ever could.