Axe Grinder 04.11.05

THERE IS more terribly grim news for Lord Black of Crossharbour. I
can reveal that Tom Bower, the investigative biographer whose name
sends shivers down tycoons’ sturdy spines, is quietly beavering away on
a muck-raking book about the former Telegraph proprietor.

Those
who were once Black’s nearest and dearest are now whispering into
Bower’s tape recorder. “Tom is starting with the top guys,” says a
close friend of Bower. “It’s going well.”

Undoubtedly, Bower’s
guaranteed exposé will come as a blow to Black, who stands accused of
helping to fraudulently divert some £46m from newspaper group Hollinger
International between 1994 and 2003.

But it will be a particularly painful kick in the teeth for Black’s wife, Barbara Amiel.

She
has been trying to creep back into her London social circle which
annoyingly (for Babs) is made up of just the sort of people who have
Bower’s books on their Louis XV bedside tables.

Bower’s
previous subjects include Mohamed Al Fayed, Gordon Brown, Geoffrey
Robinson and Richard Branson, as well as media moguls Robert Maxwell
and Tiny Rowland.

His biography of Express proprietor Richard
Desmond, entitled Rough Trader, was due out later this month and the
puff says Bower “will lay bare the succession of dubious deals and
sharp practices which enabled Desmond to achieve billionaire status”.

However, publication of the Desmond tome could be delayed because the lawyers have a headache.

Meanwhile,
Bower will not have to travel far to get good stuff on Black. Evening
Standard editor Veronica Wadley was deputy editor of Black’s Daily
Telegraph and at night she rests her head on the pillow next to Bower.

At
least one Murdoch is a joy to work for CAN there be anything more
rewarding and pleasurable than working for Murdoch? I refer, of course,
to 96-year-old Dame Elisabeth Murdoch rather than her ambitious son,
Rupert.

Take, for example, her kindness towards her young gardener, a man in his 30s whom she hired to keep her beds tidy.

Rupert
Murdoch’s former butler, Philip Townsend, tells me of the time Dame Lis
was accompanied by her green-fingered servant when she flew in to
London to see Rupert.

“She took the gardener on a tour of
Britain,” says Townsend. “You don’t see Rupert doing that for his
employees, though he was a very good boss.”

Warming to his theme,
Townsend recalls Dame Lis pitching up on another occasion, horrified by
the pair of nude paintings her son had put up on the wall of his
apartment in St James’s.

“She told him” ‘What on earth are you
doing with those pictures? They’re disgusting.’ Rupert just pouted and
did his little boy lost act and said: ‘Oh mother.'”

Townsend
adds: “I remember Dame Elisabeth organising a dinner party for her
friends, who included Anne Scott James (journalist mother of former
Fleet Street editor, Sir Max Hastings). Rupert arrived very late and
his mother wasn’t pleased.

“She told him: ‘You’re awful Rupert. I won’t be having these parties for much longer, you know. All my friends are dying.'”

Barztart
Monty is so difficult to follow… A FRIEND at Berliner Kurier – one of
the two Berlin-based papers now under the ownership of David Montgomery
– phones to inquire about his new proprietor.

“Gart any goot shtories abart ziz barztart Rommel?” asks my German friend.

(Translated:
What do you know about Monty?)n The anecdote that springs to mind goes
back to Monty’s days when he was a sub-editor at the Mirror Group. The
Bangor-born Ulster protestant joined other subs for a drink in “The
Stab” and they started talking about their favourite authors.

“My favourite author is Itchy Bits,”

Monty announced.

“Who’s Itchy Bits?” asked the other subs in unison, clearly baffled by his severe accent.

“Itchy Bits,” replied Monty. And then again, slowly: “Itch. E. Bits.”

Eventually, he had to produce a pen and paper to scribble it down: “H E Bates.”

…
again… MY German friend is back on the phone an hour later, asking for
more “goot shtories” about Monty. The only one that springs to mind
goes back to Monty’s days as editor of Today newspaper.

He spent
weeks moaning about Jane Reed, then his managing editor and nowadays
Rupert Murdoch’s right-hand woman. “She’s just greedy,” he kept telling
other members of staff, until finally one of them asked if Reed was
after a huge pay rise.

“No,” said Monty. “She eats all the biscuits in conference. She’s greedy.”

… and again…

OH and there’s the time Monty invited his gossip columnist, the legendary Chris Hutchins, for evening drinks.

“Let’s meet at the Hard Hotel,”

Bangor’s best export told Hutchins.

“I’ve never heard of it, David,” said Hutch. It seemed like hours later before the translation came: The Howard Hotel.

Amanda
vents it – but she hasn’t got it ASTONISHING intelligence arrives
concerning raven-haired columnist Amanda Platell, who does a nice line
in spleen-venting articles for, among others, the Daily Mail and the
New Statesman.

It transpires that she does not, in fact, possess a spleen.

Platell’s
organ was removed – along with half her liver and her pancreas – after
she was involved in a nasty car crash in her early days.

Doctors told her parents she would never live anything like a normal life.

They were not wrong.

This
news will come as a shock to anyone who has tried to keep up with
Platell in a chardonnaydrinking contest. It will also alarm readers,
who for years have endured her ranting because they felt assured that
Platell had more spleen to vent than the average angry woman.

Yet
she was completely s p l e e n – l e s s when she wrote: On Leslie
Grantham: “A repulsive little man, a shameless pervert, debauched, an
Eastern European porn star, shameful, warped. Every time I see him
swagger into the Square, all I can think of are those pictures of him
stroking his flabby body, concocting twisted fantasies with strangers.”

On
David Blunkett’s ex-lover Kimberly Quinn: “She has behaved appallingly
and selfishly – what kind of woman can maintain such monumental deceit
for so long?”

On the Beckhams (under the headline “Why we women
hate Posh”): “Victoria has been totally parasitic upon his fame. It’s
no wonder she’s fighting tooth-and-nail to keep this marriage together,
because without it what is she? A faded, failed pop star.”

On
Fern Britton’s “obesity”: “People look to her as an informed voice of
reason. So when she says ‘look at my holiday snaps’ and insists she’s
happy and healthy, she is misleading her viewers. She has a
responsibility if not for herself, then surely for others. What woman
could be happy having not seen her toes for a decade?”

Please let Axegrinder know of any other top media stars and journalists who are lacking something vital.

Wallace brings ‘inaccurate’

Wadley
to book MIRROR EDITOR Richard Wallace has decided to help out Veronica
Wadley – Tom Bower’s duvet shaker and editor of London’s Evening
Standard – in her relentless (relentlessly inaccurate?)n pursuit to
find the source of the Mirror’s Kate Moss scoop.

Following yet
another stab at identifying the informant – er, incorrectly again –
Wallace sent Wadley a London phone book to help her out with her
enquiries. “Wallace asked her to send it back once she’d accused every
bloke in London of being the Mirror’s source,” says Axegrinder’s man in
the Derry Street atrium. “She’s obsessed with how they got the story.

Quite whether our readers care so passionately is a matter of much debate.”

Noisy
snapper’s nasal diet shocks model FURTHER to Axegrinder’s recent item
about the James Brown photo-shoot at which the magazine supremo snorted
motorway-long lines of cocaine, I now find myself sniffing around a
story about a certain photographer’s nasal diet.

The studio-based snapper has discovered the mood-altering benefits of being a step or two away from a toilet cistern.

His photographic models should arrive with earplugs because during shoots he plays loud music; all very LA.

I
am told: “One model was horrified to be offered lines of marching
powder, which she turned down, and then shocked when the photographer
retired to an annexe room to see the sexy young studio assistant.”

Gosh. Things have certainly come on since the days of Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson, haven’t they?

Collapsed
case is a life-saver for freelance THE CHAMPAGNE (oh okay, sparkling
wine) flowed at Berrie’s wine bar in Blackfriars after the Scotland
Yard case against freelance journalist John Ross collapsed – to the
delight of every tabloid crime reporter.

Ross, who was cleared of
two charges of paying a cop for confidential information, pronounced
the acquittal at Inner London Crown Court “a victory for Fleet Street
and the freedom of the press.”

A former Flying Squad detective,
he has been responsible for many frontpage exclusives and is widely
regarded as having the best contacts in the Met.

Ex-Daily Mail
crime reporter Tim Miles, who toasted John’s release, tells Axegrinder:
“For over 20 years John has been one of the best – if not the best –
contact any crime reporter could hope for. He got his information the
old-fashioned way, in the pubs and clubs around London. He’s never been
by-lined but there are many top crime reporters who are in his debt for
producing cracking scoops.

“During its seven-month investigation,
which cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds in
surveillance, police overtime and legal costs, Scotland Yard shied away
from tackling staff reporters because they were backed by the power and
resources of their newspaper, so instead they looked for an easy
target, the lone freelance.”

Adds Miles: “The Yard now can’t
stomach the idea of any information filtering out unless it’s been
sanitised and sometimes suppressed by senior officers and the Press
Bureau. By going for John, they hoped to impose a vow of ‘omerta’

on every serving officer.”

Ironically,
Ross’s arrest could have saved his life. While being held overnight in
the cells, he fell ill and was examined by a police doctor who
suggested he be checked over properly on his release. A specialist
diagnosed heart disease and Ross was rushed immediately into hospital
for a quadruple bypass.

the 1pm girl

REVEAL
editor Michael Butcher threw a superb party last week to celebrate the
lively celebrity magazine’s first birthday. But there was trouble by
the loos during the bash at London bar The Living Room. A lad emerging
from the empty Gents spotted the long line of bursting women queuing
for the Ladies.

Being helpful, he said to the brunette at the
front of the queue: “Hey, why aren’t you using the Gents?” She turned
to face the poor chap and gave him a thunderous dressing-down.

Only then did it become clear that he had been speaking to Big Brother transsexual contestant Nadia (previously Jorge)n Almada.

THE
GUARDIAN’S Julian Glover seems to have arrived out of nowhere. His name
appears on political sketches, but what is his background?

Apparently
he did a few days on the road with Simon Hoggart during the election.
There is one other thing: I am told he is the son of media commentator,
Stephen Glover.

ANYONE emailing Rod Gilchrist at his (supposedly)
old Mail on Sunday email address receives the reply: “I will be out of
the office starting 01/10/2005 and will not return until 31/12/2005.”
All very intriguing, considering he had a farewell bash just the other
week. Is the former deputy editor planning a comeback?

FOLLOWING
last week’s item about the Daily Mail’s Westminster team, I am sorry to
hear more about political editor Ben Brogan and deputy Paul Eastham.
Relations between them are said to be tense, though I have pointed out
this is only to be expected when two young men are thrust into the
pressured, competitive world of late nights and tight deadlines.

To
anyone who says Brogan is sniffing around for another deputy, I say:
“Bunkum.” What others call relationship troubles, I call temporary blip.

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