Axe grinder 18.08.06

Come again? The People searches for a toilet fiend

THE day police arrested 24 terror suspects over the alleged plot to blow up a number of planes was a frenetic time for Fleet Street and the rest of the media.

But staff at The People were engaged on a rather different whodunit. The appalling crime scene centred on the washrooms at the paper's 23rd floor HQ at Canary Wharf.

The following outraged memo to senior executives about the "Water Closet-gate" scandal — "leaked", obviously, to Axegrinder — explains all.

People investigators already have a prime suspect, but are awaiting DNA results before revealing any more.

Blag backfires as Posh's mum rumbles ruse

WITH all the fury over the alleged hacking into celebrities' mobiles, it appears a few rogues appear to have returned to the traditional ruse of blagging.

I hear that the latest victim of an attempted blag was none other than Victoria Beckham, who is getting wise to the shenanigans of Fleet Street.

According to pals of Posh, a female reporter tried to blag details from the Inland Revenue about how much Mrs Becks claimed against tax for her everchanging hairdo.

The reporter — who works for a tabloid daily — even had the cheek to ask for the doubtless fascinating details of Victoria's hair extensions to be sent to a company she had set up.

But the scheme was swiftly rumbled and Posh's mum was on the phone to give the kind of hairdryer-style bollocking pioneered by son-in-law David's old Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Andy at The Times? Odone be ridiculous

CRISTINA Odone needs to brush up on her knowledge of News International if she wants to be taken seriously as a media pundit.

She reckons that News of The World editor Andy Coulson was so highly regarded by Rupert Murdoch — before the latest setbacks — that he was on track "for a stint at The Times".

My narks at Wapping tell me it was hard to say where the laughter was loudest — at the Screws, or at The Times when they read Odone's piece in MediaGuardian.

Maybe it's not just the NoW that ‘bends'…

NEWS reaches me of growing frustration at the Screws that no other tabloid has been fingered in a major way for alleged "phone-bending".

Perhaps Axegrinder can help. The latest rumour, unsubstantiated of course, is that another tabloid has been paying between £750 and £1,000 a time to "pull" the phone bills of various celebrities.

… but it buries bad news on frantic days

HAS the News of the World been taking lessons from Stephen Byers' former spindoctor Jo Moore on "burying bad news"?

I only ask because news of Goodman's suspension was slipped out on the day all hell broke loose with the arrest of a busload of suspected terrorists.

Officials mix messages on terror suspects

HOME Secretary John Reid and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith begged every media outlet in the land not to jeopardise any court actions against the terror suspects who have dominated the headlines.

How strange then that at exactly the time they made the request last weekend, a "senior source" briefed the Sunday paper crime reporters about allegations that one couple planned to take their baby on board the target planes as a decoy.

A drink for the Lord, when we learn his name

AS AXEGRINDER went to press, Simon Kelner's newest signing and Groucho club pal Cooper Brown was keeping his dwindling band of readers guessing about the identity of a Tory Lord he had "punched out".

The mystery man is about the only item of interest in his tedious Independent column which is littered with tedious references to once-cool venues.

Readers have fired off angry missives on a regular basis to the Indy's letters page begging Kelner to drop the weekly musings of Brown.

In his latest anecdote (8 Aug), namedropper Brown claims the unnamed Tory peer is suing him for damages and trying to get his work visa cancelled.

The incident which sparked Brown's ire, according to his column of 27 July, was the view of the "asshole" Lord that Brown was talking "complete bollocks".

I wonder if Brown will reveal the perspicacious peer's identity so Axegrinder can buy him a very large drink?

Closure is as exciting as it gets at IPC

THE MUPPETS in the recruitment department of publisher IPC Media clearly have an interesting definition of what constitutes "a really exciting time".

Among the vacancies at Country Life, Horse & Hound and Wallpaper*, the following interesting opportunity caught my eye: DEPUTY EDITOR FAMILY CIRCLE Family Circle is looking for a new deputy editor to join the magazine at a really exciting time.

Given that Family Circle is to close on the publication of its December 2006 edition, I don't think "exciting" is quite the word that the mag's staff will be using.

Daring writer gets in swing

I'M told there is an adventurous female writer for The Guardian who likes to unwind by attending swingers' parties.

Unfortunately, colleagues at Farringdon Road don't share her passion for such a raunchy pastime and have been swapping bitchy comments about her exotic tastes.

How intolerant of Alan Rusbridger's starchy underlings. I'm sure they're just jealous.

Poetic Olivia's ST admirers…

PASS the smelling salts at The Sunday Times. The paper has been far from a fun palace with a newsroom perpetually cowering under the lash of editor John Witherow.

But things are looking up in a small way — thanks to the arrival of wannabe poetess, 25-year-old Olivia Cole.

The Amazonian Cole has been put on the arts beat covered by Richard Brooks and, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been writing a lot about poets.

But the slavering ST hacks are a bit low down the food chain when it comes to the list of Cole's admirers.

Author, broadcaster and fellow poet Clive James is so impressed by Cole he's included some of her work on his website — www.clivejames.com.

Oxford-educated Cole "quickly made her mark as a poet through the unforced romanticism of her conversational rhythms", gushes James.

Her recent work has "an unusually rich play of tone, a reportorial lyricism that many older poets would find it hard to match", he adds.

Axegrinder can just picture the drooling newsdesk desperately scratching away at their own paeons of praise.

… while Times man admires fellow gossip

GLAD to see the gossip columnists'

trade union is still alive and well.

The wonderfully witty Hugo Rifkind, who has breathed new life into the People column in The Times, has written a fabulous book called Over Exposure.

So far, the reviewers on Amazon have piled praise on the book.

"Highly enjoyable whodunnit that will appeal to fans of Iain Banks and anyone seeking an insight into the hollow circus that is the London gossip scene" writes one fan — a certain Jack Malvern.

Don't suppose that would be the former Times diarist, now the paper's arts reporter, going by the name of Jack Malvern, would it?

Will Charles Kennedy book lack punch?

TALKING of Times staff writing books, the paper is keenly awaiting the arrival of parliamentary correspondent Greg Hurst's book on Charles Kennedy.

It is expected to reveal all the messy details of the Lib Dem leader's battle with the booze.

Trouble is, bosses at The Times are still grumpy that Hurst was scooped by ITN when Kennedy's alcoholism was revealed, because he was saving the details for his book.

Sun back to slim future in Fat Kids camp

THE SUN is clearly hoping its readers have short memories when it comes to the paper's features on slimming.

Last week (10 August), it trumpeted the launch of its "new" Fit Kids campaign in the Currant Bun's health section.

This must have been something of a surprise to The Sun's former slimming editor Sally Ann Voak, who left the paper in 2004 to freelance.

Back in 2003, she ran an award-winning series of features to help overweight kids in a campaign which had exactly the same title and format.

Perhaps it's all part of the latest recycling initiative at Wapping?

Herb the news?

Parsley told to stop exodus

BOSSES at City AM — London's free business daily — are pretty happy at the paper's reception since its launch last September.

They are, however, less happy with the exodus of staff, which forced a spate of new hirings last month to plug the gaps.

Editor David Parsley is now under strict orders from the publishers to stem the tide of departures — or else, according to my spies.

MoS gets its man, but is left speechless

THE OBSESSION of Associated Newspapers with the case of studentturned- fugitive John Washington gets odder and odder.

As my picture showed last week, Oxford scholar Washington is a fellow student of Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley's daughter Sophie.

He sparked an international manhunt after allegedly smashing a man over the head with a champagne bottle in a row over Oxford's "fittest girl"

Laura Clegg in a St Tropez nightclub.

Last weekend, The Mail on Sunday spent a fortune to "track down" Jim Carrey lookalike Washington to a café at Baltimore aquarium.

Curiously, the lengthy page lead by MoS writer Elizabeth Sanderson, accompanied by a smiling picture of Washington, contains not a single quote from the man himself.

"The paper spent a barrel-load of cash to get the story," reveals an insider at the paper. "But it was only used way back on page 35."

What can it all mean? Perhaps someone will enlighten Axegrinder.

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