Axegrinder: 12 January 2007

Wallace lets slip BB star Malone’s ‘real’ age

Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace has been enjoying a chuckle at the expense of Sunday Mirror columnist and Celebrity Big Brother “star” Carole Malone. It was the Mirror which, rather ungallantly, revealed Malone was 52 years old — not 47 as she had claimed on her CBB biography. Since then, Wallace has delighted in giving Malone a variety of different ages in TV critic Polly Hudson’s daily “Pollyometer” of the show’s contestants.

When Axegrinder last checked, the Geordie columnist was a mere 36 — slightly more flattering than 63, which appeared in one piece. What a wag.

Launching a restaurant?

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay found “it hard to cut the mustard in New York where he recently launched (sic) a restaurant”, reveals Mail on Sunday diarist Katie Nicholl. The TV chef left New York magazine critic Gael Green “distinctly unimpressed” by the “overcooked” scallops and the “leathery lobster ravioli”, says Nicholl in her MoS column on 7 January.

A fascinating tale. Or it least it was — when it first appeared in this column a month ago on 8 December.

Exclusive… and likely to remain so

How strange that no one followed up The Sunday Times’s belter of a splash (7 Jan): “Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran”.

Well, not quite true. The Independent did bother to include a denial in its Middle East story the following day. But the Wapping conspiracy theorists have always been prone to military stories which verge on the totally bonkers. Axe’s personal favourite was a page one gem from November 1998: “Israel planning ‘ethnic’ bomb as Saddam Caves In”. The splash was about a bomb which could kill Arabs — but not Jews. Still waiting for that one to come true.

Two lords a-leaping

Executives at the Daily Mail are learning the hard way about the perils of the internet after piling cash into Associated’s online operation. Their plan is running far from smoothly — judging by one story (6 Jan) on the front page of their site.

“Lord Levy’s call-girl”, screamed the headline. “What happened to the infamous call-girl who helped destroy the political career of the adulterous Lord Levy?”, it went on.

Axegrinder has the answer: There was no call-girl — just a dreadful mistake. The headline was intended to refer to a tale about the late Lord Lambton, who was caught in bed with two hookers as he enjoyed a joint of another kind.

For the Mail’s sake, I hope Lord Levy was too busy with the cash-for-honours affair to have noticed the gaffe, which was corrected after a few hours.

Standard’s bloggers get little response

The Evening Standard’s decision to send its storm-troopers into the frontline of the internet by giving them their own blogs is an equally sorry tale. According to blogger Madame Arcati, the Standard’s This is London website has five bloggers.

“You’d think that with its ABC1 readership of young and educated urban professionals… these emissions of opinion would draw a huge and lively response. Alas not,” she says.

Arcati produced a league table last week (4 Jan) to back up her assertion. Restaurant critic Charles Campion’s blog has drawn just three comments since 11 December. Theatre critic Kieron Quirke elicited just one response since 13 December and the last comment on comedy critic Bruce Dessau’s blog was on 27 November. They must be the only hacks who would be grateful for the odd spam email.

Exes don’t run to devil dogs

The mauling to death of little Ellie Lawrenson in Merseyside sent Fleet Street on a predictably frenzied search for their own “devil dogs”.

The News of the World’s daring duo of Guy Basnett and Dan Evans found a “dodgy” mutt on sale in Yorkshire for £750. The pair haggled the price down to £480 before buying the beast, only to hand it over to the RSPCA.

But the exes clearly don’t stretch as far over at The Sunday Telegraph. Reporter Tom Harper reserved a dog for £700, but did not go through with the deed.

“As the purchase of a pitbull is illegal, we asked only to reserve one of the dogs,” writes Harper. Just as well, as he probably didn’t fancy his chances of getting £700 in cash out of the tight-wads on the newsdesk.

How single is Laura?

Much gossiping in the newsroom at the Evening Standard over the status of the paper’s “Single Life” columnist Laura Topham, according to my spies. In her last few columns, the lovely Laura has written about her dates with a lads’ mag journalist called James. The mystery suitor is apparently not Loaded staffer Jamie Fullerton, who is an old chum of hers from uni days — but his colleague Jeff Maysh. Maysh is apparently keeping schtum because Topham’s column about being a singleton in Shepherd’s Bush means a steady partner would rather defeat the object. Not so much Sex and the City, more A Bottle of Wine and a DVD.

Sports hack wanted — must have own wellies

As the New Year jobs market gets into full swing, bright young things are scouring listings for the perfect opening. One vacancy, in the form of an email sent around training colleges from Bourne Publishing Group, caught Axegrinder’s eye when it appeared on Monday morning: “We are shortly looking to recruit a junior journalist to work across some of our sporting titles, so a knowledge of the countryside is desirable.” The advert does not make it clear why such knowledge would be desirable, leaving aspiring hacks none the wiser. Perhaps Bourne feels sports journalists, depressed by the daily grind of interviewing monosyllabic midfielders from the local team, would benefit from a country life.

The non sequitur can be easily explained by looking at Bourne’s titles on their website, including Horse and Pony Magazine and Fieldsports Magazine. But will the young hopeful, when recruited, be taught a more straightforward writing style?

From scandal to tickling the ivories

Former red-top journalist Graham Gadd is used to dealing with kiss and tells, scandal and crime as an ex-news editor on The People and Sunday Mirror.

So it may come as a surprise to former colleagues that the journalist — who also worked as deputy editor of The Herald, Glasgow — has chosen a rather more sedate specialisation in the twilight of his career. Namely 18th and 19th century British pianos.

Gadd’s book The British Art Piano is published as a private limited edition intended mainly for sale to museums and art experts.

He told Axe: “The thing about newspapers is that it’s the greatest life on Earth — 24-hour-a-day adrenalin. I wanted to something that would last a bit longer.” And Gadd admitted he may have ignored Dr Johnson’s famous advice to all journalists who walked down Grub Street: “never write for anything except money.”

Wallcharts reach a new low

After freebie wallcharts on everything from types of sheep to cheese, it was only a matter of time before the unthinkable happened and someone brought out a turd recognition chart. But Axe was surprised to see this offering come from the normally rather more genteel Spectator.

Thankfully, closer inspection revealed that it was in fact a guide to country animals when found in sausage form, provided as an advertising tie-in with Carlsberg.

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