Tuesday, October 13, 2009
A family newspaper?
I was told the other day that Lewis Hamilton, reigning world champion Formula One driver for McLaren, is gay. Despite being repeatedly photographed with his ‘girlfriend’ Pussycat Doll Nicole Sherzinger, who’s nearly 40, apparently he likes boys. Nothing wrong with that, of course. The person who told me has a relative who works at McLaren, who says the Sherzinger thing’s a sham to put the media off the scent.
I mentioned this to a friend I have who works for the Daily Mail, and she said that it was common knowledge. So much for the scoop.
But I don’t think the media are so easily put off by Hamilton’s relationship of convenience. Look at Stephen Gately, the recently deceased boy band singer. Years ago, family newspaper The Sun found out he was gay and told him they were going to out him. There were two weeks’ of negotiations and then The Sun ran a story saying that Gately had asked it to help him tell the world about the love that (ordinarily) dares not speak its name.
(“The love that dare not speak its name” ought to be a film about clandestine man love in a Trappist monastery. I bet all sorts goes on in those places. The strength of their beer combined with the silence and loneliness would push anyone over the edge, I reckon. If one of them propositioned you, you wouldn’t even be allowed to say “no”.)
I once had dinner with a man who was a journalist on the Sun. He was the boyfriend of a friend of Gill’s. He wasn’t very civilised; he ate like a hyena. Anyway, he had a few stories. He told me that the Sun had a massive file on Gary Lineker’s many infidelities (this was before Lineker divorced his wife and took up with that fancy new bit of fluff) and that they got the exclusive on Lineker’s kid having Leukaemia in exchange for not telling the world he was a bit of a swordsman. Now Lineker’s almost a national treasure, so I guess the Sun wouldn’t have a pop.
This chap also told me that the Sun got a call from a hotel chambermaid years ago saying that snooker legend Steve ‘The Nugget’ Davis was staying at her hotel. She said she would seduce him if they wanted to film it and pay her. The Sun, being a family paper, said it wouldn’t film Steve ‘The Prowler’ Davis having sex with a hotel chambermaid behind his wife’s back. However, they were prepared to pay her for the film if she made it herself. Which she did.
So this bloke, while we were eating dinner, told us that he had watched the film of Steve ‘The Ginger Magician’ Davis having sex with a hotel chambermaid and that quite a few people in his office had watched it too. The video was locked in a safe, waiting for Steve 'Romford Slim' Davis to slip up in some way so the Sun could slay him on the front page.
It saddens me that there are hotel chambermaids out there who would seduce a living legend like Sports Personality of the Year 1988 Steve Davis for money, and it’s even worse that near-rabid tabloid journalists like this bloke I had dinner with have sat around watching the footage. It makes you wonder if watching six-time world snooker champion Steve Davis OBE having sex with a chambermaid gave them a stiffy. Or maybe just a semi. Who knows.
I can only hope that no such video exists of lovely Willie Thorne. That would be a step too far. The man’s the uncle we all wish we had. In fact I would have liked Willie Thorn to be my dad. I haven’t told you about my dad, have I. One day I will. This might surprise you, but Willie is only three years older than Steve.
I was a bit disgusted by this conversation. Journalism shouldn’t be about making life difficult for someone who I think we’d all agree had one of the most natural cuing actions the professional game has ever seen. A player who dominated the modern era more than any other. Forget your O’Sullivans and your Hendrys. Just look at the stats. The man bestrode the game like a colossus.
So I said to him: “Do you actually like working at the Sun?”
And he said:
“It’s the best fucking paper I’ve ever worked on. I worked on the Mirror, the Mail and the Star, and the London Review of Books and The Sun is the best fucking paper of them all.”
So I said: “But people look down on it because it does things like buy videos of snooker players having sex with chambermaids. They say it’s an immoral paper.”
And he said, no word of a lie, on my Mum’s life:
“People don’t realise how much good we do.”
I nearly choked. I realised, at this point, that it wasn’t worth me trying to talk to him any more. It’s hardly surprising that people don’t realise how much good the Sun does when it’s busy buying videos of Steve Davis, author of the 1988 book Mathroom Snooker and 1995’s Steve Davis Plays Chess, "just trying to choose between the easy pink and the tight brown”!*
There was just no point in trying to explain.
* Just to give you context, this is the payoff line from an old joke about Welsh Wizard Terry Griffiths visiting a prostitute. The joke works because Terry Griffiths was a famously slow snooker player, often taking a very long time deciding on which shot to play. In the joke the prostitute is on the bed on all fours while Terry walks around the bed bending down here and there and checking her from all angles. After a while she says: “Come on then, are we going to do it or not?” And he replies with the line above. It is an absolute classic. Although a bit blue for, say, a wedding. It’s not the bluest joke I’ve heard, though. There’s one that goes: “Jack and Jill are playing in the garden. Jill says to Jack: ‘let’s play hide and seek. If you find me you can lick my cunt and fuck me up the arse. And if you can’t find me, I’ll be in the shed’.” That’s quite a blue one. There are worse, but this is a family blog.