A busy day yesterday, starting off at the Groucho Club at eight in the morning. I was taking part in the Editorial Intelligence/HarperCollins panel. The discussion was: Does the Media Break More Celebrities than it Makes?
I was joined by Clarence Mitchell, who represented the McCann family throughout their tribulations; Rachel Johnson, who writes for the Sunday Times and just happens to be Boris’ sister (“I won’t mention the B word,” she told the audience) and Mary Riddell, the assistant Editor at the Daily Telegraph. The chair was Peter York.
It was a fascinating discussion – Mary Riddell was just back from the Labour conference, where she had watched Gordon Brown again vowing not to be part of a culture of spin and celebrity after a year of the media attempting to break him. Clarence Mitchell gave an extraordinarily candid account of the media’s treatment of the McCann family.
The media’s lust for content is at the root of it all – especially in a media that runs at such frenetic speeds thanks to the internet and mobile communication. As it ever was, there is a proliferation of media eager to feed on the celebrities who thrust their heads over the parapet and it will last as long as the media owners make vast quantities of cash and the celebrities keep popping up for their turn in the spotlight.
More often than not, we agreed, the media chooses not to break a celebrity (unless they have a seriously overweening sense of themselves), preferring to knock them down a bit and watch which way they climb back up. They watch very closely, reporting progress all the way.
Then in the evening came Peachy Coochy, in which twenty people presented 20 slides and talked about each one for 20 seconds each. I was presenting a selection of slides from The Fame Formula and had condensed the book into the required six minutes and forty seconds. I tried to improvise at first, but it was a painful process – I tend to speak in paragraphs. I ended up writing a script – there was no other way to reduce a 380 page book to a less-than-seven-minute performance…
The night, run under the watchful eye of David Gale at the Toynbee Studios, was a sell out and a great success. Of the other 19 Coocheurs, the ones that spring immediately to mind were Hugo Glendenning’s series of photos of Sumo wrestlers, which he had taken in various Sumo camps in Japan, and Peter Culshaw – of whom it has been said that he is to ligging what Pele was to dribbling – who dissected Sarah Palin and Alaska in under seven minutes.
The Peachy Coochy nights are running every month and are well worth investigating – click here for more information.