I USED to think that by my current decade the young would seek out my counsel and words of wisdom. “Please can you explain to us mortals the categorical imperative or the controversy of Wittgenstein’s poker?” Instead the question fired at me yesterday by my two nieces was: “Why is Michael Winner such a love-hate figure?”
Now, that got me thinking – always a bad sign – and dreaming. (Not much better. Sometimes a smoochy film scene with Brad Pitt; more often than not with Bruce Forsyth.)
The subject of last night’s dream though was, yes, you guessed it: Michael Winner himself.
Now, Michael was recently quoted in The Independent as saying that he’s, in fact, quite “shy”, “reserved”, and that those who hate him simply “don’t get the joke”.
It’s all just a performance!
Now, whatever your views of the tirades attributed to him and whether you regard him as ‘Angry of Holland Park’, I can confirm that I’ve never observed a single tirade in any of the London restaurants I’ve seen him in.
Not so much as a raised eyebrow, let alone a raised napkin.
Whether it’s formal Michelin-starred ones like the Connaught Hotel’s or the Square or more informal ones like the Wolseley or, especially, the Ivy, currently celebrating its 20 anniversary.
In fact, you’d hardly know he was at the latter.
Unlike the occasions when Tom Cruise and Britney Spears were there and we could hear their ebullient guests the other side of the room.
And I doubt, too, he’d ever join in the post-midnight kanga at its private New Year’s Eve celebration exclusively for us Ivy regulars. But rather, like Harold Pinter one year I clearly recall, leave just before midnight.
As a (former) film director and actor in TV commercials, Michael is well aware of the need to provoke a reaction, to entertain.
Especially in his weekly Sunday Times column, now in its 17 uninterrupted year, where he loves to write about his favourite holiday spots, be they France, Barbados or Zimbabwe.
But he also knows that if he writes: “I got up, showered, shaved, had a lovely breakfast at Robert Mugabe’s favourite café of bacon, eggs and…”, his readers would instantly flick to the Sports pages. I made the last bit up, but you get the idea.
Now, we’re definitely not talking here about telling untruths. Far from it.
But rather of ‘spicing up’, putting a gloss on what otherwise might be rather humdrum stories. Writers who want to be read – and who doesn’t? – know that interesting, provocative articles sell papers and keep their bosses happy.
And here, Michael is following a well-trodden path like fellow Sunday Times columnist, Rod Liddle and The Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn.
Informative, provocative and, yes, ‘Angry of Holland Park’-type pieces, is what journalism’s all about.
Pieces that initiate debate, discussion and comment. Not the “Wot I Done On My Holidays”-type, a format that’s been plagiarised by some hacks more often than a GCSE essay.
But off now to explain all this to those nieces who, since you asked, can’t stand Mr (in their words “yesterday’s news”) Winner …
Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca