JoeBusiness ::: Brooding Detectives, Wireless And More

Luther-007Welcome to JoeBusiness. July was a month of brooding detectives, global superstars descending on the UK and people getting very, very excited about a stranger’s baby.

At the beginning of the month the wonderful Luther returned to our TV screens for what has been billed as the final series and it did not disappoint. In terms of the psychological effect the four episodes of the series had it would run something like this:

Episode One made every single person watching check under their bed, then the attic, then under the bed again before going to sleep.

Two made us all realise something characters on TV rarely do. When you hear an unearthly banging sound emanating from upstairs, don’t just assume it’s ‘the house settling’ because it ain’t, it’s a nutter who wants to tie you up.

Three made us all howl in disbelief at the sheer cruelty of the Luther universe as the show’s only true ‘good guy’, Justin, was gunned down by a shotgun-toting vigilante. A moment made all the more poignant by Luther’s early introduction of Justin to his new girlfriend: ‘He’s my mate and I love him.’ Ohhhhh it’s all so bloody unfair.

Finally Episode Four had every man (and I suspect many women) across the country genuinely contemplating how great it would be to date a red-headed multiple murdering sociopath: ‘Some little girls grew up wanting ponies, I grew up wanting to be a widow.’ Phwooooaarr!

Luther is brilliant on so many levels, the writing, the casting, the aesthetic but what’s most brilliant is the characters. Idris Elba’s title character was a hulking force of inner torment and it’s testament to his ability as an actor that even avid fans of The Wire didn’t recognise the iconic Stringer Bell within 30 seconds of Elba in Luther series one. There are fantastic, subtle performances across the board however, the fact that who we came to love the most was Alice (the above red-headed sociopath), a character we met after she’d just murdered both her parents and hidden the gun in the butchered family dog, is testament to how great and how different this show was.

I for one mourn the passing of a seminal piece of British drama and from the talk coming from Elba himself, who incidentally cited this series as one that even had a psychologically damaging effect on him, and the show’s creator Neil Cross it seems to suggest this will be the last series. The symbolic gesture of Luther discarding his ‘lucky’ coat into the Thames and then walking off into the sunset, except of course there was no actual sunset as in Luther everything is drawn from a dingy and hopeless palette, with Alice seems to call an end to it. However, rumours abound of a big screen version of the show, something I’m unsure how they’d achieve but would flaming well go and see or alternatively a spin-off about Alice. Ruth Wilson, who plays the murderous genius, has said that creator Neil Cross is interested and rumours awhile back suggested the BBC might be keen so who knows.

Whatever’s next for John Luther, the most destructive, flawed and downright unlucky hero of all time, the fourteen episodes of Luther we have remain one of the most iconic, engaging, tragic and terrifying pieces of television ever made and in the traditional words that ended every series – ‘So now what?’

Jay-Z Wireless 3For those of us who didn’t make it down to Glastonbury (‘Woooo GLASTO! Can’t wait!!!’ put a sock in it) festival season really hit home in July as Wireless touched down at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London’s East End. This festival wasn’t just a treat for the capital though, I was lucky enough to be there doing backstage coverage and met people from all over the UK and indeed further afield, including a rather enthusiastic group of Swedes who, having watched me deliver my intro of Rita Ora’s set to camera from a lovely plateau overlooking the festival, asked me if I’d be interested in covering a classic car show they’re organising and could I get any media outlets interested? I told them my producer would surely be in touch for such a prestigious event and promptly hotfooted it back towards the crowds, leaving the cameraman to lie his arse off.

The line-up was excellent: Nas, Rita Ora, Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Harris, Macklemore, Snoop Dogg, Big Sean, Miguel, Earth, Wind and Fire!!! However, there was one act in particular who everybody wanted to see and it’s hard to describe the reverence that surrounds the idea of his very presence in the same square couple of miles of you. No not Fuse ODG (although I personally was very excited about this, I’m somewhat of a dancehall king) but Jay-Z. I’m not his biggest fan, something that normally inspires a drawing back of the hand as if I’m about to be slapped and challenged to a duel, but I do prefer many other rappers. However he has transcended hip hop and even music itself. He’s the emblem of what’s possible if you set your mind to it, how to take over the business you set out to work in.

As many of you reading this I’m sure are, imagine you’re trying to break into the world of fashion, then you do so but not satisfied you go ‘Bollocks to this.’ And systematically take over a significant portion of the global industry and then release your own series of music albums, commemorative ashtrays, moon bases! Basically he’s an impressive guy. In the press area, where most of the artists were milling about at one point or another, posing for pics and doing interviews, including Tinie Tempah who appeared as a not-so-secret special guest on the Saturday, given that he’d been romping about the site in a purple vest wearing his trademark glasses accompanied by about ten burly blokes.  Lewis Hamilton was also there, wearing a diamond-encrusted (or platinum or summink… I’m not sure) chain the type of which is normally reserved for rappers and other people who look suitably hard or cool enough to pull it off. It’s hard to overstate how silly this looked on a nerdy F1 driver.

We shouldn’t judge people for their clothes but that accompanied by the snap-back down low and the big shades, Lewis is trying to say something about himself and I ain’t having it. Anyway as various celebs, Miguel, Kendrick, David Haye (!) sauntered through, there was always the expectant glance towards the door at the slightest sound as we all hoped beyond hope that the Jigga Man himself might appear but he didn’t… not until show time and what a show time it was. People talk about ‘electricity’ at concerts but this was it on a monumental scale, three nights running, with all the other artists gathered to watch. ’99 Problems’, ‘Big Pimpin’, ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’, every night tens of thousands from all different walks of life rapped, sang, mumbled every line, such is the unifying power of music. I was extraordinarily lucky to be there and I’m sure many of you were too and my advice is to get to a festival this summer, no matter how small because live music and singing along like a tit is what it’s all about and if Wireless can get that line up this year, imagine 2014!

WirelessThe final big event of the month was a couple of posh folk having a lovely little nipper. I have no problem with Wills and Kate having a baby, it’s lovely when any couple brings a new life into the world, however the sheer level of media and public fascination is completely alien to me. There’s a well-publicised stat doing the rounds that when Diana and Charles left the hospital the proud parents of a young Prince William there were only two TV crews, whereas 31 years later that very same baby and his missus were greeted 70, if you add to that the other assorted media outlets present then the number of baying journos that wanted a glimpse of young George is absurd.

Kay Burley’s manic stint on a 30 hour shift for Sky News outside the hospital has been well-publicised, the poor thing was apparently kept alive by a producer shovelling Coca Cola and Go Ahead Bars down her throat and highlights included interviewing a non-comprehending and seemingly disinterested Spanish tourist, a deaf onlooker who signed her thoughts to the camera as a bewildered Kay looked on and one bloke who quipped that the baby was a ‘black boy’. What a jester.

Poor old Kay was a victim of the relentless rolling news coverage of what is, let’s face it, a fairly mundane event. I was on holiday at the time the frenzy reached its crescendo and still found it inescapable, with rolling news in every bar and muppets in the street asking me for intricate details of what was going on in the maternity ward when they found out what I do for a living. There were sweepstakes on TV, radio, print and online outlets across the world, A – Zs giving useless facts about the royal family and babies in general and raucous debates breaking out everywhere. This is madness! I can’t be the only one who didn’t really care, can I? This isn’t the next Prime Minister who’s been born, it’s the future head of a spectacular and historical but essentially redundant institution. As I said, it’s lovely when anyone has a little baby but if I don’t know ‘em, I can do without Kay Burley gurning and someone trying to take a quid of me to guess to whether it’ll be called Keith or Sharon.

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JoeBusiness ::: Idris Gives The White Queen The Elba

4087328-high_res-luther.jpg‘Suffered’ probably isn’t the right word. No ‘tolerated’, that’s right we’ve now tolerated three episodes of the BBC’s big flagship historical drama, The White Queen. The show has been slated for it’s historical inaccuracies and downright continuity errors, from costume to props – it’s very hard to take Max Irons’ Edward IV seriously when he’s dressed in Camden chic as opposed to the traditional regalia of a medieval monarch. However, easily it’s greatest failing is the 70s B-Movie dialogue and script. A moment in episode two particularly springs to mind where Lord Warwick leaves the King’s chamber, believing he’s secured a fortuitous marriage for his daughter and pauses in the foreground to give an extended look that is supposed to convey his delight at his cunning nature but in reality is reminiscent of Joey’s ‘smell the fart acting’ in Friends, something that mocked this clichéd and contrived form of television-making over a decade ago.

It is an extraordinary feat that one of the most fascinating, bloody and important periods in English and Euopean history has been made a laughable pastiche of a historical drama and testament to the inherent power of the story of the Wars of the Roses, the end of the Plantaganet dynasty and the Tudor succession that we keep watching but my advice is that if you want the real story, something infinitely more gripping than this attempt, then buy yourself the boxset of History of Britain. The great thing about history is there’s no inaccuracies, no crap acting or clunky dialogue, just a great story thatactually happened.

Luther 2If you want to talk about suffering though, just ask the poor sods who came a cropper in the opening episode of series three of the masterful Luther, which returned to our screens last night (Tuesday 2nd July) and once again caused an entire nation to despair at the inherent evil of mankind/cack their pants. The episode with the randomly murderous twins from series two continues to disturb me to this day – I met Steven Robertson, who played the twins, in a toilet at a casting agency where I had a meeting. He politely smiled and said ‘Hello’ when he saw my eyes widen in terror, I nodded and promptly fled in fear of my life. Last night was in a similar vain, as the opening episode featured two killers on the loose. One, a stony-faced psycho with an extraordinary knack for hiding in the creepiest places. The other, a bereaved father who cut off his own hand to avoid fingerprint analysis – standard. Every aspect of this show oozes quality, but towering above it all, as a leviathan of inner conflict and torment is Idris Elba’s performance as the title character, John Luther.

Elba has said this is the darkest series yet of the show, no mean feat given the nature of the previous series and that it haunted him when the cameras stopped rolling. Given the release of summer blockbuster Pacific Rim this week and the second Thor movie later in the year, both of which he stars in and will add to his growing Hollywood profile this is set to be the final series of the darkest, most difficult to watch and masterful series on British TV for a long while. I wrote about the sad death of James Gandolfini recently and his seminal performance as the tortured Tony Soprano and it’s a great comfort that television of that quality is still being made – Elba is of course is an HBO alumni too after his performance as sophisticated drug lord Stringer Bell in The Wire.

The BBC should simultaneously pat itself on the back and kick itself in the nuts this week but it’s nothing a couple of history lessons and a writing class won’t cure and to those of you who watched Luther, who checked under the bed before going to sleep last night?… And then in the loft? … And then under the bed once more to make sure? … Now that’s good telly.

Thank you for reading and if you have any comments on this week’s JoeBusiness or would like to suggest any stories for next time, please get in touch with the details below.

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JoeBusiness ::: The Legacy of James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini. photo: Barry Wetcher
The big news this week was the untimely death of actor James Gandolfini, 51, while holidaying in Rome, following a suspected heart attack. Gandolfini was a fine actor and best known for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s seminal TV series The Sopranos. The show’s creator David Chase has issued a statement calling the late actor a ‘genius’, going on to say:

“Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.

He also had a diverse film career, encompassing the Oscar-winning Zero Dark Thirty and war satire In The Loop and as with all his movie roles, despite a very distinct ‘look’, his performances were unique. However, perhaps Gandolfini’s greatest professional legacy is as the central protagonist of a show that set the benchmark for quality television drama, a process that spawned shows such as The Wire, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and many others, not to mention influencing quality drama in the UK and globally. It also cemented HBO’s position as a channel of pedigree and integrity, favouring quality over viewing figures. A doctrine that has recently culminated in the release of Behind the Candelabra, which was made for the cable channel in America where it couldn’t get a cinematic release as it was deemed ‘too gay’ but has been a huge cinematic success in Europe and a viewing hit in the States, possibly paving the way for other unique movie projects to be released this way.

James Gandolfini’s immortal tortured Mafioso is an enduring image that is emblematic of the desire to continue making quality television and film in a world where too often the entertainment headlines are dominated by style, glitz, glamour and no substance. So for one last time let’s light a cigar, put on Woke Up This Morning and raise a toast to The Boss. Salut James.

Thank you for reading and if you have any comments on this week’s JoeBusiness or would like to suggest any stories for next time, please get in touch with the details below.

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JoeBusiness ::: Zombies in 3D? I’d Rather See Rob Lowe With Tape On His Face

WWZ
I’ve spent a great deal of time recently in dark rooms in Soho watching flickering images, desperately trying to justify my time there and in not one case did a ‘girl go wild’, which is usually how these experiences end. The reason I’ve been indulging in this subterranean voyeurism is that I’ve been going to a lot of press screenings of new movies recently, something I’ve always done in my job as it’s considered professional to see a movie if you can before you cover the premiere but it’s also a glorious excuse to pretend to ‘be at work’ while in reality watching films for free in cinemas often kitted out with individual sofas, leather armchairs and free nibbles. However, I’ve been doing a lot more of this recently as I’ve started doing film reviews on top of all my other activities that I desperately try and pass off as work.

On Sunday I chatted to perennial Hollywood hunk Brad Pitt at the world premiere of his new movie, zombie thriller World War Z (out 21st June) and as you’d expect, he was very cool, very charming and rather handsome. However, I told him I liked the movie (I’d been to the screening that morning), which I did… in a way. The problem is, the version I saw was in 3D. I hate 3D. It’s not immersive like those rides at theme parks as a kid – remember the pirate ship one at Thorpe Park where you actually got wet!? I know I may be in a minority here but 3D should only be used where visuals are everything and the story is told in a skilful enough manner that it adds to, not detracts from, the experience. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is the only example that comes to mind. However, with World War Z as with so many other 3D projects, it made everything on screen too busy, too hard to watch and you didn’t know what the flaming heck was going on in the most frenetic of the action scenes, a real shame as the film’s spectacular swarms of zombies are a major selling-point. I knew this was bad when one character perished, his death and it’s manner a major plot turning point and I didn’t know if the zombies had got him, Brad himself had done him in or even if mighty Zeus had struck him down with a  celestial thunderbolt. When you try so hard with the visuals that the story gets utterly lost, that ain’t good.

BTC Rob Lowe

As it always does, my heart sank when I walked into the screening and was handed a pair of 3D glasses (they never fit either) as I was excited about this movie but I was right to worry. I wrote my review (hear it on 94.9 BBC London on Thursday morning) giving the movie the benefit of the doubt, the essential message being ‘This movie’s good if you see it in 2D… which I didn’t…but it’s probably alright like that….BYE!’ I know I’ve sounded like an old stick in the mud the past couple of weeks, expressing my annoyance at the proliferation of glossy franchise movies last week and attacking the biggest advancement in film visuals for decades but at the heart of cinema is story-telling, that’s what it’s about. The film is a conduit for a story and new shooting techniques should enhance this.

The other film I saw this week was Behind the Candelabra. No flashy effects (but plenty of camp 70s kitsch), just a group of great actors, telling an absorbing story, very well. For those of you who aren’t aware of this movie it’s the true story of piano virtuoso and Vegas showman Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his dysfunctional love affair and relationship with the impressionable young Scott (Matt Damon). I don’t want to say much more as this film has been highly praised (and it should have won at Cannes) and I don’t want it to suffer from Inception-syndrome, where the reality can’t possibly match the hype, but it’s very funny, sad and beautifully acted and worth going to see if only for Rob Lowe’s turn as a whisky-swilling, devil may care, alien-faced plastic surgeon.

Behind The Candelabra (1)

Behind the Candelabra is a perfect example of what cinema can be when story is everything and the aesthetic is an extension of that and in the age of the glossy, all-conquering 3D and franchise movies I believe it’s time to refocus on substance over style. Ironic that I should be making this point with a film about Liberace, a man who dressed like Batman’s attention-seeking cousin but underneath it all there was a wonderful story to tell and that’s what mattered.

Thank you for reading and if you have any comments on this week’s JoeBusiness or would like to suggest any stories for next time, please get in touch with the details below.

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JoeBusiness ::: The Overdue Return of the Hollywood Superheroes

Man of Steel

June is set to be a good month for the Hollywood superstar. It sees the release of Behind the Candelabara (Michael Douglas and Matt Damon), After Earth (Will Smith), World War Z (Brad Pitt), Stand Up Guys (Al Pacino, Christopher Walken) and The Big Wedding (Robert De Niro) also came out 29th May. In the age of the mighty franchise movie, this is an interesting development. Recent years have seen the rise of all-conquering nerd-fodder, which I don’t mean in a pejorative sense, with series such as Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, X-Men, The Avengers, Thor and more recently Iron Man and Star Trekdominating the box office. The overwhelming trend since the turn of the century has been that the movie, not the star sells.

The Top 10 worldwide grossing movies of the last decade (2000 – 2010) have all been franchise movies. Whereas for the 90s that number was only 5.If you then consider that 3 of those were the first in the series and not necessarily intended to go on to have numerous sequels you can drop the number of franchise movies in the Top 10 for that decade to just 2. Leaving 8 standalone movies that had either major stars (Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Will Smith) or superstar directors (James Cameron, Steven Spielberg).

Avengers

Time was that you attached a big star to a movie and you had a hit but Hollywood’s heavyweights have spent the last ten years wondering when they’re guaranteed status as the paragons of cool was replaced by the eternally ‘uncool’ comic book in movie form. This was inconceivable not that long ago. Remember recent Oscar-winner Ben Affleck as Daredevil (2003)? Ouch! Or everyone’s favourite twinkly-eyed baldy Billy Zane as The Phantom (1996)? Dear God NOOOO! Comic books were not just uncool but their film incarnations spelled a ‘Turkey’ for sure. However, comic books and fantasy adventures like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Twilight series were always sleeping giants and had one thing that the potentially fallible movie star can’t compete with, a dedicated audience who love the source material so deeply that, if it is converted lovingly and skilfully into a movie, they will go and see it. This was proved by the excellent original Spiderman, Peter Jackson’s adoring recreation of his beloved Middle Earth and J. K. Rowling’s intimate involvement in Harry Potter’s Hollywood makeover. Or as Twilight fans have proved five times over, even if it’s a bag of old shit the ‘Twihards’ will still bloody well see it.

So the studios, producers and directors realised that they were smashing box office records but not breaking the bank for their actors, so clearly they didn’t need to. I admit good franchise movies have been made. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are fantastic but I’d heard enough about the X-Men after one film (which I enjoyed) and plenty about bloody Iron Man after ten minutes of one film let alone three! However, their original fan base and a huge number of new converts (lost on me I must say) continue to mobilise and the money continues to roll in.

Brad Pitt WWZ

While the franchise movies have made stars of a number of their actors, including Jennifer Lawrence, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Pine and giving mouth-to-mouth to the desperately flagging career of the world’s best speed-talker Robert Downey Jr., the big boys are back in June and they mean business. The relatively slow returns of Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher (and to a much lesser extent Oblivion) may serve as a warning to the big guns of Hollywood that they still have their previously unassailable reputations intact but a return to the limelight is also an invitation for those reputations to be ruptured. However, anyone who’s met a genuine acting superstar will understand there is a ‘different’ aura surrounding them. Whether it’s something you and those around you project onto them or something innate, meeting them helps contextualise them as just being human beings but you are ineffably left with the sense that you’ve met someone unusual. You just have to watch Will Smith’s recent show-stealing turn on The Graham Norton Show to realise this. Later when he was joined by screen legend Michael Douglas even Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper struggled to make his presence felt and while it was clear he’s ‘A-List’, they were The List and while genres go out of fashion, that type of mesmerising on screen charisma never does.

The notable exception in the release schedule this coming month is the release of the new Superman movie, the highly-vaunted (in terms of expected box office receipts as well) Man of Steel. However, with so many acting heavyweights re-entering the fray maybe the world is tiring of the guy in the corner with the comic book and is ready again for Brad Pitt with a gun in his hand. Let’s wait and see

Thank you for reading and if you have any comments on this week’s JoeBusiness or would like to suggest any stories for next time, please get in touch with the details below.

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JoeBusiness ::: The Female Boss Gets the Sack, Tulisa’s X Factor ‘Journey’

Sharon Osbourne and Tulisa Contostavlos
With the inevitability of a six inch heel on a pair of cheap stilettos snapping on an uneven Camden pavement on a Friday night, Tulisa has got the boot from The X Factor. It seems that fate and a healthy dose of self-sabotage are conspiring to destroy Tulisa’s fledgling career.

Cut to black and white, ready the slow-mo and cue up Westlife because here Tulisa, is your X Factor journey…

A controversial appointment from the start, hired to engage the vast demographic of teens and pre-teens that bought N-Dubz records and also made up a large chunk of the departing Cheryl Cole’s fan base, it seemed like an understandable if unexpected decision. She’s also a babe, so the lads who tolerated the show when their Mrs made them watch it on the off chance Cheryl might wear a pair of hot pants were also able to give their randy grunt of approval. But what do you know Ms. Contostavlos came good, winning with banal girl group Little Mix in her first series and more importantly, from Simon Cowell’s point of view, being a fiery character who put the show in the headlines.

'The X Factor Live' TV Programme, Fountain Studios, London, Britain - 19 Nov 2011

However, Tulisa also pissed a lot of people of and it has to be said, her persona on the show (and I do believe it’s a character) was fucking annoying. Giving herself the moniker ‘The Female Boss’ complete with a self-fist bump pose, more suitable for a wrestler than a popstar, spelling out the term she was so proud of in tattooed scrawl across her forearms. How clever. Her heart’s in the right place, she sees herself as a role model to disadvantaged kids who maybe lack the self-belief or the encouragement to pursue their talents and I’m sure many look up to her. In that case she’s achieved something good and my sniping is all just incidental bullshit. However, from an adult’s she has none of the humble dignity we expect of role models for the young, think David Beckham, Will.I.Am, even Cheryl Cole – although in the case of the latter I fear she may just be a cackling monster who’s managed to pull a twinkly-eyed, dimple-smiled fast one on the entire British people. There is no doubt that Tulisa sticks up for herself but she is, for want of a better term, ‘gobby’. There’s a gracelessness to her on screen manner that rubs folk up the wrong way and ultimately, with a show like The X Factor you’re not supposed to dislike the judges. Simon’s evil act on the UK and now the US version is pure pantomime, everyone’s in on it and they love him really. Tulisa just pisses people off.

You’ll often hear ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ but in Tulisa’s case, there was. Her time on the show was fraught with controversy, including the world’s worst cussing match with musical northern robot Gary Barlow, but none more so than in the case of ‘that tape’. For a judge on what is essentially  a  family show, who was specifically brought in to appeal to a teens and younger demographic, a video of her gobbling off her ex while wearing a dodgy pink tracksuit and sporting a set of ropey gnashers dispelled her glamorous young role model image in the most spectacular fashion. Oral sex is part of a relationship (if you’re lucky), that’s not the problem. Letting the chuckling moron you’re fellating film the encounter however, is. A sentiment I’m sure that, despite his public defence of his employee, was shared by Simon Cowell.

Sharon Osborne swearing

The final blow (grow up!) for Tulisa came when her debut solo album entitled, you guessed it, The Female Boss tanked when it was released last December. If the core demographic she’s supposed to attract aren’t buying her records, then why would they watch her? So this year the rumour mill started, Simon Cowell exorcised his impressive ability to get his shows considerable press coverage when they’re not even bloody on and low and behold, Tulisa got the elbow.

Surely Simon’s going to play it safe this time and bring in a predictable, malleable commodity, maybe flame-haired, happy-to-be-there guitar bloke Ed Sheeran? Or the return of national darling ‘our Cheryl’? Oh no wait, he’s gone for professional banshee and full-time nutcase Sharon Osbourne, a guaranteed pain in the arse but wherever she’s been also a guaranteed bums on seats, ratings machine and that Tulisa, is what it all came down to.

Thank you for reading and if you have any comments on this week’s JoeBusiness or would like to suggest any stories for next time, please get in touch with the details below.

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JoeBusiness ‘Running Away With The Circus’

Limbo Main
I love my job: the variation, the excitement, meeting interesting people… the free food at events. This was a week that fell into the ‘varied’ category. I spent a night in a hotel in Manchester where my room had a hole in the ceiling, a 1970s electric heater delivered by a grinning orderly – this was necessary due to the broken window through which the cold night air whispered and the songs/physical confrontations of drunken Manchester United fans celebrating their title parade, screamed. I also chatted to girl band Stooshe about their new single, the infectiously catchy Slip, and was lucky enough to take a ride aboard the ‘Stooshe Bus’ around the West End complete with screaming fans and gawping onlookers. Highlight of the week would normally have been interviewing my childhood idol Noel Gallagher at the prestigious Ivor Novello Awards where he mouthed off about One Direction but it wasn’t, it was my trip to the circus.

On Wednesday I was sent to cover Limbo, a dark and mesmerising take on traditional circus shows at the fantastic London Wonderground festival on London’s Southbank. I spent the afternoon watching incredible displays of acrobatics, fire-breathing, sword-swallowing and more. I was then shown some tap-dancing moves by Hilton Denis, a man who has the laidback demeanour of a friendly Caribbean ice cream salesman and the soul of Fred Astaire; I hoisted acrobat and handstand-specialist Danik Abishev above me as I lay prostrate and terrified on the ground; was made to bend further than my skin-tight jeans would allow by chuckling contortionist Jonathan Nosan and then was dumbstruck as sword-swallower and fire-breather Heather Holliday delicately slid two swords, both in excess of 12 inches in length, down her throat to the handle and removed them again with a flourish. Upon seeing my rapidly greying complexion Heather had to ask whether I was going to be ok. Not much of a testament to my manliness.

Limbo Fire

Heather was the most intriguing of all the characters I met that day. Standing around 5 foot 2 inches I reckon, glamorous and angelic with a voice you would expect of a kids’ TV presenter, not a cutting-edge (aye!) circus performer. When we weren’t filming, Heather (dressed in a dragon onesie due to the cold), Hilton, Jonathan, Danik and the rest of the gang were milling about chatting, gossiping and doing what people who work at insurance firms do around the water cooler. Up until that point I’d been thinking how lucky I was to have such a varied job and then it struck me, this was their job. I spend a lot of time marauding around having a great deal of fun (complaining nonetheless because I’m an ungrateful little turd) but these people pursued the ultimate career of transience, variety and excitement. They totally dismissed any sort of convention society had prescribed them. Jonathan (the contortionist) for example was pursuing a career in academia before having an epiphany while in Japan and deciding on a career as a performer whose main skills are superhuman feats of flexibility and athleticism – the study of which he assured me her approached with scholarly precision.

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While I’m aware my job isn’t exactly being a UN Peacekeeper in a delicate and combustible warzone, there are setbacks, moments of doubt and plenty of ‘Shall I just pack it all in and go and be an estate agent?’ But it’s worth it in the end and I always knew that if I had to work for the next forty years it was bloody well going to be doing something I enjoyed and in the last year or so, that’s begun to pay off. However, the charming, funny and fascinating characters I met at Limbo took a risk on a career so fragile and difficult, ‘running away to join the circus’ has become shorthand for doing something unimaginably off the wall but you know what? I’ve never walked into an office and seen a bunch of people as happy as that lot. The point is, if you want to do something, in the words of the Greek goddess of Victory, ‘Just Do It.’

Thank you for reading and if you have any comments on this week’s JoeBusiness or would like to suggest any stories for next time, please get in touch with the details below.

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JoeBusiness ::: ‘For Some Reason Men Are Upset’

Helen Flanagan FHM

Sorry, no JoeBusiness last week as I was working in Switzerland, scoffing chocolate, buying clocks and trying to remain as neutral as possible. This week however, I was lucky enough to cover the FHM 100 Sexiest Women in the World Party, where I was set the challenge of asking all the beautiful attendees on a date and seeing how many said ‘Yes’… I know, shit job right? The result was actually overwhelmingly favourable (I assume the boozer round the corner must’ve been plying the famous babes with liquor beforehand) and you can see a little highlights package here.

What struck me however, was the level of debate that ensued upon the list becoming coming public knowledge, especially directed towards I’m a Celebrity star Helen Flanagan. The former Corrie actress placed third in the list, behind Rihanna and Mila Kunis, who came second and first respectively, making her the highest place Brit. I asked Helen what it was like to receive such an honour and we had a typically confusing interview but what’s more interesting is the fact that a lot of people took such umbrage at the results. As telly host and newly-minted head of the Irish Mafia Laura Whitmore pointed out, ‘It’s a bit of fun and I can tell the grandkids when I’m old and wrinkly, “Granny one day, someone thought was sexy”.’… They certainly did Laura… Anyway, as always with these things, Twitter was the best parade ground of overreaction and hyperbole and here are some choice quotes summing up reaction to the List:

@TonyDortie humorously quipped: ‘Helen Flanagan came first in the FHM 100 sexiest women in the world list….I’m guessing FHM is now printed in #Braille.’ LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL … Tony you jester.

While the charming @muller7uk understatedly wrote: ‘You could read into the #fhm100sexiest list, but seeing as the ugly idiot trollop Helen Flanagan is probably on there, renders it pointless.’ Clearly an Eastenders fan.

The brilliantly named @sausagemonkey64 declared: ‘The FHM 100 sexiest list is proper mental!!! Cher Lloyd’s in it!!! So’s Linda Barker!!!!’ Linda Barker was among a number of ‘surprise’ entries, another was BBC News Presenter Susanna Reid, who’s brightened up many a dreary morning as I shovel down muesli. Sadly TV’s ultimate Cougar, Julia Bradbury, missed out. Prompting the following Tweet from me after several used tissues and a bottle of gin: ‘No @JuliaBradbury in Sexy List! I kill you FHM you pig bummers!’ … Not really but it would’ve fitted in with the general content and artistic flair of most comments.

I’m just not sure why people care so much. If you disagree, just think that in your brain and carrying on eating your Pot Noodle. It’s not like that list is the limit of women in the world and if the lady you particularly admire isn’t on there, you’ll never be able to see an image of her again. I don’t think this kind of survey is just titillation for men, we think about naked women all on our own so actual sexy girls in skimpy dresses is a bit of down time for us, and it’s not a comment on anyone’s work or talent so directly attacking people and their places in a list of ‘sexiness’ is to attack the way they look which is just plain mean. Do you really reckon that by defending Michelle Keegan’s honour she’s going to ditch a confused and gormless Mark Wright and be waiting in your bedroom when you get home from work with nought but a skimpy negligée, an industrial-sized vat of lube and a kebab and cheesy chips for after? Exactly, so don’t worry about it mate and just do what I do and think about sexy ladies in your head, it’s fun.

First published on IAmMusic.TV, 5th May 2013

JoeBusiness ::: Celeb Meltdowns, Hungry Footballers And Big Birds In Strip Clubs

Lindsay Lohan jail

It’s been a great week for the celeb meltdown, they always are but this week especially, was a corker. Tara Reid (her off American Pie and other things that escape me presently) is alleged to have abused staff in an LA All Saints store when they questioned her right to a discount the insubordinate serfs! Not only that but last Friday angelic Hollywood Barbie Doll Reese Witherspoon was nicked after a drunken barney with a policeman who pulled her and her inebriated husband (who was driving) over in Atlanta. Reese got seriously miffed with the officer and refused to believe he was a real policeman, presumably imagining Ashton Kutcher was waiting somewhere in the undergrowth, sadly for Reese he wasn’t and her and hubby were promptly escorted to the slammer, from whence they were bailed shortly after. Finally, footballer Luis Suarez of Liverpool bit (yes, like actually bit) opponent Branislav Ivanovic when his side played Chelsea on Sunday, not exactly showbiz I know but another fine example of someone in the limelight behaving like a loon.

I’ve written at length about the dearth of personality in modern popular culture, music especially and I never understand why news of stars’ bad behaviour are accompanied by headlines denouncing their antics because, let’s face it, we all love it. Whether it be Harry Styles’ ravenous libido, Lindsey Lohan scrapping in a bar or Justin Bieber having to explain to humourless (needless cultural stereotyping on my part but it’s a better image) German customs officers just what on earth he’s doing with a monkey and no relevant paperwork on a plane, we all get squirmy with anticipation when celebs do something stupid. It’s the bread and butter of entertainment journalism: boobs, romance and meltdowns. Without these things we’d have nothing to write or talk about and would all be out of the job and let’s face it, viewing figures would plummet because the soap opera surrounding the rich and famous is as entertaining as their work and in the case of several mind-numbing figures in the public eye, a lot more fun.

I watched Match of the Day last night and pundit Alan Hansen was apoplectic with rage at the behaviour of Suarez deciding to chew on an opponent’s tasty looking arm during a match but really, I mean really would they rather every game went off without a hitch? It gives them and everyone else something to talk about. There would be no TOWIE, no Perez Hilton (now hang on that’s an idea) and Kim Kardashian would have no career if famous folk didn’t put their foot in it, or their teeth in it, or something else in… you get the picture.  Many the average performer would have been relegated to History’s cutting room floor but no, because they like a tantrum, a drink and the occasional Playboy Bunny; Tara Reid, Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen are all still with us! You don’t reminisce about nights out with your pal Geoff, the one who had half a lager and then whipped up a stunning Quiche Lorraine for all the lads, you talk about Geoff who got his little corporal stuck in the till at Wetherspoon’s  when apprehended by a distinctly unimpressed barmaid as he tried to nab free Jager Bombs for the boys while inexplicably trouserless. Our attitude towards celebrities and popular culture is the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone biting people or truly reprehensible behaviour but there are levels of depravity and I’m a firm believer that wild sex romps, crazy drunken binges and the odd exotic pet make celebs more interesting and more human, as you can see an aspect of what we all might be capable of. They’re millionaires, everyone’s always telling them they’re great despite glaring character flaws and an often obvious lack of discernible talent and they’ve lost all normal perspective so hell yeah, who wouldn’t want to steal an Ostrich and ride it directly to Stringfellows? And when it happens, I for one want to read about it.

JoeBusiness ::: Fanning The Flames Of Unnerving Adoration

Peter Andre

I witnessed something rather alarming this week, the ‘super fan’. The super fan isn’t like Superman or even Superted, it’s a type of person rather than an individual, although there is a particular fan I’ll focus on here who encapsulates the key ingredients of the super fan. I was at the Asian Awards, where the notable attendees were (among others) Sir Ben Kingsley, Sway and one Peter Andre. I’d seen the provisional list, as press do before, and knew Peter was in attendance but it wouldn’t have taken me long to work it out as one young lady soon approached my colleague and I at the barrier next to the red carpet  and unleashed a potted history of her adoration for and ‘relationship’ with Peter Andre. We were told numerous times how she’d been pictured with him in Heat and Star magazines, how he’d asked her if she wanted to date his manager, which this unusual individual interpreted as Peter’s playing hard to get, and finally how ‘You watch, when he comes he’ll recognise me.’ And recognise her he did, in much the same way that I’m sure that girl who’s rescued from the pit at the end of Silence of the Lambs would surely recognise her erstwhile captor, the serial killer Buffalo Bill. She asked to borrow both of mine and my colleague’s phones (a request we declined) and when she finally got her mits on the mobile of another unsuspecting journalist, she showed us the pictures of her and Pete in question, which were essentially her molesting the startled Aussie hunk. Also, rather concerningly, she had a rolled up newspaper that she assured us she would strike Pete’s girlfriend over the bounce with were he to show up accompanied by her.

During this wait for the guests to arrive a fight broke out between two fans, actual fisticuffs, something I’ve never seen before and when they did start to arrive one diminutive gentleman in a wooly hat and thick glasses, he looked rather like Urkel from much-loved US comedy series Family Matters (just check out the pic, he’s a legend… this lookalike wasn’t), threatened to attack the camera crew next to us for blocking his view. Anyway, then Pete arrives and our heroine, who I’d also like to point out had no shoes on (not sure why but it was the least of her worries) goes ape shit. She charged at Pete as he got out of his car, breaching security and Pete’s entourage and leaping on him like a sexually-charged limpet. She was eventually prized off but proceeded to break through yet more security (these guys really didn’t have a clue) and spent my entire interview with Pete, including an extensive section where he spoke touchingly about his brother (who recently lost a lengthy battle to cancer) and the work that experience has inspired him to do to make sure other men and other families don’t suffer the same fate, holding the by now rather fragile-looking man’s hand, with Andre even having to stop at one point where he looked at me rather bewildered and simply uttered: ‘Someone’s holding my hand.’… He looked like a frightened man.

When we finished our chat the celeb-loving dervish begged him for a kiss, ‘On the cheek?’ He suggested hopefully.

‘On the mouth.’ She stubbornly demanded. Pete went for a peck on the cheek but as she was so incredibly heavy-handed with him as she tried to force him towards her lips he wriggled free and made his escape pursued by her lament of ‘Ok on the mooouuuuttthh, on the mooouuutttthhh.’

I see fans, often people genuinely obsessed with their idols, every day in my job and most of them are benevolent devotees. They’re the hardcore that are responsible for propping up the careers of those in every aspect of entertainment while comparatively the rest of us are really just ‘enthusiasts’. These are decent, normal people who just really like someone or something. I really like Tottenham Hotspur, I was speechless when I met former club captain Ledley King so believe me, I get it. It’s the people who are utterly detached from reality who concern me. The lady mentioned above genuinely believed that she and Peter Andre had a close relationship, fraught with sexual frisson and he was giving her covert signals that he wanted to run away with her. To the rest of us she looked like a loon pursuing a rather uncomfortable but always gracious celebrity in an incredibly forceful way but to her it was part of their courting ritual. These people always seem slightly manic and unhinged in conversation as well and I am concerned about the mental state of these individuals whose interpretation of events is so detached from reality and wonder what deeper malaise lies beneath. In the case of those who become violent, I simply cannot understand how they are so able to lose perspective and that they put enough significance on situations that, let’s face it, ain’t that important. I can’t help but ponder what they’re lives are like away from the red carpet. I’ve questioned the slavish devotion elicited by franchises such as Twilight before but when fandom makes me concerned for the safety of myself and those around me, not to mention poor, scared Peter Andre then suddenly it’s a whole different problem. That being said, if I saw Michael Dawson walking down the street and some prick tried to stop me rubbing my urgent flesh on his, I’d nut ‘em.

First published on IAmMusic.TV, 18th April 2013