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Archive for the ‘Celebrity’ Category

Every Republican under the sun, it seems, wants the Queen to apologise for the whole enchilada from Strongbow’s invasion of Ireland and the manky spud famine to Bloody Sunday (Part I & Part II). But won’t Elizabeth Windsor suffer enough faced with a barrage of Irish c’lebs from Amanda Brunker to Lorraine Keane − whose contribution to Irish culture has been to tell motorists to avoid the Kimmage crossroads during rush hour − to the bats-in-the-belfry yodels of Mary Byrne and the self piteous whines of a NAMA property developer? I’m assuming that Jedward will also be present, kickboxing at the cameras, demanding acreage of attention.

One group definitely not invited to the Royal hooley are those knockabout funsters in the Real IRA. They recently described the Queen’s 3-day junket as ‘the final insult’. Yet privately they’re probably salivating over the prospect of international broadcast attention from CNN, Sky News, NBC, and the BBC as they attempt to disrupt a blue-rinse pensioner lobbing some dried flowers on some very dead people in gardens normally occupied by Whacker, Thrasher, Basher and Redser, with their Nike logbags full of hypodermic needles and Druids cider.

To be serious for a moment though: after the national revulsion over Constable Ronan Kerr’s murder the dissies have now been gifted a chance of a propaganda-comeback. If they can turn parts of Dublin upside down as they did with the Love Ulster rally in 2006 they will score a publicity coup. The sight of globally renowned correspondents reporting live on the violence in Parnell St. will put the dissidents inflexibly back on the map. RSF has already announced their main demo starts at the Black Church behind Parnell Square (one time home to other dummies of a wax variety) where no doubt the track suit catwalk will charge like wildebeest towards a line of red-faced culchie Gardaí who’d give their left scrotum to be off-duty milling about with a Hurley stick somewhere bovine-deep in the midlands.

Security operations so far have involved a lot of Garda knocking on a lot of doors and ‘taking people’s names’ like they used to do back in the day of Garda Patrol (precursor to Crimecall) when a random Mrs Murphy’s garden gate was stolen. A pal who lives on Clonliffe Road backing onto Croke Park, which is part of Lizzy’s barnstorm, described how a country Guard knocked at her door and asked for her name and address. The name bit she could partially understand, but the address bit was a puzzle as he’d just knocked on her door after all! Bins have been confiscated, phone boxes soldered shut, student accommodation evacuated, sewers searched (perhaps even members of the voluntary Garda Reserve are manning the city drains and sewers?) All around Parnell Square the polished-bróga Special Branch have been not very discreetly placing sniper folk on sagging Edwardian rooftops in what I assume is an attempt to outwit other snipers belonging to more bothersome organisations who are way better at the gun thing and with more reason to use them. My bet is that an unemployed INLA man, unable to get onto a FÁS scheme due to the upsurge in quantity surveyors and solicitors hogging places, will send some bullets flying into the air, causing untold hysteria and horror, perhaps even a right royal stampede with Lizzy roaring, “Help! Help! My hat!” and De Duke saying: “Oh shit I say, here we go again old girl”.

The Twitter has been groaning with protestations all week: ‘What’s this about school children being drafted in to wave flags for queen’s visit? A reprehensible misuse of children,’ says Greystones branch of Sinn Féin. ‘Would ya really go on holiday to a place where the majority of the population want to see your head on a pike?’ asks another.

The tour is too long and is tempting fate. Already there are hoax bombs (London: yesterday, Maynooth and Inchicore Luas, this morning) and various ‘designed to disrupt’ shenanigans. There are too many venues and the opportunities are large for something to go badly wrong. Contrast with Obama who has just two venues to speak at before heading back into the burly blue sky. It would’ve been better if the Queen had tea & a few slices of McCambridges bread with Mary McAleese at Aras, followed by symbolic tree planting in the park, a pint of black stuff at Guinness Brewery and down to some stud farm in Kildare (where they’re all West Brits anyway) before heading back to Blighty. To put further blue fuel on verdigris flames, the geniuses in the Phoenix Park Gaff have invited UDA supremo Jackie McDonald and his loyalist entourage to Golden Bridge for the war dead ceremony. It’s a Tiramisu of farce, every day new and more flavoursome layers added.

Ireland, in the shitpit of fiscal smelliness, is forking out a fragrant €30 million to protect the Queen’s head and the Duke of Edinburgh’s torso (Philip’s uncle was blown up here). Costs could rise excessively if riots do erupt and British holiday-makers are scared off by the Queen’s getaway to the Emerald Isle ending in calamity. Fianna Fáil gambled and lost the banking industry through their disastrous 2008 bailout. Now, Fine Gael and Labour are gambling on one of the few businesses left in our economically ravaged country: tourism. Remember too that this prodigious PR stunt was planned as the final chapter in a long drawn-out  peace process. However, if things go awry it could be the preface  to an upsurge in Republican conflict all over again.

This is the biggest test of authority for the state since the 1981 hunger strike riots outside the British Embassy. The entire thing will be a sphincter-squeezing moment even if 10,000 strapping Guards, army and all 17 members of Special Branch manage to block the view of rampaging animals at the barricades. It will be like one of those icy moments out of sight in a Titanic lifeboat, where even from a polite distance there’s scant hope of drowning out the howls. The only good thing that could possibly happen if disaster strikes is Tonight with Vincent Browne would be forced to change topic, if only for a week.

June Caldwell is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog here:

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There’s a delightful video doing the rounds this last couple of weeks – a cover version of Chris Brown’s Look At Me Now by a band called Karmin, notable because Karmin singer Amy Heidemann does an amazing interpretation of bullet-rapping Busta Rhyme’s verses. I watched it, loved it, shared it with my friends. And as I was doing so, I thought, “Chris Brown, eh? He still has a career?”

Yes, as it happens. You might remember Chris Brown as the young man who battered (now ex) girlfriend Rihanna a couple of years ago. Due to the celebrity status of both the victim and the strutting arsehole who beat her up, it was an unfortunately public assault. Some argued that this was a good thing in that it raised awareness (amongst young people who up to then had thought that it was ok to beat up their partners? Dunno). The rest of us flinched at the leaked photographs of Rihanna’s injuries, wished that the press would leave her alone to come to terms with what had happened, and hoped that Mr. Brown soon entered the market for a large boulder he could wedge his bulk under.

And yet this hasn’t happened. Rihanna’s career has gone from strength to strength, and oddly enough, so has Brown’s. Not that I generally keep up to speed with hip-pop artists, but I don’t even recall there being much of a sabbatical. He’s as popular as ever with fans, and has no problem attracting other artists to work with on musical projects.

One might say that Brown is entitled to forgiveness and entitled to move on with his life and career. And indeed he is. But how could a fan bring themselves to support someone who severely assaulted his girlfriend and was never quite convincing in subsequent public apologies? Indeed, at the end of March he threw a dramatic hissy fit backstage at Good Morning America when quizzed about the assault, reportedly breaking a window, leaving the building in a shirtless huff(!) and tweeting afterwards, “I’m so over people bring this past s**t up!! Yet we praise Charlie Sheen and other celebs for there[sic] bulls**t.”

This may be the thing, though. Are the public “allowing” Brown a career because he’s such an entertaining little Veruca Salt?

Social media has made it possible for a celebrity to have virtual one-on-one relationships with his or her fans – Twitter, tumblr, whatever. A celeb now has the power to make connections with the wider world without the deft swipe of a publicist’s whitewash brush. Before, celebrities flourished in stone fortresses, pampered and bubble-wrapped and told marvellous tales about how their personas were received in the outside world. Nowadays it’s like the poor, narcissistic things are kept in Wicker Men in a madhouse garden. Should they wish to say something out-of-character (as in, not becoming of a public figure), it will be seized upon and flung halfway around the world well before their publicist’s spidey-sense gets going. And they may well wish to say something out-of-character, because the fans will lap it up and egg them on, rubbernecking on a delightfully careening ego.

Recently, we’ve seen Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Lindsay Lohan making headlines for pretty horrific behaviour; Charlie’s hired an entourage of porn stars to live with him, Mel admitted to domestic violence, and Lindsay practically lives in court these days.  Yet the public hasn’t denied them their celebrity status, or let them know that such behaviour is not socially acceptable. The public would rather Charlie and Mel and Lindsay kept making asses of themselves. Who wants to see Charlie get well? Who wants to see the erstwhile holier-than-thou Mel get his act together? Who wants to see Lindsay reinvent herself as an indie darling? No one. They’re far more valuable as clowns. No matter if Charlie keels over from an overdose or Mel breaks his girlfriend’s teeth or Lindsay dies in the gutter. Collateral damage.

Do we condone bad behaviour from celebrities simply because they’re celebrities? I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that, but the answer isn’t on par with rocket science, either. Celebrities who behave badly cannot presume that the public will remain empathic, forgiving – even interested. Celebrities who behave badly in a ridiculously over-the-top fashion can, though. We can be entertained as well as feel superior. Is this why Chris Brown still has a glittering pop career?

Or do we really think that battering women isn’t really that big a deal? Do we think that proud patronage of the sex trade isn’t really that big a deal? Do we think that a young woman drowning her talent in alcohol isn’t that big a deal?

[Of course, the other condition under which the general public will forgive a misbehaving celebrity is if that celebrity has a talent that is not interchangeable with a hundred other pretenders (as in Brown’s identipop career). I suppose Roman Polanski would be the prime example here. If he was not a brilliant storyteller and visionary, would we have forgiven him for raping a child?]

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Quick: where were you when the Pope came to Ireland? Me, I’ve got no idea. Before I’m excommunicated, I should point out that’s because I’m not Irish, and wasn’t living in Ireland at the time of the papal visit.

Ask me, though, where I was for the Queen’s Silver Jublilee (two years before all Irish babies started being called John Paul) or where I was for Charles and Diana’s wedding, and I’m sorted. I can describe the bunting, my dress (no, I wasn’t invited, but that didn’t stop me dressing up), our village street party, the works.

Here’s the thing. I’m not Royalist, but I’m hugely pro big, communal events. It’s a relatively unfashionable stance, but I ADORE those nation-binding moments.  The non-demonstrative English most often break down the reserve (and break down) at sporting events. Jonny Wilkinson’s last-ditch drop kick in the Rugby World Cup. Tiny Michael Owen’s mazy run against Argentina in 1998 (if only I’d had to Google that date; but alas, no).  These are times when we drop our polite ‘each wo/man is an island’ masks and stand together, roaring our heads off. For me, nothing can beat that sort of collective emotion.

It’s something I’ve always liked about weddings, too. Whenever I’m on my way to a wedding, I think about all the other people who’ve woken up that morning and thought, ‘today I’m going to see X&X get married’. There’s something incredibly rousing about the collective spirit, the joint goodwill. I have no idea why it moves me so much, but it always has.

All together now...

(image c/o scripting.com)

God, even at the London marathon a couple of weeks ago, 24 miles in and feeling as if I was encased in a steel tube, I looked around at the crowds yelling encouragement at hordes of random strangers, heard the band playing (yes, really) and beamed a Cheshire cat grin of ‘I’m bloody DOING this’. Running long distances is the world’s dullest thing, usually. Running long distances with 40,000 other people and a crowd of probably double that is incredibly uplifting (though not so uplifting that I’d ever want to do it again).

It’s in that same vein that I’m looking forward to the Big Day today. I’m hardly going to be in my wedding finery, and I’m certainly not going to be down at Trafalgar Square, but it’s an Occasion, one that nobody is escaping, cynical or not. In this day and age, there’s a lot to be said for that.

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Self-portrait with Monkeys (1943) - Frida Kahlo

Who needs or wants to know about the inner workings of other people’s relationships? About the minor detail of their lives? We may not need to know but we certainly want to know about some couples. Often the stormier the pairing, the more drawn we are to the drama. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, for example; or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Iconic Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are a good example of a couple that excite curiosity. And because of their meticulous recording of their lives through art, as well as some artful myth spinning, we know a lot about a lot of their life together. They married each other twice. He – and then she – was serially unfaithful. Between them they notched up as lovers famous communists and actors, painters and photographers, including Leon Trotsky and Paulette Goddard. Rivera even had an affair with Frida’s sister, Cristina.

A joint exhibition of Kahlo’s and Rivera’s work was launched on Tuesday night at IMMA in Dublin. It is comprised of masterpieces from the collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. At the opening we were treated to Mexican beer and margaritas and even a sparky mariachi band, who had their Irish-based compatriots singing along with gusto. The great hall was thronged with people, excited about this particular exhibition making its way to Ireland. It is a splash of carnival in a dull, grey country and we surely need that.

Our new Arts Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, gave his first major public speech since his appointment and he mentioned several projects with enthusiasm: a new Centre for Literary Excellence in Dublin; he also plans to set up an Arts TV Channel and he is going to prioritise arts education in primary schools. All good news.

Frida Kahlo lived her life in pain and her colour-rich paintings are an autobiography of her love-hate relationship with her physical self, her love for and nurturing of Diego, and her missed chances at motherhood. Rivera’s work is more monumental and political – they were both Communists – and his palette is often more muted than his wife’s.

Kahlo’s self-portraits – and there are many – are compelling: her gaze is head-on and she is often dressed in the vivid Tejuana style of dress she adopted, with elaborate neckpieces and braided hair. My favourite of these is Self-portrait with Necklace, a quiet, earlier piece, though the exhibition includes more well known works such as Self-portrait with Monkeys. Rivera’s stunning Calla Lily Vendors is also on show; he was a painter of the people and he delighted in ordinary scenes of workers going about their business.

The exhibition contains – as well as paintings – drawings, photographs of the artists, diary pages with sketches, collages and lithographs. It is a rich collection of artworks and there is no doubt that thousands of people will flock to it over the next few months, and so they should. It is well worth the trip to see such iconic work ‘in the flesh’.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Masterpieces of the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection runs until the 26th June at IMMA. Admission €5, concessions €3.

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Easily the funniest thing you will see anywhere on the internet today. Imagine Kate’s delight. I hope she and Wills have bought a full set of these….

The Fairytale Romantic Union of All the Centuries

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I Want All Her Clothes

I can’t remember which red carpet she was walking down, but recently I saw a photo of Michelle Williams and thought (after the usual “man, I can’t believe the girl who played Jen Linley on Dawson’s Creek turned into such a good and credible actress), “Wow, she always seems to wear really great clothes”.

Oh Sofia, your films are vacant self-indulgent hipster bollocks, but your clothes are awfully pretty...

And I realised she had joined the select group of Famous Women Whose Wardrobes I Covet. Yes, there are many appallingly dressed celebs (thank goodness), but there are few who tend to step out in the sort of clothes I would instantly snap up myself if I were much, much richer (and a little bit taller).

This wardrobe-love has nothing to do with the women themselves – while the aforementioned Ms Williams seems like a talented, smart, likeable woman, and I love Charlotte Gainsbourg’s music as much as I adore her effortlessly cool style, I find almost all of Sofia Coppola’s films incredibly irritating, and she comes across like a boring whiny brat in interviews. Yet I think she’s beautiful and it is she whose wardobe I covet most of all. She always looks amazing. It’s not fair, really.

Sadly, in reality I am smaller, scruffier, and infinitely less stylish than all of these people. But I bet if someone gave me an unlimited supply of Marc Jacobs I could at least give it a try. So what famous wardrobes do you covet?

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Go on, guess. Or, better still, read Tina Fey’s brilliant piece in the New Yorker about the push-pull tug of juggling a paradigm-shifting career and, y’know, a family

And whilst we’re having a Fey fangirl moment, let’s remember why we really, really don’t want her to give up the day job (not that she’s suggesting that, I hasten to add):

watch?v=eXVIwo5fLYs&feature=related

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Lemme start off by saying that I’m no fan of girl groups. Nor boy bands. Nor any homogenised battalion with their own colour scheme and dance moves. Though I’m going to rant about a sneering take on Irish popstrel Una Healy, I must admit that haven’t heard a single song from her band, The Saturdays. I wouldn’t know The Saturdays if they’d been creeping into my lugs at night and crooning subliminal messages directly into my noggin. I’m not writing this from the perspective of an indignant fan, in other words. I’m an indignant twenty-nine year old Irishwoman, though, which gives me more than enough in common with my subject.

So yes, Una Healy is a gorgeous strawberry-blonde pop vocalist. Once a struggling singer-songwriter, she now makes up 20% of The Saturdays, and so is appropriately dolled-up and adorned with sparkly things. Last weekend’s Sunday Independent featured a piece by Niamh Horan, calling out Ms. Healy for being a bad role model and a drunken mess, basically because the writer has seen paparazzi images of Una looking rather worse for wear on a number of early-hours occasions. Her latest excursion resulted in her taking a tumble in front of waiting photographers, who naturally zoomed in and went all out.

Ms. Horan was most put-out by the whole thing.

…you’ve got to wonder what her parents must think. Not to mention her reserved country and Irish musician uncle Declan Nerney.

Indeed. Especially as Una was wearing a

… skirt up to her backside

… at the time, which I would have thought was probably her lot in life, being a member of a girl group. And hey, it’s not like she was out there wearing fishnets as trousers with a gigantic teabag on her head. Though if she was, we’d probably swoon and call it art, eh, Lady Gaga?

I was rightly riled by Horan’s attack on Healy. Whatever you may think about booze culture in the UK and Ireland, or about wimminfolk wearing minidresses in January, what’s righteous about singling out a grown woman celebrating a friend’s birthday and haughtily hypothesising how her poor Mammy must feel about her partying ways? It’s not as if Healy threw up on the pavement, dodged her taxi fare, or lamped a nightclub toilet attendent. She had a few drinks, tripped over her own feet, and looked less than graceful getting into a taxi. I doubt any manner of uncle would disown her for that … although it’s certainly an evocative image, Declan Nerney weeping into the Sunday newspapers whilst clutching his Nano Nagle action figures; “My kingdom for a shapeless tunic!”

Obviously, we have to advocate taking responsibility for one’s own actions, especially when one is nearly thirty, in good health, and financially independent. Ms. Healy chose to become a pop star, and so invited a certain amount of public attention down on her head. But that doesn’t mean that she must be held accountable for every angle she is snapped from. That doesn’t mean that she must remain poised and coiffed and boring and blank-eyed, for fear she may appear off balance or chunky and so frighten impressionable tweens. In fact, the notion Horan seems to push here – that female celebrities should restrict themselves to a particular hem length and a particular bedtime, that they must be graceful above all else, and that they must never lose control – is rather too sinister to chance adopting as standard. Young fans striving towards unattainable perfection and constantly berating themselves when they fall short? What a depressing thought.

Personally, I wouldn’t advocate Una Healy as a role model, but it’s because Una’s an entertainer, not a neurosurgeon. If my nine-year-old comes home and tells me she wants to be in a girl group when she grows up, I’ll probably roll my eyes and say something disparaging about the cost of fake eyelashes. That wouldn’t be half as disturbing as her coming home and claiming she wants a career as a dewy-eyed mannequin, Stepford-elegant with a silver ramrod up her jumper, though. Una Healy’s antics may well stop upsetting Niamh Horan when Niamh Horan accepts that Una Healy’s not an international ambassador. She’s a young, pretty popstar. Surely, then, she can wear her skirts as short as she damn well pleases?

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Andrea Corr & Stephen Brennan as Jane and Rochester

I have to admit I was sceptical when I heard singer Andrea Corr was to play Jane in The Gate’s dramatisation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre, adapted by Alan Stanford. Jane is the original Plain Jane and Andrea, as we know, is far from plain. However, I’m glad to say that she does a good job of the role in a very enjoyable production of the play. Corr’s superstar looks can’t be completely played down, obviously, but her petite frame, austere hairstyle and simple, grey dress make her physically credible as the orphan governess Jane. Corr has a slightly heightened style of acting – giddy almost – whereas Jane was a more self-contained, serious character. Having said that, Corr excels when raw emotion is called for in the role – she is genuinely moving in the scene, for example, where she and Rochester are forced to part.

Stephen Brennan is a solid and convincing Rochester, if a tad too old to pass as merely ‘over forty’. His skill as an actor though soon lures you in and you forget that he is meant to be younger. He’s a big man (as Rochester was) and together with Corr’s slightness they certainly look the part together. Brennan delivers all aspects of his role well: Rochester can be gruff but he is also warm and funny.

Deirdre Donnelly is excellent as the older Jane, she narrates the story onstage and she is a deep and emotional actress who brings gravitas to the whole production. Other stand-out cast members include Donna Anita Nikolaisen as Bertha Mason, Rochester’s secret, disturbed wife who is locked in the attic and escapes to do mischief. We are introduced first to Bertha’s eerie laugh and elegant, dance-like movements and, later, to her rage, which Nikolaisen manages to make very frightening. My one quibble would be that the lighting is always dim when Bertha is onstage making it a little difficult to make out exactly what she is up to.

Bruno Schengl’s bare set – with everything painted silver – leaves the actors free to be the main event, and Léonore McDonagh’s costumes are of the period and often beautiful – particularly Jane’s white chemise and lace veil, which point to her innocence and purity. Thankfully some of the book’s sub-plots were left out – Jane’s is a long story – as they play lasts a hefty two and a half hours (with a short interval).

The Gate is an intimate theatre – it has a cosiness that our other Dublin theatres lack and there is always a great atmosphere and buzz there. The audience the night I was at Jane Eyre was very responsive, laughing at all the humorous bits and staying attentive when that was needed. The anticipation for the famous line – ‘Reader, I married him!’ – was like a breath being held and huge applause broke out when Deirdre Donnelly delivered it, with an enigmatic smile.

The play runs until the 15th of January, though the run may be extended, and it makes a lovely seasonal night out when you’re finally sick of all the alcohol and pudding. Tickets can be bought here: The Gate

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Dear Anti Roomers and Readers,

I propose that we begin our own broadcasting awards for outstanding services rendered to the industry by many of our beloved household names.

The Ron Burgundy Broadcasting Awards would look to recognise and commend radio, print, TV and new media broadcasters and journalists who have given an outstanding performance in the following categories:

The Veronica Corningstone Award: for intrepid female reporting despite the odds.

Most Ron-Like Quote: for the broadcaster who says something that most sounds like something Ron Burgundy would say (probably to do with the size of womens brains or their ability to enjoy sex (bizarrely, Mr Fry would currently be in the running).

Broadcaster most like Ron Burgundy Overall (we may have to slightly alter this after a couple of years if Tom McGurk keeps waltzing off with 1st place).

Most Failed Attempt to be unlike Ron Burgundy: for the broadcaster who tries unsuccessfully to talk to/ about women (Shortlisted would have to be Ryan-“girls-women-I-don’t-know what you call em” Tubridy’s infamous item a few years back on how women shouldn’t be hiring home help and, of course, Ray Darcy for his pitiful attempt to talk about the positive side of breastfeeding).

Biggest Attempt to Set Equality Back: I don’t wish to pre-empt the voting or the many worthy nominations which are bound to flood in but I can say the team at Joe.ie should watch this space.

All writers and readers nominations are welcome.

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