Graham – Fantastic, thanks! Your close connections with these papers are working a treat for us.
Philip Lovett, Nottingham City and County Enterprise and Skills Board, August 2012
After Dinner speaking
Thank you so much for your fascinating and funny talk... "Best talk ever”, members were saying as they left. Well done! It was great to see so many members asking you questions. There were 134 members in the audience, which is a really good attendance.
All good wishes.
Kay Williams Bourne U3A
Copywriting and Journalism
Superb piece, thanks so much Graham, have sent copy on to head of Military History Channel who I’m sure will be thrilled. We’ve got a few more coming up this year so hopefully we’ll be able to do more together very soon.
All the best
Steve Humphries, MD Testimony Films, Bristol
THANK-YOU – it looks fantastic!
Vicki-Sue Brotherhood, proprietor of Indian Summer, re the feature about her life and business on www.newarknotts.co.uk/
Once More into the Valley – close encounters with celebrity cleavage
When I’m booked as an after-dinner speaker, I mention some of my eye-popping encounters with glamorous actresses, TV presenters and occasional film stars in revealing outfits. This is one aspect of the work of every showbiz journalist and it’s either a perk or a hazard, depending on your point of view. Sometimes it’s both.
In my after-dinner talks I give the full low-down (apt choice of words) on my interview with Liz Hurley, who was almost wearing one of the most precipitously plunging micro-dresses known to man – years before she wore That Dress on the arm of Hugh Grant at the premiere of Four Weddings And A Funeral.
That was the film made his name – the frock made hers.
But that came later. One aspect of my 1988 Liz Hurley encounter that I rarely mention to after-dinner audiences – there just isn’t time – is that dwelling on such a detail back then actually cost me money, and I can tell you precisely how much – £17.50.
Liz wore her stunning, revealing red mini-dress to the Press Launch of Cristobel, a Dennis Potter docu-drama based on the war-time heroics of Christabel Bielenberg, an English girl who married a young German in the 1930s, was living in Germany when war broke out and became an Allied spy for the duration of the war.
In the late 80s we were fighting rather lesser battles against political correctness, and I was syndicating my TV features to a string of regional newspapers including the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.
My technique was and still is to describe my interviewee in as much detail as I can manage. But a female sub-editor in Bradford took exception to the allegedly sexist detailing of Ms Hurley’s spectacular cleavage and thigh-high hemline, and refused to publish the feature on these grounds.
The fee I received from Bradford at the time was £17.50 per published feature (I know I know – some writers can only dream of such fees – but I never let it go to my head) so that’s what my honest if admittedly enthusiastic description of Liz’s get-up cost me.
I was just ahead of my time. Five years later, Liz wore the spectacularly daring black Versace dress mentioned above, held together with giant safety pins and willpower. The images of the handsome couple went around the world, and no one objected. I dare say the dress, with Liz in it, even appeared in the Bradford T&A.
Even today, all you have to do to see the gown again is to Google ‘Liz Hurley, That Dress’ and the images come bursting forth.
I can’t do an after-dinner speech devoted solely to celebrity cleavages, but Liz has not been the only one to dazzle in this area over the years.
Sometimes this can be embarrassing, as in the case of interviewing the lovely Marg Hellgenberger of CSI fame in her trailer in Hollywood as she filmed the second series of the long-running crime saga. Marg was wearing just a casual track suit in deepest dark blue, but the front was unzipped to a distracting degree. I must have been too distracted though because she noticed me noticing and promptly zipped up. It’s a curse being so short-sighted…
In an identical situation (except it was in the UK, not Hollywood, and the track suit top was chocolate brown) I was confronted by the delightful figure of Sarah Parish, star of recent BBC1 hit Mistresses. But she was already a star back in 2003, when I interviewed her on the set of Reversals, an ITV comedy-drama starring Sarah and Marc Warren in which they played two doctors who tried to prove a point about gender by impersonating each other.
Sarah has a sensational figure and seems to have no self-consciousness whatsoever when it comes to showing it off to admiring fans, friends or journalists. It’s jobs like this that make me glad you’re not a solicitor.
Journalists’ pay is rubbish in comparison (in fact it’s rubbish in comparison to almost anyone) but interviewing a beautiful young woman who is also talented and intelligent and wearing something slightly daring is so much more fun than doing conveyancing or shepherding clients through their divorce.
I’ve interviewed Sarah several times but she wore her most glamorous outfit when I wasn’t interviewing her, at the Press Launch in 2005 of the BBC’s Shakespeare Re-Told series, dramas updating Shakespeare’s most familiar plays to modern surroundings
The lovely Billie Piper was there in grungy jeans and sweatshirt but Sarah was dressed fit for a Royal Command Performance in a shimmering, off-the-shoulder evening gown that displayed her figure to devastating effect. If there was a man in the room who could resist gazing on this vision, I would have to assume he was gay – though gay guys love her too, especially after she did Cutting It.
Marc Warren , incidentally, is remarkably frank on this subject. Ask most actors what it’s like filming sexy scenes with beautiful co-stars and they say ‘Well it’s so unsexy – there’s a camera in your face, a room full of technicians, producers etc, it’s embarrassing, it’s awkward” di-dah-di-dah-di-dah. I’ve heard variations on that theme so many times.
Marc once played a controversial TV role when he had to go in to a massage parlour where his character had to choose one of the scantily clad and alluring young women. He made no bones about the fact that an actor faced with this situation still reacts like a man, whether he’s acting or not. It was very refreshing.
The nearest I’ve come to anything similar was interviewing Frances Barber in, of all places, Eccles Conservative Club, in 2002.
She was filming a line-dancing scene in what turned out to be a truly dreadful sitcom entitled Having It Off, co-starring and co-written by Antony Cotton, now famously camp in Coronation Street.
Frances took off her stetson for the interview but sat opposite me in the rest of her outfit with a complete lack of self-consciousness, even though said outfit consisted of a lacy black basque boasting a prodigiously plunging neckline, and was slashed high on the thigh.
This eye-catching costume was matched with black fishnet tights and beige suede cowgirl boots. I just didn’t know where to look. Correction. I knew exactly where to look but was trying desperately hard not to do so.
I say the same thing in my after-dinner talks re Liz Hurley, but the sentiment was equally true with Frances, 14 years on.
After Dinner Speaker
Fresh and funny
Showbiz journalist Graham Keal developed his flair for entertaining audiences early, compering student revues, appearing at folk clubs and auditioning for Opportunity Knocks. He is now an experienced speaker performing at dinners, conferences and club events all over the UK.
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