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PAUL CALLAN AT LARGE

        The mighty chorus of accusation prompted by Harvey Weinstein’s vile and disgusting behaviour continues to grow in intensity.  More and more actresses are coming forward to testify about his alleged rapes,gropings and vicious career-damaging threats.

     It is yet another chapter in the dark, disgusting side of Hollywood that lurks, seldom revealed, behind the glitter and glamour of the film industry. It is nothing new.

     Film historians will tell you it can be traced to the early years of the silent film era when producers demanded sexual favours from would-be screen vamps. (Some of these girls, eager and innocent, were often 16-year-olds from distant States.)

    Even the big-name studio bosses were guilty of such crude and criminal antics. Louis B.Mayer, the second “M” of the mighty MGM, is recorded as having fondled the teenage Judy Garland.

    And it took the much-molested Marilyn Monroe to describe Hollywood in acid terms.  “It was,”she said, “an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.”

   But not all the stars took this obscenity lying down (so to speak!).  Darryl F. Zanuck, a mighty player in the Hollywood game, enjoyed showing actresses the solid gold, life-sized mould of his erect penis which he kept on his desk.

    When he pointed it out, with leering pride, to the formidable Joan Crawford, a powerful star known for her sharp tongue, her response was magnificent.

    “I’ve seen bigger things crawl out of cabbages,” she she snapped.

    It is certain that Weinstein’s filthy bullying will have a long-term effect on male behaviour. Even now, there are accusations that some MPs having been guilty in this area. And considering the number of young, attractive women researchers in the Houses of Parliament, it is not really surprising.

    All men, even old blokes like me who still possess an eye for a pretty girl (but, let me stress,do nothing about it) will have to employ restraint. But surely this will also have one very sad development — it will mean the possible end of flirtation and even seduction.

    Both of these are part of the ritual of human relations and how awful it will be if a man, of whatever age, cannot “chat up” a girl for fear of being accused of “inappropriate behaviour” (what a shopworn term, so beloved of awful women columnists on the Guardian, that has become).

     Even those early physical contacts — gently holding hands or that first, trembling kiss — will find many young men daunted with fear.  Will they have to wait until the girl makes the first move? Perhaps written permission will have to be given.

     And as for seduction,  how will a young man achieve this now seemingly impossible delight without getting into trouble?  I can only hope that human nature will intervene and take its course.

    I am so relieved not to be that young man. At 78, let me assure you, I am more than content to exchange what the Edwardian actress Mrs Patrick Campbell described  as “the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue” for the contentment of my lovely double-bed alongside the love of my life.

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     In about a fortnight I shall become a grandfather for the second time. My daughter Jessica is due to present to the world her second child (which I think will, this time, will be a boy.)

      Scarlett, my five-year-old beautiful grand daughter, is so excited at the prospect, that she has been coming out with some of those pearls of wisdom so typical of children of that age.

     My (so far) favourite is (referring to her favourite toy, a big fur rabbit called Bannick:  “In future, I shall be Bannick’s side-kick.”

     The arrival of a new life in a family is always a source of immense joy.  The love that  pours out is beautifully engulfing and brings a family closer together in a union of caring.

      It is all such an occasion  for real happiness, love and even humour. Jessica — she and her New York-based brother Jamie both very successfully followed me into journalism — was standing in front of a full-length  mirror the other day and observed: “Oh daddy, look at me. I’m as big as the QE2!!”

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PAUL CALLAN AT LARGE

       Poor old Prince Charles must be feeling a sense of relief now that the media’s tearful coverage of the 20th anniversary of the death of Prince Diana is over. For him, it stirred up all the old poisonous accusations that had been hurled at him when they were married.

     Newspapers, television and radio have been filled with endless memories and interviews with some of the Princess’s genuine friends and quite a few others who were jumping on the bandwagon of grief and claiming they were close to her. In fact, they weren’t.

     Prince Charles must surely have shuddered every day during the last few weeks when he opened his morning papers (that is, assuming he did) to find pages of mawkish features about his damaged former wife.

     The Daily Mail (for which I once worked as a diarist) led the field in this memory-laden coverage.After a couple of days, this became somewhat sickening. It was, of course, produced for that section of its readership who are middle-aged women and who, more than most, were deeply affected by the Princess’s tragic death.

   All this strikes me as being somewhat cynical — a deliberate targeting and manipulation of a certain type of reader. The death of the Princess was deeply upsetting, as well I know. I reported the tragedy for the Daily Express from the night it happened right to a lengthy piece I wrote about her funeral.

   I,too,have various memories of her and incidents linked  to her death. There was the morning I went down to Buckingham Palace to see the flowers and messages that were beginning to be placed on the railings.

    I was accompanied by a photographer and as we looked at the bouquets and postcards I sensed that a crowd was gathering around us. Suddenly, a voice rang out. “It was people like you who killed her.”  It came a from a beefy, threatening man who was clearly about to injure either me or my photographer.  The crowd was also closing in.

    This was very frightening and had we not been rescued by the two policemen standing guard on the gates, I shudder to think what might have happened. As we were hustled away, the people in the crowds shouted  angry threats and someone even threw a (fortunately plastic and empty) bottle at me.

    It was all very un-British and totally untypical of the way we are as a people. It was the same shortly after her death when there was fury because the Queen wanted to stay in Balmoral and care for Diana’s shattered sons.

    But eventually, the Queen and Prince Philip returned and I recall the icy silence when they stepped from their car to inspect all the flowers that, by now, were stacked high.

    Once again, a condemning voice boomed from the crowd. “It is about time you turned up,”they said. Prince Philip looked sharply in the direction of the man who had shouted.

    “We’re here now,” he said, his voice quivering with some anger.  For a moment, it looked as though it all might turn nasty and the detectives accompany the Queen and the Prince looked anxious.

      Then something remarkable happened. The Queen paused and turned round and stared at the crowd. A silence fell — and the Queen smiled. It was, as smiles go, a 90-Watt job.  I am no royalist, but that smile had such an effect on the angry crowd.

     Then, remarkably, the mood changed and the crowd who, a minute before, had been surly, started to clap. It was her presence  that did it.  For here was a little old lady in black (the Queen is tiny) gently calming people who were feeling battered by grief. Who were angry.

    And is it not a touching coincidence that just as all these lamentations over Princess Diana come to a welcome end, there is news that will cheer up any devoted royalist. The Duchess of Cambridge, pretty Kate Middleton, as was, is pregnant with her third child.

    After grief comes a new life.  I am about to became a grandfather for a second time — my lovely daughter Jessica is due to have a baby in November — and I am filled with joy at the prospect.

    And you might say that, well, I do have that in common with Prince Charles.

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     Whatever history may make of the dreadful President Trump, one remarkable fact has emerged about him: he has affected the English language. For those of us whose business is words, this is fascinating.

     Lexicographers at the Oxford University Press (those erudite folk who seek potential words for their English dictionary) have discovered that about fifty Trump-associated words and phrases have appeared in American usage.

    Words like “Trumpertantrum” and “Trumptastrophe” have entered the language. Even the word “bigly” is back in use, despite being a centuries-old adverb. All this is because people  create words for whatever they are thinking and talking about.

    Trump himself is clearly influencing language. This is largely due to his constant use of Twitter. He has even revived certain words — such as “bigly”, a dormant adverb first used in the 15th century. Its use has soared – thanks to Trump.

   There is even a brand new word called a “Scaramucci” — a time measurement referring to a ten day span and named after the ranting Anthony Scaramucci, the White House director of communications who was fired after ten days.

    Oh well, a Scaramucci is a long time in politics.

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