De­ported pop star eas­ily steals the show

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

HEATHROW air­port, Lon­don. Morn­ing has bro­ken and there’s a passenger about to dis­em­bark who is ex­pected not to be too happy about be­ing here. It’s Yusuf Is­lam, for­merly known as Cat Stevens. In a mo­ment of Amer­i­can bu­reau­cratic mad­ness, the man who gave the world joy­ous, light-filled al­bums such as Tea for the Tiller­man and Teaser and the Fire­cat in the 1970s, has been re­fused per­mis­sion to en­ter the US.

How much sim­pler things were be­fore Stevens turned his back on the trap­pings, in­dul­gences and se­duc­tions of fame in an ef­fort to free his soul, ce­mented with a change of name and a re­li­gious con­ver­sion. Though this occurred decades be­fore 9/ 11, the Amer­i­cans are jumpy. You sus­pect not even a burst of Peace Train would have helped.

But Heathrow is a busy place and there’s more to this de­but episode of the sev­enth se­ries of Air­port , all set here, than a grumpy for­mer pop star and the me­dia hordes wait­ing to gar­ner a com­ment, ex­plode flash­guns in his travel-weary eyes, and film him for this pro­gram.

In fact, so fas­ci­nat­ing are the goings-on at Heathrow that be­fore Is­lam dis­em­barks, we are whisked off to watch a cri­sis un­fold at the An­i­mal Re­cep­tion Cen­tre.

This stal­wart in­sti­tu­tion deals mostly with an­i­mals fly­ing in and out of Heathrow. But to­day there’s a real stop-the-presses emer­gency: a squir­rel is stuck in a nearby car wash.

Even the an­i­mal health of­fi­cer, in his high-vis yel­low vest, thinks it’s prob­a­bly a wind-up. But it’s not. A ter­ri­fied, oil-cov­ered squir­rel has his paw stuck in a cog of the es­tab­lish­ment’s mech­a­nism.

Per­haps sens­ing the an­ti­cli­max of it all, Air­port snap­pily re­turns us to the

Un­wanted in Amer­ica: Yusuf Is­lam ar­rives at Heathrow in Septem­ber 2004 Is­lam story. The for­mer star comes out a back door as the me­dia pack de­scends like fox hun­ters. Does Is­lam have a lot to say? Not yet. Be­cause now it’s time to cross to an air­port worker who joined Bri­tain’s do­mes­tic air­line BMI for an un­con­ven­tional rea­son: she loves the uni­form, es­pe­cially the hat. Cut to a clutch of uni­formed BMI flight at­ten­dants, the fe­male equiv­a­lent of busi­ness­men in bowlers. Robert Palmer girls without the gui­tars.

And then, would you be­lieve, a grumpy Ir­ish­man who says he has been dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause he is Ir­ish. This is the prob­lem with re­al­ity tele­vi­sion set in pub­lic places. In the ef­fort to make watch­able TV, en­tirely mun­dane oc­cur­rences must be mag­ni­fied and drama­tised. En­ti­tled pas­sen­gers bark at staff. Staff get ex­as­per­ated and bite back. Bag­gage and pas­sen­gers are over­weight, and it seems every­one is tired and emo­tional, es­pe­cially some of the 3000 mem­bers of Qatar’s ever-trav­el­ling royal fam­ily. No won­der the Cat’s tale is dragged out in­ter­minably. It’s the only real story for miles.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Not Molly Malone with her cock­les and mus­sels, alive, alive-o, but in­dige­nous seashell artist Esme Tim­bery of La Per­ouse, Syd­ney. Tim­bery is one of the last liv­ing sea shell artists and the craft may die out if it is not passed on. Pete Row­sthorn turns jump­ing off build­ings into an art form and a pap­pa­razzo re­veals some of the tricks of his shady trade, telling us about the photo that made the most money. As well, an old friend must be found be­fore it’s too late. They just don’t make them like this any more. At a whop­ping 228 min­utes, is big in ev­ery way. Big stars: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, pic­tured, Les­lie Howard, and Olivia de Hav­il­land. Big story: a love tri­an­gle set against the back­ground of the Amer­i­can Civil War. And big, mem­o­rable quotes. With her man­sion pil­laged by Union troops, Scar­lett O’Hara ( Leigh) vows she will do any­thing for the sur­vival of her fam­ily and her­self: As God is my wit­ness, I’ll never be hun­gry again,’’ she vows at the end of part one. But the most en­dur­ing and in­flu­en­tial quote comes right at the end. As Rhett But­ler ( Gable) fi­nally walks out the door, she pleads, Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?’’ His an­swer? All to­gether now: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’’

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