FRIDAY, MAY 4
TUESDAY, MAY 1
The Dalai Lama, who became ruler of Tibet in 1950, is the world’s secondlongest- serving leader of any kind — religious, political or royal. Only King Rama IX of Thailand, who was crowned in 1946, beats him. The Queen of England comes third, with 60 years on the throne, and Fidel Castro fourth with 53 years in power.
What makes the Dalai Lama, who I interviewed for CNN, rather different to the others is that he’s never had a drink, drug, cigarette or sex. Nor does he watch TV, movies or even listen to music. He doesn’t email or use a computer, and still hasn’t quite worked out how to use a mobile phone. All of which probably explains why he looks so absurdly healthy at the age of 76.
‘Have you heard of Simon Cowell?’ I asked at one stage.
Bemused, he turned to his interpreter, and asked: ‘What IS that?’
He was equally amusing about his vow of celibacy. I asked him, ‘Do you ever feel tempted by women?’
‘Oh yes, sometimes,’ he chuckled. ‘You see someone and think, “This is very nice!” But then . . . I always remember . . . that I am a monk.’
I’d been warned that if the Dalai Lama sat back in the interview, it meant he was bored. ‘I’m encouraged to see you’ve been sitting forward, your Holiness,’ I told him towards the end. ‘Does this mean you’ve been enjoying the interview?’
‘I like the fact you speak with feeling,’ he replied. ‘And I love your accent.’
Perhaps the most surprising revelation came when I asked him to name the most impressive world leader he’d ever met. ‘As an individual, I love President Bush.’ ‘Which one?’ ‘The younger one. Not as a President — I had some reservation with his policies. But as a human being, I found him a very nice person. I love him.’
This is the curious contradiction about George W Bush. He was one of the most divisive, war-mongering Presidents in modern history — yet numerous people who met him have said exactly the same thing to me about his personal likeability. I don’t, you may be unsurprised to learn, receive many honours. In fact, I think the last one may have been 16 years ago when I was awarded a prize for ‘Least Constructive Contribution To AngloGerman Relations’ for my ‘ACHTUNG SURRENDER!’ front page during that summer’s Euro ’96 football tournament. But tonight, I was guest of honour at a gala dinner in Los Angeles thrown by Britweek — an organisation that celebrates all things British in Hollywood.
It was held, appropriately, at the Beverly Wilshire Pretty Woman hotel — where I spent two years of my life. Five hundred guests turned up, paying £10,000 a table (all proceeds to an LA children’s charity), and it was all rather splendid. Well, nearly all.
As I flicked through the brochure, I stumbled across some hilarious ‘tributes’. Sharon Osbourne observed: ‘Piers is one of the most pompous, arrogant, egotistical, and vain people that I’ve ever met. Lucky for him, his literary talent is even larger than his humongous head.’
Ricky Gervais continued the theme: ‘I feel so happy and honoured to know Piers Morgan. Now, when my friends and family tell me I am the most annoying man in the world, I can smugly correct them.’ Even with praise came barbs. ‘Piers recently, and brilliantly, conducted two in-depth interviews with me,’ said Rod Stewart, promisingly, ‘but failed to make me cry on either occasion.’
Richard Branson, a previous honouree, said: ‘Congratulations. You’ve joined a very select group.’ Then added: ‘Behave yourself.’ Thank God for Donald Trump, perhaps the only one to fully encapsulate the spirit of the event: ‘ Piers has an intelligence that can scope any personality or topic with an uncanny ease. His wisdom and insight were put on display on the Celebrity Apprentice, no one could deny his superior performance, and that goes for everything he does. He’s a true champion.’ Exactly.
The entertainment, MC’D superbly by Daybreak’s Ross King, had a suitably British theme. Jerry Springer, who’s American but was born in a north London Tube station during the war, introduced me with commendable understatement: ‘When I grow up, I want to be Piers. If he had been alive in 1776, the Brits might have won.’
Katherine Jenkins beautifully sang the Godfather theme tune, Parla Piu Piano, in perfect Italian — even blowing me kisses like Marilyn (who she closely resembles) did for JFK (who I don’t resemble in the slightest) on his birthday.
Then Jackie Collins masterfully grilled me in a manner so seductively salacious that I may be out of a job soon. ‘What’s your favourite sexual position?’ she purred at one stage, to gasps from the crowd. ‘The Jackie Collins,’ I retorted. ‘Jack Nicholson told me it’s his favourite too.’
SATURDAY, MAY 5
I was a crazed fan of the Rocky movies as a youngster. There was something so uplifting about the street bum with a dream who became world heavyweight champion. Probably because it was so true to life — that’s the same path trodden by so many great boxers.
My obsession once led me to watch the first four Rocky movies back-to-back in my local fleapit cinema — more than six hours of slugging, cries of ‘Adrian’ and that Eye Of The Tiger theme music. Bliss.
Over the years, I’ve got to know Sylvester Stallone — interviewing him numerous times, and partying with him occasionally. Sly tells anecdotes better than any other scriptless actor I’ve met. He’s hilarious. This morning, I got a call inviting me to watch the big Floyd Mayweather fight at the Stallone residence in Beverly Hills. He lives in a rambling gated estate, home to some of the biggest stars in the world, including Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy.
The latter was having his own Mayweather party, as I could tell from the 100 waiters in white suits standing outside his place, marshalling limos. ‘This is the house that Rocky built,’ Sly declared, as he led me through his palat ial mansion. His screening room resembled a luxurious mini- cinema. And as we sat there, smoking Monte Cristo cigars, drinking fine red wine, and watching the fight, my mind drifted back to my local picture House all those years ago, and I smirked contentedly to myself. Time for my ego to be pricked.
‘Do you watch normal TV in here?’ I asked. ‘Of course. I watch your show all the time.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Really.’ Pause. ‘Have you any concept,’ he laughed, ‘of just how massive your head is when it appears on this screen?’
Below: The Dalai Lama, who was a guest on Piers’ CNN show last week