I received an honour in Los Angeles tonight for my gun-control campaigning on CNN. It came from the Brady Campaign, an organisation set up by Jim Brady, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary when the President was nearly assassinated in 1981. He was shot himself, and left paralysed. Ever since, he and his wife Sarah have worked tirelessly to improve gun safety in America.
The event was held over a lavish dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I invited Gary Lineker and his wife, Danielle, along as last-minute guests after hearing they were in town. My co-honouree was one of Hollywood’s top divorce lawyers, and a former client, Stevie Wonder, presented her award. ‘Our gun laws are so stupid, I could buy a gun,’ Stevie said, ‘Imagine ME with a gun!?’
He then sang Love Is In Need Of Love Today, which brought the house down. ‘Try following that, Piers!’ said the Brady Campaign spokesman, before reading out my own citation, including the line: ‘Piers has shown himself to be a brave, fearless, inspiring campaigner.’ Lineker nearly choked on his chicken. ‘These people obviously don’t know you very well, do they?’ he whispered.
I walked up to receive my award and said: ‘I always knew the day would come when Stevie Wonder would be my warm-up man.’ I looked down, and the great man was in fits of laughter. Then, after launching a verbal assault on the pro-gun lobbyists, I was given a standing ovation, forcing Lineker to get to his feet and join in.
He looked like one of those North Korean soldiers forced to clap ecstatically when their Leader, Kim Jong Un, appears, or risk execution.
‘Will Smith challenged me to display a single talent that deemed me suitable to be a talent-show judge’
campaigned vociferously against his decision to pull United out of the FA Cup in 1999 to play in a daft new tournament called the World Club Championships. Furious at our relentless attacks, he pulled my sports editor aside at a function and screamed: ‘Tell Morgan to **** off back to Highbury (Arsenal’s stadium at the time) and stagnate.’ But 10 years later, he admitted: ‘I regretted pulling out of the FA Cup. It turned out to be a disaster for us.’
Our relationship didn’t improve when he got off a speeding charge, after successfully pleading that he’d been suffering from acute diarrhoea and was thus racing to find a toilet. I sent him a box of Imodium, with a note saying: ‘We Gooners always knew you were full of c**p, now we’ve got the proof.’ Cue the mother of all hairdryers.
Despite all this, and now that he’s gone, I can finally admit that he’s the greatest football manager the world has ever seen. I first interviewed Jada Pinkett Smith two years ago, and her husband, Will, came along to give her moral support. It’s quite unnerving trying to grill someone when their Men In Black star husband is sitting a few feet away, an audience of one, glowering and issuing veiled threats like: ‘Don’t upset my wife, Mr Morgan … you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’ Afterwards, Will challenged me to display a single talent that When David Cameron became Britain’s prime minister, he flew soon after to see President Obama in Washington, to general apathy here in the States. A cheeky US TV show even hit the streets with photos of him to see if anyone recognised him. Most failed the test. And of those that thought they did, the vast majority said my name. To, I suspect, our mutual dismay.
Today, Cameron was back at the White House — and an even greater ignominy befell me. My 18-month- old daughter Elise looked at his face on our large TV screen, and exclaimed: ‘DA-DA!’ Twice.