The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - RADIO WEEK -

The GQ Men Of The Year Awards is de­li­ciously, cul­tur­ally dif­fer­ent to all the nau­se­at­ingly syco­phan­tic, backscratch­ing cer­e­monies in Amer­ica, such as the Os­cars and Golden Globes.

This year they were par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able — the event last week not only de­scended into a de­light­ful cesspit of vile celebrity be­hav­iour, but I also won an award, for TV Per­son­al­ity Of The Year.

Now, I don’t win many awards. In fact, one of the last ma­jor ones I got was back in 2003, at the same GQ event, when I was voted News­pa­per Ed­i­tor Of The Year.

I as­sumed it would be a huge boost to my ca­reer — and was fired from the Mir­ror four months later.

So, I ac­cepted the prize, given to me for my gun con­trol cam­paign­ing in Amer­ica, and pre­sented by Jeremy Piven ( TV’s Mr Sel­fridge), with a heavy heart.

The tone for my trib­ute was set by host Rob Bry­don, who scoffed: ‘These awards are a bit like the Zim­babwe elec­tions in that ev­ery­one knows who’s won long be­fore it’s an­nounced. Though we don’t have any­one here gui lty of global atrocit ies, of course… well, apar t from Piers Mor­gan, ob­vi­ously.’

Bry­don re­deemed him­self slightly with this quip: ‘ Ch­eryl Cole’s tat­too… we haven’t seen so much ink on one a*** since Jeremy Clark­son’s pen ex­ploded.’

But the joc­u­lar mood evap­o­rated when he made a crack about at­tendee Stephen Fry not be­ing al­lowed to be ‘left alone with vodka and pills’ — a cruel ref­er­ence to his sui­cide at­tempt last year — which was met with deaf­en­ing, awk­ward si­lence.

Things de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther when Rus­sell Brand laid into the night’s spon­sors, Hugo Boss, whose epony­mous cre­ator tai­lored the Nazis.

It was wickedly funny. But hu­mil­i­at­ing an award show’s spon­sors when you have agreed to re­ceive an award is like go­ing to some­one’s house for din­ner, and say­ing the food is dis­gust­ing.

Boris John­son banged on about him­self for what seemed like hours in

‘Rus­sell Brand shuf­fled in, look­ing de­cid­edly sheep­ish. “You! Go to the naughty chair!”’

an ex­traor­di­nar­ily self-con­grat­u­la­tory speech — prompt­ing Roger Dal­trey to bring the house down later by say­ing: ‘Lis­ten­ing to Boris’s speech, I was re­minded of that won­der­ful lyric I sang when I was 19: ‘I hope I die be­fore I get old.’

For­eign Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Hague then rightly got pasted by Noel Gal­lagher for par­ty­ing, rather than at­tend­ing to more im­por­tant things like Syria.

When the time came for my award, it was late. I made a se­ri­ous ac­cep­tance speech about guns, which was sur­pris­ingly well-re­ceived given how drunk and cyn­i­cal the au­di­ence had now be­come.

Michael Dou­glas, who re­ceived his ‘Le­gend’ award af­ter me, ad­mit­ted: ‘I know where Piers is com­ing from. I watch his show all the time, and I hear it.’ Which was good to know. I just hope more big Amer­i­can stars like him speak up against the insanity of their coun­try’s gun laws.

There was a very cool af­ter-party at the home of PR guru Matthew Freud. I stood for an hour in the court­yard en­trance with Justin Tim­ber­lake, Sa­muel L Jack­son and Phar rell Wil­liams — eat­ing burg­ers and chips, and chew­ing the fat (metaphor­i­cally and lit­er­ally) with these ti­tans of cool­ness. We de­bated the mer­its of gun con­trol, with Justin and Sa­muel re­veal­ing they’re both from Ten­nessee. ‘We grew up with guns and around guns from when we were kids,’ said Justin. ‘It’s part of our cul­ture. I still own three guns.’ ‘Do you still use them?’ ‘ Sure, but only on the range,’ he said.

Sa­muel was more forth­right. ‘I own guns to pro­tect my­self, and if some­one comes in my house Sir David Frost was a friend, oc­ca­sional men­tor, fel­low Arse­nal fan and cricket lover, and won­der­fully en­ter­tain­ing party host. I in­ter­viewed him for CNN last year, and asked what his ca­reer high­light had been.

‘There were many great mo­ments,’ he replied. ‘But I think when I asked Nel­son Man­dela, “How did you get through 28 years, wrongly in­car­cer­ated, and you’re not bit­ter?”

‘And he said, “I’d like to be bit­ter, but there is no time, there is work to be done.” That was just be­fore the 1993 elec­tion, which of course, he won.’

As for the se­cret of the art of in­ter­view­ing, he said: ‘Great re­search, you’ve got to do your home­work. And know­ing when to stay silent.’ Sir David was the great­est in­ter­viewer

of them all. I’ll miss him hugely.

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