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.