The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - NEWS -

Ben Bradlee, leg­endary Wash­ing­ton Post ed­i­tor who ex­posed the Water­gate scan­dal which brought down US Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon, has died.

I sat next to Ben at a din­ner party in London in the late Nineties and he was ev­ery­thing I’d hoped he’d be – supremely in­tel­li­gent, quick-wit­ted, iras­ci­ble, charm­ing and in­spir­ing.

As the wine flowed, we got into a fevered de­bate over the iden­tity of the Post’s fa­mous mys­tery mole, dubbed ‘Deep Throat’, who pro­vided most of the Water­gate exclusives.

‘I reckon he’s a multi-mil­lion­aire in his 80s who held down a high-rank­ing in­tel­li­gence agency job at the time,’ I fi­nally an­nounced.

Bradlee smirked. ‘And on what, young man, do you base that the­ory?’

I replied: ‘1) He’s kept the se­cret for three decades so he’s a man used to keep­ing se­crets. I there­fore as­sume he was a high-rank­ing in­tel­li­gence agency guy. 2) He must be rich or he’d have sold his story by now. 3) He’s still alive be­cause you’ve al­ways said you’d only name him after he died…’

Bradlee stared at me for sev­eral long seconds, then laughed. ‘In­ter­est­ing guess, Mr Mor­gan.’ ‘Am I right, Mr Bradlee?’ He re­fused to say. Six years later, a man called Mark Felt con­firmed he was Deep Throat.

He was 92 years old, and had been No 2 at the FBI dur­ing Water­gate.

In­ter­est­ingly though, he wasn’t rich. In fact, the main rea­son he re­vealed his iden­tity was be­cause his fam­ily wanted him to cash in on the dis­clo­sure be­fore he died, to pay for his grand­chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

As for Ben Bradlee, his jour­nal­is­tic motto was: ‘You never mon­key with the truth.’ That ethos pro­pelled him to be­come the great­est news­pa­per ed­i­tor of them all. They say you should never meet your he­roes. Ben was the ex­cep­tion to that rule. fall for it. My the­ory about why Brand’s so popular with the masses is that he sim­ply bom­bards them with so many long words that they haven’t got a clue what he’s ac­tu­ally talk­ing about, they just love the way he says it.

For ex­am­ple, in his new book he of­fers the fol­low­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tion of hu­man­ity: ‘It is not a dis­parate and sep­a­rate con­glom­er­ate of in­di­vid­u­als but the tem­po­rary phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion or ex­pres­sion of a sub­tler elec­tro­mag­netic, mi­cro­cos­mic realm.’

Now, his dis­ci­ples may gasp in awe when they di­gest what they per­ceive to be the lin­guis­tic ge­nius of that sen­tence. I, how­ever, merely gasp in amused con­vul­sion be­cause I know ex­actly where he got that tal­ent.

Rus­sell ad­mit­ted to me last year that he stud­ies dic­tionar­ies so he can mem­o­rise long words. ‘If ever I hear a word and I don’t know what it means, I go and look it up in a dic­tio­nary and find out.’

He then gave me a per­fect ex­am­ple. ‘Here’s a good word for you – saty­ro­ma­niac,’ Rus­sell chuck­led las­civ­i­ously (see, we can all play this game, mate). ‘It means a male nym­pho­ma­niac.’ So don’t be fooled next time Mr Brand un­loads an avalanche of com­plex words that sound like he just filched them from the dic­tio­nary – be­cause he almost cer­tainly has.

Rob­bie Wil­liams is a cu­ri­ous cove. I got to know him well when he first hit the big time with Take That and he was al­ways a tad chip­pier than the rest of the band.

When I wrote their au­tho­rised biog­ra­phy, four of them – Gary, Mark, Ja­son and Howard – penned lovely hand-writ­ten notes of grat­i­tude in my copy. Rob­bie sim­ply scrawled: ‘Dear Piers, f*** you

The NSPCC has been run­ning an ex­cel­lent Twit­ter cam­paign called #child­hood­wis­dom in which fa­mous peo­ple pose with words that in­spired them. Mine was sim­ple to choose; my mother once sent me a post­card de­pict­ing a hip­popota­mus fly­ing with a flock of seag­ulls and the cap­tion: ‘Am­bi­tion knows no bounds.’

I can tol­er­ate almost any per­son­al­ity fault, bar a lack of am­bi­tion.

Though it can ob­vi­ously man­i­fest it­self in many dif­fer­ent ways.

As Napoleon Bon­a­parte put it: ‘Great am­bi­tion is the pas­sion of a great character. Those en­dowed with it may per­form very good or very bad acts. All de­pends on the prin­ci­ples which di­rect them.’

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