Dropping names, picking teams, turning the tables and talking dirty – now that’s pure dead brilliant
Home in the ring
MY old chum Sean Penn stars in TV sci-fi drama The First about the first (duh!) humans to go to Mars, which launches with booster rockets on Channel 4 on Thursday. In it, according to one review, Penn does a lot of muscular brooding while showing off his torso. I haven’t seen him taps aff, but I have had lunch with him and enjoyed several drinks with him and his pals in a San Francisco hostelry (he paid for everything).
Penn’s sculpted body is surely down to the workouts at his home gym and particularly sparring in the boxing ring he has there. He told me a terrific tale, which was also a cautionary one, about never meeting your heroes. Bob Dylan is a big boxing fan and at the time – and probably still today – owned a fight gym in Los Angeles. He happened to be in San Francisco to record the audio version of his Chronicles and had clearly heard about Penn’s square ring. One of Dylan’s people phoned up Penn and asked whether the singer could come over and spar. Penn said “yes, of course” and began, slightly tremulously, to wait. Dylan turned up, simply nodded, put on kit and gloves and then the two got into the ring and went to it. This scenario continued for several days, whenever Dylan had a break from recording, turning up, milling, and nary a word said.
Then, one day, after they had finished and Dylan was dressed and leaving, he said simply: “Great.” Penn never saw or heard from him again. I haven’t seen Penn since that meeting either but I did invite him to come to Glasgow and the drinks would be on me. He hasn’t shown yet but I remain optimistic. (Next week, in Namedropping, it’s: Gaddafi, My Part in his Downfall)
Food for thought
THE Italian Serie A football team Udinese have a striker with the wonderfully tasty name of Kevin Lasagna. He has a sister called Sharon and they’re allegedly named after Kevin Costner and Sharon Stone. It got me wondering if it was possible to construct a whole team with players whose names are food, stretching timescales where necessary.
Obviously Kev’s strike partner would have to be Massimo Maccarone. In goal there’s Ipswich’s Dean Gerken. Defenders are: Nacho, Franck Leboeuf, Mark Fish. Yaya Banana and Baba Rahman. Midfield, Marcus Bean, Samuele Pizza and Stephen Rice. Subs include Mark Bunn, Barry Venison and Sylvan E-Bran Flakes. The manager is Pat Rice. Goalkeeping coach, Pita Cech.
Lady and the judge
THE judge’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover – the Penguin edition with annotations by Sir Lawrence Byrne’s wife underscoring the dirty bits – is up for auction and expected to fetch upwards of £10,000 at Sotheby’s, a record for a dog-eared paperback. Apparently, before the trial, Lady Dorothy read the salacious parts out to Byrne and, no, I don’t know if it turned him on. The jury took just three hours to bring in a not-guilty verdict in the 1960 trial, but this clearly didn’t find favour with the judge because he refused to allow the defendant’s costs, resulting in a huge legal bill. Not that Penguin minded. Lady C sold out its initial 200,000 print run on day one.
Marx my words
“THESE are my principles and if you don’t like them … well, I have others.” There surely hasn’t been such a rapid and comprehensive scurry across the political spectrum – not since a bearded Alistair Darling was handing out Trotskyist tracts to bewildered railwaymen at
Waverley Station en route to becoming Chancellor – than that of Jeane Freeman.
Back in the day, Freeman was a leading member of the Communist Party, the first woman chair of the National Union of Students in Scotland in 1979 and, in 1983, she was on the organising committee of the CP annual congress. She remained a Marxist and a member into the 1990s. But by 2001, Freeman had migrated to Darling’s Labour Party and between then and 2006 she was a spad (special adviser) to then first minister Jack McConnell.
Jack refused to intervene to stop her partner Susan Stewart being shunted back to the UK from her desk at the British Embassy in Washington where she was Scotland’s “ambassador” – officially, Scottish Enterprise’s representative there.
A year later she had set up her own management company, Freeman Associates, and was almost immediately embroiled in a bit of a stushie when she won a contract from Scottish Enterprise amid accusations of cronyism. A Freedom of Information request to discover how many meetings she had with Scottish ministers and civil servants was later rejected as too costly to discover. Her company was compulsorily dissolved in March this year.
In 2014, the SNP voted in favour of allowing non-members to stand as candidates (eh?) and Nicola Sturgeon punted Freeman’s credentials. In 2016, Freeman was elected as an MSP in Ayrshire and in June this year became Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, principal priority the NHS.
Now, according to Audit Scotland, the NHS on its present course is not sustainable. Waiting times beyond the 12-week guarantee have increased more than six-fold in four years.
Freeman has now pledged to reverse a longstanding SNP policy and use private hospitals – or the independent sector, as she puts it – to try to cut waiting times.
There are already referrals by the NHS to the private sector, but this appears to be a quantum leap, and a welcome boost to the profits of private health firms.
As the eldest of the American comedy brothers put it: “I am a Marxist – of the Groucho tendency.”
Sean Penn and Bob Dylan were in their fight club back in the day, while Jeane Freeman seems to like keeping things privaste