Godfather of gossip honoured
A little black book crammed with phone numbers to die for and the flow of emails from Los Angeles still keeps Godfather of Gossip David Hartnell spoiled for material.
The 73-year-old veteran of the celebrity scene has just been awarded the President’s Medallion from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand after eight years as its patron.
Contacting Hartnell means calling him on his land line.
Cellphone? He doesn’t have one. He has 136,000 readers online, but social media? He doesn’t do it.
Hartnell harks back to the glory days of Hollywood, the conversations in the make-up room, watching the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins transformed into stars before his eyes.
One of the first he was close to, and an enduring favourite, was Phyllis Diller, one of the first women to be a stand-up comic performer, claiming the sort of career in entertainment he would rather have liked for himself.
Hartnell said he knew where the stars in the make-up room had come from the night before, but would never betray the confidence.
He despised the sort of ‘‘nasty’’ gossip that dominated social media – which he described as bullying at its worst.
And he complained there were no longer the real celebrities of earlier years to talk about.
If you had to explain who you were talking about, it did not meet his threshold for quality gossip.
‘‘It’s so disposable now. My gossip was always tongue in cheek, never nasty, and I would never put the knife into anybody. It’s supposed to be fun.’’
His approach would seem to have served him well, with few people ever complaining or refusing to talk to him.
Clearly, Hartnell has a looser and kinder definition of gossip than most people.
‘‘When the words ‘fake news’ came out, people said how terrible it was.
‘‘I said, ‘my dear, I have made a living out of it for 53 years’.’’
David Hartnell bemoans a lack of real celebrities nowadays.