Celebrity, the press,
and issues for the
hospitality industry

by Tony Quinn

Glion Institute of Higher Education,

The BBC's Brand-Ross scandal

Russell Brand Jonathan Ross Andrew Sachs Georgina Baillie
Russell Brand Jonathan Ross Andrew Sachs as Emanuel Georgina Baillie
Aged 33
Thought to be paid a six-figure sum for his weekly radio show
His autobiography My Booky Wook, came out in 2007 and sold 600,000 copies
– 'Part funny, but part hugely disturbing . . .' Grazia
'The most talented stand-up comedian. Audiences ... debauched by his erotic misadventure' Daily Telegraph

Aged 47
Probably the BBC's highest-paid star

Paid £6million a year for his TV chat show, Radio 2 show and film programme

Received an OBE in 2005

- Spanish waiter Manuel in BBC's Fawlty Towers with John Cleese

- Family fled from Germany in 1938 to escape persecution by Nazis

Sachs' 23-year-old grand-daughter

What happened?

  • On Saturday October 18, Ross came on Brand's show to plug his book
  • The pair left messages on Andrew Sachs's answer phone claiming, in explicit language, that Brand had had sex with his granddaughter, Georgina
  • The BBC received 2 complaints. Nothing was heard for a week. Then...

Mail on Sunday, Sunday 26 October – 8 days after the broadcast

Mail on Sunday

Within a week

  • The story was front page every day in the Daily Mail
  • Other papers and media picked it up


Daily Mail


Daily Mail


Politicians became involved



Daily Mail


Daily Mail


Daily Mail

  • Brand resigned
  • The controller of Radio 2 resigned
  • Ross was suspended – without pay – for 3 months
  • The Mail had claimed its scalps, and played a clever game ...

News of the World, Sunday, November 2

News of the World

  • ... avoiding much mention of Geogina's lifestyle
  • But there was a bigger game in play...

Daily Mail

Richard Littlejohn
  • The BBC had long been under attack by the Press and other media rivals:
    • Its licence fee funding meant it was immune to recession
    • It had expanded into other areas – websites, education, magazines
    • This had upset commercial rivals in many industries

  • Many commentators feel its influence needed to be curbed:
    • The papers had recently mounted a campaign against the BBC's business editor Robert Peston: 'Peston, the prophet who can move the markets' (Times)

  • The Mail's commentator Richard Littlejohn (formerly of the Sun) spelt it out:
    • 'I'd give the BBC enough money to run Radio 4 and maybe
      two television channels ... What is it that the BBC can do
      that the independent sector can't do just as well?'

  • The BBC is the only UK media company on the scale of Rupert Murdoch's News International (owner of the Sun, Times, Sunday Times and BSkyB TV channels)

  • The Ross-Brand affair has exposed an Achilles heel

BBC profile in Financial Times

Now, the role of the BBC is the subject of debate across the whole Press and mother media (Financial Times, Monday November 3 – the FT is owned by Pearson, owner of Penguin Books, Pearson Education and many other book publishers)

The nature of celebrity

Oscar Wilde Jonathan Ross
Oscar Wilde: long-haired Victorian wit, author and playwright Jonathan Ross:
long-haired TV presenter and sharp dresser

Clive James, the Australian writer, broadcaster and critic, contends that true fame was almost unknown before the 20th century, because of the lack of global media.

  • Every country had locally famous people
  • The British Press created national celebrities
  • British celebrities became international celebs
  • One of the first was Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (died in 1900)
    • He was known for his barbed wit – and homosexuality
    • US politicians complained he was given too much coverage there
  • As with Brand and Ross, that's a common reaction even today

However, Wilde was an exception. Most famous people were:

  • Royalty and heroes, deserving of fame, and
  • Villains.
Daily Mirror Daily Mirror
1910 royalty: the death of Britain's Edward VII (and the first tabloid scandal) 1913 hero: Scott of the Antarctic
Daily Mirror
1910 villain: Crippen captured with the aid of new technology – wireless

Manufactured celebrity

  • Even at this time, an unwritten contract was being written
  • The British Press sold copies, the celebs gained more fame
  • It was a beneficial spiral for both sides
Daily Mirror  

1927 hero: Lindbergh

Yet Alcock and Brown had made the crossing in 1919 – it was hardly reported because, unlike Lindbergh, they had not set up a publicity deal with a newspaper such as the Mirror

1932: the perils of celebrity

Daily Mirror

Other sources of fame

  • Cinema
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Fashion
  • Films have created an A-list of celebrities
  • As Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter told Media Guardian:

    ‘[Vanity Fair] is a global magazine … The only universal language is movies so you’re stuck with it.’

Joan Collins
Joan Collins on the front cover of weekly Picture Post (11 September 1954). It quoted a forthright Collins: ‘They’re always carrying on about there being no women of star material in England. They don’t bother to build us up. They concentrate on building the men.’

Making and breaking

  • The Press has the ability to create, sustain – and destroy – celebrities
  • It has developed since Press photographers first had cameras built into their hats to snatch pictures back in the early 1900s
  • Newspapers compete with magazines – Hello!, OK!, Heat, Closer - for news and pictures
  • A-list stars are being seen less in individual Western countries
  • They have to spread their exposure to emerging economies such as China, Russia, India, Brazil
  • OK! fought a seven-year legal battle with Hello! and won £1 million in damages after the latter snuck photographs from the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. However its legal costs were estimated at £8 million
  • English Footballer Wayne Rooney and girlfriend Coleen McLoughlin have agreed a £1.5 million deal with Hello! for exclusive coverage of their wedding in June

Two stars on the rise:

Aygness Deyn feted as the new Kate Moss

Agnes Deyn

Princess Eugenie praised as a beauty in Telegraph/Tatler

Princess Eugenie

But next day, it's revealed the pictures were doctored
Princess Eugenie

And a star well into her career

Kate Moss

What has this got to do with you?

The answer is – where do celebrities get up to what they do?

  • In 1955, jazzman Charlie 'Bird' Parker was found dead in a suite at the Stanhope Hotel in New York belonging to Pannonica 'Nica' de Koenigswarter (one of the Rothschilds). It caused a right scandal – he was black and took drugs, she was an English noble and took 3 days to report the body! Under US apartheid then, he should not even have been in the hotel.
  • The Who's guitarist Keith Moon celebrates his 21st birthday in 1967 by hurling a five-tier cake around the party in his room, empties the fire extinguishers on his floor and drives a car into Flint Holiday Inn's pool – damages totalled $24,000. He then slipped on some marzipan and smashed his front teeth
  • The Dakota building in New York – a block of serviced flats – is best known as the place where John Lennon lived and outside which he was gunned down in December 1980
  • INXS frontman Michael Hutchence was found dead in his room at the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney (1997)
  • Security camera footage of Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed at the Paris Ritz before their fatal crash has been regularly shown as a results of the inquests into their deaths (1997)
  • Amy Winehouse and husband emerge bloodied after fight in room a London's Sanderson (2007)

Sean Bean's wedding celebrations

Sean Bean

Sean Bean's wedding to Georgina Sutcliffe was called off at just 24 hours' notice – including the reception scheduled for Brown's Hotel in London's Mayfair. The Lord of the Rings and Goldeneye actor had a bust-up 18 months earlier that left both of them bruised and bleeding at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. The hotel's incident book recorded:

'Ms Sutcliffe had numerous bruises on her upper body, face and scratches on her legs.' Bean was also left bleeding from scratches to his face and arms.


Celebrity breeds celebrity

Bean chose Brown's £3,000-a-night honeymoon suite because of the hotel's fame:

  • Graham Bell made his first successful British telephone call from Brown's in 1876;
  • Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book there;
  • Regular visitor Agatha Christie based her book At Bertram's Hotel on Brown's;
  • It was founded by Lord Byron's former valet.

The Wikipedia entry for the Stanhope list its famous deaths!

And how about this news story this year:

Oscar Wilde

L'Hotel in Paris achieved fame after Oscar Wilde died there. Since then celebrities have flocked in:

  • Eva Gardner
  • Salvador Dali
  • Jim Morrison
  • Robert de Niro
  • Mick Jagger
  • Quentin Tarantino

Lessons for the hospitality industry

Know the law: what can the paparazzi and reporters do in your hotel, bar, club or restaurant?

How should you deal with the Press? Remember they are an opportunity and a threat.

Would you allow your incident book to be seen by the Press?

What would you do with a celebrity

  • drunk
  • high on drugs
  • smashing up a room

in your hotel?

Again, celebrity antics are an opportunity and a threat!

Would you take a bribe for information from a reporter?


Tony Quinn is a journalist on the Financial Times. His brush with celebrity was presenting a series of programmes with Carol Vorderman on BBC television. He is also Editor and Publisher of Magforum.com and an External Examiner at the London University of the Arts. For almost 10 years he was Head of Publishing at West Herts College in Watford, where he ran degree and postgraduate programmes in publishing, journalism, printing, packaging and media. Before that, as an editor and group editor at Redwood Publishing and BBC Magazines, he launched and/or edited seven titles as well as many digital products. These won several awards. He is a graduate of Warwick University in Engineering Science and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was the author of CD-Rom for Publishers (Pira, 1998) and 'Publishing Education and Training: the Past, Present and future' in UK Publishing: Global Information Partnership (Bookseller/PA, 2000). He has delivered workshops and lectures on publishing, multimedia and the World Wide Web for the British Council and universities in the Far East.

tony -at- magforum.com
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