The snow and ice in Sussex had thawed sufficiently last night to allow a smattering of Brighton NUJ members to gather in the back room of the Iron Duke, in Hove, for the annual Christmas party. The rewards for braving the elements were good beer, a fine buffet and the company of controversial columnist Julie Burchill and acerbic music critic Gary Mulholland.
Burchill and Mulholland swapped anecdotes revolving around the cock-ups and pratfalls that any hack is heir to. Mulholland’s most ignominious moment involved being on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse from Pharell Williams. The rapper was outraged that Mulholland had previously gone into print with a sting of sexist remarks Williams had made about Jade Jagger. (Note to boastful boys – if a journo is in earshot, assume your arrogance is on the record.)
Mulholland also recalled a scarifying trip to a south London council estate to interview an incoherent Gregory Isaacs. He managed to translate the reggae singer’s mumblings into 300 words of deathless prose for Select magazine.
Burchill said her biggest blunder was to libel the litigious firebrand George Galloway twice in quick succession. She also admitted to failing to spot any ambiguity in George Michaels’ sexuality when she interviewed him shortly after the break-up of ‘Wham!’ – despite the fact that he appeared bearing a tea tray and asked “Shall I be mother?” She just assumed he was very friendly.
Burchill has been invited to appear on just about every television reality show but has so far spurned all advances. She rejected ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!’ but she couldn’t decide whether the most off-putting issue was eating kangaroo testicles or meeting Ant and Dec in the flesh. She regretted turning down ‘Celebrity Big Brother’, however, because it would have given her the opportunity to share a child’s roundabout in the rain with her teen idol Germaine Greer.
One last indiscretion: Burchill revealed that Johnny Rotten’s guilty secret is that he is “a very nice boy”. And Julie Burchill, it turns out, is an extremely charming woman. Who knew?