Life and Love with 'The Greatest': Muhammad Ali

July 29, 2012

When Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams was six years old she looked out of her front door in Louisville, Kentucky, and saw an energetic young man holding court to a wide-eyed gaggle of neighbourhood boys, including her brother.

“Who’s that big man?” she asked her mother, not knowing that the answer would change her life.

“That’s Cassius Clay,” her mother told her. “The Champ”, “The Louisville Lip”, the 1960 Olympic gold medallist and the most exciting heavyweight boxer the world had ever seen.

Lonnie crossed the street to find out for herself what all the fuss what about: “He was wearing a crisp white shirt and a black bow tie, and all the boys were crowding around trying to listen to him. There were kids’ bikes all over the lawn. He saw that I was the only girl and he beckoned me over and started to talk to me — but he scared me, he was so huge.”

Despite her apprehension, it proved to be … [more]

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Life empty with The Killing over? Fear not...

May 16, 2011

Jussi Adler-Olsen’s photograph collection is unique. An everyday chronicle of a happy family life in 1950s Denmark, with the odd glimpse into the other side of his childhood where he lived in a series of remote mental hospitals where his father worked as a psychiatrist, and murderers were his friends.
There he is, a small, wiry boy, posing with his scout group in front of a suburban home in Copenhagen. Then he appears in a photo taken by his father, standing alone on a ferry looking back to the comfortable city life they are leaving behind. Now we see a party of nurses in their starched white uniforms. Finally there is a photo of a man on a hospital bed, wearing a red tie and buttoned-up waistcoat, with wires protruding from his head. The man stares expressionlessly up at the lens while Jussi, a little boy with a new box camera, captures him at the moment that the nurses turn the dial to adminis… [more]

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The Secret Millionaire

February 04, 2011

Businessman Jeff Pearce hid his illiteracy until middle age – but learning to read and write was the making of him

Jeff Pearce prefers being called an “adventurer” to an “entrepreneur”. He is the short, ginger-haired action hero of Liverpool retail who made a fortune selling £1 leather trousers to hard-up scousers in the 1980s, then lost his millions, and remade them — playing polo with the Royal Family, working as a stunt rider for Richard Gere and sailing the Atlantic in the meantime.

His name is not actually Jeff. Pearce’s mother changed it to hide the shameful secret with which he has lived most of his life — that he could neither read nor write. Pearce could never spell his real name, James. For years he would come home from school and sit with his mother writing “J-A-M”. Eventually she said, “You know what — it’s Jeff.”

“I felt like I was living my life under false pretences. Because really you sho… [more]

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Momma D: Dionne Warwick, the Grande Dame of Divas

September 11, 2010

She learnt her stagecraft from Marlene Dietrich; 50 years on, she’s mentor to Whitney Houston and P. Diddy

Dionne Warwick opens up her arms in a stage bow: “I’m looking pretty good, don’t you think,” she says. The singer seems slightly surprised to be turning 70, and, with pearly white teeth and chiselled cheekbones, she is indeed looking good. Warwick is one of the great divas of her generation, with a multiple Grammy award-winning career spanning 50 years and a personal orbit that encompasses everyone from Burt Bacharach to Marlene Dietrich, Beyoncé and Barack Obama. But on a sunny morning in early September she is in work, rather than diva, mode; turning up, without entourage, at the Apollo Theatre in London, where her 70th birthday gala will be held in honour of World Hunger Day on January 9.

She is petite in jeans, trainers, and a green sweatshirt bearing the emblem of her old sch… [more]

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Susie Bright's State of The Nation

July 26, 2010

Susie Bright has spent decades campaigning for a woman’s right to orgasm. Now she is analysing Britain’s sexual issues

Susie Bright is talking about sex. For 30 years she has done little else. America’s most controversial feminist is holding court on a gold throne under a curtain of bondage ropes in a packed room at Coco de Mer, an exclusive sex shop owned by Samantha Roddick. Before her in the audience is an old friend — let’s call her Jane. The two women are discussing Bright’s review of the Sexual State of the Nation, a UK version of her original Sexual State of the Union address, which was targeted at Americans.

Jane is nearly 70, and yearns for the kind of feminist community that existed in the old days. Also, she can’t get any sex. “What am I going to do, go to a lesbian nightclub?” she pleads to the audience. “Should I do it on my own? That’s fine, I love it. But what am I going to do politi… [more]

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A Rich Mix of politics in East London

February 20, 2010

It seemed like such a good idea: an arts centre in the heart of vibrantly multicultural East London. But two years after its doors opened, Rich Mix in Bethnal Green still awaits its official opening, its short history tainted by infighting and financial problems. This week, Patience Wheatcroft, the former Business Editor of The Times and more recently Editor of The Sunday Telegraph, will present a report to the London Assembly which is expected to be highly critical of the way the London Development Agency (LDA) selected, funded and oversaw flagship projects championed by the former Mayor, Ken Livingstone. Those projects include Rich Mix, the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham and Caribbean Showcase, which is the subject of a police investigation into the management of its funds.

The Rich Mix Cultural Centre has cost in excess of £27 million of public money – nearly £13 million over budget, according… [more]

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The Vagina Monologues turns ten

February 13, 2010

Eve Ensler transformed the New Orleans Superdome into ‘Superlove’ for a celebrity-studded event to campaign against violence towards women

Few people know that New Orleans is the vagina of America. Few would suggest it. “It is fertile. It’s a delta. And everyone wants to party there,” explains Eve Ensler, activist, feminist icon – and the author of The Vagina Monologues. Never one to act on a small stage when a bigger one would do, last weekend she turned the New Orleans Superdome into the Superlove – a two-day global event to mark the tenth anniversary of her V-Day movement, the campaign to stop violence against women which she founded on the back of her play.

Not everyone got it. “When Eve told me New Orleans was the vagina of America, I was like, oh sweet Jesus,” says the actress Kerry Washington, putting her head in her hands. “Sometimes I think, Eve, do you really want to go there. Really? But … [more]

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Cannes Film Festival: Who'll be top dog?

May 20, 2008

Ignore Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones, the real excitement and clamour at the festival is all about the award for best movie pooch

Forget the golden leaves of the Palme d’Or, when critics and film fans meet this Friday on the Croisette the talk of the Cannes Film Festival will be which cinematic canine is in the spotlight for this year’s Palm Dog, the hairiest, silliest – and smelliest – award of the season.

“Dogs are crucial to films and yet they are totally overlooked,” says Toby Rose, who founded the ceremony for best on-screen dog performance. “This year I’m very excited about the dog that kisses Julianne Moore.” Technically, the canine-Moore love scene in the opening film Blindness is only a lick on the face, “But it’s still the only good thing about that film,” Rose says. There is also a promising Sundance documentary and a film bound for the UK that features a frisbee-playing puppy…. [more]

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