Raunchy Rita

Rita Ora, the singer and X Factor judge, holidaying on a vessel named ‘Gold Digger’ – a most intriguing title – who, lured by Simon Cowell, the great music mogul, to join him on his ITV show, has since shed her most demure image in favour of a more raunchy exposition of her bodily assets to give our eyelids a preview of what she has in store for us.

Photographed taking a dip off the Ibiza coast, wiggling her bottom as she shakes herself dry, Rita, who is developing into a sexual siren at the age of twenty-four, flew to the party island to help fellow judge Nick Grimshaw do his job for Radio 1’s Ibiza Weekend.

As these photos show, her sexual fuel is electrifying. I hope that Simon Cowell, now settled down, will not be blinded by her extraordinary bits as perhaps more are revealed with the passage of time.

Meantime, I hope The X Factor will come up to scratch as The Voice on the BBC will certainly prove a hard competitor to beat. Time will tell.

A Spark that Could Lead to a Devastating Fire

Christians are having a rough time in many parts of the world but who would have thought that this could conceivably happen in the Holy Land?

At least a spark of it has recently taken place in Israel, when Benzi Gopstein publicly advocated the destruction of Israel’s Christian churches. Mr Gopstein, the leader of Lehava – a group infamous for its virulent campaigns against relationships between Arab men and Jewish women – seems unperturbed at the possibility of being arrested in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of a crack-down on ‘Jewish terror’.

Instead, he blatantly urged the same government to expel Christian places of worship from the Holy Land. Asked if the government should set fire to churches – as hard-line Jewish extremists have done in recent times – he replied: ‘Not burn. They need to take them out. We don’t have a place for churches here. It’s Jewish Law. This is what God told us.’

Mr Gopstein, forty-six, a religious settler from Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Hebron, was addressing an explosive topic at a sensitive time. The authorities, driven by revulsion over a fire-bomb attack perpetrated by far-right settlers that killed a Palestinian child in the West Bank village of Duma recently, and the subsequent death of the father, have disclosed plans to detain Jewish militants without trial, a measure long applied to Palestinian suspects.

Mordechai Meyer, eighteen, was ordered to be detained for six months for activities that were said to include suspected involvement in a fire that badly damaged the Church of Loaves and Fishes on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

Mr Gopstein said his organisation did not carry out church attacks, but he admitted he could be arrested soon, even though Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, has decided there are no grounds for outlawing his group. ‘If they arrest me, I’m ready. It’s not the first time,’ he said.

Such men are dangerous, even if they do not commit such acts. Their responsibility is as great as those who carry them out. Preachers of terror should have no place in a civilised society. We must ensure that they are prevented from radicalising their followers lest the world becomes a more perilous place to inhabit.

One cauldron of fire leads to another. We can ill afford the emergence of another ISIS motivated by religious hatred. God forbid!

My Goddess Of The Week

Actress Emily Ratajkowski, 24, born in Westminster is a dazzling specimen of womanhood. Her body speaks volumes of eroticism at its most hypnotic level. I can’t stop looking at this all embracing photograph of exquisite femininity that shows a picturesque view of shape, elegance, craftsmanship and a mesmerising capacity to enthral everything in its path.

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Men and woman alike looking at every curve of her body, her pert but astonishingly shaped bottom will hardly fail to recognise a work of art that defies combined supremacy and competitiveness.

The beauty of her modality, her wide piercing eyes, and her slender back, all harmoniously integrated to make a glowing gem of creative ingenuity only the best endowed craftsmen could have conceived.

Given all her revealed talents, she has enticed my innermost sense of impartiality to such a degree that for that reason alone I can’t but choose her as my erotic goddess of the week.

The Arrogance Of A Civil Servant

I honestly think Sir John Chilcot’s recent behaviour in ignoring the present outcry about the disgraceful delays to the Iraq Inquiry has reached the stage where Parliament should now intervene and force him to come clean, after years of prevarication. His arrogance is beyond belief and he should be brought to task and made subject to scrutiny by a Parliamentary commission who should grill him in search of any possible motive for his odd and unacceptable conduct. And if found lacking in any way, he should be turfed out without any hesitation.

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We live in a democracy that most of us value and therefore everyone, however grand, should abide by a sense of decency and humanitarian mission, especially where the lives of many of our soldiers have been sacrificed uselessly in pursuit of a war which, to many, had been fraudulently engineered by Blair and his cohorts.

The truth must come out if as a nation misdeeds of such enormity are left to simmer and the perpetrators escape retribution to the encouragement of other evil doers. The world as it is today is no longer a safe place to inhabit. We must do the cleansing before we lose the plot.

Those Who Were Missed

Having interviewed successfully men and women from all walks of life for over two decades, and having included some of these interviews in six published books, I have few regrets for not being able to interview many of the people I targeted – except Margaret Thatcher, John Freeman and Jimmy Goldsmith.

Margaret Thatcher was a case in point. Quartet’s Mrs Thatcher’s Bag was the cause of it all. She took exception to being lampooned and, as it turned out, she had no sense of humour whatsoever, unlike her husband who was a delight to be with. She was cantankerous and ruthless once she had a bee in her bonnet about someone, and in this case it was me as the Chairman of Quartet Books.

I would have loved to have been given the opportunity to interview her in depth, but despite many requests she always responded in the negative. Had I got to know her better I would have probably warmed up to her, who knows? One thing was certain: our encounter would have unravelled a side of her complex character that was perhaps fiercely guarded from the public.

The next person I pursued was the remarkable John Freeman, whose biography, A Very Private Celebrity by Hugh Purcell, had just been published. With four marriages, mistresses galore, a glittering TV career at a time when, unlike today, celebrities were truly talented, he could easily have become prime minister.

But my interest in him was largely as the formidable cool inquisitor of his TV series, Face to Face, with his polite but penetrating questions. Guests included many of the towering figures of the late 50s and early 60s, including Martin Luther King, Bertrand Russell and Evelyn Waugh. But the interviews that probably had the most impact at the time were ones that probed the insecurities of the comedian, Tony Hancock, and the interview that nearly made TV personality Gilbert Harding cry, when Freeman asked him about the death of his mother.

The viewer never saw Freeman’s well-cut features. He sat with his back to the camera in the shadows, smoke from a cigarette curling from the fingers of his right hand. ‘John is the only man who has made himself celebrated by turning his arse on the public,’ commented Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman.

The fact that the public seldom saw more than the back of Freeman’s head helped cultivate an aura of mystery that suited him admirably. Almost pathologically private, he not only loathed public attention but rarely talked about his private life, even with close friends.

In other words, my request to interview him was always rebuffed. I stood no chance fulfilling my ambition. I wanted to know what made him tick and obviously, as a great fan of his, was keen to learn as much as I could about his interviewing techniques. To my utter disappointment, my quarry escaped the net.

The third person I wish I had interviewed was the colourful and bombastic Jimmy Goldsmith. I met him though Jim Slater, when Slater Walker was going through a financial crisis. I kept meeting him over the years at various functions and was invited to his home for dinner on several occasions. I developed what I would call a reasonable rapport with him and suggested I interview him, to which he agreed, but it never materialised.

Goldsmith was certainly a gigantic debater, a bully by nature and a fearless television interlocutor. His lifestyle was complicated, to say the least, and his compulsive womanising was legendary. He could be a charmer par excellence but a real bruiser when challenged.

Interviewing him would have been an ambitious as well as a risky task. I was willing to take that chance but, alas, his promises to submit to an interview were worthless, destined to have gone with the wind.

From Soho With Love

Rummaging through some old files that I hadn’t seen for almost two decades, I found to my great surprise a review of my book Fulfilment and Betrayal, by Alexander Waugh and published in the Literary Review for the May 2007 issue. Reading it now I believe it covers a period which encapsulates an era which has long expired but is still vivid in my memory.

Since the book is still available, I thought it might attract a new readership keen to recall a period of great literary achievements that have now seemingly dwindled with the advent of the mass market invasion which is often to the detriment of quality publishing.

Here’s the review in full:

Alexander Waugh

From Soho with Love

Fulfilment and Betrayal

By Naim Attallah

(Quartet Books 796pp £25)

At first glance Fulfilment and Betrayal might easily be mistaken for a James Bond thriller, with its jacket photo of a shadowy, handsome man (obviously a spy) glowering above a row of five voluptuous pouting belles. On the back cover there are more photos of luscious lovelies, one of a roaring tiger, and another of a dancer stretching her lissom arms high into the air to reveal, in profile, a pert, bare, well-benippled breast. Dum, da, da, da … How do you stop that famous James Bond theme entering your head as you pull this hefty tome down from its shelf?

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Actually the book has nothing to do with 007 and everything to do with the magazine you are presently reading, for the figure on the front cover is the author, producer, entrepreneur, photographer, philanthropist and publisher, Naim Attallah, who bought Literary Review for £1 in 1980 and sold it twenty-one years later, for an undisclosed sum, to ‘a most unpleasant character’ called Christopher Ondaatje. These are his memoirs of the years 1975-1995. For want of illustrations inside the book, the girls on the jacket are, we may assume, a representative smattering of his glamorous friends and ex-employees (this is how Private Eye readers came to know of Attallah as ‘Naim Attallah-Disgusting – the Hideous oily Monster with his Harem of lethal Nigellas’). The growling tiger is the author’s lucky mascot, a stuffed head with the name of ‘Kaiser’; as for the bare breast, that, I think, is intended to convey the author’s lifelong passion for the female form – a theme, incidentally, that weaves itself in and out of this long and absorbing autobiography as lustily and at times grotesquely as the idée fixe of the Beloved in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

The enjoyment of an autobiography generally depends on how interesting the author is able to make himself. In this instance Attallah’s self-confessed naivety, disgustingness, warmth, sensuality, exceptional energy, bossiness and diversity of enthusiasm certainly make him as colourful as anyone in Dickens or Powell, but the long-term value of Fulfilment and Betrayal will, I suspect, reside not in Attallah’s self-portrait but in the riveting picture he gives of a vibrant literary world that has, in his view, all but vanished – a world invented in his fantasy and brought to life with the bounty of his purse – a crazy, hyped-up, uncommon little world that was centred on Soho, jewels, books, eccentric personalities, gossip columns, ‘It’ girls, parties, rifts and deep friendships. At its hub – and this is perhaps the oddest thing about it – lay Attallah’s small, unassuming flagship title, Literary Review.

Anyone who has been reading this magazine since its inception twenty-seven years ago will be interested to learn of its many vicissitudes. It was founded and first edited by a Scottish academic, Dr Anne Smith, who from the start succeeded in persuading famous writers to contribute ‘for the love of it’ to what was then a fortnightly magazine produced entirely by herself from her own small flat in Edinburgh. After six months the burden of the enterprise became intolerable to her. She had sunk her life savings and could no longer sustain the cost or the vast effort that the work entailed. Attallah came to the rescue, absorbing the title into his Namara Group of publications, which incorporated at various times Quartet Books, The Women’s Press, and magazine titles like The Wire and The Oldie. Dr Smith continued as editor. In time Literary Review merged with the short-lived Quarto, but despite a growing and fanatically loyal readership, the magazine continued to lose money. Dr Smith, according to Attallah’s account, became aloof, restive and depressed, eventually tendering her resignation, which he promptly (and much to her surprise) accepted. There then ensued a very public and very bitter battle between the two that came to a head with Attallah threatening legal action against Harpers & Queen for publishing scurrilous extracts of Dr Smith’s diary.

For the next three years Literary Review was edited by Gillian Greenwood, now a novelist and producer of the South Bank Show, under whose stewardship was printed an inflammatory review by Roald Dahl of a book called God Cried. Viciously attacked by Zionists, the review remains notorious even today and Dahl continued to believe up until his death in 1990 that the reason he was never knighted was because of accusations of anti-Semitism that arose from it. When Greenwood left the magazine to pursue a career in television, Emma Soames took over and it was under her editorship that the magazine was threatened with annihilation by the ‘petty, sensitive, unvulgar, ungreedy’ Countess of Dudley, supposing herself libelled in an Ali Forbes review of Anne Somerset’s Ladies in Waiting.

The case trailed on, but it was only under the editorship of Auberon Waugh, which began in 1986, that it finally came to the High Court. Literary Review lost and was ordered to pay costs and damages, which almost put it out of business. Despite the unfavourable result, Attallah’s vivid account of these events is highly entertaining. My father enjoyed nothing more than the prospect of a court battle (I think he would have liked to be a judge), but in this instance both he and Attallah found the affair only ‘dismal’ and ‘ludicrous’. In the end Attallah settled with the Countess and Literary Review was able to continue, but as his own fortunes diminished the magazine’s future remained precarious.

Attallah has had in his life a great many female friends, some of whom have contributed fond memories to this book. His male friends have been few – a partnership with the jeweller John Asprey ended only in acrimony and betrayal, but he counted Auberon Waugh as his closest male companion. They shared a sense of humour, a sense of honour, a sociability, a belief in loyalty, a love of risk, and, above all, an abiding belief in the quality and purpose of Literary Review, which, now freed from the Ondaatje grip, is in safe hands once again. But it will never be the same for Attallah, whose relinquishing of the title shortly after Auberon Waugh’s death in 2001 marked for him the sorrowful end of an era. Despite 763 pages of extraordinary upbeat hurly-burly, the book ends in a tone of lament, which (for various reasons) struck me as warm, sincere and moving:

The world suffered a tragic and irreparable loss with the death of Auberon Waugh five years ago. His memory is for me as sharp today as it ever was. His uniqueness as a person … whose eloquence drew on the music of words, stood supreme and unassailable. The years we worked together were the happiest I can remember. Soho is, as a result of his death, no longer a place I hanker to be. The void his departure created is too painful to bear … ‘Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse,’ as the French say.

The Chilcot Inquiry

The Chilcot Inquiry is becoming a real farce and a disgrace to the nation.

After six years, and at a great cost to the taxpayer, we are nowhere near learning the truth. It seems that the government, although frustrated by the length of time the inquiry has so far taken, is either not willing to force the issue of the publication of the report, or is powerless to do so for reasons only known to themselves.

Sir John Chilcot is now urged to step out of his ‘ivory tower’ and explain why his long-awaited report has been delayed. He is also accused of treating the grieving families of Britain’s soldiers killed in the conflict with ‘utter contempt’ by staying silent.

Bereaved relatives find themselves in a painful limbo because the Iraq Inquiry chairman was ignoring their pleas to reveal the truth about why their sons and daughters were sent to fight by Tony Blair, said a leading MP. Former Tory defence minister, Sir Gerald Howarth, became the latest senior figure to express disquiet about Sir John, accusing him of ‘sticking up two fingers’ at the families.

Relatives desperate to learn the truth about why Tony Blair sent their sons and daughters to fight said they were ‘appalled’ the Iraq Inquiry chairman had apparently taken time off. Pictured is Mr Blair giving evidence at the Chilcot Inquiry

Andrew Pierce, in an article in last Saturday’s Daily Mail, had the courage to indicate that when Tony Blair first appeared before the Iraq Inquiry five years ago, the chairman treated him with almost painful deference. He writes: ‘Chilcot, a crumpled figure whose opening remarks lasted seven minutes, never laid a glove on Blair, even though the former prime minister gave evidence for more than six hours. What few people know is that the bumbling Chilcot, a retired career civil servant, could in fact have greeted Blair as an old friend.’

Jack Straw (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)

Those opening lines in his article might lead you to believe that a possible cover-up in the whole inquiry is taking place.

The question remains: is Tony Blair, the Houdini of his generation, about to wriggle out of his heinous deed in waging an unjustifiable war based on lies in order to accommodate the wishes of his friend George Bush?

What about the true role of Jack Straw in this shameful affair?

And what about the cost in lives, not only in British soldiers but of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians who are to this day paying the price of his criminal adventure that has brought ISIL to the fore?

The whole saga is a serious blight on Britain, unless we demonstrate to the world that those who flaunt the law, irrespective of what position they hold in the land, are brought to justice.

Sir John Chilcot has no right to hamper the course of the law, otherwise he risks indictment.