Who knew my weekly column was such a mouthful?

Shavers Weekly penis jibe

Shavers Weekly penis jibe

Just as well I’m thick-skinned, eh?

Those over-exuberant young scallywags at Shavers Weekly have speared me with satire in their latest, laugh-a-minute edition.

It would seem they find the weekly column I write for the Daily Record’s Edinburgh Now supplement as something of an unwelcome mouthful.

Everyone likes to be recognised for their work, so clearly this mud slinging comes as a bit of a job blow.

Despite the naughty allegations, I suppose it could have been worse.

After all, the schoolboy humour fuelled magazine labelled my fellow Edinburgh Now columnists as “boring” or “drunk”.

However, it does leave me wondering: just how could they have known about my, ah, special skill?

And with that spoiler out there, how am I possibly going to find an alternative party trick in time for the Christmas season?

Tchoh.

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Fleet street veteran Gordon makes Hay in the world of crisis management

Jocky and Molecatcher

Jocky and Molecatcher

It’s been a while since I last caught up with Gordon Hay (universally known as Jocky), who was my gaffer for a while on the Daily Record newsdesk.

Last time I saw him in action, Jocky was manfully trying to calm down an editor who was rather prone to overheating.

That was a mere footnote in a  a distinguished newspaper career which saw him work for most of the papers you could care to name – including stints on various Fleet Street titles (when Fleet Street was still a force to be reckoned with).

Jocky was legendary for collecting handsome redundancy payouts from virtually every one of those titles. His special knack was working for papers just long enough to qualify for a golden handshake whenever the newspaper market went through one of its all-too-frequent readjustments. Right place at the right time and all that.

After he finished at The Scotsman a couple of years ago I thought Jocky might have called it quits, especially when news reached me he’d bought a rather swanky villa in the Spanish sun.

It’s been even longer since I last caught up with Jocky’s good pal, Ian McKerron, another newspaper heavyweight – and the man with the greatest nickname in Scottish media: Molecatcher. Last I heard he was living off the royalties from a golfer’s handbook he’d written.

After years of grafting at the coalface of truth, you’d think the guys had earned the right to ride off into the sunset?

Nope. The duo have reinvented themselve as crisis management specialists and currently have their hands full handling media inquiries for the group which is mouting a legal challenge in an attempt to prevent the Bank of Scotland being bought by Lloyds TSB.

It would be hard to imagine a couple of newspaper bruisers like Jocky and Molecatcher quietly disappearing into early retirement. Even harder to see them reinventing themselves as a couple of PR luvvies.

So crisis management is probably the ideal solution to provide them both with a regular fix of media contact and adrenaline. Which just goes to show that the best hacks never really quit – they just find new ways to lurch from calamity to catastrophe.

Whisper it though – Jocky and Molecatcher still make an unlikely couple of flacks!

Mad Dogs – a bit scary but always entertaining.

A Mad Dog yesterday

A Mad Dog yesterday

This is a story about serial killers and seedy boozers. So it’s strange that it should kick off with Ian Kyle, the mild-mannered, well-loved and thoroughly decent head of the communications team at West Lothian Council.

Last Friday was a special celebration for the wee man (nicknamed Kylie Minnow) to mark his imminent retirement. Pals from across the years gathered at the Inchyra Grange hotel in Central Scotland for a fond tribute to Kylie, who’ll be taking up full time getting-under-the-wife’s-feet duties from early next year.

After the do, a group of us who had all served in the trenches at the Evening News with Kylie (Between the mid 80s and the mid 90s) caught the train back to Edinburgh. For a bunch of blokes in our 40s there was only ever one venue we were heading to as the clock ticked towards 1am. Madogs.

The George Street basement boozer has always been one of those bars where the sign above the door should read: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here“. (Check the reviews – “Bring yer wellies” says one. “Reminds me a little of my holiday Rome,” says another. “Drab, dark and damp.” Ho, ho)

Despite its reputation as a haven for the desperate and the delusional (not to mention the very, very drunk) there are times you can’t help but find yourself there. Especially when no-one else in your crowd is prepared to brave the queue at nearby Fingers Piano Bar. But that’s another story.

One of Friday night’s drinking buddies was Stephen Rafferty – and it was like old times for the pair of us to find ourselves supping in Madogs, which might be a bit scary – but is always entertaining.

Every time we’ve ever found ourselves there, we’d reminisce about the stories Raff had covered in his Crime Reporter heyday about the serial killer who shares a name with the dive –  Archie “Mad Dog” McCafferty.

He’s the man who left Scotland as a wee boy, grew up in Australia to become a mass murderer, then was promptly shipped back to Scotland after completing his jail sentence Down Under. 

It still defies belief that while we worked at the Daily Record, Raff was fined  and earned a criminal record, for sticking his foot in Mad Dog’s front door while trying to get an interview with the killer, not long after he arrived back in Scotland.

Raff makes mention of that incident on his own blog (click here), while  I’ve also blogged on this in more detail – here. It was a travesty of justice at the time and looks even more ludicrous now, since McCafferty’s been up to all manner of bonkers behaviour and criminality in the intervening years.

So, it seems entirely appropriate that while we were drinking in Madogs, the barking one himself was making  his presence felt again. That very evening, Deadline Press & Picture Agency reporter Paul Thornton was receiving menacing phone threats from – yes, you’ve guessed it, Archie “Mad Dog” McCafferty.

Paul is Deadline’s Sheriff Court reporter and picked up a cracking yarn about Mad Dog being in court – under his new identity (read the full story here). It appears Archie is now calling himself James Lok. Why, I have no idea.

However, Paul tells me that after uncovering his story he made contact with Archie/James and added:

I called him and told him I was doing a story and he went bananas but did not threaten me.But on Friday night at about 8pm I got a call from a drunken guy calling himself Colin Stone, he said he was a friend of Archie McCafferty and if I did not drop the story I would have to “face the consequences”.

Unfortunately I did not have a note pad or anything to record what was said but it was along the lines of “you don’t know what you are dealing with and we will sort you out”. I asked him if he was threatening me and he said yes, soon after the conversation ended.

It’s not every day a member of your staff gets death threats from a convicted mass murderer (or his associates), so young Paul can wear that as a badge of honour as his journalistic career progresses.

 

Meanwhile, it’s also upped the ante dramatically for me. It used to be no Friday night was complete without a scary-yet-highly-entertaining Mad Dog interlude – now I need two if I really want a night to remember!

Why Top Gear’s Clarkson should be thoroughly ashamed of THAT comment

The Daily Record’s Amy Devine contacted me by email today – to remind me that when we worked together waaay back in 2003, I used to endlessly wind her up because her dad was a long distance lorry driver.

I would regularly suggest that, by dint of his occupation, he must be a serial killer with a penchant for dumping bodies in laybys.

Amy wroter: “See big Jezzers Clarkson’s in the sh*t for repeating your lorry driver jokes on TV?! He he. Great minds think alike, eh?”

Needless to say I think it’s hilarious that Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is giving that cliched old myth of lorry driver’s as prostitute killers a fresh airing and impetus for a whole new audience.

The concept is only marginally more ridiculous than suggesting all truckers eat Yorkie bars, hedgehog sandwiches or dabble with CB radio. Doesn’t make it any less funny though.

Clarkson’s raison d’etre is to be a controversial, middle-aged, right-wing reactionary, playing to exactly this type of ludicrous opinion. A bit like Al Murray’s Pub Landlord with just a bit more blurring between reality and performance.

He does it brilliantly, has become a willing parody of himself and in the process helped elevate Top Gear from a cult show for petrolheads into a laddish, light entertainment masterclass and a much-loved national institution.

But currently everyone and anyone employed by the BBC to be controversial is being reined in thanks to a bout of misguided national moralising. Earlier in the year anyone tuning into the previous series of Top Gear would have expected comically outrageous rhetoric from the big fella.

He is, after all, an unreconstructed, chain-smoking, Sun column writing Alpha male who revels – nay glories – in the damage cars cause to the environment and thinks nothing of baiting redneck Americans for sharing his disapproval of “man love“. Hardly PC then.

Yet this week we’re expected to jump up and down and believe his most recent comment is somehow prejudicial and offensive. To truckers. Or to prostitutes. I’m not sure which.

It’s the same kind of collective madness which saw Russell Brand  – a man whose entire reputaton seems built on his audience’s appetite to hear about his sexual antics – berated for boasting of, er, his sexual antics. That’s consenting shenanigans, mind you. With a young woman renowned for posing for raunchy pictures and videos when not singing with the Satanic Sluts.

Or maybe I got it wrong and actually him and Jonathan Ross were carpeted for irreverently poking fun at a man whose own comedic career was built almost entirely on ridiculing continental Europeans, particularly those of a Latin persuasion.

Clarkson must be laughing like a blocked drain that he – a man celebrated for his single-minded dedication to pricking anything remotely politically correct – is suddenly at the centre of such a pointless PC storm.

But there is one aspect of Clarkson’s behaviour which is totally inexcusable. Plagiarism. There is little doubt in my mind that he stole his entire “truckers kill hookers” schtick from the genius publication, Viz. I know I did:

Killer Truckers

Killer Truckers

This strip came from issue 123 (March 2003) and took me ages to find.

Oi! Clarkson! Next time you want to stoke up a media storm over inappropriate comments, make sure you credit your sources!

Learning the high cost of failure to use spell check

A nice simple media dilemma for a change:

 

Ace hack-in-the-making Douglas Walker at Deadline Press & Picture Agency, felt a bit aggrieved after one of the agency’s stories ended up as the subject of an irreverent mickey-take on the Spike section of All Media Scotland.

http://www.allmediascotland.com/articles/2728/23062008/going_public_with_spelling_error

He asks:

I know this was our fault ultimately, but to be ridiculed by All Media is a bit much, is it not?

 

Well, naw. It was a howler – and a funny one at that. And Spike is there to make sure none of us in the media take ourselves too seriously, even if there is a serious message to pass on. In this case it’s a reminder that everyone at Deadline should be running a more thorough eye (and spell check) over their copy before sending it out.

 

None of the papers have the staff to carry out the same level of checks and balances these days and the subs and news desk people who do catch these type of howlers don’t haves the time to phone up agencies and let them know when standards are slipping. So it’s up to the likes of AMS to give us an occasional kick up the @rse.

 

I’m going to come over all old-fashioned here – because as a young hack, these kind of blunders would have resulted in a monstering from Hamish Coghill (at the Evening News) or Malclolm Speed (at the Daily Record). I still break out in a cold sweat at the thought of some of the pastings handed out by a couple of old school pros who were absolute sticklers for doing everything, well, properly. Check, check. And check again.

 

To be “Coghilled” at the Evening News was a singular experience. One bleary-eyed Saturday morning I turned up horribly hungover, minus my socks, without a tie and with a heid like a burst sofa – only to bump into Hamish in the corridor. I feared the worst.

 

However, he failed to noticed my dress sense and instead gave me a tongue-lashing for a story where I’d described a sex attacker as a monster(“A monster is what you find in Loch Ness – not on Princes Street!”). He also gave me the hairdryer treatment for describing a reward being offered as over £1000 (“You go over a bridge – but it should be more than £1000!”).

 

An even more pernickity rollicking was handed out to Magnus Llewellin, now of The Herald, who wrote a story which described some street crime perpetrator as making his escape north up Whitehouse Loan. Hamish was apoplectic: “Any fool knows that you go north DOWN Whitehose Loan. It slopes up to the south!”.

 

Of course, back in the day, there was another unwritten rule. No matter how bad a howler was dropped by a newspaper, none of the others would make any capital out of it. Oh aye, the staff on the Record might have a laugh at some clanger in The Sun – or vice versa. But no-one would ever committ their jibes to print.

 

Why? Because the simple truth is that mistakes happen – no matter how thorough the checks. So everyone took the view, that “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

 

Let’s just hope AMS manages to keep its nose very clean for the next weeks.

Digging for victory. TV star Dr Neil Oliver notches up another success.

Dr Neil Oliver, Presenter of BBC show, Coast

There’s not much on TV ithat nterests me theses days.

Reality shows are a turn off – even those which, like The Apprentice, I’m told are pretty good. I’ve never been one for soaps or British cop shows. Then I’ve lost track of the baffling number of comedy shows on offer and struggled to find one to really make me laugh (though the news series of Peep Show is getting rave reviews).

Meanwhile, the big dramas, like the recent ITV offering, Flood, are total gash. Thankfully, I didn’t invest any time in watching it though it must have been grim for the TV critic Ally Ross and columnist Lorraine Kelly to each give it a hearty kicking in consecutive days in The Sun.

Nah. I’ve turned into a curmudgeonly old sod and only rarely pull my nose out of a book to switch on the telly. And then, it’s usually to watch some nature or historical documentary. Give me Attenborough or Schama any day of the week.

Which brought me recently to an episode of the BBC’s Coast. I’ve caught this before but this time I was struck by how visually impressive it is. Mibbes it was something to do with the new flat screen telly. Or mibbes it mostly caught me attention because windswept Dr Neil Oliver was striding across the landscapge.

TV is always more interesting when you know the person on screen and I have a passing acquaintance with Dr Neil, from his time in Scottish journalism. So I sat up straight and paid that bit more attention while he was on.

I was impressed. Even more so when I mentioned the subject next day to my business partner Raymond Notarangelo, who said that Dr Neil apparently writes most of the show and the accompanying book. Among his many other achievements is that he also wrote the book, Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys.

Coast is obviously a success, since they seem to be making a new series. Earlier this week I picked up a copy of the Evening News to find an appeal for anyone with interesting stories about coastal life in East Lothian to contact the BBC (read it here).

Then in Saturday’s Daily Record I read that Dr Neil has an even greater reason to celebrate – the birth of a third child. Wife Trudi gave birth to new son, Teddy this week. A wee brother for Evie and Archie.

Congratulations all round. Dr Neil likes wee boys to have decent role models – and certainly wee Teddy and older brother Archie are going to grow up with a successful dad they can really look up to.

Here’s a Morse mystery I’d like to see cleared up asap

Whrere is Colin Dexter when you need him?

I’m perplexed by the twists and turns of a baffling whodunnit set in Oxbridge and involving a central character called Morse.

The plot, in brief, is this: a much-loved characted has been ruthlessly offed, causing much grief-stricken wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The most likely suspect is known for being scheming, aloof,  unapproachable and motivated almost solely by money. In other words, the polar opposite of the popular and highly thought off victim.

Yet all may not be as it seems. Indeed, scratch the surface and it would appear the victim may have made enemies with cause to celebrate his demise. As the mystery deepens who knows what other skeletons may fall out of closets?

I am of course referring to the departure of Murray Morse from the Cambridge Evening News. Many in the Scottish media know him from his time at the Edinburgh Evening News and the Daily Record, two stop offs on a career which has taken him to virtually every corner of the UK.

Whenever I worked with Muzza he was the type that polarised opinion (for the record, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of his team). Yet he seems to have united feeling – at least in the newsroom – at Cambridge where the staff loved him.

All of which contributes the mystery surrounding exactly what has befallen Murray. All appearance suggest he has been clincially dispatched from a job he loved and where he brought considerable success.

Consensus (again, among the newsroom staff) is that he was killed off by the management. When Muzza’s initial departure was announced by Hold The Front Page, it prompted a chain of comments from gutted staff, who applauded him all the way out of the building. You can read the full list of comments here.

Yet, heartfelt as those messages may be , they offer no real answers or inisght into what has gone on. Indeed, they serve only to confirm that no-one saw this coming. A real mystery, indeed.

Meanwhile, the supportive messages are peppered with gripes from at least one disgruntled reader, claiming many have been unimpressed by Morse’s robust editorial style. They’ve even gone so far as to claim he had it in for minority groups, echoing previous disapproval over his paper’s stance of travelling people. Clues to a possible hidden agenda, perhaps – or simply a red herring?

Then there’s the contradictory messages from the man himself. Only last Friday he was approached by HTFP and expressed astonishment that there could or shoud be any speculation about his future. A short time later he exited the buidling with what amounted to an honour guard of tearful newsroom staff applauding him all the way.

Following the amazing emotional scenes surrounding Muzza’s departure (I’ve certainly never heard of scenes like that before) the situation has shown no signs of calming. Indeed, it has reached even more jawdropping levels – with newsroom staff supporting a vote of no confidence in the management, who they blame for assassinating their beloved leader.

Now comes a fresh report from jounalistic bible, the UK Press Gazette, which has managed an interview with the man himself. Those following the saga and hopiong for an insight into what has really happened, will be disappointed.

But the unexpected plot twists continue. When Muzza got his chance to speak out he insisted to the UKPG that he left by mutual consent because the job held no more challenges for him (read the full UKPG article here). Ahem. Aye right.

The Muzza I knew was never one for management double speak. So, I can only guess he has been made the subject of some sort of gagging agreement. Fair play, as well as being an excellent boss and newspaper man, he is a doting father of two – and his thoughts now will be on doing the right thing for his family.

So we’ve gone from sudden and highly unexpected departure, through highly-charged emotional scenes to total information vacuum in the space of a few days.

I genuinely hope this potboiler of a mystery is solved soon. Otherwise it is inevitable that the rumour mill will begin to grind – and if that happens I just hope it’s not unfavourable for my old mucker Muzza.