The BBC’s apology last week to Lord Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, was “piecemeal” and insufficient, according to the recipient. At issue is the 1995 BBC interview with Diana—the one best remembered for “There were three of us in this marriage”—and the means by which the interviewer, Martin Bashir, got Earl Spencer to secure it: allegedly fake bank statements suggesting that a former Spencer employee was being paid to leak information about his sister, plus allusions to rumors that Prince Charles was having an affair with William and Harry’s nanny, the former Tiggy Legge-Bourke. “If it were not for me seeing these [bank] statements, I would not have introduced Bashir to my sister,” Spencer wrote, according to the Daily Mail, which on Thursday also claimed that the discs containing the fake bank statements, allegedly dummied up by a BBC graphic artist, had mysteriously vanished from the man’s home during a burglary 25 years ago. Although the BBC’s current director, Tim Davie, has now apologized for the deception, Spencer is demanding an inquiry. But the BBC says it cannot “progress this any further” right now because Bashir is reportedly ill with the coronavirus.
The headlines, all variations on the same core premise, were irresistible: “SAUSAGE KING” KILLED IN SAUNA WITH CROSSBOW was more or less how it went, whatever the publication. And why not—one sees that and reads on, right? Though it turns out to be the garden-variety sausage-king-killed-by-crossbow-in-sauna story. You know the mise-en-scène: an estate somewhere outside Moscow; a sausage-factory mogul, Vladimir Marugov, 54, and his partner, Sabina Gaziyeva, 36, are attacked by masked assailants while relaxing in the sauna; she escapes through a window; he, well, doesn’t. Police have arrested a suspect, and there have been unconfirmed reports that the detainee has possible ties to Marugov’s former wife.
The painting in question, Camille Pissarro’s Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep (1886), was stolen by the Nazis from Raoul Meyer, son-in-law of the founder of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. By the 1950s it was in the possession of an Oklahoma oilman and his wife, who in 2000 donated it to the University of Oklahoma. After Léone-Noëlle Meyer, the adoptive granddaughter of the Galeries’ founder, tracked down the Pissarro and tried unsuccessfully to get it back, she and the university—which said it never knew the painting had been looted—made a deal: the painting was hers but would be displayed in alternating locations, switching between Paris and Oklahoma every three years.
That was in 2016. But the Musée d’Orsay, to whom Meyer—who lives in Paris—wanted to bequeath the picture, declined, concluding that the back-and-forth (in tandem with the university’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art) was too complicated. The Times of London reports that because the agreement “stipulated that if Mrs Meyer failed to find a museum in Paris willing to exhibit the work, she would have to hand it to the US State Department to display in the country’s embassies around the world.” The 80-year-old heiress is now trying to have the agreement overturned in court. And the university is challenging her: “For all the good faith that the OU Foundation and the University of Oklahoma have extended to Ms. Meyer, it is disappointing that she is actively working to renege on the agreement.” Meyer has said that if she wins the case, she’ll give the painting to the Orsay, where it would be on permanent display—a long, long way from Norman, Oklahoma, like so many things.
It’s the kind of complaint that takes guts to file with the police: See, you bought this “Aladdin’s lamp” from a couple of fellows you met, and it was supposed to bring you all kinds of wealth and good fortune. But here’s the, um, rub: it didn’t. Worse, you also have to mention in the complaint that, by the way, as part of closing the deal, an actual genie appeared before you. So Laeek Khan, a credulous doctor in Meerut, India, had to weigh his humiliation (see above) against the $90,000-plus he’d handed over to the swindlers. Two of them—one of whom enacted the role of the genie in a darkened room—are in custody, and the wife of one of them is being sought. “The men have also cheated other families using the same scam,” said a Meerut police officer. Hey, it’s a living. Or it was.
Posters promoting Borat Subsequent Moviefilm that depict Sacha Baron Cohen wearing a ring engraved with the word “Allah”—and not much else beyond a wildly stretched face mask—are not going over well with some French Muslims. Some have asked that they be removed from the sides of Paris buses, many of which are driven by Muslims. The city’s transportation authority has refused, although the posters have been taken down from buses running through the largely Muslim suburb of Évry because, according to that local transportation authority, “their offbeat humor was judged … to be inappropriate.”
Playgirl is back. The magazine, founded in 1973 as a feminist answer to Playboy (Gloria Steinem was an early contributor), went through several subsequent editorial iterations, most of them featuring male nudity—along the way it also, inevitably, attracted a gay male audience—before ceasing publication, in 2015. Its first issue since then is now on newsstands, with a new publisher, Jack Lindley Kuhns, and a new editor, Skye Parrott. Inside: culture, fashion, art, politics, personal essays, and so forth. On the cover is a pregnant Chloë Sevigny, photographed naked by Mario Sorrenti. Clearly some distance has already been traveled from the “Campus Hunks” era.
The surfing world is buzzing about a video made this week in Nazaré, Portugal, of Andrew Cotton, the British plumber turned surfer and motivational speaker, skimming along what might be the biggest wave ever ridden. The current record of 80 feet was set in 2017—also in Nazaré—by Rodrigo Koxa of Brazil. It’s thought that the 42-year-old Cotton, who has evidently recovered from a broken back he suffered in a wipeout three years ago, might have topped that, but the footage has to be analyzed before a Guinness World Record can be approved. “It was the fastest I’ve ever been on a surfboard, that’s for sure,” Cotton wrote on his Web site. “Who knows what size that wave was. I hate being asked about wave size. I’ll leave that to someone else to decide. I was stoked to have ridden that one though!”
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL