You might say it was the fashion police who thwarted an attempted early-morning raid by a half-dozen masked men on a cash machine in Rome’s Oly Hotel: the fashion police as embodied by six Miss Universe contestants kicking back after a local round of the competition. “It was close to 4 am and suddenly we heard the concierge rushing into the lobby yelling ‘thieves!’” one competitor, Anthea Del Negro, 19, told The Times of London. “I gathered up my violet evening dress and rushed over to him with the others, which wasn’t easy because of my heels…. When the bandits saw us they were surprised and backed off.” The hotel’s owner also credited the element of surprise—“Suddenly it was six versus six”—and, said the paper, a police official noted “that beauty queens would have been the last people the robbers expected to encounter.” Is there a movie franchise in this?
Clearly detecting an opening in the cultural landscape, the Danish broadcaster DR Ramasjang has just premiered a stop-go animated show for four-to-eight-year-olds about a man who has the world’s longest penis, and the high jinks that inevitably ensue. His name is John Dillermand, which translates to “John Penisman.” Did we mention the show is geared to four-to-eight-year-olds? The member in question is not realistically rendered—it’s red-and-white-striped and looks something like a very long garden hose—and Dillermand uses it as a whip to save children from a lion, but also, for instance, to steal ice cream from them. Opinion, unsurprisingly, is divided. Quoted in The Guardian, the author Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen asked, “Is this really the message we want to send to children while we are in the middle of a huge #MeToo wave?” But Erla Heinesen Højsted, a clinical psychologist, noted that “John Dillermand talks to children and shares their way of thinking—and kids do find genitals funny.”
Here’s another career opportunity—but acrophobes, no matter how proficient with a horn, need not apply. An opening for a bugler requires that a successful candidate play the “Hejnal Mariacki”—a five-note Polish anthem—four times every hour from the top of the highest tower of St. Mary’s Basilica. So, vertigo is definitely a deal breaker. Interested buglers must also be willing and able to climb, repeatedly (see “every hour,” above), the 272 steps required to reach the perch.
The “Hejnal” tradition dates to the 13th century and these days involves a kind of tag team of seven trumpet players. One of them is retiring after 24 years—hence the opening—though at least his tenure has ended more agreeably than that of his earliest predecessor, a sentry who in 1241 blew the alarm when he spotted Mongol invaders approaching the city and was rewarded with an arrow through the neck. (That, legend has it, explains the abruptly abbreviated five-note anthem.) “Recruitment is open to all who can meet the conditions,” according to the State Fire Service, which oversees the “Hejnal,” and for the first time the new crop of applicants includes a woman.
In what The Times of London called a “story of treachery, accusations of fraud” that “could be the script for an absurd thriller,” the legal tangle of Terry Gilliam’s famously disaster-plagued film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, has finally been sorted out. And it all seemed to hinge on whether the court felt that the director and the producer could ever, realistically, play nice in the sandbox.
Gilliam—of Monty Python’s Flying Circus—first started working on the movie, based on the Cervantes novel, in 1989, and in 2000 shooting began on a version that was to star Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort. That didn’t get far, but Gilliam, determined not to be known as The Man Who Killed The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, spent many more years trying to get the film made, in versions that were variously rumored to have starred Ewan McGregor, Jack O’Connell, Robert Duvall, Michael Palin, and John Hurt. In 2016 the project was jump-started, with a man named Paulo Branco signed on to produce, but the relationship between Gilliam and Branco quickly deteriorated. Gilliam, against Branco’s wishes, pressed on with another production company, made the film—with Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce starring—and in 2018 it had its premiere at Cannes.
Cue the legal dispute, which just ended in Gilliam’s favor with a High Court judge ruling, according to Variety, “that even if Mr. Gilliam had believed that Mr. Branco had the finance in place, the chance of his being willing to continue working with Mr. Branco was very low.” The ruling probably hasn’t improved those chances.
Beloved centenarian Captain Sir Tom Moore, he of fundraising fame (laps in his garden for the N.H.S.), talked to The Times of London recently and was as charming and thoughtful as when the world first met him back in April. “I felt younger rather than older when my grandchildren were born. That’s because I still remember what it feels like to be young,” he said at one point. “Teenagers are not easy, but old people aren’t easy either: the trick is to keep your mouth shut, even when you’re right.”
Finally, Nigel Rees, the writer and host of BBC Radio 4’s panel show Quote … Unquote, had some of his helpful “Laws of Quotation,” well, quoted, in TMS, the Times diary: “1. When in doubt, ascribe everything to George Bernard Shaw, except when obviously Shakespeare, the Bible or Kipling. 2. However sure you are that you have attributed a question correctly, an earlier source will be pointed out to you. 3. An earlier formation of a joke can always be found in Punch.” Rees really said all that? Sounds more like Shaw …
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL