In London …
Made to Measure
The pandemic has been rough on Stella McCartney Limited, perhaps less so on Stella McCartney. The designer enjoyed a $3.6 million salary in 2020, while her company’s 1,400 employees went on furlough, according to The Times of London, with 80 percent of their wages paid by a government taxpayer-funded plan. The LVMH-backed fashion house was also accused last spring of being a year behind on rent—nearly $1.4 million—at its Madison Avenue store, in New York. Well, at least McCartney’s salary, according to a company representative, reflected a pay cut. Because we’re all in this together.
In Ayrshire …
Trump takes a gimme
Taxpayer-funded wage furloughs have also come in handy at the Trump Turnberry, a Luxury Collection Resort. Donald “I think [Brex]it’s a great thing” Trump’s golf course in Scotland has admitted, in filings, “that Britain’s departure from the European Union hurt the company by damaging the ‘availability of drivers and staff, reducing deliveries and the availability of certain product lines,’” according to The Times of London, and that “the business had to pay more because of Brexit-related freight and import duties, while ‘lack of access to European staff’ was linked to the lower availability of workers and higher wage costs.” The newspaper also reported that Trump’s leisure businesses in Scotland have claimed $4 million in government subsidies—to put it in perspective, that’s slightly more than Stella McCartney’s slashed salary.
In Correns …
Brad Pitt tunes in
This coming summer Brad Pitt and the French record producer Damien Quintard are planning to reopen Miraval Studios, which over several decades, starting in the late 70s, hosted sessions for Pink Floyd, Sting, the Cranberries, Bryan Ferry, the Cure, AC/DC, and many other artists. Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought the 35-room Provence château and estate in 2008 for a reported $35 million, according to The Times of London. And it came with a vineyard. “The couple’s 2012 Jolie-Pitt & Perrin Côtes de Provence Rosé Miraval was ranked by the industry magazine Wine Spectator as the best rosé,” said the newspaper. Pitt and Jolie married at the château, separated two years later, and, “according to reports, a subsidiary of the drinks giant Stoli Group bought Jolie’s 50 per cent share in the estate this year.”
In Beijing …
It’s not easy being an influencer
China has levied a $210 million tax-evasion fine on the e-commerce phenomenon Huang Wei—known as Viya—the latest move in the government’s crackdown on influencers. The “live-streaming queen,” who had (past tense) 18 million followers on Weibo, the micro-blogging site, and 80 million on the online-shopping platform Taobao, opened her first boutique at 18 (she’s now 36) and can apparently sell anything, “from clothes and beauty products to food and even real estate,” according to the South China Morning Post. Last April she sold an online buyer the opportunity to launch a small commercial rocket for $5.6 million. (That might sound overpriced, but the BBC noted that “buyers were told that they could paint the body of the rocket and the launch platform, and that they could visit the launch site and control the launch.”)
Viya, who has also raised millions for charities and struggling businesses, was named to Time’s “Most Influential People of 2021” list—an accolade she might find difficult to repeat now that China has suspended her media and sales platforms.
In Córdoba … no, make that Espejo …
It has long been speculated that Robert Capa’s memorable photo known as The Falling Soldier, taken in 1936 at the battle of Cerro Muriano during the Spanish Civil War, was staged, and therefore more an example of ingenious propaganda than stunning battlefield photography. Now an archaeologist from nearby Córdoba says he’s certain the image is not what it’s purported to be. Based on the landscape in the photo and witnesses’ accounts, Fernando Penco has concluded that it was “taken instead near the village of Espejo, 31 miles from Cerro Muriano, the day before Capa claimed to have caught the image,” said The Times of London. Penco added that “staging was very common during the civil war,” and that, in any event, “there is no doubt that The Falling Soldier remains one of the greatest photographs of the 20th century.”
In a white tent somewhere in the English countryside …
Altering the recipe?
On your mark, get set … fake! A YouTube clip from someone called “Captain Disillusion” examines some of the tricks required to turn the U.K.’s The Great British Bake Off into the U.S.’s The Great British Baking Show. (“Bake-Off” was a nonstarter for the American version because Pillsbury owns the rights to the phrase—so watch what you say, even privately.) Among the elements of this “cultural translation,” as the captain (real name: Alan Melikdjanian) puts it in his “Great British Fake Off” piece: judicious if not perfectly smooth editing when winners are announced, eliminating references to “Bake-Off”; high-tech blurring of those same problematic words on any visible trophies; and two different versions of Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas’s opening sketch for each episode, one for each side of the Atlantic.
In Bucharest …
Hello, room service?
An Irish tourist recently tried to check into Romania’s Ceaușescu-era steel-and-bronze Palace of the Parliament—the heaviest building, and second-largest administrative building, in the world—thinking it was his hotel. It happens.
Had he been drinking? He had. It was four a.m. He made it through the courtyard, scaled a wall, broke a window, and got as far as the third floor before presumably realizing that his room key didn’t seem to be fitting anything. (He was arrested, said he remembered nothing, and was released after 24 hours.) The palace and grounds are guarded by 5,000 soldiers working in shifts, but clearly the shift with all 5,000 had just knocked off.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail