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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 13th June 2004

Jack Nicholson's Ugly Courtside Behaviour


Bad news for basketball fans. Once again, the Los Angeles Lakers have made it into the NBA Finals and, once again, aficionados of the sport will be forced to watch the team's principal ornament as he jumps up and down like a demented child, screams expletives at the opposition and threatens the referee with violence. No, I'm not talking about Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' star player who's currently on trial for rape. I'm referring to Jack Nicholson.

Nicholson pays $1,900-a-game for his courtside seats, not so he can see the match better, but so the television cameras can get an unobstructed view of him. For over 30 years, the actor has delivered an Oscar-winning performance every time the Lakers' play at home, invariably climaxing with a nose-to-nose confrontation with the opposing team's coach. Judging from the expression on his face, he could easily be Colonel Nathan R Jessup delivering his most memorable line in A Few Good Men: "You're damn right I ordered a code red."

As with every Nicholson on-screen appearance, he anchors his performance around a few key mannerisms. There's the "jabbing fingers" routine, for instance, where he tilts his chin back, puffs out his chest and jabs two fingers at the referee. Then there's the "leaning into the wind" stance when he leaps from his seat, lets his clenched fists hang stiffly at his sides and tilts forwards as he expresses his opinion of the opposing team. Finally, there's the gesture known as "the choke". This is when he eyeballs some poor unfortunate and grips his own neck with both hands, indicating exactly what he'd like to do to them.

Nicholson's defenders say that the reason he gets so carried away is because he's such a passionate fan and maintain that, if he occasionally indulges in a bit of turkey cocking, it's only to discombobulate the opposition. On one famous night in 1985, when the Lakers were facing the Boston Celtics in the final, he actually mooned the fans in the Boston Garden. The Lakers went on to win the championship that year, their first NBA title.

But if Nicholson's such a committed fan why does he insist on watching every game through his trademark dark glasses? This is particularly mystifying given that basketball games are always played indoors. Why doesn't he simply take them off or, if they're prescription lenses, replace them with a pair of common-or-garden spectacles? Wouldn't that give him a better view of his beloved sport?

The answer's simple. Without the sunglasses he wouldn't be "Jack" and, more importantly, the television cameras wouldn't be able to pick him out of the crowd.

Scharzenegger's Latest Part

Arnold Schwarzenegger's last ever Hollywood role, as a Turkish potentate in Around the World in 80 Days, looks set to come back and bite him in the bum when the film is released next Wednesday. In the $110 million adventure-comedy, which also stars Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan, Schwarzenegger plays Prince Hapi, an aging reprobate who's constantly surrounded by scantily-clad women.

Schwarzenegger filmed his scenes last June, before he announced his intention to run for Governor of California. Given that his campaign was almost derailed by accusations of sexual harassment, his decision to appear in the film seems a little imprudent, to say the least. In one scene, he actually jumps into a hot tub and starts making unwanted advances towards a fetching young lady.

If Schwarzenegger is to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, and graduate from the Governor's mansion in Sacramento to the Oval Office in Washington, he should take a leaf out of his predecessor's book and kiss his acting career goodbye. (Actually, given his track record, it might be safer to just wave goodbye to Hollywood.)

Burglary, Hollywood-Style

I was returning from a dinner party last week when I suddenly found myself in an episode of Cops. I was unable to turn into my street because three patrol cars were blocking the entrance and, when I took an alternative route, I quickly encountered three more. Police officers were combing the bushes, apparently looking for clues, while helicopters hovered overhead.

What was going on? Had there been another murder in my next-door neighbour's property, known locally as "the OJ Simpson death house"? Had a couple of gangbangers wandered off course on their way from Compton to Watts? Had Osama Bin Laden been spotted in the nearby Getty Center?

The answer is none of the above. What had happened was that one of the houses on my street had been broken into and the LAPD had responded as they normally do when someone reports a burglary in the area. Bear in mind, too, that the house I'm renting is in Brentwood, a fairly middle-class suburb. I hate to think how they'd respond to a burglary in the Hollywood Hills.

There are many things I miss about living in London, but, somehow, I can't imagine the Metropolitan Police responding quite so energetically if a house was broken into in my street in Shepherd's Bush.

Lucky Break

One of the clichés you hear again and again about LA is that it's just one giant film set, a reference to the fact that you can't leave your house without spotting a camera crew. The truth of this cliché was borne out recently when a Hispanic murder suspect was able to prove his innocence by producing outtakes from a sitcom.

Twenty-four-year-old Juan Catalan was arrested in May of last year and charged with the murder of a 16-year-old schoolgirl. He had an alibi--he was at a Dodgers game at the time--but the police didn't believe him and he had no way of proving it.

He thought his goose was cooked until he remembered that an episode of the HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm was being filmed at Dodger Stadium on the night in question. His lawyer requisitioned all the footage that was shot at the Stadium and, sure enough, his client was visible in several scenes.

The lawyer presented the HBO footage at a preliminary hearing earlier this year and the judge dismissed the case.

Sharon Stone Overheard

A friend of mine recently overheard the following exchange between Sharon Stone and a woman in a bright orange dress at a black tie event.

Stone: "That's a great dress. I love the colour."

Woman: "Thank you ! I was afraid that I looked like a popsicle."

Stone: "Well, you know, good things happen to popsicles..."

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Twitter RT @freespirited_p: Now I see why #momentum and @uklabour want to bring the Venezuelan system here..... link  (50 minutes ago)

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