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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 13th February 2005

It's time for Sly Stallone to leave us well alone


Spare a thought for poor Sylvester Stallone. The ex-movie star is about to launch yet another comeback attempt, this time as the face of a new magazine called Sly. Not only will Stallone edit the publication, he'll also contribute most of the content, offering exercise tips, interviewing porn stars and revealing the secrets of his amazing sexual stamina. According to the New York Post, Sly is aimed at 35-54-year-olds-- which is ironic considering Stallone is 58. A better name for the magazine might be Bye--which is what Stallone should now be saying to his fans.

Sylvester Stallone's career is a good illustration of F Scott Fitzgerald's maxim that there are no second acts in American lives. Of course, this doesn't always hold true. Stallone's closest rival back in the Eighties was Arnold Schwarzenegger and look what's happened to him. But as a general rule it holds true. Which is why it's so undignified when former stars like Stallone insist on trying to remain in the public eye long past their sell-by date.

Stallone is one of those ex-celebrities who possess fame but no glamour. Other examples of the same vintage include Steven Segal, Robin Williams and Sharon Stone. They've all entered a showbiz twilight world in which people have heard of them, but have no wish to see them. Stallone's last role was a cameo in Spy Kids 3 (2004), having failed to set the box office alight with his last three star vehicles, D-Tox (2002), Driven (2001) and Get Carter (2000). It surely won't be long now before he takes a leaf out of his mother's book and starts appearing as a circus freak in second-rate reality shows.

Stallone would be much better off modeling himself on Johnny Carson, the legendary talk show host who died earlier this year. Carson was the presenter of The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992 when he voluntarily retired. For the remaining 13 years of his life he was a virtual recluse, only coming out of retirement once to do a quick, silent turn on Late Night With David Letterman. It was a dignified exit, ensuring that the public remembered him in his prime, rather than, like Stallone, a pathetic figure desperately trying to cling on to the limelight.

It's not as if Stallone needs the money. He currently lives in a $20 million house in Beverly Park, Hollywood's most exclusive gated community. Indeed, not long ago, he bought the house next door to prevent an undesirable neighbour moving in. Why can't the former Rocky star simply rest on his laurels instead of constantly trying to regain his title as the box office champ?

Come on, Sly. It's time to retire to the Hollywood Hall of Fame.

HUGH ARE YOU KIDDING?

Is Hugh Grant the vainest person in Britain? He's just announced that he's thinking about buying his own private island so he and his girlfriend, Jemima Khan, can get away from the paparazzi. The implication is that he's now so famous he can't go anywhere in the world without being pursued by ravenous packs of photographers.

But is this really true? Surely, there are plenty of unfashionable holiday destinations Hugh and Jemima could go to without attracting any attention whatsoever. For instance, I don't imagine there are many celebrity photographers trawling the beaches of Blackpool. If he and Jemima really want to get away from it all, why not embark on a two-week trip to the Las Vegas of the North?

Not long ago, I happened to be at Annabelle's, the famous Berkeley Square nightclub, when I noticed Hugh and Jemima huddling at the exit with a group of friends. They were venting their frustration about the fact that they wouldn't be able to leave without being mobbed by paparazzi--and their friends were all cooing and clucking sympathetically. But I remember thinking, "If you don't want to be photographed why come to a place that you know in advance is going to be surrounded by photographers? Why not go to the Hammersmith Palais?"

Celebrities are constantly complaining about their lack of privacy, but if they insist on going to see-and-be-seen places they should be a little more gracious when someone standing outside tries to take their photograph or asks for their autograph.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

It's official. I've now entered my twilight years. How do I know this? Because last week a biographer contacted me to see if he could take me out to lunch to interview me for a book he's writing about one of my contemporaries.

I was expecting this to happen when I was several years into my retirement, not at the tender age of 41. But the contemporary in question is Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of the Spectator. Boris is actually a year younger than me, but I suppose I should be thankful that this hasn't happened sooner. After all, David Beckham is only 29, yet already he's been the subject of at least a dozen biographies.

I'm sure this will be the first of an equally large number of books about Boris. He's one of the great personalities of our age, destined to be the next Conservative Prime Minister, and by the time I actually do retire I expect I'll be able to live off the meals I'm bought by his biographers.

FAULKS'S FAUX PAS

Is Sebastian Faulks a triumphalist snob or just a bit thick?

He is one of seven authors living in Notting Hill Gate who's been asked to write a poem celebrating the area to be displayed in a specially-adapted paving stone. Faulks's verse reads as follows: "A word in your eye / Don't worry or push / A step in the Gate / Is worth two in the Bush."

On the face of it, the meaning of this short poem couldn't be clearer: property in Notting Hill Gate is worth twice as much as property in the neighbouring postal district of Shepherd's Bush. Yet is this what Faulks intends to convey? Such crass braggadocio seems a tad out of character for the author of Birdsong and Charlotte Gray. He's a sensitive novelist, after all, not a second-hand car dealer.

The explanation, I think, is that Faulks intended to communicate something bland and inoffensive about Notting Hill--it's simply a more pleasant place to stroll about in than Shepherd's Bush--but framed his poem in such a way as to leave it open to misinterpretation. In other words, he's not an insufferable show off, bragging about how much his house is worth. He's just not very bright.

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Twitter RT @JoJohnsonUK: It's time to debunk the myth surrounding two-year degrees link  (6 hours ago)

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