‘Shamed TV entertainer’ – as he was re-Christened by the British press – Michael Barrymore’s new autobiography ‘Awight Now: Setting the Record Straight’ has just been published by Simon & Schuster.
I’ve yet to see a copy, but the title and the blurb, the publicity, the large publisher behind it and the reports of a C4 series later this year suggest that Barrymore’s remarkable fight-back from being depicted as the most reviled figure in British light-entertainment history, if not British public life, and exiled to the penal colony of New Zealand, continues. It was dramatically kick-started earlier this year by his surprise appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and, even more surprisingly, not only somehow surviving right to the end but being voted the most popular actual celeb in the house. This in the teeth of a vicious hate campaign against him in the press.
It was a rather reckless move – it could easily have ended very differently, especially given his erratic behaviour – but perhaps it was entirely of a piece with our times that the victim of a (press) media show-trial should have volunteered to appear in another (TV) media show-trial as a way of rehabilitating himself. Particularly a man who had once been the nation’s favourite TV entertainer.
Almost everyone loves a winner, it seems. Especially The Sun, which didn’t spare him anything when he was in the House, making endless ‘jokes’ about ‘swimming pools’ and stirring up ‘outrage’, but then performed an impressively shameless volte face after his victory. The week after the series ended they finally printed the facts of the case instead of the fantasies, and presented Barrymore as a man wrongly blamed by the press for Lubbock’s death and injuries – cleverly stealing a march on its rivals, who were still peddling the tired old story of Barrymore the anal-rapist-murderer, or, sorry, ‘morally responsible’ anal-rapist-murderer.
All this was of course presented as a ‘scoop’ and the result of The Sun’s own ‘special investigation’ but, as was pointed out by at least one media commentator, much of what they ‘revealed’ as ‘new evidence’ was to be found in a three-year-old Independent On Sunday article by yours truly (posted below) – which I had based on the fiendishly clever stratagem of simply reading the transcripts of the public inquest into Lubbock’s death. The same inquest at which all the major newspapers – including The Sun – had staff reporters.
I predicted at the end of the piece that this scandal could turn out to be Barrymore’s last and biggest hit show and that the British public would never be able to forgive him or themselves for the crimes he committed in their minds, rather than real life. CBB seems to have proved me wrong about the first part and Barrymore seems to be doing his best to prove me wrong about the second.