I met Harvey Weinstein only once, at an event in 2014 at the Cannes film festival. From the stage he denounced this newspaper and the “Guardian reviewer” for our uncomplimentary coverage, and the noise in the room dwindled to an uneasy, giggly quiet. I had been tasked to talk to him later at the same event.
It was a brief and excruciating nose-to-nose encounter, in which Weinstein effected a capricious Caligula mood-shift to jokiness, making complimentary remarks about the paper’s Edward Snowden story. I can now see how that fits into his modus operandi: appearing to support liberal causes.
What a big, aggressive guy he was – and how courageous his victims have been. This is no abstract courage either. Some of them have been threatened with financial ruin.
I, in my wimpy way, quailed in this (entirely absurd) situation – in fact it was in Cannes every year that we witnessed Weinstein’s form in a related activity: workplace bullying. He was regularly to be seen striding up the Croisette, talking on the phone, his retinue fluttering around him – a mobile court of much younger people clearly on a knife-edge of hyper-alertness, having to anticipate their employer’s sudden decisions and fluctuations and fearing his temper. A colleague of mine recounted how, outside the Hotel Du Cap, one associate stopped talking to him, turned pale and then ran – literally ran – over to Weinstein when he snapped out her name.
Well, there is one thing to hold on to here – from a British perspective. At least these scandals are being uncovered while the perpetrators are still alive.
Trying to insult
A strange new class war is reported to be breaking out in the world of rugby, that game for ruffians played by gentlemen. The first XV of south London private school Whitgift annually faces off against nearby Catholic state school John Fisher. But the fixture may now have to be abandoned due to unpleasant chanting. Some Whitgift fans are reportedly shouting “Chav! Chav! Chav!” at their opponents.
But that’s not what’s causing the needle. The reports say that whenever Whitgift score, John Fisher fans shout: “5 points, 5 points, 20 grand for 5 points.” They are tactlessly alluding to a possibility that is dawning on parents of school-age children: that private education could be a way of separating pushy, credulous people from their money; that, in 2017, universities are not as beguiled as in days of yore by the old school tie, and state school education may be – gasp! – not too bad.
The riot squad may have to be called in when John Fisher parents start chanting: “You’ll never go to Oxbridge.”
The Marks of a great man
I feel a great sadness at the death of David Marks, the architect who invented a London icon, the London Eye, and changed the way the city thought about itself.
Back in 2000 people were sceptical about what was then called “the Millennium Wheel” – a fairground-type ride on the South Bank, across from the Houses of Parliament. But it seems to me the one thing of permanent value to survive the manufactured excitement about the millennium – the vapid dome having long-since been repurposed as an entertainment venue.
When I went up in the Eye I saw London’s buildings from above for the very first time; I saw their history, and in a way their fragility. It was strangely moving to rise above and come gently down.
The Paramount viewing galleries atop Centrepoint in the West End are no more, but we still have the Gherkin in the City and of course the Eye. David Marks contributed to the sum of human happiness.