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Friday 16th December, 2005
One Week with John Gulliver

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Sir Trevor MacDonald

Ossie Mehmet with customer Ed Grenby

THINK of the qualities we look for in newsreaders – someone trustworthy, steadfast and reassuring in a crisis – and the chances are you’ll think of Sir Trevor MacDonald.
The veteran ITN broadcaster retires today (Thursday) after 32 years at the top of the game.
And I wasn’t surprised to hear that the qualities that kept him there follow through into his weekly routines.
Ossie Mehmet, the traditional Parkway barber who has trimmed my beard since he set up shop in Camden Town nine months ago, has kept Sir Trevor’s thatch and ’tache in top-top shape for rather longer – since the beginning of his career, in fact.
Today he will come in for a final trim, as he has once or twice a week at Ossie’s previous shops in Holloway Road and the West End since 1973 – before heading down to Gray’s Inn Road and presenting the evening news one last time.
Ossie told me their remarkable friendship had seen Sir Trevor invite him along to awards evenings and them share a holiday in Las Vegas.
He said: “He’s a real gentleman – over the years so many people have seen him and have come in and asked for an autograph or a favour.
“He always tells them just leave whatever you want done with Ossie and I will see to it.
“Later they always come back and say he did everything they asked.”
Their trip to Las Vegas was a hit too, he revealed.
He confided: “Neither of us knew how to play blackjack but the croupier was very helpful.
“Trevor won $250 and he stopped. He said: ‘I’m not going to let them have it back.’”
Ossie’s other customers are no slouches either – they include Dr Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett.
But Sir Trevor will always be Ossie’s favourite.
He said: “He won’t let me call him ‘Sir’ but every time he comes in he says: ‘Good morning, Sir’ to me.
“He worked so hard for so long; he deserves a rest now.”

Rebel Roland has had enough

THERE are some grey-suited smart businessmen who look as if they are naturally born to run the world.
The trouble with the avuncular Roland Muldoon (pictured) – with his goatee beard and felt hat – is that he never looked the part.
That’s what troubled the stiff, unimaginative London Arts Board.
They could never imagine that he was the ‘chief executive’ of the Hackney Empire. What they thought wouldn’t have mattered, if they hadn’t controlled the purse strings which mean life or death for London’s fringe theatres.
I met up with my old chum Roland and his wife Clare at the Empire on Friday at a farewell party for the couple.
“I’ve had enough,” Roland told me, “after 20 years, I cannot do any more. As for the London Arts Board, they could never believe I was a chief executive. Tell me, what is a chief exec supposed to look like?”
Still, Roland has managed to raise millions of pounds – without a great deal of support from the London Arts Board – to restore the theatre to its former Victorian glory.
It’s been so ravishingly restored that it makes most West End theatres look boringly provincial.
Now in his late 50s, Roland is setting out to create a new theatre in Acton. Ever the rebel, as he stood on stage after the curtain fell at the Empire on the panto Jack and the Beanstalk, to take a well- deserved bow from an enraptured audience, did I imagine that he raised his right arm in the old fashioned Spartacus-style salute?
No wonder the London Arts Board could never understand the man!

The Reg and Jeremy show

EVEN that hardened politico, Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn tried to get in on the act at the Red Rose comedy club on Sunday evening.
But he wasn’t the only non-Jew to congratulate the fringe magazine, the Jewish Socialist, on its 25th birthday.
The other was the accomplished black American stand-up comic, Reg D Hunter (pictured), well-known on the comedy circuit.
He was sailing comfortably along, with jokes suggesting he was born in Poland, until his risqué remarks about his sexual prowess brought gasps from some feminists in the audience.
It was a kind of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor act combined, replete with four letter words, especially the ‘C’ -word, but he made the point that a word is only a word except, perhaps, when the word is ‘Nigger.’
A packed audience at the Islington club, raised more than £1,000, for a brave, pioneering magazine which is an enemy of Zionism while being critical of anti-Semitism.
Support was also given by comics Ivor Dembina – who compered the show – and a very, very funny Jeremy Hardy.

Daniel’s reaching for the stars

THE leafy streets of Hampstead have long boasted more than their fair share of acting and directing talent.
But, I hear, it could be home to a producer to rival the glory days of the Hollywood studio system, if Everyman Cinema owner Daniel Broch gets his way.
The businessman, 37, has won over an initially sceptical Hampstead cinema-going public since taking over the historic theatre in 1998.
Now he hopes to go the next step by backing upcoming directors and producing movies.
His first foray sees Anthony Minghella’s collaborator Cassius Matthias directing a short, ‘Trent to Rent’, in and around Camden this week.
If successful, Daniel told me: “We plan to go on and make feature-length films.”
He claimed not to have daydreamed about winning an Oscar, but joked: “Now I’m just like Sam Warner, only better looking.”

A meeting of minds for Cindy and Brian

HOW can one fail to admire a rebel like Brian Haw who has camped outside Parliament for nearly four years in protest against the Iraq war?
Libertarians have flocked to him. And on Monday he almost won a human-rights award sponsored by the human rights body, Liberty.
The prize went to the Refugee Legal Centre but legal journalist Marcel Berlins heaped praise on Haw for continuing to stick to his principles despite harassment.
My picture shows Haw and the US peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq.
Cindy visited him at his encampment on Sunday.
“It is an honour to meet him,” she told me.


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