Book Review: I’m Not One to Gossip, But…


John McEntee, diarist extraordinaire and his brother, Myles at the launch of I’m Not One to Gossip, But…

As someone with experience on the front line of social diary gossip writing, my hat’s off to John McEntee, who, as Jilly Cooper writes on the cover of his gloriously outrageous memoir, ‘is one of the funniest men in the world.’

With all the rapier wit he’s used for the past thirty years writing some of the most celebrated diaries and gossip columns in British newspapers, McEntee, an Irish Catholic from a rural Irish backwater, cuts a swathe through the pompous, the deluded and the overbearing.

Always dapper, incorrigibly well mannered in the face of boorish yobbery on a grand scale, John scythes a path through the English establishment, the wigged and frocked upper class twits in control of Britain’s media empires, with a notebook in one hand and a tasty tipple in the other.

The great and the good occupy these pages, indeed, they gather and queue, like supplicants at the court of a medieval despot, they crowd the halls and corridors, seeking, desperately, a fleeting grasp on the reins of power, while McEntee, the interloping jester, scoffs and scorns and ridicules their pretensions. If Indiscretion wasn’t his middle name, it should’ve been.

John began his career in the Anglo-Celt in Cavan, where his father was deputy editor. He moved from there to the Irish Press, my own alma mater, so to speak. In 1975 he moved to the London office and from there, began supplementing his meagre Press group stipend by selling gossip items to the tabloid diarists.

He made many enemies but far more friends and among these he counted Sir Terry Wogan, Keith Waterhouse, Richard Harris, Jilly Cooper and Anne Robinson, to name just a very few.

To say this book is funny is such a gross understatement, it cannot explain the aching pain I’ve experienced reading it or the suspicion, at times, I should desist while I go out and procure a pair of adult incontinence pants.

Mischief, some people call it and perhaps they’re right. It was certainly not malicious. At times, John reveals the decency and humanity that underscores his dealings with the world, as he sits, for example with the tearful wife of British comedian, Tommy Cooper, shielding her through an afternoon of wrenching grief, from a stream of  well meaning well wishers and then shielding the widow’s grief from tabloid exposure by telling his editor he hadn’t seen her.

I’m Not One to Gossip, But…,in another age and not so long ago, either, would be cited as essential reading for any newsroom rookie or copy boy, even it was as a warning to them that there but for the grace of some diligent work and a watchful editor, go they. Now, it is the chronicle of a time and style of journalism that is gone, forever.

I'm Not One to Gossip Launch Invite (Dublin)(1)

21 thoughts on “Book Review: I’m Not One to Gossip, But…

    • It is hilarious. When I started in journalism, John was the foreign correspondent of the, now defunct, Irish Press. His progress to gossip columnist reflects my own although I never left Ireland, even when I was making a living selling snippets to all the London tabloids. We teamed up for a while when I was Showbiz editor of the Mail on Sunday. He was outrageous, irreverent and thoroughly brilliant at ferreting a story. I took that picture of him at the launch party I organised for the Dublin launch of his book. His silk tie is the Gerald Scarfe cartoon of him on the cover of his book.

      • Brilliant! You always have the most interesting things to share, Dermott. I have a friend who I know will love this book and hopefully will lend it to me after he has finished with it!

      • Truth can sometimes make a parody of fiction. My last two blogs have been distractions. I made a short film last year, a collaborative effort with some like minded friends but myself and one other, did most of the work. He brought in an accountant of his acquaintance as executive producer. Apart from his name in the credits, he proved as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike or tits on a bull, if you like. Having not heard from him in eight months, I thought we were well rid of him. Until a journalist rang me on Sunday and asked me if I knew him. I asked, why? She told me he’s just spent eight months in jail for intimidating a witness in a particularly sordid case of alleged sexual assault and rape.

      • Oh my, the people you get involved with! But it’s true that real life does tend to be somewhat stranger than fiction, on the whole. Always a delight to read your posts 🙂

      • I don’t I’ll be posting about, not yet anyway. I just thought I’d share it with you. John McEntee writes about the size of former Labour PM, Jim Callaghan’s cock in just one of the hilarious passages in his book. I nearly pissed myself.

      • Oh, that’s just the start of it. First, some dead gay M.P. mentions it in a book, then John’s at some event and winds up standing beside Jim Callaghan in the urinal – quips about holding his honourable member etc – John later tells the same story to Germaine Greer who says she bets it wasn’t half as big as (some other well hung member’s)

      • Hmmm, I’m not sure if I would like you to elaborate on that, ‘a place for each and every one’, indeed. Curiously, I’ve never had any such fascination and I suspect, that fascination is fuelled by sexual politics, control and fears of inadequacy

      • Always remember the words of Oscar Wilde regarding all of us having our feet in the gutter etc a female friend of mine called me the other evening regarding a date we had for a show, later that evening. The show was in Bray, on the outer, Southern edge of Dublin. I live in the city centre. She lives in a north side suburb but was, at that moment, visiting her daughter, a couple of miles south of the city centre. Since she was to pick me up, later, I suggested she come straight to my place and we have dinner, before going on to the show. She said, no, she wanted to home and change, after an afternoon playing with grandkids. As well as that, she told me, straight faced, she had to feed her pussy. You couldn’t make it up.

      • That’s just brilliant!! I love it. Also, Oscar Wilde is quite probably my favourite writer of all time. The man really, really had a way with words.

      • My heavens, what else? Although Lord Alfred Douglas might have more to say on this subject, were he alive. Oscar, of course, who could resist anything but temptation , would’ve delighted in such notoriety, believing the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about.

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