Saturday 26 February 2022

Britain's oldest pub 'Ye Olde Fighting Cocks' closes as landlord blames Covid

St Albans: England's 'oldest pub' Ye Olde Fighting Cocks closes

Published5 February


Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans has survived wars and plagues but the coronavirus pandemic brought new challenges

A pub reputed to be the oldest in England has closed after its licensee's firm went into administration.


Christo Tofalli, who runs Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, Herts, said the move came after "challenging" trading conditions due to Covid-19.


He said he was "heartbroken" and had "tried everything" to keep open the pub, which dates back to AD793.


Mr Tofalli said the pub would reopen under new management but that he would "walk away".


He said the pub's owner Mitchells and Butlers (M&B) was now talking to the administrators of his company.


"We are all looking for the best way forward for the pub but it will reopen with new owners and I hope they will keep a bit of the soul and spirit going," he said.


M&B confirmed to the BBC that it had no plans to close the pub for good, but was talking to interested parties and planned to reopen the venue in Abbey Mill Lane at a future date.


It has survived wars, plagues and economic crises, but Mr Tofalli, who has run the pub for a decade, said the Covid-19 pandemic was "devastating" and, with tight profit margins, the business had "no safety net".


In a statement on Facebook, Mr Tofalli said that "after a sustained period of extremely challenging trading conditions, YOFC Ltd has gone into administration".


"Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going," he said.


"However, the past two years have been unprecedented for the hospitality industry, and have defeated all of us who have been trying our hardest to ensure this multi-award-winning pub could continue trading into the future.


"It goes without saying I am heartbroken: this pub has been so much more than just a business to me, and I feel honoured to have played even a small part in its history."


Mr Tofalli told the BBC that within hours of announcing the closure, he had been inundated with messages of support from both within the city and around the world.


"I've never seen anything like it," he said.


"With all the messages I have had, it speaks for itself what we achieved.


"To be reading about the impact we've had on people is mind-boggling and extremely humbling. We became an important part of the community... the family we created was huge.


"The time has come for me but we will make sure the handover is seamless and the synergy keeps going."


Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is a public house in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England. It is one of several pubs that lay claim to being the oldest in England, claiming to have been in business since 793 AD.

The pub was once recognized as the oldest in England by the Guinness World Records, but this title was rested in 2000. The building is described by Historic England as being of 16th-century appearance, but as the earliest date for which it can be proved to have been licensed is 1756 – and even that date is not certain – its claim to this record is somewhat uncertain. Others such as the Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton, Greater Manchester, and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham may have better claims. Even in St Albans, the White Hart and the Fleur de Lys (currently called 'The Snug') are believed to have been trading as inns in the late medieval period.


The pub is at the end of Abbey Mill Lane beside the River Ver, just outside the perimeter of Verulamium Park, not far from St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire.



The main structure is free-standing and has an octagonal appearance, attributable to its original use as a pigeon house. It has been added to over the years but the original timber-framed structure is clearly visible. It was originally close to St Albans Cathedral (when it was St Albans Abbey) and was moved to the present site sometime after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539. Its foundations are claimed to be even older, dating from around 793 but again this is dubious. It is claimed that there are tunnels running between the cathedral and the pub's beer cellars which were once used by monks.


As with many old buildings, the ceilings are quite low. An original bread-oven is next to one of the fireplaces. It has a large beer garden with different seating arrangements, as well as seats out the front.




The main structure of the building was built in the 11th century and was originally used as a pigeon house.


The building, in its current location, was originally known as The Round House[6] but there is no record of it being licensed as a public house under that name. The first known reference to it being an alehouse is in 1756 when it appears to be trading as The Three Pigeons. Around 1800 its name changed to the Fighting Cocks, perhaps in reference to the sport of cock fighting which was popular at the time and which may have taken place in the main bar area. The prefix "Ye olde..." is a late Victorian affectation. It is known by locals as 'The Fighters' or 'The Cocks'.


In 1950 the building was listed.


In 2015 PETA wrote to the pub's landlord and its owners, Mitchells & Butlers, requesting that they change the name due to its cockfighting association. The request was declined.


In February 2022, the pub went into administration.


The Cocks was featured in an exterior scene in "The Sins of the Fathers", a 1990 episode of the ITV series Inspector Morse. The setting was the beer garden along the River Ver, with the pub's large sign plainly visible in the background. It also features in the third series of Ricky Gervais' sitcom After Life.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Booknotes+ Podcast: Michael Knox Beran, "WASPs"

Mark McGinness

To the brownstone born: WASPS, by Michael Knox Beran, reviewed

A sweeping study of the WASP assembles a cast of characters from Astors and Auchinclosses to Whartons and Woodwards with chaotic exuberance and zip

From magazine issue: 4 September 2021

To the brownstone born: WASPS, by Michael Knox Beran, reviewed


It was only in 1948 that the term WASP was coined — by a Florida folklorist, Stetson Kennedy. Yet White Anglo-Saxon Protestant never satisfactorily defined this all-but-extinct breed of American Brahmin. In his sweeping, teeming study of the WASP, Michael Knox Beran concedes that the acronym fumbles its origins. For one thing, it excludes the Celts and Anglo-Dutch Patroons, several of whom lent gravitas and grit to the term and tribe. For this reason too, ‘Wealthy English Episcopalians’ does not work. It may extract the sting but it is belittling, so why tinkle with it?


It is sufficient to say that to be a WASP one should have been descended from the well-to-do classes of colonial and early republican America. Beran’s six pages of genealogical charts underscore the potency of descent and that sense of family.


In his great sweep — at times it seems more like a swipe — Beran has fun with a huge caste (yes, caste) of characters from Adamses, Alsops, Astors and Auchinclosses to Whartons, Whitneys and Woodwards. We meet good doughty souls, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, and gentle ones such as Amory Gardner. There is T.S. Eliot, Gore Vidal, Edmund Wilson, the beauteous Babe Paley and the brilliant Bundys.


Beran’s knowledge and research are prodigious. He has mined a rich seam of material and unearthed some gems. With acerbic asides and witty one-liners, he paints a vivid picture that praises or punctures these superior persons.


That titan and voracious collector Pierpoint Morgan, although from Hartford, ‘came to embody the brownstone virtues of New York’s WASP aristocracy’, but in pillaging the old places and appropriating their plastic and painted beauty, Morgan, like [Henry James’s Adam] Verver, only intensified the country’s philistinism, making art into a roped-off, Sunday-best sort of thing, incapable of brightening the prosaic day.

Bernard Berenson described one of Morgan’s houses as ‘a pawnbroker’s shop for Croesuses’.


There is the Bostonian Isabella Stewart Gardner. ‘Her tactics were outrageous, even vulgar, but in a city whose leading citizens had been bled dry by Puritanism and frugality, ostentation was poetry.’ To Henry James ‘she was not a woman, she was a locomotive — with a Pullman car attached’.


Lunching with Teddy’s daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth was, according to the last of their salonistes Joe Alsop, ‘like breaking bread with a scorpion’. The voluptuous Marietta Peabody Tree is described — again by the drawling, droll Joe — as a case of ‘beautiful bosoms beating for beautiful causes’. And, although all Irish, John F. Kennedy was the most WASP-oriented of the American presidents, more respectful of WASP mores than the maverick Roosevelts or the transplanted Bushes pushing their fortunes in the alien corn of Texas. Seeking to unwind, he unwound with WASPs.


In fact, Beran’s first book, The Last Patrician (1998), was a study of Bobby Kennedy. His theme: that RFK was steering away from the liberalism of FDR and his brother, taking a more conservative course. Beran’s occasionally chaotic arguments undermined his thesis. But the book’s liveliness and spark made it stimulating and illuminating.


And so it is with WASPS. It is chaotic, yet even the subtitle, ‘The Splendor and Miseries of an American Aristocracy’, reveals an exuberance and zip. Beran might have chosen ‘The Aspirations and Absurdities…’ but that would have discounted the achievements of imperfect yet noble giants such as the two presidents Roosevelt, Endicott Peabody and Henry Adams — pivotal patricians who dominate the narrative, striding through most of Beran’s 37 random chapters.


There is Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president, histrionic, flamboyant and ‘too rococo, and in some ways too great a character to be a true WASP’. Peabody was the seminal figure, the founding rector of Groton, the little school that shaped and primed generations of WASPs. Teddy Roosevelt thought him ‘the most powerful personality he had ever encountered’. Louis Auchincloss had never met a man ‘who radiated such absolute authority’, inspiring his classic, The Rector of Justin. As for the sphinx-like Franklin, ‘the greatest of the WASP reformers… ever the master of the manor’, after the old rector’s visit to the White House, the 32nd president murmured: ‘You know, I’m still scared of him.’


Henry Adams, ‘the unofficial pontifex Maximus’, great-grandson of the second president and grandson of the sixth, is one of the book’s heroes. Beran regards his The Education of Henry Adams as in some measure inventing the WASPs: ‘The tribe’s foremost primer.’


A century later, Beran, a fellow Groton-ian, has written their obituary. His first sentence is: ‘How do you write about flawed people in a scrupulous age?’ Well, it seems you do it with gusto. His premise? The WASPs simply failed to regenerate, and while Beran believes that their most significant contribution is ‘lost in a haze of dry martinis’, they did ‘generate places in which different aspects of the soul could ripen’.


If the fictional chronicler of the WASPs is Louis Auchincloss and its memoirist Henry Adams, they have found their historian in Michael Knox Beran.



Mark McGinness

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Magpie Murders | Official Trailer | BritBox

Magpie Murders, Britbox, review: a whodunit pastiche with a delicious conceit


4/5 stars

Lesley Manville stars in an ingenious detective series that pokes fun at...detective series



Chris Bennion

10 February 2022 • 5:00am


“There is nowhere more dangerous than an English village,” says Alan Conway (Conleth Hill) in the delectable Magpie Murders. And he should know, having become enormously wealthy churning out eight Agatha Christie-lite crime novels about the Teutonic genius Atticus Pünd, a 1950s private detective who cracks seemingly impossible cases from the shires to the wolds. And now, in the grounds of his country pile, the pompous novelist himself lies dead, murdered, without - it seems - having written the final chapter of his final Atticus Pünd novel, titled Magpie Murders. Dangerous places, English villages.


Anthony Horowitz, who has adapted his own crime novel, came up with the idea while working on the first series of Midsomer Murders, and that MM runs through this MM like a stick of rock, from the village-green aesthetic to the comical modes of despatch. Do not be fooled, however - Midsomer episodes are neat little headscratchers; Magpie Murders is an elaborate, cryptic puzzle box, with constantly shifting pieces. It is a whodunit about whodunits within a whodunit.


The conceit is marvellous. We have the archetypal accidental sleuth - Lesley Manville’s sharp book editor, Susan Ryeland - who zooms off in her vintage open-top sports car to Conway’s quaint Suffolk village (Kersey, which, TV fact fans, was also the setting for the first episode of Lovejoy) to track down the missing final chapter, only to discover she has a murder to solve too.


The answer to Conway’s death lies, naturally, within the pages of the unfinished Magpie Murders, which we also see played out, with Tim McMullan as the ace detective. Conway’s murder cannot be solved without the novel and Pünd’s final case cannot be cracked without Ryeland’s help.


Confused yet? There’s more. Conway’s final work seemed to predict his own death - both he and Pünd have an inoperable brain tumour - and the novelist crammed his book with people from his life, spoofing their foibles, airing their dirty laundry and ultimately, potentially, pointing the finger at his murderer.


This means most actors here are on double-bubble - Pippa Haywood plays Conway’s sadsack sister in the real world and the sister of the murdered Sir Magnus in the novel. Daniel Mays’ rude, interfering country copper DS Locke becomes Conway’s bumbling, brainless bobbie DI Chubb. Matthew Beard doubles as Conway’s spurned lover and Pünd’s sweet, dim assistant. And so on.


It is a concept that keeps giving and giving, with the fictional versions giving you clues towards the character and motives of the real-life characters, and vice versa, as you and Ryeland scramble desperately to work out both whodunits at the same time. Real-life characters who you thought Conway didn’t know suddenly appear in Pünd’s world, causing you to rethink all your previous calculations.


Occasionally it is maddening, but there is true satisfaction in watching the pieces of Horowitz’s puzzle click into place. I watched with a notepad. I recommend it.


If there is a drawback, it is that all this jiggery-pokery makes the characterisation - with the exception of Ryeland and Conway - a little thin, with the supporting cast in both worlds largely drawn from the whodunit stock cupboard, and the “fictional-fictional” case is far harder to care about than the real-fictional one.


Submit yourself to all of the tongue-in-cheek genre tomfoolery, however, and it’s a terrific series with enough in-jokes to keep any armchair detective happy - episode three, for instance, begins with a flashback in which Ryeland is telling Conway that he cannot begin with a flashback.


In a grey TV landscape crammed with humdrum whodunits, Magpie Murders is a splash of vivid colour.


Magpie Murders is on Britbox now


Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders is a 2016 mystery novel by British author Anthony Horowitz and the first novel in the Susan Ryeland series. The story focuses on the murder of a mystery author and utilises a story within a story format.


The book has been translated into multiple languages and has been adapted into a six-part drama series.



Susan Ryeland is the editor of the mystery author Alan Conway, who is known for his well-received series of novels centring upon the detective Atticus Pünd and for being very difficult to work with. Fans are eagerly awaiting Conway's latest novel, rumoured to be the last in the series, but when Susan reads through the manuscript she discovers that it is unfinished. When she travels to Conway's home to retrieve the final chapters, she discovers that he is dead. In order to discover the whereabouts of the final chapters Susan begins an investigation of her own and finds that the novel may have been based on true events, causing someone to murder Conway.



Horowitz first developed the concept of Magpie Murders during the first season of Midsomer Murders, which premiered in 1997. He has stated that he wanted the novel to "be more than just a murder mystery story" and to be "a sort of a treatise on the whole genre of murder mystery writing. How the writers come up with the ideas; how these books are formed."



Magpie Murders was first released in hardback and e-book format in the United Kingdom on 6 October 2016 through Orion. An audiobook adaptation narrated by Allan Corduner and Samantha Bond was simultaneously released through Orion and BrillianceAudio. The novel was given a release in the United States the following year through Harper and HarperAudio in hardback, e-book, and audiobook format. Paperback editions were released in the United Kingdom in 2017 and the United States in 2018.


In the following years the novel has been released into multiple languages that include Korean and Japanese (2018, through Kyŏnggi-do P'aju-si and 東京創元社, respectively), as well as Chinese and German (2019, 新星出版社 and Berlin Insel Verlag, respectively).



In July 2020 Deadline announced that PBS’ Masterpiece would adapt the novel into a six-part drama series and air it in the US, and on BritBox in the UK. Horowitz will prepare the script and Masterpiece will produce it along with Jill Green and Eleventh Hour Films. Tim McMullan was signed to portray the character of Atticus Pünd after actor Timothy Spall pulled out of the production due to scheduling issues, while Lesley Manville plays the central character of Susan. Daniel Mays, Alexandros Logothetis, Jude Hill, and Claire Rushbrook are also part of the series' cast.



Reception for Magpie Murders was largely positive, earning a "Rave" rating from the book review aggregator Book Marks based on eight independent reviews.[17] It was reviewed by outlets such as the New York Times and Time magazine, the latter of which called it the "thinking mystery fan’s ideal summer thriller."[18][19][20] Common praise for the series centered upon its characters and the use of the story within a story, with some criticism noting that the story within a story also made it difficult to keep up with the goings on.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

From Tailors With Love THE BOOK | The ULTIMATE Bond Style Book?

From Tailors with Love: An Evolution of Menswear Through the Bond Films

by Peter Brooker , Matt Spaiser

A SARTORIAL HISTORY OF CINEMA’S BEST-DRESSED SPY From Tailors with Love tells the story of the celluloid Bond’s clothing and the talents behind the wardrobes through the people who worked on the films, the fashions of the eras and the meaning the clothes have within the films. The book provides fresh insights through exclusive interviews with Bond-series costume designers Lindy Hemming, Jany Temime, Jodie Tillen and Emma Porteous, the late celebrity shirtmaker to the Bond series Frank Foster, Bond film director John Glen, menswear mogul Umberto Angeloni, keeper of the Bond brands David Mason and many others.

Monday 21 February 2022

Police to investigate Prince Charles' charity over ‘cash for honours

Police Launch Investigation Into Prince Charles's Charity


The Metropolitan Police launched an inquiry that the Prince’s Foundation exchanged donations for royal honors.



 FEB 16, 2022


The Metropolitan Police announced on Wednesday that detectives have begun an inquiry into Prince Charles's charity around cash-for-honors allegations that surfaced last year.


"The decision follows an assessment of a September 2021 letter. This related to media reporting alleging offers of help were made to secure honours and citizenship for a Saudi national," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. "Officers liaised with The Prince’s Foundation about the findings of an independent investigation into fundraising practices. The Foundation provided a number of relevant documents."


The charges of wrongdoing center on the Prince's Foundation, an educational charity that Charles founded, which allegedly exchanged donations for royal honors and British citizenship. The Metropolitan Police said their investigation is under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act of 1925—a law that makes the sale of peerages or any other honors illegal.


The chief executive of the Prince's Foundation was, until September 2021, Michael Fawcett—one of Prince Charles's closest confidants and aides. Fawcett was accused of helping to arrange a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire—the highest rank of the OBE awards) for Saudi businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, in addition to offering to help secure British citizenship for him. Fawcett resigned shortly after the allegations surfaced. Per the Times, Mahfouz has donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities, including some of Charles's pet projects like the restoration of Dumfries House and the Castle of Mey in Scotland. Mahfouz reportedly denies any wrongdoing.


"The Prince of Wales had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honours or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charities," Clarence House said in a statement to Town & Country.


According to the police, there have been no arrests or interviews under caution yet.

Sunday 20 February 2022

Queen Elizabeth tests positive for Covid - BBC News

The Queen tests positive for Covid


Covid antivirals an option for the Queen under care of medical household


Hannah Devlin

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent


Sun 20 Feb 2022 17.26 GMT


The image of the Queen sitting alone while mourning the death of Prince Philip has become a symbol of public sacrifice during the pandemic. And the 95-year-old monarch appears to have been fastidious in abiding by public health guidance, routinely wearing a face mask, scaling-back Christmas celebrations and publicly confirming her vaccination status. However, with continuing very high levels of Covid-19 in the community, even the most cautious are at risk of infection.


Throughout the pandemic, older people have been disproportionately at risk from Covid-19. During the first wave, about 10% of those aged 80 years and over who were infected died. And since March 2020, more than 5% of England’s population of those over 90 years old have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. But during the past year, things have improved dramatically for the oldest people in society.


Vaccination has offered a crucial wall of defence. The Queen had her first vaccine in January 2021 and is thought to have had all her follow-up doses. Early on, there was concern that vaccines would be less effective in older age groups due to the immune system being less responsive. And it does seem likely that older people are more susceptible to infection, even when vaccinated.


A study of more than 200,000 people published this week, found that older people have significantly lower concentrations of antibodies in their blood after vaccination than younger people and their levels of antibodies wane more quickly. But lower rates of infection suggest that older age groups more than compensate for this higher susceptibility by behaving more cautiously and having fewer social contacts.


Protection against severe disease in older age groups appears to be holding up well. Research by the UK Health Security Agency shows that around three months after they received the third jab, protection against mild infection among those aged 65 and over dropped to about 30%. But protection against hospitalisation remains at about 90%. Omicron has also turned out to be a milder variant, with the chance of hospital attendance in those over 70 years being reduced by more than one-third.


In January, the prevalence of Covid infections in the over-70 category rose above 3% – the highest at any time during the pandemic – and remain hovering above 2%. But there has not been a huge surge in deaths.


Buckingham Palace indicates that the Queen’s symptoms are mild. Even so, there are other protections that the Queen’s doctors may be considering. In a recent trial, the Pfizer antiviral pill, Paxlovid, reduced the risk of hospitalisation or death by 88% when given within five days of symptoms. The pill, along with another antiviral made by Merck, is automatically available to clinically extremely vulnerable people who test positive on a PCR test.


Outside this high-risk category, the drugs can also be accessed by those aged over 50 who have a health condition, such as heart disease or asthma, or who are considered by their doctor to be vulnerable, through the Panoramic trial. Doctors also sometimes recommend monitoring for more vulnerable patients using an oximetry device to keep track of blood oxygenation at home.


Prof Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said someone in their 90s would be at increased risk of severe disease compared with younger people, even if they had been triple vaccinated.


Nearly all severe Covid infections begin with mild symptoms, he explained. Prof Hunter told the PA news agency: “With somebody in their mid-90s, even if they’re triple vaccinated you are concerned that they could gradually deteriorate over coming days and so you would need to keep a very careful eye on them.


“You would, I think, almost certainly be considering giving antiviral drugs, of which there are a number around at the moment.”


He added: “If you do get them early enough it does reduce the risk of severe disease developing so I would imagine any doctor for a patient in their 90s would be considering giving these antivirals out.”


The Queen’s diagnosis comes as the government plans to lift all remaining Covid restrictions, including the legal requirement for people who test positive for Covid to self-isolate, in the coming days.

Affaire Epstein : le témoignage vidéo exclusif de Thysia Huisman qui accuse Jean-Luc Brunel de viol / Jean-Luc Brunel, held on suspicion of supplying girls to Epstein, found hanged

Jean-Luc Brunel, held on suspicion of supplying girls to Epstein, found hanged


Former model agency boss accused of rape and suspected of trafficking minors has died in prison


Kim Willsher in Paris

Sat 19 Feb 2022 15.14 GMT


The former boss of a French model agency accused of rape and under investigation on suspicion of supplying underage girls to the late American financier Jeffrey Epstein has been found dead in prison.


The body of Jean-Luc Brunel, 75, was reportedly found hanging in his cell in the early hours of Saturday. The French prosecutors’ office confirmed the report and said an inquiry had been opened into the exact cause of death, but early indications pointed to suicide.


Brunel was arrested in December 2020 at Charles de Gaulle airport before boarding a plane for Dakar in Senegal where he told police he was going on holiday.


He was officially put under investigation on allegations of the alleged rape of a minor and sexual harassment shortly after his arrest, and was put under a second investigation for the rape of a minor in June last year.


Investigators had also questioned Brunel on suspicion of the human trafficking of underage girls for sexual exploitation. He was being held on remand in La Santé prison in Paris.


Several top models had come forward to accuse him of sexual assault and rape, and French police had reportedly interviewed hundreds of potential witnesses. Brunel had denied any wrongdoing or any involvement in illegal activities. He disappeared from public life shortly after Epstein’s death in August 2019. Epstein also hanged himself in his prison cell while awaiting trial.


In the 1990s, Paris-born Brunel was a model talent scout and boss of the prestigious agency Karin Models. After he was banned from the agency in European 1999 following a BBC undercover report on abuse in the fashion industry, he moved to the US and founded MC2 Model Management with funding from Epstein. He is credited with discovering a number of supermodels including Christy Turlington and Milla Jovovich.


He met Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s partner, in the 1980s and she had introduced him to Epstein.


Brunel had been released on bail last November but had been ordered to return to prison after a few days to await trial.


His legal team said in a statement: “His distress was that of a man of 75 years old caught up in a media-legal system that we should be questioning. Jean-Luc Brunel never stopped claiming his innocence and had made many efforts to prove it. His decision [to end his life] was not driven by guilt but by a deep sense of injustice.”


In 2015, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who recently accepted an undisclosed sum from Prince Andrew – another Epstein friend – after bringing a civil case against the royal, accused Brunel of supplying girls to Epstein. She said the American financier had bragged to her that he had slept with more than 1,000 “of Brunel’s girls”.


Giuffre, who was abused by Epstein, had claimed she had sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions, the first of which when she was 17 years old. The prince had denied her claims.


Maxwell, 59, is currently in prison in the US, having been convicted of sex trafficking.


French prosecutors said Brunel’s death would put an end to the legal case unless other suspects were put under investigation.

Friday 18 February 2022

Inventing Anna | Official Trailer | Netflix

In June 2018, it was announced Netflix and Shondaland had acquired the New York article "How Anna Delvey Tricked New York's Party People" by Jessica Pressler, turning it into a television series with Shonda Rhimes serving as producer and writer, alongside Betsy Beers. David Frankel will direct and executive produce two episodes of the series, including the first. The nine-episode miniseries premiered on February 11, 2022.


In October 2019, Julia Garner, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Lowes, Laverne Cox, and Alexis Floyd joined the cast of the series. Madeline Brewer was set to portray the role of Anna Delvey but had to pass due to scheduling conflicts.In November 2019, Arian Moayed, Anders Holm, Anna Deavere Smith, Jeff Perry and Terry Kinney joined the cast of the series. In February 2020, Jennifer Esposito joined the cast of the series.


Principal photography began in New York and Los Angeles in October 2019.



On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 59% approval rating based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "While Inventing Anna is as tonally wobbly as Julia Garner's intentionally daffy accent, her committed performance and the salacious story make for juicy entertainment." On Metacritic, the series has a score of 60 out of 100, based on 14 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".


Saloni Gajjar of The A.V. Club gave the limited series a B- and said, "Despite its more evocative performances, Inventing Anna demands patience that doesn't pay off, squandering its promising potential along the way." Reviewing the series for Rolling Stone, Alan Sepinwall gave a rating of 2/5 and described it as "an overly long muddle, never quite sure what it wants to say about its title character, or how to say it."


Seen ‘Inventing Anna’? Here’s What It Gets Right (and Wrong)


A reporter who has followed the scammer Anna Sorokin, a.k.a. Anna Delvey, for years watched the new Netflix series about the scandal. The reporter has thoughts.


By Emily Palmer

Published Feb. 12, 2022

Updated Feb. 14, 2022


The new Netflix series “Inventing Anna,” about the con artist Anna Sorokin, better known as Anna Delvey, includes a playful disclaimer that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. “This whole story is completely true,” it reads. “Except for all the parts that are totally made up.”


But does the second half of the disclaimer refer to the stories Sorokin told her high-society marks? Or does it describe the story we see onscreen — the one behind Sorokin’s stories?


The answer, in short, is both: As Sorokin and the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”), would likely agree, there’s no sense in letting facts get in the way of a good tale.


Over Sorokin’s monthlong trial, which I covered in 2019 for The New York Times, evidence showed she stole a private jet and bilked banks, hotels and associates out of about $200,000. She did all of this while attempting to secure a $25 million loan from a hedge fund to create an exclusive arts club. Swindling her way into a life of luxury, Sorokin deceived Manhattan’s elite into believing she was a German heiress worth 60 million euros.


“The thing is, I’m not sorry,” she told me at the Rikers Island jail complex, in New York City, the day after a judge sentenced her to 4 to 12 years behind bars for charges including second-degree grand larceny, theft of services and one count of first-degree attempted grand larceny. She added: “I regret the way I went about certain things.”


Inspired by a 2018 New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler (a producer of the series), “Inventing Anna” tells the story of Sorokin’s climb through the uppermost circles of New York City art, finance and fashion — and of her ultimate fall from grace. The series, all nine episodes of which debuted Friday, is the first show Rhimes has created for Netflix herself, and in true Shondaland tradition, the show luxuriates in a soapy mix of sex, power and intrigue.


It also, per tradition, puts ambitious and complex women at its center. Sorokin, played by Julia Garner (“Ozark,” “The Assistant”), is just one of them — and not the only one who is ethically challenged. The story’s engine is Pressler’s fictional proxy, Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), whose pursuit of the story becomes all consuming.


But how true to life is this telling? I took a look at what the series gets right and wrong, drawing from my own experience and research, which included conversations with Sorokin’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, and friend Neff Davis, and a series of recent phone interviews with Sorokin. (A few minor details here are based solely on Sorokin’s word, so given her history, use your own judgment.) She has served her minimum sentence and is now being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a corrections facility in Goshen, N.Y. (She is facing deportation but has appealed the order.)


The journalism

For a show that includes a reporter among its producers, the writers pay little attention to what true or at least ethical reporting looks like.


Yes, office politics can influence decisions and relationships within publications, as in most workplaces. And yes, good reporting can include flattering and even befriending sources only to air their dirty laundry. But the series hinges on a moment when Vivian convinces Anna to forgo a generous plea deal and go to trial against the advice of her lawyer, all so Vivian can score a career-redeeming article. In the real world — or at least in the journalism world — that could have been the story’s biggest scandal.


In the series, Vivian is a disgraced journalist at the fictional Manhattan magazine who is looking for a big break. (She has been banished by her editors to “Scriberia,” the part of her newsroom where old writers are put out to pasture.) Seeing Anna’s story as her shot at redemption, Vivian curries Anna’s favor by bringing underwear to her at Rikers; by helping catalog evidence (“Let me be part of the team!” she says, also unethical); and by loaning Anna a white dress to wear during closing arguments, the better to project an image of innocence.



Portions of this are somewhat rooted in reality. Pressler came under scrutiny after reporting a fake claim in 2014 that a high school senior had made $72 million on the stock market. (New York magazine apologized for the article.) But by the time she met Sorokin in 2018, the writer had already bounced back at the magazine, publishing a December 2015 cover story about strippers who stole from “(mostly) rich, (usually) disgusting men.” That became the caper film “Hustlers” (2019), starring Jennifer Lopez.


But Sorokin said Pressler did not bring her underwear; according to Spodek, she also did not help catalog evidence. Sorokin confirmed that the decision to go to trial was her own — and made against the advice of confidantes. As for the white dress, Sorokin wore it during jury deliberations. By the time the guilty verdict came in, she had switched to black. (Pressler declined to comment for this article.)


The ‘V.I.P.’ treatment at Rikers

I’ve often interviewed inmates like Anna at Rikers and other jails, and the scenes of taking that Q100 bus offer a pretty accurate depiction of what family and friends (and eager reporters) go through to visit people behind bars.


But those authorized media visits — what the Netflix Anna refers to as the “V.I.P.” visits — are from a Dream Rikers, based on my own experience. Sure, reporters get to skip a few buses when they schedule ahead, but that can take a month to finagle and there’s nothing that feels very V.I.P. at the jail itself.


Still, this was Sorokin, a woman who always manages to create an exception. So, I wondered: Did her jailers really serve tea to her and Pressler in a brightly furnished private room? Anna said that they did not.


“Def no tea at rikers!” Sorokin texted from her corrections facility. But, she added, visitors had access to a cash-only coffee machine while she was in prison upstate, though “it doesn’t come in porcelain cups,” as the tea appears to in the show.


The courtroom drama

As in many Manhattan courtroom dramatizations, “Inventing Anna” features a different, more aesthetically pleasing courthouse from the one where the real trial took place. The one shown in the series is on Chambers Street, about a 10 minute walk from where Sorokin actually stood trial. But if you watch the first episode carefully, you’ll glimpse the much shabbier courthouse where the case played out, at 111 Centre Street.


Far more precise: the drama inside the courthouse. Spodek, Sorokin’s lawyer (played in the series by Arian Moayed), delivered a made-for-TV opening statement, comparing Sorokin’s New York dreams to those of Frank Sinatra. Similarly, the re-creation of his heated cross-examination of Rachel DeLoache Williams, a former friend of Anna’s who got stuck with a $62,000 bill for a Marrakesh trip, was a slightly shorter version of the rousing original.


Yes, Spodek even made Williams cry — tears lost on the jury when she proclaimed, “This is the most traumatic experience I’ve ever been through.” American Express eventually forgave the debt, and Williams later profited from the experience thanks to deals for a book and with HBO.


As in the show, Sorokin sketched scenes from the courtroom throughout the trial, including a caricature of the lead prosecutor (published in The New York Times after the trial) delivering closing statements, head shrunken, shoulders squared and foot tapping while a juror dozes. In the distance: a brick castle labeled “FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE,” decorated with a hypnotic swirl of dollar, euro and pound signs.


The outfits

“Don’t crowd my entrance,” Anna instructs her lawyer in the finale before strutting into the courtroom. As depicted in the series, her courtroom outfits became a virtual runway show, acquiring an Instagram following and bolstering her image long after her Delvey days seemed over.


This is pretty accurate. Sorokin definitely worked it during the trial with the help of Anastasia Walker as her personal stylist. The Instagram account is real (@Annadelveycourtlooks). Several of her outfits are precisely re-created on the show. But as the weeks passed, Sorokin ran out of looks, she told me, and associates including Spodek and Pressler stepped in, as with the white dress.


Sometimes the outfits weren’t processed by Rikers in time for court, resulting in fashion meltdowns as she rejected subpar substitutes, one day delaying the court proceedings for almost an hour and a half. I once spotted a bag in the courtroom filled with wardrobe rejects, including a flurry of long sleeves and collared shirts, a light blue sleeveless dress (Ann Taylor, size 10), black pants (J. Crew, size 0) and a medium white button-down collared shirt from the Gap.


It all sounds very dramatic (and it was), but it wasn’t entirely Sorokin’s fault. Several years before her case, a City Council bill banned Rikers jumpsuits from the courtroom as potentially biasing for juries. Even so, Justice Diane Kiesel, the presiding judge, clearly detested the catwalk entrances and the holdups that preceded them — she ultimately announced that if Sorokin did not arrive promptly in court (however dressed), the trial would go on without her.


The accent

Sorokin’s virtually untraceable accent is among her most distinguishing features. Born in a town 20 minutes outside Moscow, she moved to Germany when she was 15 but struck out on her own at 19, flitting from Paris to New York. Her accent is a mélange of influences, from everywhere and nowhere at once.


So did Garner get it right? Ultimately, I found Netflix Anna too nasally, the words harshly diced, each syllable too carefully executed. While Garner has nailed the essence of the accent’s oddity, Sorokin’s actual voice is softer, the pronunciation subtler.


I wondered, too, what Sorokin thought of her TV character. “It’s really hard to tell where she would be from,” she said. Garner’s version, like Anna’s, is a voice without a home, spanning several continents and eras of Sorokin’s life. “She got it right in a way,” Sorokin acknowledged.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Can the royal family survive the Prince Andrew scandal?

‘Hard up’ Andrew may turn to family and friends to help pay settlement


Analysis: estimates of up to £14m deal have prompted calls for source of funds to be made public


Jamie Grierson


Wed 16 Feb 2022 19.49 GMT


The size of Prince Andrew’s settlement with Virginia Giuffre may be undisclosed but lawyers say it is certain to run into the millions, with estimates ranging from £5m to £14m.


Such eye-watering figures have prompted calls for the source of the funds to be made public amid suggestions that the Queen will have to bail out her son.


Andrew is known to be trying to sell his £17m ski chalet in Verbier, Switzerland, but it is understood to be heavily mortgaged and the net proceeds are unlikely to cover the cost of the settlement.


Andrew’s only publicly known regular income was a £249,000-a-year allowance from the Queen to fund his Buckingham Palace office while undertaking royal duties. He would also have a small pension from his time serving with the Royal Navy, a job he left in 2001.


Now, with no royal duties to perform, it is not known what, if anything, he receives from his mother.


Sunninghill Park, Andrew’s former marital home in Windsor, was bought in 2007 by Timor Kulibayev, the son-in-law of the president of Kazakhstan, for £15m – £3m more than the asking price. Since 2004, Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, have lived together at Royal Lodge, a Grade II-listed house in Windsor Great Park that is a former residence of the Queen Mother.


A spokesperson for Kulibayev said it was a “commercial, arm’s length transaction” using “entirely legitimate” funds.


David McClure, the author of The Queen’s True Worth: Unravelling the public and private finances of Queen Elizabeth II, said Andrew did not have sufficient resources for the settlement and would have to turn to his mother for help, though favours from wealthy friends should not be ruled out either.


“The very fact he’s down to selling the chalet does indicate that he’s not mega wealthy. He wouldn’t be selling it if he was mega wealthy,” McClure said. “[As for] other sources of revenue – more than likely he’s got his own portfolio of private shares. Given his lifestyle, given the financiers he mixes with, it would be amazing if he didn’t have his own portfolio of shares.”


If the Queen is pitching in to help her son, it would not be the first time: she reportedly helped Prince Charles with his £17m divorce settlement with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.


The Queen’s main source of funding is revenue from her semi-private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, which brought her £23m last year and about £20m annually in previous years. “It is her cash cow,” McClure said. “She uses it for private income, she’s 95, so I don’t think she’s short of a bob or two.”


He said this would be a good use of the money “to stop all the reputational damage that the Giuffre case threatened to bring if it had gone to court in the US. Of course it’s a bad case insofar that somewhere along the line the Queen might have to fork out X million, but that’s far better than having all the reputational damage that could come from a year-long drib and drab of damaging information about the royal family, and specifically about Andrew.”


Stephen Bates, the author of Royalty Inc: Britain’s Best Known Brand, said: “He doesn’t have huge resources, he’s pretty dependent on his mum … if the sum is £10m to £12m there won’t be enough to meet it. Because he was perennially hard up, he certainly doesn’t have the money to pay it out of his bank account.


“One of the reason he was hanging around unsavoury characters like [Jeffrey] Epstein and [Ghislaine] Maxwell was because he’s always been attracted to the lifestyle of people wealthier than he is. That was obviously his downfall in this case.”


Bates said it was unlikely Andrew could turn to his ex-wife for help. “Sarah has been perennially short of money, which is why she’s got into all sorts of scrapes, so she’s not in a position, even if she wanted to, to find that sort of money,” he said. “But they do have rich friends. The question is how salubrious some of those friends are.”


Another royal expert said it was likely the public would never know what contribution, if any, came from the Queen.


Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine, said: “If we are clear that it is coming from a private source, albeit the Queen, then it’s no burden to the taxpayer. I think perhaps that needs to be underlined.


“The figures are pretty transparent nowadays. The Queen has a private income which she uses to support various members of her family, so if that’s the case then so be it. Who else is going to support him other than the Queen?”


Wherever the cash comes from, McClure was adamant the source and value should be made public. “There’s so much public interest round the world, it’s a major story, Andrew is a public figure – you may argue as of last month he’s been stripped of his titles, but he’s still linked to the palace.


“It’s totally legitimate that the palace and its lawyers or the American lawyers give some indication as to the size of the cash settlement.”