Thursday 15 November 2018

Michael O'Doherty: Why food critic Burke's attack on Norris leaves a bad taste in my mouth...

I first met Helen Lucy Burke in 1997 when she was the restaurant critic for Magill. She provided great amusement as a sweet, frail and very unlikely culinary assassin, who had no fear in slagging off Ireland's best-known chefs.

Her finest moment was when, having been threatened with legal action by Conrad Gallagher, who claimed that she was rude to his staff, she replied that she had simply requested "a doggie bag to bring home to my blind pussy".


Back then, HLB stuck to being a food critic, rather than a journalist. While a witty writer, her skills lay not in the nuances of people's tone, or in drawing inconvenient truths out of them in bare-all interviews, but rather in being a good judge of whether a pork chop was overdone.

So imagine my surprise to find her precise, clipped tones on Liveline this week, complaining not about the consistency of Conrad's langoustine jus or his refusal to provide sustenance to her visually-impaired cat, but to accuse David Norris of being an apologist for paedophilia.


Her evidence was a nine-year-old interview she conducted with him, which she claimed made her uneasy about his attitude towards sex with minors.

Norris went on the record immediately afterwards to rubbish her interpretation, and pointed out that he clearly stated, "I cannot understand how anyone could find children of either sex in the slightest bit attractive sexually."

But the incident has festered in HLB's mind, and six months after Norris announced his candidacy, she unearthed her opinions again.

And let's be honest, they are only opinions. Much of the storm centres around HLB's own comments in the interview, and her description of Norris' tone, rather than the exact words which he used.

She promised on air to produce the tape recording to back up her interpretation, but so far it hasn't surfaced. Why? Well, the tape she originally sent into Liveline turned out to be the wrong one... She couldn't listen to it herself because she didn't have a tape recorder... She's now not sure if she can find it because her home was damaged in a storm...

Isn't it surprising that someone who was so fastidious in her restaurant reviews could be so sloppy in having her evidence to hand before she chose to go public?

Criticism of someone's food, while it may hurt the chef's feelings, is not necessarily a big deal, as most people accept that it's just one person's opinion.

But in presenting her own opinions about Norris' suitability as a president as though they were fact, HLB has stepped massively over the mark.

Past its prime and leaving a bitter aftertaste... No, I'm not describing a mouldy old chocolate tart, much as HLB would. I'm describing Helen Lucy Burke herself.

Yeah right, Louise, it's not degrading at all...

FORMER model Louise Kavanagh is the first Irish Playboy bunny, and has just completed months of 'rigorous training' to prepare her for a job as a dealer/ croupier in the new Playboy Club in London.

She insists that brains as well as beauty are required for her role, and finds nothing degrading at all in wearing the famous bunny outfit while dealing cards to male punters.

Nor does she feel threatened at all by the customers, because management enforce a very strict policy. As the sign at the door says -- "No petting the animals".

Degrading? Never...

Do you want fries with that then, Nadia?

GORGEOUS model Nadia Forde was doing what she does best this week -- posing for a photocall in a bikini.

Eddie Rockets have launched a 'low fat' burger called The Bikini Burger (it's 'only' 500 calories) and would seem to have scored a hit with their eye-catching publicity, clever name and association with Unislim.

Having said that, while a Bikini Burger may be OK, it's the fatty fries, slovenly shake and droopy drink that often go with it that do the damage.

Which sounds more like a case for a burkha than a bikini...

Crimper Brown makes my hair stand on end

I COULD never understand how Irish-born crimper James Brown was called a "hairdresser to the stars", as my own experience revealed him to be little more than an obnoxious drunk.


Three years ago at the Galway Races, Brown accosted me in a hospitality tent and tried to stick his tongue in my ear in the mistaken belief that I was impressed by a boozy, tedious purveyor of blowdrys.

And James was back to his ignorant, drunken self again at the recent Bafta awards, where he berated the girlfriend of black TV presenter Ben Douglas for being "a n*****'s bitch".

Though claiming he was using it in an jocular, 'New York slang' sort of way, Brown subsequently admitted that he was wrong, and "this incident has shown me that my drinking is way out of control."

Actually, I could have told him that three years ago, and each time I've heard of him in the meantime, I wonder how on earth he has ever kept a job, given his 'fondness for a drink'.


Until it suddenly occurred to me that he's been the victim of a misprint all these years. Perhaps Jamie Brown is actually a "hairdresser to the bars".

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