Dennis the menace
Celebrity ambusher Dennis Pennis returns to prick the pomposity of showbiz stars for the last time. Eddie Gibb shoves a mic under his nose.
What's the difference between stiff upper-lipped thesp Hugh Grant and a chair leg and no. it‘s nothing to do with Divine Brown? The answer to this rhetorical question. supplied by celeb-baitcr Dennis Pennis within earshot of Grant as he surfed on a sea of sycophancy at a showbiz function. is that they are
I ‘There’s still people out there that need getting but the chance of me actually getting them and the BBC coming up with the money on the ott chance are low’
both wooden. Pennis frequently leaps out from the paparazzi pack with such unsubtle guerrilla attacks of wit and sarcasm. Perhaps his finest achievement was landing five 'hits' on Kevin Costner in one day. Dennis Pennis is a nerdy character created by former theatre designer and bit-pan actor Paul Kaye who started out doing vox pops on Oxford Street for a low-budget magazine show screened in the wee small hours when no one's watching. Kaye‘s breakout from night-time hell came when the producers of The Sunday Show. presented by Katie Puckrick and Donna Mcl’hail. were looking for an
Dennis Pennis: the nerd’s revenge
alternative showbiz reporter. l’cnnis was chosen for his determination to pop the awkward questionjust w hen the stars least expect it.
The new show li'ry lmlmrlunl I’M/H's. which Kaye promises will be the last. collects the best bits from The Sum/try Show mixed in with new material shot mainly at American movie premieres. With the camera rolling. l’cnuis manages to provoke grand dame of grunge (‘ounney Love into swinging a
punch (she connected).
‘lt was for something really innocuous.‘ says Kaye. ‘It was just something about her age: she said “I don‘t look 35. do I?" and I said “At least". She whacked rue. so I said “Yeah. I heard you were a real slapper“.' Love‘s companion for the evening Drew Barrymore. the child star of ET who developed a serious alcohol dependency in her teens. was similarly unamused at Pennis's quip about ‘the DTs phone home‘.
Investigative journalism it ain't. but the beauty of the Dennis Pennis gimmick is that it is backed up by the internationally recognised gravitas of the BBC. When Pennis lirst identifies himself as a gentleman of Her Majesty's press corps. the star/victim will generally stop to address the camera with their
. toothiest smile before realising — too late — they‘ve
been duped. But now. says Kaye. most publicity handlers are wise to him and press accreditation for premieres is almost impossible to secure.
‘lt‘s done. it's over.‘ he says. ‘The joke could carry on — there's still people out there that need getting but the chances of me actually getting them and the BBC coming up with the money on the off-chance are low. In the first series there were a lot of people who genuinely didn't have a clue who I was. but that's definitely a thing of the past.‘
For Kaye the surest sign that it was time to quit was when the celebs. tipped off by their PRs. started trying to get in on thejoke. Meanwhile. the other journalists who make a living by securing a few words of inanity from stars as they enter and exit showbiz bashes may also be pleased to see the back of Dennis Pennis.
‘We got a lot ofgrief from Barry Norman's people saying that we were spoiling it for everyone else.‘ says Kaye. ‘We also got that at the Planet Hollywood launch. There was some woman — from GMTV. I think — who turned round and said “Do you realise some of us are trying to cover serious news." I said go to Bosnia then — this is a burger bar opening.‘ Very lmpm'lunl Pennis starts on Fri 9 Aug ul /0pm mi BBCZ.
Dance as alternative therapy? It may not be available on prescription trom the HHS but a new Channel 4 series, Strictly Dancing, looks at an assorted bunch ot amateur hooters, including a cab driver, an CAP and a psychoanalyst, who all swear by the wondrous powers oi dance.
‘llance is great physical exercise but it is also very cathartic and great tor building contidence,’ says series producer Charlotte Black. ‘It goes beyond the teal-good tactor experienced atter other exercise and can actually reawaken a part ot you
that has died, through depression, marriage break-up, or whatever.’
In the same way Jane Fonda and a bevy ot Beverley Hills work-out goddesses brought aerobics into the living-room, Strictly Dancing combines documentary with a “starter pack’ ot basic steps to get you up ott ot that couch. Each programme in the six- week series tocuses on a ditterent style, trom the trenzied twists ot French ceroc and hedonistic tlair ot the tango to the gracetul, sinuous belly dance derivative, iiaqs Sharqi.
Meanwhile, in a community centre in Glasgow’s Maryhill, people at all ages have been swept up in the craze tor
the music that lots ot people identity with and the dance literally spans the generations, trom grandparents to young children.’
In this programme we meet Jim, a redundant miner, who has never looked back since he pulled on his dancing boots and he even claims to have discovered a new, gentler side to his personality through line dancing. Then there’s Barbara who, utter a string ot disastrous relationships, tound dance could provide her with a teeling ot well-being no man could supply.
‘The inspiration tor the programme came trom the tilm Strictly Ballroom}
-. 5‘. Western line dancing and are seen explains Black. ‘In the tilm the girl
é~: f l donning tull cowboy clobber to strut was unhappy, she was lacking in
; if their stutt. ‘More and more people are contldence and physically awkward.
1‘ $223. getting into dance, and western line She was the ugly duckling until she
3}}? dancing in particular is getting started dancing and then she became ~ bigger,’ says Black. ‘I think it’s on the a swan.’ (Claire Prentice) ' 2'- back at country and western music 3010300800"! m 0' "0' 12 Strictly Dancing: saddle up tor a hoe-down growing in popularity. There’s a soul to MN 8' 83M 0' MM”-
The List 26 Jul-8 Aug I996 75