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30 April-2 May

Celeb trial

The blockbuster court case with no winners

A severed finger. A turd in the bed. Alpacas at the courthouse. “If you want to know what mutually assured destruction looks like,” says Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times, “check out the spectacle of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard.” The two actors, who were married from 2015 to 2017, are embroiled in a bitter court battle in Virginia – Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for $50m over a newspaper article she wrote in which, without mentioning him by name, she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse. Heard is countersuing for $100m. Testimony so far points to a “doomed”, destructive marriage: Depp claims that Heard once threw a vodka bottle at him, which shattered, with the broken glass severing a chunk of his finger. Heard has accused Depp of multiple assaults, both physical and sexual.


Quoted 30.4.22 Shedd

“A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

American author John Augustus Shedd


Shaken, not stirred…

Martinis have returned to New York with a vengeance, says Emily Sundberg in Grub Street. Brooklyn bar-owner Toby Cecchini reports that six months ago the cocktail started surging ahead of all others. “I watch these kids hammering martinis and I’m like, good Lord,” he says. Because the martini is no longer a “drink of gravitas” associated with tailored suits and men with money clips. It’s about tables of friends sloshing them back in front of the flash of phone cameras. Ordering a martini has become an activity, “something that someone does as much as something that someone drinks”.

The Firm

The royal family’s “skilful CEO”

Keeping the monarchy alive is a “ruthless business”, says Tina Brown in the New York Times podcast Sway. Luckily for the Windsors, “the Queen has turned out to be a really skilful CEO”. Like her mother, who Cecil Beaton once described as a “marshmallow forged in a welding machine”, the Queen is “tough as old boots”. Yes, the 96-year-old monarch has been known to dither – a habit her family call “ostriching”. But on the big calls, she “ostriches for a while”, then makes a “swift, lethal decision” and moves on.


Copping off with pop royalty

Before Ronnie Spector died this January aged 78, she updated her autobiography. Lucky for us, says The Mail on Sunday. The Ronettes lead singer’s memoir is “an astonishing glimpse into the hedonistic excesses of her rock and roll life”. Take the evening she met John Lennon at a party in Mayfair in 1964. The boys from the Beatles wanted the girls from the Ronettes to teach them the latest American dances. Lennon told Spector he needed “some extra instruction” and whisked her upstairs, where they snogged “for a couple of minutes on a window seat that looked out over all the lights of London”.


Germany’s 300-year Russia problem

The German establishment is suffering “a full-scale nervous breakdown” over its ties to Russia, says Daniel Johnson in The Sunday Telegraph. Those links stretch back hundreds of years. In the 18th century, an “obscure German princess” rose to become Russia’s Catherine the Great. The first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said the secret of politics was to “make a good treaty with Russia”. Many of his successors interpreted that “with the utmost cynicism”. It was the Germans who smuggled Lenin across Europe to “unleash his Bolshevik revolution” on Russia. Hitler cooked up the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Stalin in 1939, which “carved up Poland” and helped usher in the Second World War.

Quirk of history

A successful dinner party has “three indispensable features”, said The Times in 1922: a cabinet minister, a duchess and a beautiful woman. Six guests is the perfect number, and they should all know each other, since strangers may feel “outside the talk”. Very young people, “who have not yet found their feet socially”, should be avoided as they can cramp conversation. Most important is the hostess: a “woman of perseverance” can only get so far. The holy grail of “spontaneous and easy” conversation requires “a woman of natural charm and some brilliancy of mind”.


THE PIED-A-TERRE This one-bedroom Victorian flat is on a smart terrace in east London. There are pine floorboards throughout, and the bedroom has doors out to the garden. Dalston Kingsland station is a five-minute walk. £550,000.


Hollywood’s most exclusive Pilates instructor

If you want to go to a Forma Pilates class, tough luck, says Rachel Strugatz in The New York Times. The exercise class is one of the most exclusive in America. It was started by Liana Levi – a “tan, taut and tiny” former celebrity stylist, with abdominal muscles “so individually defined that they look not quite human”. Levi, 32, only bought a Pilates machine in the first lockdown, teaching her friends from her pool house. But celebrities quickly caught wind. Soon she was instructing all of Hollywood’s Gen Z superstars, including Hailey Bieber, Ariana Grande, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and Bella Hadid. She has three LA studios where group classes can cost $100 for 55 minutes. One-on-one sessions are even pricier: an hour at the studio costs $500; for house calls it’s $650.


THE HIDEAWAY This former mill house on the Northumbrian coast has views of the sea, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island. The five-bedroom home has a large conservatory and is in the Lindisfarne Nature Reserve – a hotspot for birders. Berwick-upon-Tweed is 10 miles to the north. £1.5m.


quoted 30.4

“Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.”

Chess Grandmaster Savielly Tartakower