A scrum of photographers clicking, middle-aged women swooning and an audience asking excruciating questions, including "What do you think of Dubai?" It could only mean one thing: a celebrity press conference in the UAE.
Grease star John Travolta met journalists yesterday to fill us in on a code-sharing alliance between Qantas and Emirates.
Once known as ‘ole snake hips’, now just a year shy of 60, Travolta came dressed as a pilot, sporting the new look ‘mini-beard', which launched a thousand headlines in March this year.
The actor may have been famed once for his long flowing locks, but yesterday his hair appeared to have been drawn on. “He looks a bit like Ming the Merciless,” a neighbour muttered in my ear during the press conference.
Over the course of a 15-minute appearance, Travolta fielded a series of ingratiating questions from local media.
“You are very famous in the area, especially among the women,” a female Arabic journalist asked Travolta. “How do you see women in the Gulf, and how does she inspire you?”
Travolta had to ask the journalist to repeat the question, explaining he was “a little star struck”. His meandering answer, painful to listen to, is worth repeating in full.
“First of all, the women here are very beautiful, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “They’re exotic in the best way.
“There’s a warmth, that I’d already discovered, that’s quite unique. I respond to warmth in women. I respond to warmth in anyone, but I love warmth in women.
“I like women who like men like me. If there’s an energy and sparkle, it’s very comforting.”
I glanced around the audience at that point and maybe half a dozen people were sharing my grimace.
Despite that, an over-excited female journalist next to me was in tears by the end of the event. “I feel so stupid, but I can’t help it,” she said.
The press conference ended without a single negative or controversial question asked. A journalist from the UK newspapers, who might have dared, arrived too late to catch Travolta.
“I can’t believe no one mentioned Scientology,” she said. “Or massage parlours.”