x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Comedians know that the way to a woman's heart is through her funny bone

The playwright Alan Bennett is convinced that Jackie Kennedy and the British comedian Peter Cook had a fling in the early 1960s.

The playwright Alan Bennet has said that Jacqueline Kennedy and the comedian Peter Cook were perhaps more than good friends.
The playwright Alan Bennet has said that Jacqueline Kennedy and the comedian Peter Cook were perhaps more than good friends.

The playwright Alan Bennett is convinced that Jackie Kennedy and the British comedian Peter Cook had a fling in the early 1960s, which some people might find surprising. What would the beautiful and fascinating wife of the US president, one half of the most famous political couple in the world, see in the gawky funnyman? Leaving aside the fact that Jackie O, as she came to be known after her subsequent marriage to Aristotle Onassis, must have been aware that her husband, JFK, was a serial philanderer and she was said to have had a relationship with his brother Bobby and with the movie star Marlon Brando, there is a compelling attraction about a man who can make a woman laugh.

Jackie and the president met Cook backstage when he, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Bennett brought their brilliantly successful show Beyond the Fringe to Broadway. Bennett says she and Cook hit it off immediately and there were rumours that they became close. "I may be libelling her, but I think Peter had an affair with Jackie Kennedy," Bennett told the interviewer Mark Lawson on a BBC4 programme to mark the playwright's 75th birthday this year. "I have an image of her standing next to Peter stroking his arm in the dressing room, and he certainly went to parties with her."

Why wouldn't she find him attractive, surrounded as she was by tight-lipped and formal government aides. Cook's particular brand of laid-back cynical humour must have been such a refreshing change for a woman who had a well-developed and earthy sense of humour by all accounts. There is nothing as exhilarating and relaxing as a genuine belly laugh. The combination of quick-witted humour and that particular brand of cool but reckless disrespect for authority of which Cook was a master must have been both shocking and dazzling, even to a president's wife.

I once interviewed the equally brilliant Mel Brooks, who would admit he wasn't blessed in the looks department, and managed to ask him, amid gales of laughter, how an ugly so-and-so like him managed to attract the beautiful and clever actress Anne Bancroft, whom he married. He burst out laughing and said he made her laugh. The company of professional comedians can be irresistible. No matter how tortured their private lives turn out to be, they just can't help trying to make people laugh and it's a heady feeling knowing that they are focusing on you and you alone and won't stop until the tears of laughter are rolling down your face. Faced with the choice of a less than handsome funny guy and a humourless hunk, most women would go for the former and I doubt if Jackie Kennedy Onassis was an exception.

Nothing could persuade me to eat a rat, not even a tasty risotto whipped up by a celebrity chef. Gino D'Acampo and the reality show contestant Stuart Manning must have been starving to do so during ITV's I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Now criminal charges have been brought by the Australian RSPCA and they will have to face a court in February for killing a rat for entertainment. Frankly, I think they should be given a medal and if charges are really to be brought, the show's organisers should be in the dock, not the contestants. Hunger would be a fairly reasonable defence, I'd say, if the case ever sees the light of day. Personally, I smell a rat. It's great publicity for the Australian RSPCA and you wonder if they seriously believe they could get a conviction in a country not famed for being precious about rodents. Crocodile Dundee would be laughing his socks off.

After more than a year of recession, it is hard to swallow the news that many top banks plan to give their key staff fat Christmas bonuses. Only last week there were reports that the board of RBS would quit if they were stopped from rewarding their staff to the tune of £1.5 billion (Dh9b). Not even the UK chancellor's plan to tax these windfalls will be enough to calm the fury of people who are still struggling to make ends meet as they see the people they hold responsible for the financial mess cashing in. It's hardly surprising that there are reports of people hoarding cash rather than entrusting it to banks. Bosses insist they have to dole out bonuses in order to keep their best people. Joe Public believes they should be in jail.

The X Factor judge and footballer's wife Cheryl Cole has finally had the good grace to get rid of her hair extensions. She came in for a heap of criticism for the lustrous locks that tumble around her shoulders in the new L'Oreal ad campaign, which the company defended by saying the false hair had been washed in their shampoo. She looks just as good without them.

At the time of writing, the Tiger Woods birdie count has reached eight and by the time this goes to press, several more "transgressions" may well have crawled out of the woodwork to simper for the cameras. And no, I don't feel sorry for the man who really should have been called Cheetah rather than Tiger. The question now is should his wife, Elin, divorce him or allow herself to be bribed into staying in the marriage for a reported $60 million (Dh220m). The PR experts believe that keeping up appearances of a family man is essential for the sake of the Woods brand, on which an entire industry has been founded.

Jobs depend on it and although the clean-cut image is in shreds, they believe that with a carefully crafted campaign, Woods's earning power will not be damaged in the long run. The success of brands such as Nike depends on the skill of sporting personalities rather than their private lives, and, regardless of Woods' indiscretions, plenty of golfers will carry on buying their clothes and equipment in the hope that some of those gifts will rub off on them.

Staying together for the sake of their two young children will always be an option to be considered even after such an incredibly public humiliation, but how could any woman plaster a smile on her face and pretend that all is well given the circumstances. Woods is going to have to wear sackcloth and ashes for a very long time to persuade Elin to stay, but nobody will ever believe the marriage to be anything other than a business arrangement if she does. Emotionally it is doomed, over, completely and utterly wrecked.

How the most famous sportsman in the world could ever have expected to get away with his infidelities is difficult to understand. His management and close friends have clearly known about it for years, but when you are surrounded by sycophants, you end up believing you are fireproof. No wonder Woods became arrogant and careless. Elin should cut him loose as quickly and finally as she can and set about starting a new life without him with as much dignity as she can muster. At 29, she has plenty of time to find someone else to love, and a financial settlement would ease the pain.

Just as a footnote, the shaving cream manufacturer Gillette must be wondering what hit it, having lined up three supposedly clean-cut sporting heroes for their advertising campaigns. First there was Thierry Henry and the handball scandal, then came Woods and his women. The company must be watching Roger Federer with a certain amount of apprehension.