Piers Morgan is something of a dichotomy: proud of his achievements, and keen to boast of them, he is at the same time prepared to admit he harbours ambitions in very different arenas to those he has found the most success in, and is almost a little ashamed or embarrassed of his newfound celebrity status. Here's a profile of him from Johnny Ikon, who met him at the opening of a pop-up gastropub in the old Truman Brewery in the East End in October 2008.
Arriving face to face with Piers Morgan, he seems to dominate the room. He's tall, dominant and loud, but not neccessarily proud. For a former journalist, he's keen to dodge questions but I felt like I got to know him well enough to venture a few opinons.
He has a lot to be proud of, and he's usually the first to tell you about it. He boasts to me that he likes telling his old journalist friends that writing these days "is just a hobby for me now" because "it really pisses them off". He's equally keen to talk about his appearance on Celebrity Apprentice USA with Donald Trump, a reality TV appearance that saw him triumph when Trump fired "the good old singing cowboy" Trace Atkins. Piers tells me that The Apprentice is the Number 1 rated show in the States, and that he gets recognised constantly when he's in Los Angeles filming. He also embarrassingly draws attention to his sexual prowess and his new, young girlfriend and equally keen to boast of his virility and he says his three children with his ex-wife love Daddy's new profile.
However, he's much less keen to talk about his looks with any pride. "I'm tall but my overall physique needs a bit of work" he admits, poking his protruding belly, and moaning that "Amercians mock my crap teeth". And despite his earlier proclamation that he mocks his old writing pals, he admits that he also tells his new television colleagues exactly the same thing, that it's not his real job, merely a "hobby". He no longer seems to have a career that he feels fully rooted in, saying "this stuff is just a laugh. I know it won't last."
Although he says the £126 dinner he bought Simon Cowell at Cipriani was "the best investment of my life", he also admits "I still have editing ambitions" and confesses "No moment in my life will equal walking barefoot on Miami Beach in 1994, at the age of 28, and getting the call from Rupert Murdoch to inform me I was going to be running the biggest newspaper in the world." His fall from newspaper grace is clear: when Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted smoking dope to him not long ago, it should have been a big scoop but instead the story was dismissed with a cursory statement stating "The governor would like to remind people that the interviewer is a judge on America's Got Talent." In other words, as Piers himself sums it up, "Someone who judges piano-playing pigs doesn't need to be taken very seriously." It's a strange situation - for a man deemed to be at the pinacle of his career, he should be respected and listened to, but instead his reputation has changed from being the man who makes the news to a "z-elebrity", only fit to fill up the gossip columns.
It's a really weird fall from grace - this is the man who once led a national campaign through his newspaper to scrap Big Brother, but now he appears to have joined the champagne-swilling ranks of Jodie Marsh, Jade Goody and Calum Best. Constantly pictured at parties surrounded by the z-listers he once derided, Piers does his best to accept his lot. The multi-million pound TV talent show judging deals must be comforting, not to mention to £1 million he received for his memoirs. But for a man who once kept a tally of his one-to-one meetings with the Prime Minister (56 face-to-faces with Tony Blair according to his records), there's a lot of dissatisfaction in this new role.
It's hard to like or dislike him - in fact, he's a little bit tragic. Enormously successful but not truly proud, he does his best to talk the good talk but the only time his face lights up is when he talks about his long-gone days at the cutting edge of tabloid journalism. I wouldn't be surprised to see Piers attempt some kind of comeback in an editorial role sometime soon. Whether he'll pull it off after foraying into the world of celebrity himself remains to be seen.
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