Belfast Telegraph

My leading stories from a truly unforgettable year

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, here's my festive line-up of crazy celebs as reported on these pages over the year 2016, for the sake of auld lang syne...

January: A truly bizarre turn of events happened at the beginning of the year. It was sadly announced that David Bowie died on January 10 and, while the world mourned the terrible loss, the producers of Celebrity Big Brother saw a unique opportunity to bump up the ratings. Angie Bowie, his long-since divorced ex-wife was one of the housemates at the time and so she was called into the diary room to be given the news. Upon leaving, in floods of tears, she managed to say "David's dead". Now, it so happened that David Gest, ex-husband of Lisa Minelli, was also a housemate at the time and everyone assumed it was him she was talking about. Confusion reigned until they discovered Mr Gest snoring away in the bedroom. However, the grim reaper hadn't finished with his twist because, within a few months, David Gest was dead too.

February: This month saw the end of the very brilliant TV adaptation of War and Peace starring James Norton as the most dashing and debonair hero Andrei. The following week welcomed the return of the superb cop serial Happy Valley. But guess who played the evil sadistic murderer? None other than James Norton again. But in this he has a sneering face, shaved head, tatts and looks every inch the ruthless scumbag. Absolutely no chance of this fella getting type-cast when he can play such polar opposites with such panache!

March: The female lead in Happy Valley, Sarah Lancashire, became a bit of a fashion icon when a national magazine featured her style in a fashion spread. Apparently that tough military/utility "look" was being replicated in fashion lines across the UK after shoppers started demanding mirrored Aviator sunglasses, black cargo pants and lace-up docs to look just like Cathy Cawood.

April:A Sky Full of Stars is the title of a Coldplay hit, but it could also describe the lead singer's dating history. Yes, Chris Martin was spotted getting up close and personal with the willowy blonde actress Heather Graham. That's all very well, were it not for the fact that only a month earlier he was reported to be dating another willowy blonde, Annabelle Wallis. Now that, too, would have been all very well, were it not for the fact that just before that he was reported to be dating willowy blonde Jennifer Lawrence!

May: It's always good to see someone with Northern Irish connections succeeding on the global stage and this was most certainly the case with model Stella Maxwell. Although until recently she was most famous for her relationship with the controversial singer Miley Cyrus, she began making great strides on her own in the field of fashion modelling by joining the most elite clique of supermodels on earth as she appeared for the first time as a Victoria Secrets Angel.

June: One of my favourite drama series of the year was the brutal but fascinating Peaky Blinders - the story of Thomas Shelby, the leader of a violent family-run criminal gang with Romany roots who are climbing up the social ladder one vice at a time. But along with Cillian Murphy, the star for me was Helen McCrory, who played the matriarchal Aunt Polly with such panache. I loved the way her character evolved from the beginning of series one when she lived in abject poverty in a Birmingham slum, to a refined lady of the Roaring Twenties with bobbed hair, flapper-girl dresses, pearls and silk stockings.

July: Christie Brinkley turned 62 this month and, if you're of a certain age (mine), you will almost certainly remember the legendary blonde bombshell whom everyone wanted to be like in the 70s. She was a supermodel before the phrase existed. In fact, she still is. In paparazzi photographs snapped in July, she looked half her age and is still as radiant as she ever was. What's your secret, Christie? We want to know!

August: So there I was in WHSmith at Penrith Services, looking at CDs to play in the car when, all of a sudden, I started sneezing uncontrollably. The woman standing next to me said "Bless you!" in a very broad Yorkshire accent and, when I looked over to apologise for the torrent of airborne germs, it was none other than Siobhan Finneran, who plays the wonderfully-down-to-earth Clare Cartwright in Happy Valley, Sarah O'Brien in Downton Abbey and Janice in Benidorm to name but a few of her well-known personae. Her characters are always lovely so it was no surprise when she turned out to be really friendly, approachable and funny too. In fact my sneezing fit caused her to start sneezing and before long we were in fits of giggles.

September: The news on everybody's lips was that Angelina Jolie finally filed for divorce from Brad Pitt and the cat-fighting and name-calling had begun in earnest. In fact it was already starting to look like that other recent celebrity break-up that turned sour very quickly, namely Jonny Depp and Amber Heard. The similarities were numerous - a megastar heart-throb being kicked out and into touch by his aggrieved superstar wife; citations of bad behaviour; a slanging-match in the daily press; compromising candid photographs being leaked by each side...all very sad, like, but great for columnists!

October: Hands up who watched the four part drama National Treasure on Channel Four? Harrowing, wasn't it? Robbie Coltrane was superb as the shamed comedian Paul Finchley but, as far as I'm concerned, the star was our own national treasure Julie Walters who, in her typical understated way, stole the show from the outset. In fact, looking back over her many decades on the screen, her very appearance seems to guarantee success. Who else could play such diverse characters as a humiliated wife (National Treasure) to an irrepressible Secretary of State (Mo) and from a London Brothel Madame (Personal Services) to a genteel proprietress during the days of the Raj (Indian Summers)?

November: Femme Fatale Katie Price was in the (tabloid) news again in November after (yet another) spat with her (latest) husband Kieran Hayler. Apparently the couple are on the verge of splitting up again after club-goers heard the model-turned-businesswoman shouting abuse about him during a night out. It's no wonder that she has misgivings about her fella after she discovered he'd had extra-marital flings with not one but two of her friends. I suggested she should go for a total rehaul of her nearest and dearest and get rid of both him and her so-called friends in one fell swoop.

December: Earlier this month, I had a dig at our former first lady Samantha Cameron, who had launched herself a new womenswear label. Now this alone would be bizarre enough, because she wore some really horrible outfits during her time at Downing Street and her taste in clothing was often called into question as a result. But not only that, she also got a whole feature about it in Vogue, no less. It was only after said article was published that it came to light who had commissioned the feature - none other than Sam Cam's sister, who is one of the directors of the magazine.

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