I know he’s not really called Piers Warning, but I presume you know whom I’m talking about. In the London Times last weekend he whooped about being a one-name celebrity, “like Madonna”.
You do know about Piers Morgan, right? I ask because I’m British, and know almost all about him. But when I was revising my book about fame for publication in the US, I laughed a contented laugh when I was advised to add a line about who he was.
I laughed because his published diaries have always been so clear that he’s cracked the States – he won Celebrity Apprentice, after all, and judges talent shows. But now who’s laughing, with that affable British chuckle? Piers Morgan is. Piers is.
So, in case you still need to know a little about him as he takes over from Larry King on CNN, would a few impressions help?
He’s quite a chap, really. He’s frequently made an arse of himself – he still tends to defend himself about an admittedly tricky judgement call he made at the helm of a national newspaper, and he constantly has to answer questions about a snafu involving shares about which he might have known a little too much before he bought them. There’s been a diverting spat with Naomi Campbell, too. But he shrugs off this stuff with aplomb.
He manages it with a beguiling mix of chutzpah and self-mockery. Take those diaries, for example. He drops enough names to pockmark the pavement, but faithfully reports all the putdowns his famous chums put his way.
There’s a similar trick to his interviews. Come on, tell Uncle Piers. He’s a man of the world. To know all is to forgive all. As a result, his guests tend to cry, including his friend, the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
(There, he’s at it again. He’s mates with the Prime Minister! Yes, but with the socially awkward Prime Minister. Still, he makes Brown cry.) He made the UK’s sweetheart Cheryl Cole cry, too — tell me how you nearly died of malaria; tell me how much your ex-husband really hurt you — until Cheryl turned away, shielded her eyes and observed that this is entertainment for everyone else, but life for her.
The techique is that of a python. If you go on his show, he’ll wrap himself around you, and keep pumping, till almost all information, or life, is out you. And just before the last constriction, he’ll make you feel he’s sorry to be doing it, but that he just has to have one last pump.
It’s possible that in the US he won’t have to pump so hard. We Brits are a little less willing to share, and won’t say much without a squeeze. (There are exceptions, such as Richard Branson and Susan Boyle.) But he’ll get it out of you, and probably do some good. He asked Cheryl Cole, “Is this therapy for you?” to which she replied, “I’ll let you know in a couple of hours’ time.”
Perhaps this explains why some of his first guests are people who are apt to let us into their worlds: Oprah, Howard Stern, Kim Kardashian. Kim Kardashian? What’s left to tell? I’m sure the next batch of guests will be lustrous, but look out, in case he’s joined by Snooki. His new audience mightn’t catch the thrill of the hunt, that gasp as he feels for the pulse in a stone; but his guests will appreciate him. They’ll need a glass of water during the interview, but by the end, they’ll think that Piers has served them tea and biscuits.