By Eileen Murphy
Sparks erupted on the set of the "Late Late Show" in Ireland last week when disc jockey and rival author Gerry Hannon ambushed Frank McCourt live on the air, attacking his depiction of Limerick in "Angela’s Ashes." But while McCourt was certainly surprised by the on-air confrontation, it seems that the ruckus was less spontaneous than it appeared.
Hannon, whose outspoken criticism of McCourt has made him something of a minor media sensation, has revealed that staffers from the "Late Late Show" invited him to come on the show and confront McCourt.
According to plan, Hannon – who has written his own book, "Ashes," to contradict McCourt – sat in the audience during the taping. When host Pat Kenny came over with the microphone, it was Hannon’s cue to stand up and start questioning the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
Gob-smacked viewers listened as Hannon called McCourt "a self-confessed liar" (among other things). But Frank, a seasoned veteran of the New York City public school system, quickly got things under control. He noted that Hannon was "obsessed" with him and suggested the other man "go find a life for [him]self."
Hannon says that RTE, which produces the "Late Late," offered to pick up his hotel tab, and that staffers prompted him on what questions to ask McCourt. Seems kind of like dirty pool to us, but then, we’re not in the rock’em, sock’em world of television. And, of course, Pat Kenny needs to generate a bit of excitement about the new "Late Late" now that he’s trying to fill Gay Byrne’s extremely large shoes.
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One question, though, has been puzzling us for months: what makes Hannon – or anybody else who wasn’t part of the family – an expert on Frank McCourt’s childhood?
The man that got away
Well, as we always say, when the Lord taketh away, He always makes sure to giveth as well. Especially when it comes to good-looking, eligible men and the single women who have crushes on them. And you know who you are.
Hard on the heels of the sad news that Pierce Brosnan is officially off the market – having popped the question to long-time girlfriend Keely Shay-Smith – come tidings that another hunk is footloose and fancy-free. Sexy Stephen Tompkinson, who played the sensitive-but-dishy English priest, Fr. Peter, on "Ballykissangel," has parted ways with his fiancee (and former costar), Irish actress Dervla "Assumpta" Kirwan. (And after he looked so sad in that last episode . . .)
Kirwan’s publicist attributed the split to the couple’s busy film careers. "They have both amicably agreed to separate," she said. "There is no third party involved."
Stephen told reporters, "There is still a lot of love between us, but I’m afraid our split looks pretty permanent. [Dervla and I] will always be very fond of each other . . . but there’s something about that saucy minx who writes New & Noteworthy . . ."
Proving that their relationship is still amicable, the pair are set to costar in a movie, "Flint Street Nativity," which begins filming later this month.
Rock (and roll) of ages
We told you this months ago, so please excuse us if we sound a bit smug. B*Witched cutie Sinead O’Carroll (the blonde one) is as old as her nose, a little older than her teeth – and a little older than the band’s public relations machine would have us believe.
Though she probably still gets carded when entering a licensed establishment, the pop princess is actually 26 years old. To put that in terms her fans can understand, that’s six plus six plus six plus six plus six, take away four.
Sinead says that the band’s management insisted that she keep her real age a secret – presumably because two times thirteen is positively ancient to the Barbie set. But after a British tabloid spilled the jellybeans, Sinead decided to come clean.
Her other – make that younger – bandmates, Keavy, Edele and Lindsay are behind Sinead all the way. And not just chronologically.
"Sinead is just so young at heart!" Edele chirped to the Sunday World.
Float like a butterfly
Aidan Quinn, he of the piercing blue eyes, has revel’d that he attended a Christian Brothers school in Birr, Co. Offaly for about a year when he was a child. And – you could have knocked us over with a feather – the experience was not a happy one.
"I just couldn’t believe that they could just walk up to you, hit you with the leather and the cane, and get away with it," he told the Sunday World.
"Here in America," he added, "they’d be sued, you know."
Well, Aidan, you’re a dreamboat, but you obviously didn’t spend any time at Holy Spirit School, the pride of the Bronx, back in the early 70s. That’s where we learned the ducking and weaving skills that have stood us in good stead to this very day, if you know what we mean . . .
The Corrs are busy rehearsing for their MTV Unplugged taping, and one of the songs they might include in the playlist is Jummy MacCarthy’s "No Frontiers." There’s also talk of the band singing REM’s hit "Everybody Hurts" and Phil Lynott’s "Old Town."
Having given the world pop sensations like Boyzone and Westlife, one would think that Louis Walsh would rest on his laurels and count his money. But the man with the golden ear (and the instinct for what teens want) has signed a lucrative management deal with Universal Music Publishing. Walsh modestly insists, "I’m just an Irish talent scout." Yeah, and Hurricane Floyd was just a sunshower.
Bono: let’s get intimate
We’d almost forgotten that Bono was a makeup-wearing rock star – anyone remember his alter ego, MacPhisto? – before he became a sort of global do-gooder. And now, after spending months campaigning for Third World debt relief, he says he "can’t wait to get back to my day job."
Bono says that he barely recognizes himself when he looks in the mirror.
"I see a bowler hat and a briefcase," he admitted to Hot Press. Neither of which spells rock star – to us, anyway.
"This is about the unhippest thing I’ve been involved in and I’ve been involved in a few unhip things in my life," he confided.
Of course, he wouldn’t be Bono if he didn’t engage in a bit of hyperbole.
"The music is like an escape from numbers – it’s notes of a different kind," he rhapsodized.
Speaking of notes – the kind you fold up and put in your wallet – the band may be pulling in fewer on their next tour. The plan, Bono says, if to skip the big stadiums and play indoor arenas.
"I don’t want to play the huge venues again," he said. "When we go out I’d like to play indoors if at all possible. I think we owe that to the people who’ve been following us around."
Bono has mixed feelings about the stadium shows.
"If they go right they’re one of the most extraordinary nights of your life," he said. But, "If they go wrong, they’re . . ."
The PopMart tour? we wondered.
"A misery," he finished. Oh.