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Home > Media

The Liddle Riddle

16 July 2004

The riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma which is 'celebrity' manifested itself in yet another curious way this week.

Rod Liddle, the former editor of the Today programme and now a freelance journalist and author, has been shagging a younger woman. He's 44, new love Alicia Monckton is 22. Unsurprisingly, Liddle's 42-year-old wife, Rachel Royce, a reporter for HTV, isn't too happy about this.

Royce, unlike Monckton, hasn't taken it lying down. She's blabbed to the Daily Mail and once paid for ten sacks of manure to be sent to the office of The Spectator, where Liddle is a columnist. Royce has also been - how can we put this? - extremely candid about Liddle's infidelity.

'He fucking shat on me from a great height,' she told The Observer, adding: 'It's shitty when a media person shits on their wife.' (It must be great reading the first drafts of her TV reports: 'There was a really shitty murder in Weston-Super-Mare today. Fucking hell, what a shit thing to do... the shits!')

Royce, it must be said, doesn't appear to be the most stable tool in the box. She has admitted sneaking into Liddle and Monckton's bedroom and watching them sleep. (Sadly we couldn't find any more details of exactly how this improbable bit of creepiness took place). She also appears to want to be sacked, telling the press she sold her story because she works in 'a pathetically paid local job'. Most weirdly, Liddle once described her as a 'total slut and slattern' who went on dates with ex-boyfriends.

But that's beside the point, which is: what is it about this celebrity thing that makes people want to sleep with celebs?

Of Liddle's affair, Royce has commented: 'Frankly it's only because he's bloody famous that a 22-year-old girl is going out with him anyway. I wouldn't have dreamt of going out with a 44- year-old man when I was 22. I liked someone my own age with a nice taut body, not a flabby fucking beer belly.'

And herein lies the puzzle. Liddle's new squeeze apparently looks like Keira Knightly. Liddle looks like the bizarre result of a Mengele-style breeding experiment between crap arts students and muppets: he's got a deliberately moppish mop of hair and works hard at being slightly unconventional and intellectual. You know the sort of thing - not wearing a tie on Question Time. Crayzee.

Liddle is successful, and by all accounts his book is pretty good. But is he 'famous'? Would you recognise him in the street? It's unlikely, unless you're an obsessive consumer of the Observer, The Spectator, Question Time and the Guardian review section.

An even more vexing question is: would you sleep with Rod Liddle because he's Rod Liddle? What bizarre sexual alchemy is taking place here? What's in it for the shaggee?

Maybe it's some sort of atavistic throwback to primitive times, when shagging the leader of your tribe of grubby Neanderthals meant you got a bigger share of the dinosaur meat (OK, we're a bit shaky on the actual historical details). Or maybe it's a thoroughly modern phenomenon, where our obsession with the mass media means that *any* level of fame is to be desired and respected. Either way, it seems the most limited forms of fame confer sexual desirability.

Next week: Fred Dibnah - how I slept with 50,000 women.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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