Category: Biobits

HOW WE MET: JANI ALLAN & CHIEF BUTHELEZI

Chief Buthelezi, IFP leader has announced his retirement from politics.This is the story of How We Met.

 

JANI ALLAN: At the time I met Chief Buthelezi, in 1982, he was still flavour of the month – that was before political pragmatism took over. I remember an interminable lunch for the opening of the Drakensberg Sun Hotel in Natal. There wasn’t an interview scheduled with His Excellency afterwards, but I thought I’d try and busk it anyway. The corridor outside his room was like a Japanese subway, packed with chiselled-faced Zulus. Very stern and very forbidding. My mind kept flashing back to a scene from the film Shaka Zulu where Impi warriors are chanting: “One Zulu is worth a thousand other men.”

I felt embarrassed to be…

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Jobless in New Jersey

Someone once said that they could name an amusement park ride after my life. Perhaps that was true in the past. In the past there were the ‘wheeee’ moments when I would fling my hands in the air and shriek with joy.

These days there is a lot more horror and less hoorah.

What Old Testament aspect of God’s nature did I annoy to find myself job-hunting in America?

I’m not really good at looking for jobs. Probably because I haven’t really had many jobs in my life.

First, I was a schoolteacher at Bryanston High School. Despite wearing post-box red platform boots for the job interview, the Headmaster, Mr Viviers, hired me on the spot.

Pari passu once or twice a week I would go to a classical music concert at the Johannesburg City Hall. Straight afterwards, I would drive down to the Stygian offices of the Citizen newspaper in even more Stygiany Doornfontein…

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I get married and become a columnist (extract)

This is an extract from Jani Confidential (Jacana, 2015) by Jani Allan.

If you really want to know who I am, let me tell you a story. The windows of my memory are casually framing pictures of a roseate hue. I just happened, for a while, to be at the top of a layer cake with icing decorated with stars.

The story I am going to tell you contributed immeasurably to my sense of self.

It is my Gordon story.

*

Gordon Schachat will tell you the story. My shrink will tell you the story.

Gordon said he saw me walking down the steps of the Great Hall at Wits University and decided then and there to marry me. That day my avatar was wearing a chocolate suede midi-skirt buttoned up the front and a pair of matching chocolate suede thigh boots. I was twenty-one.

Gordon took to hanging around the canteen when he knew I would…

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EXCERPT FROM JANI CONFIDENTIAL

Jani Confidential book display at Munro Boutique Hotel, Johannesburg.

CHAPTER 1

My Mother, Myself

My moon is in Capricorn. Astrologers will tell you that this signifies a plate-glass cold maternal figure, distant and given to withholding praise and affection.

So it was with Janet Sophia.

She scooped me up when I was a runt with cabbage ears. I could fit in a shoe box. She named me Isobel Janet. She didn’t tell me I was adopted until I was eighteen. She was short-fused and I had annoyed her about something or other. ‘I didn’t want you. I really wanted a little boy!’

I ran out of the house and sat in the stable for hours.

But I am my mother. More importantly, I am her creation. Then – and still…

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Me? I’m on the shelf with the marmalade

Getting older is like being fined for something you didn’t mean to do.

There you are pootling along (within the speed limit these days) but there was no warning billboard saying “Steep Decline Ahead.” Or if there were you didn’t notice it until you were on the slip road.

Thereafter the signs come thick and fast.

But most of them fill me with deep relief and not inconsiderable joy.

The ideal American woman is the stepdaughter of a masculine society and as such lives with habitual sexualization and devaluation. In an ageist/lookist society, women over thirty are considered past it. We are at the mercy of a mass culture that only celebrates older women ‘who still remain youthful’.

The shine in the eyes of a fifty-five year old Hollywood fiancée is really the white stare of desperation.

Me? I am on the shelf with the marmalade.

What a relief.

I can sit quietly gathering dust having been ejected…

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6 books to read before you die

This review was originally published in the August 2015 edition of The Big Issue South Africa.

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Letter to a Young Jani

 

 

 

 

 

This column was originally published by De Kat in August 2014. 

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The Little Shop of Horror’s Dentist

Johnny Rodriguez of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force is an heroic figure. I have known him and wife Cheryl for more than two decades. His life is under constant threat as he struggles to make the world aware of the corruption that is enabling the destruction of several species of animals. Every time I get an email from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force my heart sinks, heavy as a rusty anchor.

In a world, already leaden with bad news and cruelty, Johnny’s emails render me limp. The latest is no exception: Cecil the Lion is the latest high-profile victim of the trophy hunting industry. American dentist Walter James Palmer was taken to Hwange National Park by professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst.

Cecil survived Palmer’s callous crossbow shot. The lion suffered unspeakable pain for the following 40…

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Memories of an Irishman

John Carroll – or Seamus, as he was known – was an Irishman who used to call Cape Talk when I was on air.

He would say such politically incorrect things that he made for riveting radio.

He would bring flowers, home-made trail mix and interesting books and leave them at the front desk for me.

A telephonic friendship of a kind grew. One night my friend Kate and I went to visit him. He was the greenkeeper and Security Manager of a Golf Club in Cape Town.

He was impeccably dressed in his whites, often changing several times during a day. He claimed to hate golf but was conceived somewhere on a golf course, he said.

He had an immense family who had immigrated to South Africa from Ireland, that land filled with enchantment and…

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On Forgiveness

 

Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

American news anchors are outraged at the news that Oscar Pistorius is to be released after serving ten months for the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

“This is unforgivable!’ bloviated one. “South Africa you should be ashamed!”

In a country heavy with terrible deeds, it is difficult to know what criteria a crime must meet before it requires public repentance by its perpetrator and forgiveness from its victim – or American news anchors.

I was pondering on these things in relation to Clive Derby-Lewis’ invitation to Chris Hani’s widow to visit him so that he could make a personal apology to her.

In papers…

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The post author book tour hangover

With Sarah Britten, Peta Eggierth-Symes, Wendy Machanik and Marika Sboros at Exclusive Books, Hyde Park.

Before I left for my author book tour of South Africa my friend Steven posted something by Anne Lamott on Facebook and said I should take note of number 7.

“Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published… Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the…

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Mandy Rice-Davies – From High-life Scandal to High Life

I met Mandy Rice-Davies in the summer of 1989. 

We got on like port and nuts. She invited me to have supper with her and Ken Foreman, her husband, at Le Caprice in Arlingston Street, Picadilly.

She said she was interested in how my life was going to turn out.

It was with sadness that I read of her death this week.

This is the interview I wrote after meeting her.

The first thing you notice about Mrs Foreman, née Mandy Rice-Davies is that she looks innocently young. It’s been 26 years since that spot of bother with Profumo, Keeler and Co which led to the collapse of Harold Macmillan’s government. But the years have passed without leaving the barest trace.

Enviable figure, too, Wafer-thin and perfectly groomed, she looks exactly right in the opulent setting of her Knightsbridge drawing room….

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I refuse to be the poster child of slut-shaming

Slut-shaming is the act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity. I left the country in 2001. I live in a blaze of obscurity (sic) in America. I am a recluse by choice and a PONTI – a person of no tactical import in South Africa. Yet my epic humiliation and allegations about my sex life remain, it seems, an all-consuming story to certain South Africans.

 

On Friday, 19 September at the Open Book Festival at the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town, the Daily Maverick hosted a mini-gathering to debate the future of independent, free and intelligent journalism in South Africa. At one point…

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Kendall Jones – Evil in a Rah-rah skirt

Kendall Jones, 19, is a Texan cheerleader who sparked outrage on Facebook by posting pictures of herself with animals she hunted and killed in Africa.

Huntress, Kendall Jones.

She has responded to her online backlash, using President Teddy Roosevelt in her defense.

“He killed the same species that hunters now chase today under a mound of anti-hunting pressure,” she posted on her page. “Yet, how can it be possible that someone can love the earth, and take from the Earth in the name of conservation? For some folks, they’ll never understand.”

Kendall, don’t you realize that you capsize your own arguments by brazenly admitting that you are “looking to host a TV show.”

This is not my first rodeo with your kind. TV presenter,

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The Marquis of Debris

Jeffrey David Hamilton.

Not long after coming to the little river town in which I live I met an extraordinary man.

His name was Jeffrey Hamilton. He resembled a kind of Indiana Jones and was seldom seen without his trademark battered and greasy hat. His hands could open parking meters and with his craggy, tanned good-looks, he must have broken hearts like hickory nuts when he was younger.

His family was studded with over-achievers. His father, Jim, was a Broadway set designer. His French mother, an accomplished ballerina and cook.

One of his sisters, Gabrielle, wrote a best-selling food memoir “Blood, Bones and Butter” and runs a wildly successful restaurant in New York called Prune.

The other sister, Melissa, together with her colleague Christopher Hirscheimer publishes four cook books a year. Oprah rated the Canal House…

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LETTER TO OSCAR …

Dear Oscar

Many years ago an Afrikaans man fell in love with me. It was a complicated situation. I was a journalist and he was a story.

Things became as messy as a cat’s sandbox. When he drove into the gates of the monument at Paardekraal he was taken to court. I was called as a witness. The man whom I thought was a leader and an inspiration to his people took to calling me obsessively and crying noisily on my answerphone.

Once he drove to my apartment in Sandown in the middle of the night. When I refused to let him in he fell into a drunken stupor outside the door. Another time, he and his wife turned up to beg me to testify favourably and to ‘stop the press’ from writing about us. His young daughter was with them. I implored his wife to make him realize that it was his…

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MEN vs WOMEN REDUX

And so, praise the Lord, another Restaurant Week has come to a close. Restaurant Week is the week when most of the regulars stay well away and people we have never seen and may never see again descend on the restaurant. Why not?

A mere $29.95 (tax and gratuity additional) will get you a three-course meal at a restaurant that you would traditionally reserve for a special occasion. Like announcing you want to consciously uncouple. Or propose marriage.

Last week on Monday night a female co-worker – let’s call her Miss Bunny – and I served about 50 people. No hostess, no bus, just the pair of us. (Sounds like a Cole Porter song right there, I know).

Miss Bunny and I hardly needed to speak to each other. We anticipated each other’s…

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Evolutionists have been making monkeys of us all

“A long time ago …” is the traditional beginning of a fairy story.

When a long, long time ago a princess kisses a frog that promptly turns into a man, we call it evolution.

Some years ago the scientific mafia announced that the “Missing Link”, the earliest direct ancestor of humanity, had been discovered in Ethiopia.

So funny.

Heidelberg man was also applauded as the “Missing Link”. Only later was it conceded that perhaps the evidence had been somewhat flimsy to have made such assumptions.

Piltdown man, too, is these days – after appearing in the textbooks as bona fide proof of evolution for over sixty years – acknowledged as a hoax.

In 1929 Nebraska Man was presented as the most indisputable evidence of evolution yet. Three years later it turned out that the sole evidence on which this premise had been based was a single tooth – that of an extinct pig.

From small molars great…

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Pik Botha – poetry and waves of politspeak

Pik Botha appeared on BBC’s Question Time last month. He looked as irrelevant as the solitary man sitting at the end of the bar. But it was not always so.

Many years ago I interviewed the then South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha. This is what I wrote:

Often running, frequently jumping and rarely standing still, Foreign Minister Pik Botha’s name snags newspaper headlines internationally and daily. After a quarter of a century – make that half a century – in the killing fields of détente, his gungho tyle of dueling has his detractors groaning. But there are those that smile on the showman as Elgar would on the young Menuhin.

Minister Pik Botha tells me he has a passion for Greek philosophers.

Especially “That guy who used to have his castle next to the river in Athens. He would…

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Diagonal Street Déjà vu

Twenty five years ago on January 8th I was told by my editor to write a front page interview which was to be entitled Jani by Jani. In those days the Sunday Times cost R1.61 +19c tax. Many of the key players in this storm in a thimble are dead. Hopefully the other haters are dying off. I write this for a different generation and for those with a sense of the ridiculousness that has always been a hallmark of many things South African. Cf Nkandla, Malema, Zuma etc. 

Jani by Jani

Hot on the trail of South Africa’s most-wanted journalist.

Photo credit: James Soullier.

Roll up! Roll up! It’s the Jani and ET show. BOM. Bring own mud.“Broedertwis! Blondine!”

Credited…

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Death by tabloid

Dear Nigella,

You probably won’t remember me. We met briefly in Londinium when you were still married to John Diamond. I was an avid reader of your restaurant reviews in The Spectator.

I have seen your star rise and scintillate. You truly are a domestic goddess. Actually, make that just a goddess.

But goddesses are on pedestals and how delightful it is knock something from a pedestal. How the public enjoys to see a fall from grace. This is the theatre of schadenfreude. How they love it! Why, the scribblers are filled with such joy as rises like the aroma from the bœuf en daube!

I have been reading about your trials in the court and my einüfhlung is at full throttle.

You see, Nigella, I also mistakenly believed that one could expect justice from a court.

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