Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stealing the show at the SAFTAs

Acting legend John Kani managed to steal the show from the rent-a-scream mob at the fourth SOUTH AFRICAN FILM & TELEVISION AWARDS in Pretoria. "What is wrong with us South Africans"?" he asked when accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, the fourth such award in six months. "Why do we not think we are good enough to play Mandela?" It was a pointed reference to Morgan Freeman's role in Invictus, the Clint Eastwood movie which is (baffingly) up for several Oscar nominations.

Not only did Kani get a standing ovation, but his statement was greeted with wild cheers from the audience (perhaps not as piercing and wild as the ones greeting each wannabe and soapie star arriving on the red carpet, but much more satisfying as they came from his peers). It was a moot point. Anyone can do a Madiba accent but Kani would have brought a lot more gravitas to the role. He was so brilliant in Disgrace, and the movie did not get any nominations. What does that tell us? Maybe Clint Eastwood's butt gets kissed so much in Tinseltown that the judges are willing to overlook the fact that Invictus was certainly not his best movie ever. Kani was right: South Africans are the only ones who can tell their own stories, we have a depth and understanding of ourselves and our own history that no imported film crew could ever grasp.

Eastwood, Damon and Freeman did their damndest and maybe the film would work for a foreign market who still think in the apartheid stereotypes implanted in their minds (all Afrikaners are bad and all of them speak in those incredibly dodgy accents which foreign film makers employ. I don't know anyone, English or Afrikaans speaking who talks like that!!!) but at the end of the day they were just a bunch of tourists really. The film was interesting from an historical point of view but in contrast Disgrace explored so many nuances and complexities, so many areas of grey and layers that Eastwood's movies just never peel back. But then Eastwood's movies are, and have always have been, aimed at the masses, and earn cult status due to their popular appeal.

South African writer Antjie Krok is in agreement regarding Disgrace's Oscar status, another legendary local film maker Katinka Heyns told me in the lobby before the award ceremony began. It was a brilliant book and an equally brilliant movie. Katinka herself is no slouch in the great movie business (think, Fiela de Kind and Paljas) and she also won a Lifetime Achievement Award and a standing ovation. Unassuming and indefatigable, Katinka is another great South African film icon.

It was heartening to see that we do honour our greats, even if quite a few awards were posthumous this year. Myself and my neighbours got officially depressed when it turned into a case of Bring Out Your Dead.

We needed a cheer up from MC John Vlismas, who was dressed as a cross between Sid Vicious and Mad Max for the night, lots of chains and bovver boots.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A little 'Greek power' in the East

In the swim ... the Goldfinger girl in her snazzy cossie, which she changed later. It all tied in with the swimwear/lingerie show.

Last night saw the launch of the RICH REALGRILLBAR in the Bedford Centre. You don't expect a glam, red-carpetish sort of affair for the opening of an East Rand restaurant which has actually been doing business for three months, but I guess the owners wanted to make a huge splash to impress the people coming out of movies (pity they didn't include the price of the drinks in their obviously generous budget). And as it was a very Greek affair, it must have been the equivalent of pinning gold coins on a bride's dress. Let's just impress the hell out of everyone, shall we!

First thing to greet us was a girl in a Goldfinger 60s style swimsuit splashing around in a huge glass bowl. The water distorted the lines of her body, so that at times she almost looked pregnant but, hey, it was a good gimmick and all the men hoped she would take her clothes off (typical). Later on, when thirst overcame some guests we eyed out the enormous watery glass (sans model), but thought, no, she might have peed in it. Still have no idea how they got her in and out of the water.

OK, that's how .... Goldfinger girl had to hoist herself up to the top of the glass, then be carted out bottom first while a burly fellow held on to the glass itself. Rather undignified!

Also outside was a swankily gleaming Aston Martin convertible signed by Nelson Mandela himself, worth a few mill.

Besides the "Greek power" on the guest list there were lots of folk from across town who never venture out to the East. Now not only do most of Joburg's Greek and Italian population live here but the food is also very lekker. You find the best delis, coffee and restaurants on this side of town. If the food wasn't good we would probably see the Peloponnesian War, the Trojan War, the Greco-Persian Wars and the Greek War of Independence all rolled into one. Plus a few good Italian skirmishes.

Greek caterer Vicky Crease had done out the food stations, which combined savouries with desserts (wonderful mini-doughnuts coated in chocolate, bunches of fresh grapes, meringues, cheese platters with dried figs), and I found a table to enjoy it with in the company of Carlton Hair chief hairdresser David Gilson and his wife Alison. They were loving their food! We started with oysters (bit too icy for my liking), then I tried a souvlaki on a stick (very tender, especially with a squirt of lemon), then David went scouting for some prawns (soft and tasty) and the waiters came round with mashed potato and crushed pink peppercorns topped with lamb chops and sprigs of rosemary, served, wait for it, in martini glasses. Great presentation idea for the next dinner party! Vicky thinks out of the box every time, not only in the dishes she serves but in the way she presents them.

You have to sit down and enjoy when the food is this good but there was a lot of mingling to be done. I tracked down Ashley Hayden and her life partner Charlie in the smoking section. She had just got back from being voted off the South African Survivor series and had some interesting stuff to say (see my column in The Citizen on Saturday!). I don't have M-Net (gasp, horror) but will definitely be supporting her.

Yugoslavian model Danijela was a touch disapproving of the lingerie show as the models in swimwear wear wearing wings and apparently that is reserved only for lingerie models (who knew!).

Friend Jared Orlin looked around and said: "I must be the only Jewish person here". I think he was wrong as I did bump into model agency owner Paul Diamond's engineering brother Anthony . Nothing wrong with discovering your inner Greek though!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dinner with a bunch of butchers


Here's looking at your chops ... Some of the beautiful flesh on offer at Meat, Etc.

One of the things that visitors to this country always tell you (besides, "You have such a beautiful country") is that the meat here is so fantastic, unlike places like the United Kingdom where it tastes of virtually nothing. One of South Africa's premium steakhouses, The Grillhouse, has been going strong since 1995 and many a fine steak has been enjoyed with a good bottle of red in this fine establishment.

Something to drool over ... carpaccio from heaven.

With the new expansion of The Firs shopping centre in Rosebank The Grillhouse has expanded its horizons with the opening of a new boutique butchery and deli right opposite its adjoining jazz haven Katzys, called Meat, Etc.

Gourmet butcheries are springing up like mushrooms all over the world and meat cleaving courses are becoming particularly popular (especially with the ladies) so this expansion is right on the money.

I was invited with a group of foodies, such as Hillary Biller from the Sunday Times and Rosanne Buchanan from Food & Home, to enjoy a dinner in the deli section, which was closed off from the public for the night. This did not deter passers-by from constantly peering in at us through the glass doors. Some of them belonged to the Lufthansa crews who always stay at the Hyatt Regency. Apparently they are great customers and take vacuum-packed meat back with them to Germany. It makes a great present - I have always wanted to give someone gorgeous fillet steaks for their birthday!

The invite read: "Don't know your rump end from your shank?" and we were promised that by the time we left we would know all there was to know about meat, the best cuts, as well as how to prepare and cook them. Now I don't eat a lot of red meat - too worried about hormones and steroids and all that extra acidity - but every now and then I really lust for a steak and start salivating involuntarily at the thought. While butcher Jan was explaining to us about the different cuts I was positively slavering. "Now, we are going to slice some rump," he told us. "Oh please don't," I entreated, having just watched The Long Good Friday again where a gang of hoodlums cut some poor man's bum up with a long knife. The Food & Home team sniggered.

But Jan, who was big and burly and built like two butchers put together, was unstoppable. He was incredibly deft with his sniper-sharp blade and snipped out the sinew in one fell swoop, then trimmed off the fat without removing one atom of meat so it was as clean as a whistle. He told us that the rump as so good it could pass for fillet but that he knew better. With all this knowledge under our belt we all felt like we could waltz into a butcher shop tomorrow and watch with an eagle eye, knowing what was what.

Then it was our turn, with a long red gorgeous piece of fillet each (still drooling at the thought). We were issued with plastic gloves which were very sweaty and stuck to our clammy hands, plus a sharp knife. I was sitting next to Moneyweb's David Bullard who proved to be a dab hand at butchering. He slid his knife under the white sinew, pulled it upwards off the meat and sliced it off expertly (maybe he was imagining it was his ex-editor Mondli or the entire team of Avusa!). Mine was a poor show - I managed to cut off the chateaubriand part first and then got horribly mixed up as to which end was which. As for trimming the fat off, I hacked off bits here and there so the whole piece looked terribly raggedy-assed. Our pieces were taken off and weighed but very few managed to cut a 300g steak and two 20Og steaks, most were underweight.

Then followed a magnificent meal cooked by the in-house chef and staff. On the table were some melt-in-the mouth lamb cutlets with neighbouring platters of steak ranging from well done to very rare, carved and beautifully presented. With that came all the trimmings: mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, sweetcorn and butternut squash. The marketing manager from Waterford Estates, Mark, was on hand to serve his fabulous whites and reds and tell us about them (he even told us about his Waterford Rock Salt chocolate which was created to be enjoyed with the Cab). David had perked up after all his Hannibal Lector-like carvings and told us about his brother, who is the lead guitarist with Smokie (of Living Next Door To Alice fame). The band still travels the world and sometimes plays at Carnival City where all the ancient groupies come out to greet them, like the Banger Sisters of Brakpan. The security guards take one look at all these Afrikaans off-duty policewomen, etc, and say: "OK, you can go in, and you, and you, and you ..."

I discovered that the deli not only sells magnificent meat (the same quality aged cut steaks that are served in The Grillhouse) but there are other goodies to be had as well ... the best biltong in town, and I have to repeat it ... the BEST. The boerewors comes in lambs' casings, and is to absolutely drop down dead for. It retails at around R170 a kilogram so we are talking top quality here, but what a treat. There are also spices and sauces and bastings and oils (all local). Fynbos honey from the Hamilton Russell estate, which is produced in limited quantities. Little Webers with wood chips to smoke meat with (always wanted to do that). All sorts of paraphernalia and braai equipment. No wonder they call it Meat, Etc.

And I loved the tag line: "Meat to Please You". It most certainly did. But I can't stop the drooling now ...

Smoke 'em ... No meal is complete without a nice Cuban. But you might have to nip next door to Katzys for one

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day comes early

He who pays for the Piper ... a romantic spot of bubbly!

VALENTINE'S DAY came three days early this year, with a Glamour magazine readers' event at the chicest mall in Joburg, Hyde Park. The mall carries screamingly expensive top fashion brands, some of which were on display in the downstairs court.

Love the shoes AND the handbag ... Part of the display from the Hyde Park shops

We all met up at the new Southern Sun Hotel and enjoyed some cool poolside mingling ..

Cool pool ... the Southern Sun Hyde Park deck overlooking Sandton.

... before we went downstairs to Greek restaurant Santorini and enjoyed upmarket meze, fish and meat platters, all with plenty of lemon. The restaurant was curtained off from the rest of the centre, so there was an intimate feel, especially with the banquette seating.

A Greek salad at Santorini.

A lingerie show followed, showing off the French Shop's finest.

The Lollipop Lounge ... well not really. The girls from the lingerie show.

Paparazzi style ... Guests take pix of the models.

Ouch ... even lingerie models have bad angles.

Simply heavenly ... Lucky guests took home Angel for the ladies and Amen for the gents.

PS: For those who are anti-Valentine I loved the story on e.tv this week about the French guy who started up a business sending cow pooh to ex-lovers and spouses who had the cheek to dump just before Valentine's! He is doing a roaring trade apparently.

Pictures by primo social lensman, DAVID SHEKLETON

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The game is all about love, ladies

A poster outside the centre court of top seeded player Gael Monfils, who told the media he loves South Africa!

Dimension Data sponsored a Ladies Day at the SA TENNIS OPEN at Montecasino last week. All the ladies were instructed to wear hats and look glamorous. As you can see, they succeeded very well! As Mandisa Ntloko from Dimension Data said: "This is a game all about love", so the proceeds of the day went to the Starfish Foundation. Some of the players popped into the marquee to say hallo before their game, but sadly Gael Monfils (I love saying his name, so French!) was not one of them. Photographer Irene Athanasias was on hand to snap their pictures, though.

Basetsane Kumalo and her friend Polly Tebeila.

Two of the dancers who performed for guests.

Gerda de Sousa from Jacaranda 94.2 radio station, in a lovely fuschia jersey dress and shoes from Aldo.

Former First Lady Zanele Mbeki and Jacqui Mabu from Montecasino.

A member of the boy band Navi Redd, who sang Johnny Clegg songs, among other things.

Winner of the best hat (from Harvey Nicks in London) Noelle McKean and former Miss South Africa Amy Kleinhans-Curd.

Hot, hot, hot ... two of the players, James Cerretani and Prakesh Amrita.

Actress Nambitha Mpumlwana (in my hat!)

Miss South Africa 2010, Nicole Flint, and winner of the Best Dressed prize, Kholeka Mzondeki.

An elegant representative of government.

Zanele Mamba from the Starfish Foundation.

Caterer-to-the-stars Vicky Crease, myself and Annelize Plettenbacher of the Executive Women's Club.

A glowingly pregnant Thuli Sithole (who joked that her baby was conceived at Edith Venter's comeback party last year!) with the glamorous Zodwa Pakade.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Scenes from the movies

It's that time of the year again, when the Oscars are coming up and the awards are given out for the best movies of the year. Despite the bad economic times (the only strongest thing in the economy last year was the recession!) there was a feast for movie buffs and some stunners were on circuit last year, including a few with South African settings and stories. I did not think much of Invictus, personally, although Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman were brilliant and nailed their respective accents. The South African actors on the other hand were very poor and had not put much into their performances. It was a subject which could not miss its mark, though, and of course there was that typical Eastwood ending, very Hollywood and bigged-up, with PJ Powers lustily singing her '95 anthem.

Disgrace on the other hand was quite brilliant ... and I was particularly astonished that an Australian director had the guts to venture into the minefields of race, crime, prejudice, hatred of and violence against women - all the dark places where South Africans are too afraid to go - as well as pulling something positive out of the situation (John Kani and his family's betterment in life and an unexpected forgiveness which was almost Mandela-esque). Casual violence and trauma happen in our homes, on our streets every day and the movie forced me to examine the reasons behind it, as well as my own responses.

I was appalled to find myself shaking from head to toe at the scene when the daughter is raped and the three men laughingly drop a lit match on John Malkovich's petrol-drenched body. Initially I felt it as deliberate violence against my own tribe but began to see a much wider picture as the film progressed. This was for me an Oscar-winning movie. I can watch movies on the Holocaust, Bosnia or the genocide in Rwanda with some degree of detachment because they are not my stories, set in the places where I grew up, but when I watched Disgrace I could not tear my eyes from the screen.

What makes the media of film so powerful is that it can so skilfully manipulate emotions and provoke questions that change the way you think about a situation for months afterwards. It's like having a meal that feeds the soul.

I loved 500 Days of Summer because it made me think about what love really is. For so many people love is really obsession, wanting desperately to make someone else into what you want them to be. When you are young and have strong feelings it's easy to turn love into obsession. People meet, take one look at one another and decide that they are soul mates. Sometimes that way disaster lies, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who seem to have decided that they really don't like each other at all! Sometimes though that soulmate feeling stays with people their entire lifetime, even if they go off on their separate paths. Humans are weird creatures and they can cherish their feelings like little spring blossoms which are not designed to withstand this world. Its survival makes no sense at all to an outsider. The practical would say, how can you say you love someone when you don't really even know them? For them love is spending your life with someone, having children together and making a home. However, there is a romantic inside even the most practical one of us. Who knows? People are so varied and complex that anything goes.

I am a real chick and some of my favourite movies about love are The Piano (so sensual), Gone With The Wind (the ultimate love-become-obsession movie), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (a three-hanky movie about young love which doesn't make it, with a sad little soundtrack), Bridget Jones's Diary (sometimes you have to love a bad man before you can love a good 'un), Sophie's Choice (doomed love), Sleepers (about friendship which survives the unthinkable. Yes, friendship is also love), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (sometimes you love your family in spite of yourself), Breakfast at Tiffanys (an unexpected happy ending), The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (how to make a fool of yourself with a younger man), Henry and June (sex, obsession and love), The Graduate (the male fantasy: mother and daughter and lots of obsession), The Great Gatsby (at last, the real thing), Chocolat (most of my love was for the choccy scenes), Sideways (loved the description of Pinot), Gigi (archetypal lovestory), Fried Green Tomatoes, Babette's Feast (everyone got to love each other through food), As It is in Heaven (heavenly music does the same), Barry Lyndon (Brad and Angelina in the 18th century) and certainly not least, Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (now that was the real deal).

Monday, February 1, 2010

The rainbow nation goes to the races

Freak show city ... check out the blue hair caught in a very strong South-Easter!

Sensational ... Pabi Moloi, who was one of the judges,kept her cute grey hat on her bald head with elastic.

The River flows through it ... River Jetez, Pocket Power's sister came in with odds of around 60-1. Ridden here by jockey, Glen Hatt.

Over the top ... Some punters didn't bother to dress, just painted on their outfit!

Psychedelic, baby ... YFM's Twinz, Ntando and Hlelo Masina.

Pink 'fros ...The girls at the icecream stand, Monade van Heerden with Nicole Bester and Mieke Esterhuyse.

Best dressed couple ... Henri Slier in an hallucinogenic Carducci jacket and Thembi Seete

Hey, don't take that picture say the world's silliest talk show hosts, Corne and Twakkie. We're not Asterix and Obelix

And the winner is ... Durbanite Kevin Ellis (who is a bit of a Pocket Power in the design department, as he has won for several years) with his model in front of the J&B marquee.

Girls in tight dresses ... Christina Storm, Cindy Nell and Uyanda Mbuli.

Nice, but not raceday ... Minki van der Westhuizen in a gorgeous long pink evening gown with Ryan O'Connor.

Old soft shoe shuffle ... a very doo-wop moment from Kwela Tebza (Tshepo, Mpho and Tebogo Lerole).

It was pink and purple and blue and ... Meet Joseph's Technicolour hair worn by a gentleman with the very fusion name of Kevin van Tonder.

Fine feathers ... Lihle Njikelana & Ziphozakhe Zokufa

The new Miss South Africa 2010 ... Nicole Flint in a Malcolm Kluk design.

Bright lady ... Leigh-Anne Williams.

This year's J&B Met was a riot of colour and a few interesting things went down...

The new Miss SA, Nicole Flint unsuspectingly started a Twitter debate on whether she should wear her sash or not. Obviously us South Africans have nothing better to do but tweets flew back and forth. She told the press that she wore her sash so that people would get to know her as she didn't feel that they did yet. But several felt the sash was not ayoba! It certainly didn't go with her gorgeous Malcolm Kluk dress.

The lunchtime Mango flight was late by about one hour, and the captain made an announcement telling passengers that this was because their fellow J&B revellers had all been late for an earlier flight that day. Mango came on board with great rates and was the official carrier for the Met, so I guess they couldnt tell the bigwigs, sorry for you, we're not holding flights because you have a hangover.

PS: Met organiser Eddy Cassar, when asked about this had this to say: "Crap, crap, crap and nonsense! he seemed to think it was a joke on the part of the captain ...

Herschelle Gibbs obviously knows he has a cute butt as he was wearing a pair of very tight white Levis with studs on the pockets (knowing where the eye will go). His father overheard the remarks about his son's tush and was delighted. He rushed off to tell Herschelle who was hanging out with Bobby Skinstad. Bob was obviously H's wing man as he was wearing a pair of shapeless schlumpy jeans with no focal point at all.

The question on everyone's lips on the way home, was: is she, isn't she? Referring to singer Lira who is rumoured to be three months' pregnant. We all noticed her different hair but couldn't tell from the high-waisted dress she had on (she has been favouring these for some time now).

TV star Natalie Bekker had a dingdong fight with the "pudding guy" Dirk de Villiers when he started bringing out macaroons and cupcakes. "It's no good you standing around," he told her, adding that people could only start eating the treats at 5pm. While they were arguing naturally people were pulling in and filling up their plates with everything in sight. Natalie was outraged, however, and told him not to be such a bitch. He immediately got on to his cellphone while the macaroons disappeared at an ever more rapid rate!

Zuraida Jardine's new baby was much admired and she was congratulated for being a presenter on Alan Ford's new show (he left 3 Talk at the end of last week). However she told me that she hadn't signed the contract yet and didn't consider anything concrete until signatures were in place.

The stars of Cape Town's hot new TV show MAN, the all male answer to Sex and the City, were all at the races. I overheard an ex girlfriend of one of them, Maurice, expressing how upset she was by the way he was being portrayed in the show (as an arrogant, womanising idiot!). "He's not like that at all," she said in the neck massage queue as our ears wiggled like satellite dishes. "He just says stupid things sometimes." If a man's ex has only nice things to say, one should listen, but I noticed that all the nice girls gave him a wide berth while the sluts positively threw themselves at him. He did not seem to mind!

Who knew that the Justerini and Brooks brothers made champagne? J&B sent over a couple of cases of their own private cuvee for the Met and the verdict was: "Very nice, it tastes just like Graham Beck!"

Has anyone started up an anti-Khanyi Mbau/Paris Hilton/Oxygen Thieves of the World Facebook posting yet? Khanyi would survive everything, even 2012, and still manages to make headlines for absolutely no reason. She tried to push her way into the J&B hospitality marquee, trying the very original line: "Do you know who I am?".