With his jutting chin, twinkling eyes and permanent position at the heart of the showbusiness firmament, artists have long wanted to capture the spirit of Britain’s favourite entertainer, Bruce Forsyth.
But until recently, no one had ever been able to persuade him to sit still long enough for a portrait to be painted.
Now, at the age of 82, the Strictly Come Dancing genius — a household name since he first appeared on television in 1958 — has been captured in oils by the celebrated portraitist Michael Noakes, whose previous subjects have included Baroness Thatcher, the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
Gift: Michael Noakes's portrait of Bruce Forsyth
in London — and it was much admired.
Despite its high profile — Forsyth is captured in his drawing room with a grand piano in the background — there remains a rather delicate matter.
Traditionally, none of the 200-odd paintings on show at the exhibition is for sale because they are previously commissioned and paid-for works.
However, Forsyth did not commission the portrait and, somewhat unusually, Noakes, I gather, is going to give it to him. This has caused raised eyebrows in the portrait-painting world, where the well-regarded Noakes usually charges up to £20,000 for a painting.
His portrait of Lady Thatcher — for which he was originally paid £7,000 — was later auctioned for £450,000.
Says the entertainer’s manager, Ian Wilson: ‘Bruce has never had his portrait done before. He’s been asked lots of times, but he can never find the time.
‘Plus, he can’t sit still long enough and, frankly, he isn’t the type of person who goes in for vanity paintings.
‘But Mr Noakes was very persistent and very patient. Bruce eventually agreed to do it more or less as a favour. The whole process took around five years.’
Brushing up her act
Breathing difficulties: Emma Watson
For the pouting Harry Potter starlet, who moved to the U.S. to study at Brown University, has revealed she is taking drama classes.
But her A-list pedigree failed to endear her to the university’s acting tutor, Thom Jones, who took her to task over her breathing.
‘I think actually I’m the worst person in the class,’ says Emma modestly. ‘He said: “I’m surprised you’re actually able to function in your daily life — the amount of oxygen you take in is so small.” I was like: “Oh God, that’s terrible.”’
Emma, 20, who is studying European women’s history, adds that her decision to leave Britain caused consternation. ‘I kind of freaked my parents out,’ she tells Vanity Fair magazine. ‘Everybody looked at me like: “Are you nuts?”’
And when she got there, things didn’t get better. ‘It was just awful,’ she says. ‘I felt like I’d walked into an American teen movie.’
Happily, she says she’s now settled in.
Singer Annie Lennox is scornful of The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.
‘I think those types of shows are dangerous and cruel,’ she tells me. ‘They’ll have a long-lasting effect on how people look at music. I understand their appeal, but there’s no chance I’d ever be a judge.
'You have a panel of people basically giving you the thumbs up or down, and there’s so much more to music than that. I don’t think they’ll ever find a real artist because a real artist would never go on a talent show.
'Can you imagine Grace Jones performing in front of the Britain’s Got Talent judges? It just wouldn’t happen.’
It might be fun though — remember how she slapped TV presenter Russell Harty?
Tonight he will turn his accomplished hand to acting when he appears on stage with comedy duo Kit & The Widow.
‘It has been fairly manic,’ Titchmarsh tells me during the middle of rehearsals at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. ‘I’ve known them for 25 years and they’ve always been on at me to join them on stage, and I’ve always said: “I’ve got a reputation to think of.” But then, once you realise you don’t any more, you think: “Why not?” ’
With the country in the grip of election fever, Titchmarsh, 61, hopes to provide a welcome distraction. ‘People will be ready for a bit of light relief,’ he says.
And does he have any stage ambitions after this show? ‘We can either live or die in Guildford. If it’s a success, we’re thinking, next stop Broadway — Ealing Broadway that is.’
Wynn loses his glamour girl
Back in London: Andrea Hissom
The former wife of investment broker Robert Hissom — a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles — Andrea met Wynn in one of his hotels, and their affair bloomed on the French Riviera.
Wynn was divorced from his wife of 46 years, Elaine, in January when she received what the billionaire claimed was one of the largest financial settlements in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, mother-of-two Andrea and Wynn, 68, set up home together in a villa at one of his Las Vegas properties.
They appeared smitten. Only last month, Wynn told an interviewer: ‘I get to go to bed at night with this lady who is sweet and perfect. She’s 46, but looks 18. She is genetically lucky.’
But according to reports, the couple split after a falling out. All a spokesman for Wynn would tell me is: ‘We don’t comment on the Wynns’ personal matters.’
The bonkbuster novelist and candidate for Corby writes on Twitter: ‘Have spent campaign stuffing myself with fruit sherbets, taramasalata, nuts and raisins, dark chocolate with cherries and still fitting into Next size-eight skinny-fit jeans all because I run for 20 minutes Monday to Friday.’
PSActor Tom Conti will be voting today, but with a heavy heart. A disillusioned Labour man, Conti — who nearly ran for London mayor because of his rage at parking fines and the congestion charge — has been turned off politics.
‘I couldn’t stand going into politics now, although I’d personally be a very good benign dictator,’ he says. ‘There are a few good people in Westminster. Not many, but a few.
'It’s the big boys at the top, that’s where the trouble really lies. The salvation is in abandoning party politics. It’s completely wasteful.’
As for his own views, he adds: ‘After having been a Labour supporter for years, I am no longer. I’m an appalled supporter. I’ll be voting on Thursday with a hopeless heart, because I don’t think any of the three major parties knows what to do.’