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The night after my interview with Esquire's July issue cover star I drove west from Hollywood, through an electrical storm so spectacular it appeared to be computer generated, past torrents of rainwater and felled palm trees, to a party under a marquee in the garden of a private house in lush, leafy Brentwood, California.
I took Esquire's creative director, David McKendrick, with me – and I was glad I did. This was Oscar week in LA and the guest list was stellar, so it was important to my ego that someone even less glamorous than me be present – also to corroborate the details of what followed.
The first person we happened upon, as we waited at the bar for stiff drinks, was Amy Adams, who it so happens I interviewed last year. Amy, one of the most convincing actors of her generation and a kind, good woman, recognised me straight away as somebody she once met somewhere possibly or possibly not in connection with something or other to do with work – or maybe a friend of a friend of a friend? Looking not remotely mystified, she smiled and said hey and how was I? (There's a reason these people are repeatedly nominated for awards.) We talked, of course, about the weather.
Amy made us feel, just for a moment, that we belonged. Possibly David less so, given she definitely had no clue who he was, but I know I felt better about things thanks to her. Emboldened by that and the vodka, next thing we knew we were shaking hands with Sly Stallone, nodding to Oprah Winfrey, beaming at Larry David and Serena Williams and anyone else we could find to beam at. David – tsk! – let the side down somewhat by having his photo taken, civilian-style, with Snoop Dogg, but in other respects I think we managed to just about keep our wits about us. At least, we weren't thrown out.
Perhaps sensing the powerful danger of this happening, after a time Sienna Miller – another recent interviewee, and another compassionate soul – ushered us to the smoking area, where we could spontaneously combust without setting fire to Jeffrey Katzenberg's suit or Chloe Sevigny's hair.
Even surrounded by such famous faces, such extraordinary creatures, Charlize Theron – our reason to be in town that week – stands out: golden, statuesque. If ever they were to sculpt a female Academy Award trophy, in the event that Oscar demanded a sex change, they should cast Charlize in platinum.
Among the most gifted and charismatic actors of her generation – and not entirely horrible to look at – Charlize can currently be seen in cinemas in One Million Ways to Die in the West, as well as on newsstands both real and virtual, posing for our cover photographer Terry Richardson, and talking to me.
But this month's issue of Esquire is not entirely given over to the famous, the elegant and the charismatic. Turn the page from Charlize and meet the fat pig giving British dads a bad name.
For those of you without small children, Daddy Pig is the father of Peppa Pig, a princess-y little cartoon porker who has stolen the hearts and minds of ankle-biters the world over. In the process Daddy Pig has become perhaps the most divisive TV paterfamilias since Homer Simpson first burped up a Duff Beer.
I'm afraid I've been rather down on the portly swine in my discussions with fellow fathers in the Esquire office. The notion that the modern British dad is by definition a lazy, inept, corpulent figure of fun – while certainly confirmed by some of us – seems somewhat unjust, given how hard many of us work these days at being hands-on and in-touch and all the rest of it.
And even if we are a bit crap, and liable to fall snoringly asleep in front of the football now and then, there's no need I can see to encourage our kids in this opinion. At least allow us to enjoy these few years of grace, before they discover, crestfallen, what brutish berks we are.
Dan Davies, Daddy Pig to Iris and Albert Davies, takes a more benign view of the bum-fluffed cartoon blunderer than I do. In this issue he makes a compelling case for Daddy P, not least as a sedative for the under fives. On that one point, I'll concede, he has his uses.
Giles Coren, of Mother & Baby magazine fame, has previously written eloquently in Esquire about fatherhood. This month, he turns to another subject dear to all men's magazines readers: mindless violence. Somewhere I have a copy of a book called Tough Jews, by Rich Cohen. Superficially it's about murderous Brooklyn gangsters in the Twenties and Thirties.
What it's really about is exploding the stereotype that Jewish men are all neurotic intellectuals: clever and funny but not physically robust, certainly not dangerous. Krav Maga, the system of self defence that Giles is studying, silences that old lie as effectively as the Murder, Inc hoods did their enemies. Giles is a tough Jew now. If only he were clever and funny as well he'd be terrifying.
And there's more: Jim Merrett on how cycling got stylish; Kiefer Sutherland in spring's sharpest clothes; Richard Moore on the doping scandal threatening Jamaican athletics; the accumulated wisdom of Matt LeBlanc; a round-up of high-brow summer beach reads (and which shorts to wear while reading them); style advice from Jeremy Langmead; lifestyle advice from AA Gill; recipes from Mark Hix; plus travel, cars, girls, drinks, music and a sexual encounter with John Lydon that ends with the words, "Stop it, Viv. You're trying too hard".
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