from Novelist Andrew O'Hagan, in the Daily Telegraph (UK)
"...Two years ago, I was in New Zealand with him. We were there to represent British culture, a fact which made us laugh for an entire week, and I have to say I've never fallen into camaraderie with someone so quickly in my life.
The first night, I went for an Indian with John and his wife Sheila, and I wasted no time in paying dues to my former self: I told him he was a god. He took it very well, saying something profound like, "You wouldn't pass me some of that mango chutney over, would you?" As we went from place to place, I realised John and Sheila were one of the very few couples whose relationship I envied: she loved his jokes, and he just thought there was nothing in the world to match her.
Waiting to meet some Maori dignitaries, John and I were discussing a band called the Wedding Present. I broke off and said something nice to him about Sheila. His eyes filled up and he lost his words. "Thank you, Andrew," he said eventually. "I think that, too."
Every few yards in New Zealand someone would present themselves to John and give him a tape or a CD. By day three, he had 92 of them, and he brought them to a house I'd rented on Waiheke Island. We had dinner on a veranda looking over the greenest water; the trees seemed to caress the house and we listened to the music.
"This might be the loveliest place I've ever been," John said. We walked on the beach - Sheila behind us and John walking backwards so he could see her. "It's like a painting," I said to him. "The Man who Loved to Look at His Wife." "It's true," he said. "I love looking at Sheila. I've always said it: she's just the nicest person I've ever met."
There was a dinner one night. John started talking to me about his childhood and the various things that had happened. I was mesmerised by him, the way he spoke so humanely and clearly about the past. He was my favourite person on the radio, but now he was talking privately, almost conspiring with me to get it right, make it precise, for each of us, the story of childhood and what it means. It was then I realised what it was that made John Peel the greatest broadcaster of his generation..."
The Herald picked up fellow BBC DJ Andy Kershaws comments via the Independent, some of which have created a stir...
"The last time I saw him he looked absolutely worn out. We went to a cafe near Radio 1 and I said: "John, you look terrible." He said: "They've moved me from 11pm to one at night and the combination of that and Home Truths (his BBC Radio 4 show) is killing me." He felt he had been marginalised."
"BBC authorities rejected the notion. "It is extremely distressing that Andy should say this. John was fully supportive of the changes -- he even said that the late finish meant clearer roads when he drove back to East Anglia", one BBC executive said."
I think that is called 'saying what the boss wants to hear'.
Peel getting shunted to a later slot is not disimilar to the story of Rodney Bingenheimer, a US DJ at KROQ in Los Angeles. I saw an interesting documentary about him at this year's Film Festival - it's called The Mayor of Sunset Strip. Bingenheimer is responsible for breaking many bands in the States the last 30 years, and he's still on the radio, but these days he's been shunted off to Sunday midnight to 3am. While the doco makes much of Bingenhiemer's celebrity friends, it also makes him look sad and lonely, as someone who has never capitalised on their position in any meaningful financial way. It's not a very flattering portrait, and the director is useless at asking questions. You know a doco is in trouble if you are sitting in the theatre thinking of questions you'd want to ask, really obvious stuff, and they just get bypassed.
When it screened here, they showed the trailer for the film just prior to screening it, which basically gave away all the good lines, before you got to see the film. Sigh.