RONAN KEATING LOOKED like an angel. His teeth glowed, his hair shun like spun gold and his white suit was as stain-free as Daniel O’Donnell’s conscience. Tendrils of light appeared to trail from him as he floated around the room at the MTV Awards launch.
“Behold, for he is God’s anointed,” Dermott ‘The Hat’ Hayes intoned over his Manhattan.
“Behold, for he looks like … a right twat,” I replied, slurping mine. It was 1999 and Ronan was hosting the awards in Dublin. I had recently been made showbusiness editor with the Herald and Dermott was our diarist. We were straight out of central casting for Cynical Tabloid Hacks. The luvviness of the event was making us feel pukey.
“Here we go…” Hayes sighed, handing me his cocktail and holding out his hand to greet Keating. They seemed like old buddies, asking after each other’s families and how work was going. Hayes introduced me and I remember being impressed that Ronan made – and held – eye contact. He had just shook hands with 100s of people and must have been hacked off at that stage. I was even more impressed by him when The Hat said afterwards: “Jesus, that was awkward. He hates my f*****g guts.”
Ro was a real pro.
It was my first time eye-witnessing the symbiotic relationship between showbiz reporter and celebrity. This is built on one needing the other … and neither admitting to being the parasite in the relationship. Last Friday, Ronan whined about this symbiotic relationship as Ryan Tubridy gave him an easy ride about his extra-marital affair on the Late Late.
“Can I talk to you about your past year? You described it as a ‘nightmare’. What happened?”
“It was a crazy year. I guess the Press went pretty crazy on me… They were waiting for an opportunity,” Ronan said, adding that he and his wife, Yvonne, were moving on “positively”. There was no insight into the hypocritical behaviour of a man who used images of his kids to sell Nintendo DS. There was no apology to his fans.
Instead, there was victimhood – with Ronan as the injured party. The Media (ie, newspapers) were out to get him. There was no mention that the media didn’t break the story of Keating’s marriage problems – his own website did that. The interview was a soft-soap affair. There was a hint of collusion to it.
On Sunday, the Press vented its anger over the interview. ‘Viewer fury as love rat Ronan gets an easy ride on Late Late’ declared the Sindo. ‘The Hate Hate Show – calls for Tubridy axe in Ronan interview outrage’ cried The Mirror.
Tubridy certainly doesn’t deserve the axe. Keating isn’t Seanie Fitz, he’s just a singer. However, the chat show host did break a covenant with his viewers. He was given the Late Late chair to ask the questions they want answered. News instinct alone suggested they wanted to know how the affair had affected Keating’s marriage and career. The public has, wittingly and otherwise, invested in Keating over the years. Our flagship TV show – paid for by our licence fees – launched Boyzone. The Irish public gave Keating his break.
Ryan could have asked him:
- You’ve used the media to portray yourself as a devoted husband. Does your affair make you the biggest pop hypocrite since Chris de Burgh?
- You have stage-managed your career through the media. Is the public not entitled to more than “we’re moving on”?
- You have made millions from your relationship with the media. Should you be complaining about Press intrusion or should you just “say nothing at all”? [Cue gentle laughter from audience.]
Tubridy has dealt with Press ‘intrusion’ into his own love life. The difference between him and Keating is that he keeps his family and professional lives separate.
While Tubridy was giving Keating an easy ride, the Mail on Sunday was going to press with an ‘exclusive’ interview. It contained the following self-pitying quotes: “Quite a few people will think, ‘Thank God he’s [Ronan] human’… I set myself up for a fall by appearing holier than holy… It’s been hell. I don’t think I’m in any way through it, but I’m dealing with it.”
Here was Ronan complaining about the media on the Late Late after giving an ‘exclusive’ interview to the Mail (the enemy). This was Keating controlling the Press he detests so much. He’s an old hand at ‘playing the game’ – he learned it from the maestro, Louis Walsh.
His career was founded on an illusion created by Walsh – the manufactured Boyzone. A lot of the early media coverage they got was illusory too, placed by Louis with friendly, colluding hacks. Westlife’s Nicky Byrne recently recalled: “I read a story once about Boyzone being in a plane crash in Australia; it wasn’t true, but it gets the name out there I suppose. He’s come up with some quirky, mad stories.”
Keating used the media to build his image as a happily married man, the same way Louis used it to build up the Boyzone ‘illusion’. He has no-one to blame but himself for tearing his domestic god image down.
Keating knows how to play The Really Serious Card too. Last May, as the paps camped outside the Keating family home, the Press Ombudsman sent an email to the Sunday Tribune which read: “My office has been contacted by the representatives of Ronan Keating in relation to current press coverage of his activities. They have asked me to pass on to editors a request that any coverage should reflect in particular the implications for his children of Principle Nine (Children) of the Code of Practice.” Ronan had made the Press Ombudsman his own fee-free Max Clifford.
Principle Nine aims to prevent children from being publicly dragged into their parents’ (seedy) affairs. Ronan lessened the argument for keeping his children out of the coverage when he took them on high profile trips to restaurants and the K Club, with the paparazzi literally snapping at their heels. As a former colleague pointed out, these were the only images that created sympathy for him, although, by his lights, they were probably in breach of Section Nine.
Another picture, taken on Valentine’s Day, makes his cry of “the media is out to get me” ring hollow. It showed the Keatings leaving a London restaurant. Was it a happy coincidence that a snapper was on hand? Or was it more of the Keating/media symbiosis?
That said, the media is certainly capable of going out of its way to “get” people. That’s why the industry has an excellent Press Complaints Commission. It will be interesting to see if Keating filed a complaint to the Ombudsman during 2010. The report is due out this summer.
Keating’s Late Late reticence about his affair with a dancer was particularly irritating given that RTE had promised a robust interview. What was really annoying was his (unchallenged) hypocrisy towards his other mistress – the media. He wants to sleep with it when it suits him, but whinges when it kicks him out of bed. He’s still trying to use it to shore up holes in the public perception of his marriage. He wants it every way.
The rule is old and simple: don’t dip your wick if you’re not willing to pay for the oil.
You’re no angel, Ronan. You’ve made millions from courting the media.
Now stop biting the hand that feeds you.