Eddie Mair: my mission to be the new Alistair Cooke

"This week’s column will be mainly about Manhattan and you can be sure I have the wit, warmth and intelligence to match Mr Cooke in a column that will sparkle with his trademark wisdom and erudition"


Greetings from New York. Yes, I am communicating with you directly from the city in which Alistair Cooke composed his Mainly About Manhattan broadcasts in the late 1930s: the forerunner to his longer-lasting Letters. And, in tribute, this week’s column will be mainly about Manhattan. What a treat for us both, and you can be sure I have the wit, warmth and intelligence to match Mr Cooke in a column that will sparkle with his trademark wisdom and erudition.


Everyone loves a critic

I went to see an off-Broadway musical yesterday whose main song had the word **** in the title. I realise you’re now trying to identify the word, and my lack of clues is an annoying hindrance to that end. But I cannot hint at it further, given that it’s widely deemed to be perhaps the most offensive word in the English language. Revealing the rest of the song title would in all likelihood cause as much offence as the word itself. If you really want to know more, search online for Silence! The Musical – but only if you are prepared to be very, very offended.

It is indeed an unofficial parody of Silence of the Lambs. Two minutes in, you’re wondering why the creators weren’t sued by the Lambs people, and after 30 minutes the aforementioned grossly offensive song has become your filthiest-ever earworm. But it was a bloody funny show.

Killing time in my taxi from hell

Getting from a New York airport to Manhattan has in the past involved being squished in the back of a yellow cab with less legroom than the economy flight out. I tend to get the driver who’s taking a holiday from hygiene and has a triggerhappy horn finger. I was determined that this trip I would arrive in comfort. I got the hotel to pre-book what was described as a “town car”. It would cost more than the flight, but I was determined for once to have a smooth ride.

Stepping into the vehicle I wondered which town the town car hailed from. Wigan? The driver clearly had a passion for tobacco and, I judged, taking labradors on long journeys to and from the beach. He had a nice line in New York patter ( jokes/comedy accents of all kinds/incontrovertible wisdom on politics) that began when we first met and continued uninterrupted until I threw his dead body into the Hudson.

A room with a view

After checking in, the receptionist was unsurprised to get a call from me asking why the air conditioning unit was hanging off the wall allowing the howling wind into the room. Classily, she moved me to a room next to the lifts.

Shop ’til you drop

There are three men on the TV right now, in footage of a fist-fight in the post-Thanksgiving sales. They appear to be trying to kill each other over some bargain women’s underwear. I can vouch for the viciousness of some Manhattan shoppers. I’ve never seen such pushing, shoving and animal-like aggression. It made me sad for the human race to witness such a lack of humanity. On the other hand, I did beat all those suckers to the best of the sales and saved eight bucks.


Eddie Mair co-presents iPM on Saturday at 5:45am and hosts PM from Monday to Friday at 5:00pm on Radio 4