My favourite Julian Manyon story

July 2, 2008

Julian ManyonEvery­one has one. I have one that’s repeat­able. Juli­an was the report­er who got the hair-dry­er treat­ment from Robert Mugabe in Sharm el-Sheik.

Juli­an can take it. He’s a former col­league and most decidedly not a pack oper­at­or.

Let’s just say he doesn’t rely on favours from com­pet­it­ors to get the job done.

I hold him in huge — but sneak­ing — regard. Only Lara Logan ever really got the bet­ter of him, and that was in Afgh­anistan.

But I digress. The favour­ite story was related to me in the café at the Rossiya (not an attract­ive place) from the Rus­si­an bur­eau chief of a major news agency.

It was a very sober even­ing, and my Rus­si­an friend (who did not hold Juli­an in sneak­ing — or any — regard) delivered it very much as a tale of his own defeat.

The scene? A bunch of journos are try­ing des­per­ately to get into Grozny in the mid-nineties.

A Rus­si­an sol­dier — cigar­ette to lip, rifle slung — is hold­ing them back at a check­point that marks the end of the Rus­si­an lines.

JM — a strap­ping 6′-something — grabs his long-suf­fer­ing trans­lat­or, the 5′-something Oleg, and marches past the assembled press pack to con­front the sen­try.

Juli­an inflates him­self to his full apo­pleptic height, and barks in the man’s face some­thing to the effect of — “I am Juli­an Manyon of ITN and I demand that you let me in to bear wit­ness to the suf­fer­ing of the people of Grozny.” All delivered in per­fectly incom­pre­hens­ible Eng­lish.

The sol­dier con­tin­ues smoking, but doesn’t blink.

Juli­an turns to his trans­lat­or and orders — “Oleg! Trans­late that!”

Oleg shrugs and in resigned but impec­cable Rus­si­an, he nods in Julian’s dir­ec­tion and says to the sol­dier: “This man is the biggest $%#* in the west­ern media. If you let him in, someone might just shoot him.”

The sen­try purses his lips, raises the cigar­ette slowly to his mouth, and then beck­ons Juli­an. The bar­ri­er goes up and the ITN team are waved through. No one else.

My Rus­si­an friend and his col­leagues are left click­ing their heels at the check­point. Beaten.

And the mor­al is? If you want mor­als go to church.

Update: See Sean Mulcahy’s com­ment below…and the mor­al is “nev­er trust a drink­ing story”.

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