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 cafe 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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