The accumulation of s***holes, s**tholes and sh*tholes in the news has prompted some disagreement in the comments section here and here about why SteynOnline does not swear with the gay abandon of, say, CNN and The Washington Post.
The dispute reminded me that in my book Mark Steyn From Head to Toe (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore) I reported live from the most glittering of all awards ceremonies - the Riskies, a star-studded night of asterisk-studded soundbites. I wrote this sixteen years ago for The Daily Telegraph, after a lively week of asterisk-laden interventions by a Hollywood star threatening a TV producer for cutting out his poem, a champion boxer promising a journalist several vigorous acts of intimacy, and an eminent civil servant with a perfect summation of prevailing bureaucratic conditions, all of which are hyperlinked below. (For curling fans, Rhona Martin had just skipped - as curlers say - the winning team at the Winter Olympics. For non-Royal watchers, the closing line is the Queen's favorite question when she encounters random subjects.)
At any rate, after the last week it may be time for me to introduce the Riskies as an annual event:
I'VE WATCHED with envy all this week as my colleagues Robert Harris, Alexander Chancellor and Alice Thomson have peppered their columns with a ton of expletives deleted. Fortunately, just as I was wondering how I could match them, I got a call asking if I could host this year's Riskie Awards at the Grosvenor House. As you know, each year the Riskies honour the foul-mouthed men and women who've given us the soundbites with the most asterisks in them.
"Live from Park Lane," I began, "it's an asterisk-studded gala of four-letter favourites!"
The Syd Lawrence Orchestra played Snoop Dogg's "Shut Tha F*** Up, Muthaf******" as my co-host, curling queen Rhona Martin, walked out with her corn-broom. "You know," she said, "I'm not really sure why I'm here tonight as the only swear words I ever use are 'You daft brush!'"
The audience sat on their hands and glared. There was a flurry of muttered asterisks from the front table, so I thought it wise to get down to business. "And the nominees for this year's 2002 Riskie for the most asterisks in a single sound bite are..."
"Star of stage, screen and banqueting suite ante-room, Russell Crowe for his post-Bafta small talk," said Rhona, introducing the video clip:
I don't give a f*** who you are. Who on earth had the f****** audacity to take out the Best Actor's poem? You f****** piece of s***. I'll make sure you never work in Hollywood.
"Russell did stumble badly in his finale," I explained, "going for the technically difficult triple-f***, but losing his balance and limping through to the end without managing a single asterisk in his last sentence. However, his flawless performance in the early stages was enough to garner him his fourth nomination."
"Garner this, you f***!" said Russell, lunging at me and jabbing his finger in my eye as Rhona continued.
"Our next nominee is all-time champ Mike Tyson, back this year for a little light banter with a gentleman from the media at his press conference with Lennox Lewis."
I'll put your mother in a straitjacket, you punk-a** white boy. I'll f*** you in the a** till you love me, f*****. You're a little white p**** scared of a real man. You wouldn't last two minutes in my world, b****.
"This was a flawless technical performance, though some judges did feel it was too similar to last year's routine," Rhona noted. "Our third nominee is Sir Richard Mottram, KCB, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions."
"It's the novelty hit of the year," I said. "You know the words, all together now:"
We're all f******. I'm f ******. You're f******. The whole department's f******. It's been the biggest c***-up ever and we're all completely f******.
"And finally," said Rhona, "with her first ever nomination, Her Majesty The Queen for her speech in the New Zealand parliament."
I am delighted to mark f**** years in the life of this country, and f**** years as Queen of New Zealand. Whenever P***** Philip and I are here, we particularly appreciate the f*********** of New Zealanders; the diverse c****** and the s******* b***** of the country; and the opportunity to share your s****** way of life.
"And now," said Rhona, "while Russell reads 'Trees' by Joyce Kilmer, we're going to drown him out with a medley of this year's nominations performed by Céline Dion and Tony Bennett!"
"You're f******," sang Céline.
"And you're f*****," sang Tony.
"The whole department's f*****," they sang together, Céline adding several appealing melismas – "f*-**-**-**-**-**-*".
But I could hardly hear them over the rising voices backstage. I hurried off to see what was going on, only to find Russell, Mike and Sir Richard clustered round the Queen.
"I'll make sure you never work in Hollywood!" yelled Russell, jabbing his finger in her tiara and getting a nasty cut.
"Oh, yeah?" scoffed Her Majesty. "Well, I'll make sure you never work at Sandringham!"
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"She's faking her asterisks," complained Tyson. "That bit about 'the f*********** of New Zealanders', it's some punk-a** p**** word like 'friendliness', not the real f-word."
"It's the biggest c***-up ever," fumed Sir Richard. "The whole show's completely f*****."
"Oh, put a s*** in it!" I snapped.
"There you are," said Russell. "Now you're doing it. Your missing word is 'sock', you pathetic piece of s***. 'Sock' isn't the real s-word."
"Who says?" I said. "You guys have been talking in asterisks so long you've no idea what you're saying."
"You mean, when I called that BBC bloke a f****** piece of s***, I meant he was..."
"A fleecey piece of sock," I said.
"Geez," said Russell, a little subdued. "No wonder he's not suing."
"We're all f..." began Sir Richard.
"Yes?" I said, encouragingly.
"We're all f... f... feeble. I'm flirty. You're fleshy," he trilled, playfully pinching Mike. "The whole department's freaks and we're all completely flawed! By George, I think I've got it!"
But by now the Queen was exchanging pleasantries with the wardrobe mistress. "Have you c*** f**?" she asked.
"Let me do that one," said Tyson, eagerly. "'Have you come far?'"
~The above column is anthologized in Mark's book Mark Steyn From Head To Toe, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore. If you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club, don't forget to enter your code at checkout to enjoy the benefits of special member pricing.
Speaking of The Mark Steyn Club, Mark will be back later today, Tuesday, to answer some of the questions he didn't get to on last week's Q&A in another video edition of Mark's Mailbox. We hope you'll tune in.