There used to be a brilliant gossip site called The A List which detailed secrets of the celebrities. Although you can still find cached copies, it hasn't been updated since about 2002. I suspect that rich and famous stars would rather you didn't know what they got up to off screen.
No wonder that the real gossip is hidden in blind items so that stars can't sue. There are several blind item sites around; maybe they'll start guessing the person who is the talk of UK television that I hinted at in my last TMR story.
There still are one or two upfront sites which give interesting information. A website dedicated to the views of food servers, The Stained Apron, has a monthly list of celebrities who have behaved/tipped well, or not, as the case may be. So if you want to find out who is generous or mean, polite or offensive, take a look.
The problem with trying to name the genuinely nice people in showbiz is that there are so few of them. A little touch of fame and egos swell faster than those birthday balloons pumped full of helium. Ludicrous riders (lists of objects and services required in dressing rooms/stage sets) are legendary. Wikipedia even has a page on them naming the daftest, including the fact that Van Halen requested in a technical rider that a bowl of M&Ms be provided in their dressing room with the brown ones removed.
Studio drivers are a great source of information. They drive not only the stars but their assistants. One told me how much he hated the manicurist of a certain mega-famous singer. One driver who took me to a studio told me he had been the chauffeur for an actress's hairdresser on a film set!
I've racked my brains trying to come up with some top guys and gals to tell you about, so here goes. English comedian Michael Palin is generally reckoned to be one of the nicest men in television. So is the presenter John Stapleton; I've been on his show so I can vouch for him. Matthew Wright is also fine. I've never done his show, but when he ran the Mirror gossip column, he was ace. Property expert Phil Spencer, who presents Location, Location, Location with Kirstie Allsopp, is also highly praised (Kirstie is also said to be 'nice' — she is the daughter of royal pals Lord and Lady Hindlip).
Not many from the world of rock and pop, I'm afraid. Chris Martin of Coldplay, and husband of Gwyneth Paltrow, is well liked. One of my girls has seen him taking their daughter Apple to tea at Kenwood House, near their north London home, and says he's a great dad. Rod Stewart is well respected in the press, probably for his honesty, when so many others run to the lawyers. He is also one of the very few singers who can deliver a faultless, unrehearsed performance on live television. Ozzy Osbourne is liked too, again for his honesty, and his sense of humour.
Joan Collins is considered a trouper. She overcame a nasty bout of flu to go back on stage in a Birmingham pantomime last winter — at the age of 77 — and is still great friends with her co-stars Julian Clary and Nigel Havers. She's also well-liked on chat shows; she does her own hair and make-up and doesn't cause a fuss. Compare that with Fergie, the Duchess of York, who once turned up on a show with an entourage of 11, all needing to be fed and watered at the production's expense.
As for the really awkward ones, it's back to blind items. See if you can guess the rapper who is under a lifetime ban by at least one yacht broker from ever chartering a boat again. Or the redhead who used to cause knowing looks across a UK newsroom when she put in her regular "help me, help me" call to the editor. Can you work out the identity of the unpopular wife of a politician who walked off with armfuls of clothes when invited to help herself to a small souvenir? The world-famous actress who was foul to a lesser known but much better actor in a film not long ago? Finally, can you guess the mega-wealthy singer who took everything that wasn't nailed down from a studio dressing room — even the electric kettle?