N1 Billion Naira Suit: National Mirror replies Charly Boy

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On Saturday, May 26, 2012, one of the stories featured in Showbiz Snoops, our celebrity gossip column, was titled ‘I am gay–Charly Boy’. The story dwelt on an interview which Charles Oputa, better known as Charly Boy, granted Danfo Express, a new entertainment magazine published by journalist and showbiz impresario, Ed Jatto. Ordinarily, a story about a 6o+ husband, father and grandfather who suddenly turns around to declare that he is gay would raise eyebrows. But Charly Boy is not your regular 60+ husband, father and grandfather. The Charly Boy persona is built around weirdness and difference. And quite frankly, we respect and admire Charly Boy for daring to be different. Even then, the gay phenomenon has thrown up more than a couple of surprises. American Democratic politician, James Edward “Jim” McGreevey, served as the 52nd Governor of New Jersey (USA) from January 15, 2002, until he resigned from office at 11:59 pm on November 15, 2004 after a public declaration of homosexuality. Born and raised by Irish Catholic parents, McGreevy was a highly regarded married man and a father of two daughters who chose to ‘come out of the closet’ despite knowing that it would cost him his exalted position as Governor of New Jersey.

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Now, back to Charly Boy. The Wikipedia describes Charly Boy as “well known for his feminine style which saw him dorn women’s clothing, and hairstyles which included perms and braids, thus causing controversy among conservative Nigerians. To-wards the late eighties, Charly Boy, with the help of stylist and fellow singer, Tyna Onwudiwe, created a new persona for himself which consisted of attire from the punk era including leather jackets and boots, images of himself on power bikes, a mohawk which he would subsequently dye an array of colours. Charly Boy’s alter-ego is Madam ZiZi, a drag character. (The Encarta Dictionary defines Drag as the act of dressing in clothing characteristic of one sex, worn by a member of the other, especially women’s clothing when worn by men.). With this came the title His Royal Punkness. He also named his residence The Punk Palace. Charly Boy has since retired the punk character, although his personal style remains eccentric.” So when we came across this scoop and confirmed it with Ed Jatto, whose magazine, Danfo Express, was promoting it as cover interview in its de-but edition, we had little reservations about using it, based on the reliability of our source and the antecedents of the subject. We did not have to clear the story with Charly Boy because Show-biz Snoops is a celebrity gossip column which depends on the grapevine for its stories. The Encarta Dictionary de-fines grapevine as the informal path of communication along which news, gossip, or rumour passes unofficially from person to person within a group, organization, or community.

Snooping around for juicy celebrity gossip is not the exclusive preserve of Saturday Mirror.

There is hardly any quality daily cum general interest news-paper (which we are) in Nigeria, or in-deed in the world, which does not have such a column. The minute Charly Boy granted Danfo Express this interview, and Danfo Express began to promote it on its cover, the assertions made in it entered the public domain and became fair game for our celebrity gossip column.

So, quite contrary to the claims and as-sertions by Charly Boy, his solicitors and other agents, the story is not “a figment of our reporter’s imagination and a most blatant example of ‘yellow journalism.’”

Indeed, the Danfo Express headline is far more sensational. It says: “I sold my soul to the devil –Charly Boy. Full interview of Area Fada’s gay and Illuminati confession inside pages 10&11. In addition, Charly Boy told us he has sold his soul to the devil and that he is also a top Ogboni member and he also turns into a woman.

Based on the strength of our source, we were surprised when we found the Internet awash with denials of this story by Charly Boy and his agents. Curiously, the full text of Charly Boy’s statement, titled “Gay Story: Charly Boy Speaks Atlast (sic)” was first released exclusively on a website run by a Charly Boy protégée, who is an erstwhile staffer of Saturday Mirror.

Indeed, this entertainment reporter was in charge of this same Showbiz Snoops column until he was placed on suspension for gross insubordination and intolerable behaviour.

It is indeed a very strange coincidence that Charly Boy’s statement was first released on this same reporter’s website. His suspension has since been commuted to dismissal for series of documented acts of disloyalty, not only to Global Media Mirror Ltd., but also to Energy Group, the parent company of this newspaper.

When we were publishing the story in question, we thought we were doing two ‘friends of the house’ two distinct favours, sort of killing two birds with one stone.

We thought we were helping a new publication, Danfo Express, published by Ed Jatto, a ‘friend of the house’ to announce its debut. We also thought  our friend, Charly Boy, was in his elements, considering the very well known Charly Boy persona and brand, which thrives on sensationalism and outrageousness.

So, we thought we were helping another dear ‘friend of the house’ to publicise another of his famous stunts. Questioned in various interviews about the famous pictures in which he kissed showbiz personality, Denrele Edun, and cuddled him passionately, Charly Boy’s vintage reply was: “It’s all part of my publicity stunt.”

We know how important these so-called stunts are to Charly Boy and to the image he strives to portray. How were we to know that the gay declaration was not just an-other one of his publicity stunts? We, of course, recall that the whole image of Charly Boy’s effeminate persona is modelled after Britain’s Boy George, the popular gay singer. Indeed, Charly Boy, until March, was a Saturday Mirror columnist, having approached us late last year with a column titled ‘Breaking Loose.’

We obliged and gave him a half page to air his views. We later found out that it was a syndicated column, published by at least two other newspapers. When we made this discovery months later, we conveyed to him the fact that we do not, as a matter of policy, encourage syndicated columns. But he did not seem to under-stand that an editorial policy could not possibly be changed to please one individual.

At this point, we had to rest the column, hoping that one day, our friend, Charly Boy, would decide to write exclusively for us like our other esteemed columnists, including a former President,  Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, who has kept his column exclusively for one and half years.

We did not hear from our friend, Charly Boy, again, until his solicitors wrote us, alleging that Saturday Mirror was “deliberately and maliciously impugning his reputation and brand as one of the major figures in the entertainment industry.” Remarkably, along with other totally hilarious demands, his solicitors initially asked for “a fair offer of compensation and reparation for the damage already done to his reputation,” which they insist “may not change even with a retraction.”

The letter concluded by saying “we would be seeking N1, 000, 000, 000.00 (One Billion Naira Only) in damages for malicious libel against your editors, writers, publishing house and the Newspaper jointly and severally,” if we do not accept responsibility, by, among other things, making “a fair offer of compensation and reparation for the damage already done to his reputation.”

Regardless of the hue and drama, we cannot be forced to go back on our deci-sion to discipline an erring and disloyal staffer simply because he is a lackey of people who know how to pull intriguing stunts.

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Nor can we be muscled into changing our  editorial policy of not us-ing syndicated columns just to suit the whims of any individual, no matter how vocal and drama-inducing that individual imagines himself to be. As a corporate en-tity, we have rules and regulations which guide our operations, and individuals who choose to deal with us, either by ap-plying to work with us, or by pleading for space (columns) to air their views, must be ready to be guided by those rules and regulations, and be prepared to come down from their high horses to deal with us purely on our own terms.

  Charly Boy’s statements are replete with needless accusations, direct and in-direct, which have the potential of doing irreparable damage to our own brand too. But we understand that this is a ‘friend of the house’ and a showman who apparently cannot help making a showpiece of his grievance.

Therefore, we choose to deal with it professionally and will at this point ask one and only one question. Did Charly Boy grant an interview to Danfo Express in which he claimed that he was gay and linked to Illuminati in Nigeria? Perhaps, this is a case of what we will call ‘The Diana Syndrome.

Diana, the late Princess of Wales, when asked how so many of her personal ‘secrets’ ended up as newspaper headlines, famously said that it could be because she often confided in the press. Could it be that Charly Boy was only confiding in Danfo Express when he made those startling revelations? Well…but who re-ally confides in the press? The job of the press is to disseminate information, not to hoard them.

We assume that someone would be kind enough to make it known that the  ‘secrets’ as ‘revealed’ to Ed-ward Jatto, Executive Editor of Danfo Express and his reporters in a hotel room on Elmina Crescent, Ikeja (Lagos) are on the cover of the debut edition of Danfo Express, which is already on the newsstands.

We had been confident until Tuesday when we were served with court papers that the acknowledged fair, responsible and courageous profile of National Mirror, the same that endeared our friend and erstwhile columnist, Charly Boy, to approach us as a popular and credible platform for his views, would not suddenly be lost on him over this superfluous claim of erosion of brand identity. 

But, not being unmindful of our rights within the law and being in pos-session of the evidence of Charly Boy making that confession on tape, we are prepared to let the courts be the final ar-biter in this very case.        

   –Editor

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