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Vale Clive James, 1939-2019

Portrait of Clive James
Photograph: Rob Greig

The Time Out flag is at half mast today as we mark the death of one of the greatest entertainment and culture commentators this country has ever produced, Clive James.

James grew up in Kogarah and studied at the University of Sydney before sailing to the UK in 1962 and studying at Cambridge. He would go on to become a celebrated critic, essayist and poet and publish several best-selling volumes of autobiography. He became a well-known face on UK TV during the 1980s hosting variety and travel programs in which his eye for the absurd and his self-aggrandising wit made him a loveable if divisive celebrity.

Back in 2008, James agreed to be guest editor of the September 10-16 issue of Time Out Sydney. He contributed several articles including an editorial.

“This late in life, it’s a huge privilege to be enrolled as Time Out’s guest editor, because I have always worshipped editors,” James wrote. “To put it another way, I loathe them. 

“They thank me for my articles and then they fix things that don’t need fixing. Even worse, they fix things that do need fixing. The only editor I ever held in unalloyed regard was Clive James when he was editing the literary pages of Sydney Uni’s Honi Soit in the late ’50s. Now there was an editor, smoking a Rothmans filter tip (from the new flip-top box!) while eating an egg sandwich and making unsolicited improvements to a new poem by Les Murray!

“Now I am an editor again, at the very time when I must take to the stage of the Opera House, alone but for a Symphony Orchestra, and present a panoply of music from some of the great crime films. On my flight from London I’ll be trying out my Marlon Brando impression on the Emirates hosties, so I should be in good shape when I land. 

“But what counts for me is to be in Sydney again. I have several inspirational locations in Sydney and I’ll be listing them in this issue, but really the whole town still turns me on like nowhere else. It’s really the one advantage of having been away – you get to come back. They might even make you an editor…”

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