Michael Winner’s strange money rituals

Pound coins next to a calculator © Thinkstock

I was never a huge fan of Michael Winner, though I admired the way he carried on pretending, before he died, that he was very, very rich when he wasn’t.

Last week, said Richard Price in the Daily Mail, the “hammer came down” for the final time on his estate, with an auction of paintings and other goods which raised nearly £500,000 for his widow, Geraldine. I’m sure the funds will be welcome.

Winner’s fortune at his death last year was only a fraction of the £75m he claimed he had amassed; once the debts were added up, it amounted to a mere £4.75m.

Nor was he as free from self-doubt as he always appeared, if we are to believe Nick Mead, a scriptwriter who’s writing a biography of him. In fact, he went to the grave dogged by money worries and obsessed by his lost love, the actress Jenny Seagrove.

Mead told the Mail: “Michael spent his life pretending not to care what people thought of him, but that was a lie. He was painfully aware of what people thought.” At the same time he was “incapable of showing his vulnerability”.

Money was a constant preoccupation. In a strange ritual, Winner would sit at his desk once every day and tot up his fortune, down to the last penny. But though worried about money, he kept up the façade to the end, spending lavishly on, among other things, his annual outing to the Sandy Lane in Barbados. This would set him back at least £75,000.

Personally, I wouldn’t go near the Sandy Lane – but at least Winner spent his money, and there are worse ways of spending it than taking your friends on a luxurious holiday.

A day in the life of Salvador Dali

In her newly published memoirs, Lynn Barber writes about life as a celebrity interviewer. Her first interview was with Salvador Dali, who enjoyed being interviewed so much he kept shouting “More! More!” Barber asked him about daily life in Cadaques.

“My day the most regular possible. Wake at 9, in bed working till 11. Lunch. Go for leetel swim, making no movement [he demonstrated floating on his back]. After a siesta of 25 minutes, then working, then nude girls come for me to watch – no touch – then some drawing. At six o’clock make peepee and at 8 many pederasts arrive, because Dali likes zee androgyne people. No lika de sex – one man, one woman – like better confusion, you know?”

He also told Barber: “Every big artist, every important people – Michelangelo, Leonardo, Napoleon – is impotent, and this is good. Because if you work too well with your sex you never produce nozzing. Only childs. But for artist, le libido and le sexual instincts sublimate in the artistic creation.”

• David Cameron dined at Nando’s in Bath last week: peri-peri chicken with hot sauce, regular fries, coleslaw, a glass of red wine (total cost: £16). The Mail wondered if this was just a cynical PR stunt “designed to remind voters that even an Old Etonian millionaire can eat with the masses”. Perhaps the Mail would have been happier if he’d chosen a five-star restaurant.

Tabloid money: Labour’s cringeworthy, hypocritical broadcast

• “I grew up in a house full of Labour voters,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun. “Every one of them would have cringed with embarrassment at Labour’s sorry excuse for a party political broadcast, The Un-credible Shrinking Man. The message: Nick Clegg breaks every promise that comes out of his lying cakehole and the Tories in Cabinet are largely a bunch of chinless wonders. Hold the front page. The reason this country is run by privately-educated men is because Labour closed the grammar schools.

“Killing the grammars was an act of social vandalism – as mindlessly destructive as anything that happened in China during their Cultural Revolution. That’s why we have toffs at the top table. And it is a bit rich for Ed Miliband (Corpus Christi, Oxford) and Ed Balls (Keble College, Oxford and Harvard University) to paint themselves as working-class heroes. I doubt if either of them has ever met a member of the working class, unless one of them was cleaning their toilets.”

• “GPs, most of whom are on six-figure salaries, are deciding whether or not to charge patients up to £25 for an appointment,” says Carole Malone in the Mirror. “It’s bad enough they only work nine to five and farm out weekend shifts to foreign locums. Now they want to punish patients more by charging them for an audience. We’re told it’s because missed appointments cost the NHS £162m a year.”

But if GPs want to convince us they aren’t out to milk the NHS for everything they can get, why not charge patients who don’t turn up for appointments, not those who do?

• “Had you ever heard of AstraZeneca? Nope. Me neither,” says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. “But apparently something called Pfizer – anyone? anyone? – wants to take it over. Some people say this is a good thing. Some say it isn’t. And there’s been a lot of arguing. In Westminster. And in the City. It sounds like some kind of mad Scrabble argument. And now into the mix comes the Labour business spokesman who’s called Chuka Umunna.”

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