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Stroppy women

Stroppy women (and other perils) - Michael Winner knows a thing or two about the ladies. And, brace yourself, he'd like to share his thoughts (and settle some scores) with you . . .

Published 10 November 2000
The Independent

The press became somewhat over-excited this week, when they discovered my girlfriend Georgina was claiming income support and housing benefit from the DSS. I get the impression they thought this wrong because I should be providing for her. Such philosophy leads to the bizarre conclusion that every girl going out with a rich man should ensure he pays all her bills.

Feminism, defined as the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes, is thus thrown by the wayside. Equality does not necessarily mean equal earnings. It means the right of any lady to lead her own life as independently as possible. In the case of Georgina, this is influenced by the fact that she is the mother of a three-year- old boy. As such, she is unable to seek employment - and therefore draws from the state that to which she is entitled. As I've spent most of my life going out with actresses, being close to people who draw money from the DSS is nothing new. Surprisingly, I've never found a beautiful millionairess who wanted to adopt me.

I was brought up in the Forties and Fifties when women were painted in popular literature and song as trinkets onto which men bestowed gifts, the ultimate being a mink coat. Although half a century has passed, there are those who still propagate the idea that all young women are money- grabbers. This is typified by Mrs Merton asking the well-known magician's wife: "What is it that attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?" I've never found girls deeply interested in money or gifts and you can sneer as much as you like in disbelief.

I did far better attracting the opposite sex when I was a poor second assistant director living in a two-room flat with peeling lino above an Indian restaurant. Girls often prefer lame ducks. They like the idea that whoever they go with needs them. If you are rich and successful, you have to overcome the barrier that your partner is simply another memento or possession who will have no real influence on the relationship. I recall sitting in the front row at a TV show conducted by the Jewish comedian Jackie Mason. Next to me was Jenny Seagrove, then my girlfriend, and extremely glamorous. "Would you be with him if he was a truck driver?" asked Mr Mason. He had a point there. Men and women choosing companions may well be influenced by their profession. Some girls are likely to be more interested in movies than truck driving.

But there is a still larger group who rightly seek long-term stability and security. One of my great failures in girl-getting was trying to woo a very lovely girl away from her boyfriend who was a dentist. She liked the idea of being the wife of a small-town dentist. She achieved this ambition and good luck to her.

The most interesting social development of the last century was women transmogrifying from the dutiful, non-speaking, adoring wife, dependent on the whim of a stupid husband, to a group very nearly as cussed and independent as men used to be. This makes most of the male population extremely nervous.

The ultimate in woman-power is Anne Robinson on The Weakest Link. Here is feminism rampant. Contestants willingly go forth to be humiliated by this strange Dracula-like figure in black: a sarcastic headmistress dealing with idiot children. This is male subservience gone mad! I myself became a contestant last week - in a version for Red Nose Day with a group of so-called celebrities, including Sir Bob Geldof, Les Dennis, some TV newsreaders and other "bright" people. On our first round, we were a disaster, and I thought: "What on earth am I doing here being insulted by this formidable woman who rightly called us all pathetic."

Her question for me was "What is the English for the American word pacifier". I had no idea. I was told it was a baby's dummy. Of all people not to ask that, I was prime. Never married, no children, no family. Needless to say I was voted off first. "Why did you vote out Michael Winner?" the lady torturer asked Bob Geldof.

"Because he's got the best house in Holland Park," said Bob.

"Why did you vote against Michael Winner?" she said turning severely to quiz host Les Dennis.

"Because I knew he wanted to go home early," said Les. He was right. In the presence of superwoman gone mad, I couldn't wait to get out.

The word I'd use to describe most women today is "stroppy." And good luck to them. Men have to be on their toes. It makes no difference if you have age and experience on your side; you're still going to get adverse opinions clearly put. This new independence fits ill with the girl who is asking for presents or money all the time. That's too demeaning for the lady of today.

A "great women at war" story concerns my friend Charles Bronson. Before I met him, I'd read a newspaper report of a court case where his first wife claimed his then girlfriend, the English actress Jill Ireland, had beaten her up and Bronson had turned on the Hoover to drown her screams. "Charlie," I asked, "what really happened?"

"I was sitting in Jill's house. It was before we were married," he said. "I'd parted from my first wife but she came barging in and attacked Jill. Jill got the better of her, but half an hour later my first wife came back and another brawl started. As they were fighting, the girls knocked a glass ornament off the piano and it broke on the floor. Jill wasn't wearing shoes and I didn't want her to cut her feet. So I got the Hoover and Hoovered up the bits of glass." This is an image I treasure. The great screen tough guy Hoovering while two women fight over him. Wonderful things like that never happen to me. And I'm very good with a vacuum cleaner. In my life an exciting day is when the tabloids phone to ask what I think about my girlfriend getting money from the DSS.