Sir Elton John is well known for his quick temper and outrageous behaviour. A documentary of his life said it all - it was called, knowingly, Tantrums and Tiaras.
But a high court judge ruled yesterday that the singer's sense of humour failure over a satirical piece by a Guardian columnist was a tantrum too far.
In a groundbreaking libel decision, the judge said that "irony" and "teasing" do not amount to defamation. The ruling offers protection to writers of satirical articles clearly not meant to be taken seriously and was welcomed last night by media lawyers and journalists.
The Guardian was awarded costs and the singer, who brought the action, was refused leave to appeal by Mr Justice Tugendhat. John's legal team indicated that he might now seek leave to appeal.
In July, the paper printed a fake diary by Elton John, written by Marina Hyde, which contained the following:
What a few days it's been. First I sang Happy Birthday to my dear, dear friend Nelson Mandela - I like to think I'm one of the few people privileged enough to call him Madiba - at a party specially organised to provide white celebrities with a chance to be photographed cuddling him, wearing that patronisingly awestruck smile they all have. It says: "I love you, you adorable, apartheid-fighting teddy bear."
The next night I welcomed the exact same crowd to my place for my annual White Tie & Tiaras ball. Lulu, Kelly Osbourne, Agyness Deyn, Richard Desmond, Liz Hurley, Bill Clinton - I met most of them 10 minutes ago, but we have something very special and magical in common: we're all members of the entertainment industry. You can't manufacture a connection like that.
Hyde wrote in The Guardian this weekend, thanking the judge for "the most civilised of rulings." She continued:
We British have a rich tradition of irony and satire but there is very little case law protecting what may well turn out to be one of the few comforts left to us in these darkening times.
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