Sandro Monetti - From Blackpool to Beverly Hills... and back
PUBLISHED: 14:47 15 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:12 20 February 2013
Celebrity journalist Sandro Monetti talks about his love of Blackpool
Celebrity journalist Sandro Monetti is a man whos kissed Madonna, had a flash of Helen Mirrens tattoo and knows the latest goss on Brad and Angelina. His appointments diary is a celebrity-watchers dream the Oscars, the Golden Globes, a press conference with Colin Firth, an interview with Paul McCartney. His address book bulges with A-listers.
And who does this name-dropper par excellence cite as his inspirations? Cannon and Ball, Frank Carson, The Krankiesand, a particular favourite The Grumbleweeds all acts he saw as a lad in his home town of Blackpool.
My passion for showbiz was ignited by growing up in Blackpool and watching all the summer season 'end of the pier' shows featuring the likes of Cannon and Ball, Frank Carson, The Krankiesand The Grumbleweeds, plus all the big music acts who would perform at the Blackpool Opera House. The first concert I ever saw was there it was The Kids from Fame who were the Glee kids of their day.
These days 41-year-old Sandro is one of the busiest showbiz reporters in Hollywood where he freelances for the BBC, magazines and newspapers, hosts Q&As with movie stars and writes books, his latest based on the life of bad boy actor Mickey Rourke.
He moved there after a career in the UK that started as a cub reporter on the Blackpool Gazette and included showbiz reporting on national newspapers and magazines and a stint with Sky television.
But there is no chance of Sandro forgetting his roots because he returns to the UK once a week to spend a day lecturing journalism students at Staffordshire University in the Potteries town of Stoke, and then up the M6 to see his mother Virginia who still lives in Blackpool, near Stanley Park.
I may live right next to the world's ritziest shopping street, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but for me nothing beats the range of cheap books, discount clothes and fun tat you can find on Bank Hey Street, Blackpool
His motivation for the 11,000 weekly trip across the pond comes from the success and pleasure hes derived from a career based on his passion for all things showbusiness.
I was interviewing the Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey about his work with young actors at The Old Vic in London and he told me: If you are lucky enough to have any degree of success in your life, it is your obligation to spend time sending the elevator back down to the ground floor.
I was concerned about the standards of celebrity journalism, about its poor reputation, and when the offer came to lecture, it was something I really wanted to do. I get very frustrated and embarrassed with the stupid questions some journalists ask and the way journalists are portrayed, particularly in soap operas. I wanted to give something back to a profession thats been very good to me.
He went to drama school himself appearing as a policeman in an episode of Casualty, dabbling in stand-up comedy and once opening for the Chuckle Brothers, but chose journalism over acting. His own education was at Arnold School and Fylde College in Blackpool and then the University of Central Lancashire. And he thanks his parents for encouraging his interest in both writing and showbusiness.
I've always felt very at home in Las Vegas, where I often go on holiday or assignment, and perhaps that's because my Italian father Giorgio, who has now retired to Italy, used to run the Castle Casino in Blackpool when I was a teenager. My mum, Virginia loves to write articles for local magazines and is very good at finding fascinating people to feature. I go to visit her during most of my trips back. I also try to catch a show with her when I'm in town, he says.
Something else I do when in Lancashire is go and watch Blackpool FC whose rise over the last few years has been wonderful to experience and under Ian Holloway their entertaining brand of football has been a breath of fresh air for the sport.
Monetti attributes his own success as an LA insider to being nice, having good manners, never dishing the dirt on contacts he wants to keep sweet and his ability to tap into the celebrity zeitgeist. He doesnt allow his insane schedule which sees him fly into London on Wednesday lunchtime and back out to LA Friday to interfere with his relationships with his girlfriend in the US and his friends or his visits to his mum in Blackpool.
I use the 12-hour flight to catch up on sleep and reading, to mark work and to plan lessons. Its all about deadlines and scheduling but I make sure that I put my personal life first.
He sees his future in LA, not the UK, despite his family ties and his love of British football (hes a part owner of Kent-based non-League Ebbsfleet United). He is writing more books, trying his hand at screenplays and keeping his eyes and ears open for the next big thing. Hes also a minister with the Universal Life Church a job he took on for a newspaper feature but which now allows him to carry out exorcisms.
Its a rollercoaster life that takes him from The Oscars to the Potteries to the Pleasure Beach and back.
It might seem insane and although its hard work, Im doing what I love, he says.
And the thrill of Blackpool has stayed with him despite the glitz and glamour of LA. I still like to go shopping in Blackpool town centre, he says. I may live right next to the world's ritziest shopping street, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but for me nothing beats the range of cheap books, discount clothes and fun tat you can find on Bank Hey Street, Blackpool.
Sandro Monettis book Mickey Rourke: Wrestling With Demons is available on Amazon.
Sandros celebrity secrets
Madonna I kissed her to wish her good luck for herlatest project. Very cold skin.
Nicolas Cage Mad as a box of badgers but hugely interesting and compelling.
Paul McCartney Polite, professional, smart, enthusiastic and surprisingly down to earth.
Jake Gyllenhaal Very funny. Had a Caine-off with him as we performed duelling Michael Caine impressions.
Hugh Jackman... Extremely flamboyant. Clearly a born performer who loves an audience.
Michael Jackson Looked just like his waxwork at Madame Tussauds and said about as much.
Kiefer Sutherland... Nicest man in showbiz. Surprisingly diffident, shy and soft spoken.
Scarlett Johansson... Let's just say 'disappointing' and leave it at that.
Helen Mirren... Great fun and surprisingly rock n' roll. She showed me her tattoo.
Michael Sheen... Charming, quick witted, friendly and, in my opinion, the best actor Britain has. (And the man Id like to play me if they ever made a film of my life.)