Public outcry continues over phone prank
Russell Brand made his name Stateside as the womanizing rock star in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But back on his home turf, the BBC is desperately trying to forget him.The pubcaster is weathering a blast of public anger over the recent phone prank played by Brand and celebrity guest Jonathan Ross during Brand’s BBC Radio 2 show. The pair left lewd messages on thesp Andrew Sachs’ answering machine saying that Brand had slept with Sachs’ 23-year-old granddaughter, dancer-model Georgina Baillie. The BBC has received 27,000 complaints since the pre-recorded exchange aired Oct. 18, fanned by massive press coverage. Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown weighed in, calling the radio broadcast “unacceptable and inappropriate.” Brand quit Oct. 29 after being banned from the airwaves pending a BBC probe, and Ross — one of the BBC’s highest-paid celebrity hosts — has been suspended for 12 weeks with no pay. Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas, a BBC vet of 23 years, resigned on Oct. 30, apologizing to Sachs, his family and the audience for the gaffe. So great is the furor that even the job of BBC director general Mark Thompson may not be safe. But while Douglas is out of work, the scandal only seems likely to boost comedian Brand’s career. Top Blighty PR expert Max Clifford describes the scandal as “massive publicity” that will further endear Brand to his fans. Web site LoveFilm.com noted last week that video rentals of Brand’s stand-up routines have risen 133% since the row.