Life & Culture

My starry nights, past and present

In his new JC column, top talent agent Jonathan Shalit reflects on his life in showbiz


I was planning my birthday dinner this year at Soho House, West Hollywood, where their mac & cheese with scamorza and parmesan is historic. High up, overlooking Sunset Boulevard and Century City, I have talked American chat shows with James Corden, comedy with Russell Brand and Comic Relief with Richard Curtis. Soho House has been part of my life since 1995 when the first House opened in Soho, London. Twenty-five years later there are 27 clubs around the world with — Covid permitting — Tel Aviv opening later this year. An opening night I very much plan to be at.

Two days later we would have joined an annual family Seder hosted by close friends in the Polo Private Salon at The Beverley Hills Hotel. We love the historic Polo lounge where my dining companions have ranged from my client, Dame Joan Collins, Sharon Osbourne to David Hasselhoff. Last time I dined in the Polo lounge, Steven Boggs, the doyen of this great hotel, told me I was sitting at the same table where Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Munroe had each sat years before.

Instead, my birthday was celebrated with a delicious sushi take-out at home with my wife and daughter with the Shalit parents Zooming in. Then the three of us danced the night away to classic songs, having a wonderful time, which I will treasure for many years to come.

I am hugely missing the thrill of first nights when expectation and hope for a new show is at its peak. So, I gave myself a “first night” at home, watching the streamed concert version of the greatest musical ever, Les Misérables. Having known Michael Ball, Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas for many years, watching such wonderful performances gave me even greater pleasure.

Similarly, the joy of watching Britain’s Got Talent is unbridled. Having represented six winners, I have watched my close friend Simon Cowell even closer-up for many years. The reason why he is the most successful British television producer in the world is simple. Simon gives his whole life to his TV shows and those around him, editing his shows frame by frame, often late into the night, long after other have gone to bed.

BGT judge Amanda Holden I first met back in 2003 when we had dinner one evening after she had finished filming Cutting It. David Walliams is a passionate supporter of two charities I am on the boards of, Chickenshed Theatre and Variety, the children’s charity. Two years ago we hosted together a wonderful fundraiser night at ITV. Alesha Dixon won’t remember but we met in Birmingham back in 2003 when my client Jamelia supported her awesome group Mis-Teeq, with her chart topping hit single, Superstar.

Lock down has been all about Netflix shows for me, Fauda and After Life, both of which I have discovered three and two series in, leading to multiple binge watching.

In Fauda Lior Raz brilliantly portrays Doron as he infiltrates Palestinian territories with true heroism, to stop terrorist attacks in Netflix’s thrilling Israeli spy series. It is so important to me as it humanises what Israel deals with under constant terrorist threat.

I love the ever-humble Ricky Gervais’s brilliant dark comedy After Life which follows Tony, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer. He contemplates suicide, but instead decides to live long enough to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants. I have met Ricky several times, most recently at the American ambassador’s house. So, with Ricky I talked being hated by so many people, about which he was quite sanguine. There was a time he explained, “when only 100 people hated me, but only 100 people loved me. Now 20 million people hate me. But 20 million love me and I sell out arenas.”

Another lockdown star has been Global, the UK’s No 1 commercial radio company founded by my close friend and philanthropist, Ashley Tabor-King OBE. My clients Kelly Brook and Mark Wright are proud that they’ve not missed any of their daily shows on Heart. Myleene Klass, who, back in 2006, I introduced to now Arts Council supremo Darren Henley who then ran Classic FM, has been also been covering brilliantly for Kate Garraway, whose husband’s recovery we pray for. At the time of writing he has been in a coma for seven weeks from Covid.

We all need joy, happy thoughts and memories in our lives, with something to look forward to. But it would be wrong to not thank those keeping us safe and remember those that have passed so tragically.


Professor Jonathan Shalit OBE is chairman of The InterTalent Rights Group

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