“We live in an age where one’s next door neighbor, the person at the checkout or the bartender serving you a cocktail could become the next YouTube or Instagram star. I wouldn’t wish that kind of disposable fame on anyone.” — Sean Borg
8:50 AM PST 2/20/2019
Words: Jim Avildsen
Photography: John Chapple
The world has gone gossip news crazy. Why do we love it so much? While standing at the checkout at the supermarket, I can’t help flicking through the many showbiz rags screaming out, “read me.” Brad did what? Really, Ben Affleck? No, Jennifer Aniston, don’t go back to him! Kanye, you are one crazy ass ⚡#$@&%*⚡… Anyway, you get my point. But is it just modern-day pop-culture gone wild or utter gutter trash? Should we believe what we read? Is it made up? So many questions…
I called upon Sean Borg for a lengthy chat, he might be the very man to offer Medium some insight into what is truth, and what is fiction in the world of tabloids.
Sean was born in London, and is primarily known for working in television and press. Describing a 1996 encounter with the late Hollywood icon, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean said, he was invited to the home of South African business magnate, Sol Kerzner, in the South of France. “Elizabeth allowed my friend Julia Verdin to take a snap of us with my Kodak disposable camera. I cheekily put my arm around Elizabeth’s waist as we posed,” he said.
“For a second she looked a little taken aback. I had crossed the line perhaps?I thought. But she smiled at me and we moved in closer to pose for the picture. She smelt as beautiful as she looked. It was that cozy. She gave me her home number. Well, it was her assistant’s number at the house. We kept in touch. I even went to a few dinners there. She was very special.”
Sean has been at the center of celebrity’s lives since he left school, in London, back in 1986. Then, he was often spotted bopping around top nightclubs, The Wag and Double Bass, rubbing shoulders with the likes of George Michael, members of Duran Duran, and even had pigtail-pulling spats with Boy George in the Limelight club (he did, really).
He sipped cocktails with Patsy Kensit, Samantha Fox, and Banaramma and had a “close” relationship with pop-singer and heartthrob — Nathan Moore, the guy from hit bands Brother Beyond and Worlds Apart (pictured).
Today, almost three decades on, he’s a bit of a celeb in his own right. He lives in California, spending time between Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Surprisingly, he is STILL fresh-faced, and STILL rubbing shoulders with the right people.
Sean became one of the original members of TMZ.com and TMZ on TV, had a short stint with New York Post’s Page SIX column, and was a regular face on TV Guide’s Hollywood 411 with Chris Harrison. Sean is fashionable, in a GQ kind of way and is often splashed across social media playing arm-candy for leggy socialite — British aristocrat and top model — Lady Victoria Hervey (pictured below).
Sean Borg seems to have met everyone, from Oprah to Hillary Clinton. So, what’s his deal? We at Medium wanted to find out!
Sean, what did you want to do growing up?
I was never quite sure. I thought I wanted to be an actor, so I attended the Sylvia Young Theater School in London and did drama, dance, and singing classes. I loved it there and I still have lots of friends in show business as a result of being part of that stable. Sylvia Young definitely launched my showbiz passions. Looking back now, it all makes sense — I much preferred being behind the scenes. I think that’s why I gravitated towards a career in news.
What was your first job in broadcasting?
My first proper job was working as a researcher and assistant producer at Bob Geldof’s company, Planet 24. I worked on a show called The Word, for Channel 4, UK. It was a big hit on British telly. My segment was called “The Gossip,” — no surprise there. I used to unearth shameful videos from famous people’s past. It was a popular part of the series, a lot of fun and all very tongue-in-cheek.
How did you get from London to the entertainment capital of L.A.?
My first trip to L.A. as an adult was in 1989; I spent two weeks mostly star spotting. I went back a year later for the whole summer with Tamara Beckwith and Emma Ridley. We hit the party scene a lot, and I knew then, I was going to live here one day. In 1991, I went back with my friend Nathan — the singer from Brother Beyond, and we decided to rent a flat. I was there for about six months and went back to London to work on The Word.
Was your path the “typical path” into broadcasting?
No, nothing I do is typical! The editor of a well-known SoCal (Southern California) newspaper recently labeled me “nontraditional.” At first, I was like, “um, huh?” And then I thought to myself, “Utter tosh. Thank god I’m different. Who the hell wants to be the same as everybody else!” I pitched her staff a few ideas after we met, and typically she went for the “traditional” ones. Kind of boring. And there was I thinking this person had arrived to save the paper. WRONG! So anyway, I reversed her comments in my head and took them as a compliment. Some people get it, and some people don’t. I guess I’m “traditionally, nontraditional.”
Right on! In some ways, it makes it harder to break in, when people are intimidated by your success. Have you encountered this?
Yes, people are intimidated by others’ confidence and successes. I said to a friend recently, who was up for a big job, if the person interviewing her truly had the company’s best interests at heart, then they would have absolutely given her the job. She is so brilliant and talented. But she didn’t get the job. Sadly, and very annoyingly!
“I don’t like being categorized as a showbiz gossip guru, or “gossip gangster,” you can give that title to Perez Hilton.” — Sean Borg
You seem to have chosen the “showbiz gossip” route, was that your intention?
No, not at all. I don’t like being categorized as a showbiz gossip guru, or “gossip gangster,” you can give that title to Perez Hilton (pictured). I’m not a gossipmonger at all. Actually, I don’t even like gossip! Most of the stuff I write comes directly from the source and they want me to place it. The stuff I write doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s planted strategically for the source’s benefit. I’ve worn many hats in my industry. I’ve been a successful PR agent, produced and hosted on TV, and of course written for high-end glossy mags. Being pigeonholed is so out-of-date… but people still do it. Do what makes you happy, I say.
What was it like working at TMZ?
It was short-lived by all accounts, but I did love it there. I was one of the original TMZ on TV cast. I remember my job interview with TMZ very well. I had to cut a package for Harvey, showing my storytelling skills. I put together an item on Amy Winehouse, who was in the news a lot then. And apparently (this is true) while I was reviewing my contract, Harvey played my test story in a staff meeting and said: “This guy’s got it. This is spot on.” He was talking about my work. I was quite chuffed when I heard that. I never let on I knew what he’d said.
Most people look at your job and think it must be so glamorous. What would people be surprised to know about it?
It’s very competitive and there are a lot of negative people ready to pull you down. You have to be one step ahead at all times. Everyone wants the scoop. One is only as good as their last scoop. Even if I get a scoop, I hardly ever put my byline on stories. I usually don’t self-celebrate my wins. Too many people self-celebrate!
“Tabloid fame distorts real talent. Successful stars often go off the rails when tabloid fame suddenly strikes their lives!” — Sean Borg on Fame.
Why do people crave fame so much?
Perhaps they lack self-worth? I don’t know. We live in an age where one’s next door neighbor, the person at the checkout or the bartender serving you a cocktail could become the next YouTube or Instagram star. Honestly? I wouldn’t wish that kind of “disposable fame” on anyone. Fame is an illusion — that’s all, tricking the person with it into thinking they have everything they’ve ever wanted. Most of the famous people I know aren’t truly happy, even the talented ones. The need to constantly be in the press all the time just to feel worthy. They suffer from what I call, “it’s never enough” syndrome. The money that comes with fame is nice, and the freedom the money brings. But then again, if one is so famous, then one is not exactly free. Tabloid fame distorts real talent. Successful stars often go off the rails when tabloid fame suddenly strikes their lives!
Speaking of tabloids, what are your views on the way news is delivered today?
It’s gotten way out of hand, even I don’t believe half the things I read anymore. It’s a scary time for high profile people everywhere. Their fame cannot protect them. I feel bad for the innocent ones though, the ones accused of things they didn’t do. And I feel bad for the victims of the ruthless, corrupt and powerful.
You are considered to be a bit of an influential Brit in LA. How did you acquire that status?
(Laughs) Actually, I don’t think I’m influential at all. I just happen to know a lot of well-known people. David Furnish (pictured) IS an influential Brit in my opinion, so is James Corden. But me? Ha! Well, I guess I am known by a lot of influential people, but that doesn’t necessarily make me an influential person, does it? But anyway, thanks, if you think I am.
“Lady V” is the most normal and down-to-earth person you could ever imagine. She is a very smart cookie. I can be razzle-dazzle on a red carpet with her at Elton and David’s bash, or feet up on the sofa watching a movie scoffing on popcorn. She’s a good friend.” — Sean Borg on Lady Victoria Hervey.
What’s the story behind your “close” friendship with British Aristocrat and Model, Lady Victoria Hervey?
I’ve known her for a good twenty years now. What do you want to know? “Lady V” is the most normal and down-to-earth person you could ever imagine. She is a very smart cookie. I can be razzle-dazzle on a red carpet with her at Elton and David’s bash, or feet up on the sofa watching a movie scoffing on popcorn. She’s a good friend. It takes time for her to gain trust. She is a very good business woman, and ever-so popular in our circle. Everyone loves her. I am proud to call her a friend!
Can you tell me how you met presidential candidate Hillary Clinton?
I was invited to CAA agent Bryan Lourd’s home in Beverly Hills for a meet-and-greet. I was in line with everyone else. Morgan Freeman, Gavin Newsom, Anna Wintour. It was seriously A-list. I looked very smart, in my “well-worn” grey Gucci suit and my nineties electric-blue Gucci “GG” tie. Love that tie! Anyway, my turn came for the big handshake — or “power-shake” as I called it, and I thought to myself — I have to make Hillary laugh, and I did.
What did you say to her?
I was slightly overfamiliar; I addressed her as “Hills.” I said, “Hey Hills, nice to meet you,” and she giggled at me, “Hey, oh, you’re British!” I think that went down well with her. I really wanted her to win; she worked so hard. There was a rumor at the time that she was planning a secret visit to Palm Springs; we talked about that for a second. I definitely took advantage of my time with her. She was really cool. There were a few people huffing and puffing behind me, as if to say, “Hurry the f #*⚡up.” I was so sad and ever-so upset when she didn’t win. I literally cocooned myself for days after.
What was the story behind you wearing the Plastic Jesus T-shirt “Stop Making Stupid People Famous”? Isn’t that a contradictory statement coming from someone like you?
Yes, it is a contradictory statement coming from someone like me, but that’s what makes it so fun. I have helped make an insignificant amount of people famous. I guess I was saying, “enough is enough.” I have a love-hate relationship with the celebrity world. Plus, wearing the T-shirt is my homage to Plastic Jesus. I love his work!
“If I was straight, I would love to take Kate Beckinsale on a date. She is so sexy and so fun, but she maintains sophistication (in public anyway). I hear she’s a real minx behind closed doors (laughs). — Sean Borg on British Actress, Kate Beckinsale.
Who do you find sexy in showbiz?
That’s such a tough one to answer on the spot, um, hmm. Oh, OK, if I was straight, I would love to take Kate Beckinsale on a date. She is so sexy and so fun, but she maintains sophistication (in public anyway). I hear she’s a real minx behind closed doors (laughs). And men I find hot are James Franco and British actor Russell Tovey. They both seem fun and outgoing, but a little shy too. I like that… I like shy.
Tell me something about you?
I love to laugh. Anyone who knows me, will know that if I’m not laughing, then I am not happy. The pictures of me laughing in this spread are real. I was roaring with laughter at the shoot. I love having fun, I love laughing. People need to lighten up and laugh more!
Who is your most famous follower on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook?
I’ve have quite a few actually (laughs)… Piers Morgan, though he’ll probably unfollow me after reading this just to make a point, I’ve known him for YEARS! Dash Mihok, who plays Bunchy on “Ray Donovan”. Richie Sambora, Richie’s famous… You know, that guy who used to be in Bon Jovi? That hot “20/20” news reporter, Matt Gutman follows me. American singer, Joy Villa… if you know her? I’m quite sure Jason Statham and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley followed me. Umm, Boy George, Paris Hilton, Josh Flagg — (Million Dollar Listing), Tamara Beckwith, Nikki Lund, Lady Victoria Hervey. Naomi Campbell (If she still does), Clare Brockett from “Towie” — (The Only Way Is Essex)— does that count? I’ve known Clare since she was about 15 [seriously]… Oh, and that zombie killer, Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), he follows me! Is that good enough? (Side-eye).
Um, hmm, (laughs), Oh gosh… Um, oh, I know, The Time Travelers Wife!
What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
Ugh! Being called “Socialite” in the press… I have worked hard all my years. (He picks up his phone and Google’s Socialite) — ‘Socialite — a person who is well known in fashionable society and is fond of social activities and entertainment’. That is me I guess, but with a job! (Laughs).
Describe to me your personal style?
Style-wise, I’m sometimes preppy. I love a clean-cut look, Hugo Boss, Theory, Cole Haan. I like fitted jackets. I like to look smart. I still love a skinny jean or a cigarette leg. I pray flaired pants NEVER come back in fashion. And of course I love Gucci, Paul Smith, Tom Ford, Dsquared2, Louis Vuitton, blah, blah. I do love a good label, but not like T. shirts with “G U C C I”, or “L V” emblazoned all over them, no, no, I don’t want to look like a rapper or a D.J! Overall though, I’d say classic, casual, clean and smart, is how I would describe my look.
Any other advice you have for people looking to break into your field?
Get to know as many people in the industry, from every area. I have in my phonebook, lawyers, producers, directors, casting directors, managers, agents, PRs, actors, actresses, journalists, and celebrities, even police. I mean, get to know everyone you can. It really is about whom you know. And if you can pack your phone with those kinds of people, then you must be good at what you do. I can open many doors with my contacts, and that’s a game changer.
Sean Borg is currently writing his memoirs. He also holds the Show business Editor position at The British Weekly and SBGLA.com, and writes for Hollywood Monthly. Sean is currently in pre-production on Kill the Poet for Othar Raven Pictures.