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Saturday 14 December 2019

Bush paints picture of prickly Putin

US Diary

A portrait of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, painted by former US president George W. Bush is displayed between photographs as part of the exhibit,
A portrait of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, painted by former US president George W. Bush is displayed between photographs as part of the exhibit, "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.
Photos and artifacts around the portrait of Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda in the exhibit, "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.
Gwyneth Paltrow struts her stuff at the Goldene Kamera awards ceremony in Berlin last month

Orla Healy

George W Bush has his own way of dealing with the likes of Vladimir Putin. His mother and his wife, not as easy.

When the artist formerly known as the 43rd President of the United States made his professional debut by unveiling a collection of his portraits of world leaders at his library in Dallas, he was ready for the flap that came with his decision to include his painting of the Russian President in a line-up he said was inspired "in the spirit of friendship... I admire them as leaders and was willing to give it a shot in terms of getting people to see how I felt about them".

But Bush, who sent shockwaves through diplomatic circles in 2001 when he affectionately described Putin as "very straightforward and trustworthy... a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country", also made it clear that his feelings for Putin – whose solemn portrait is dominated by his dark eyes – changed long before recent tensions escalated.

"I met with him a lot during the presidency," Bush told his daughter Jenna Bush Hager on NBC's Today show on Friday in an interview to preview his artwork . "I got to know him very well. I had a good relationship throughout, it became more tense as time went on."

Bush then explained the men's shifting relationship with an anecdote about their dogs. "As you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special place in my heart – Putin dissed him and said, 'You really call that a dog?'" Bush said. A year later, he went to visit Putin at his dacha outside Moscow and Putin introduced his own dog: a "huge hound much bigger than Barney". "Putin kind of looks at me and he says 'Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney'," Bush recalled, admitting the comment left him speechless.

"I took it in. I didn't react. I said, 'Wow, anybody who thinks my dog is bigger than your dog is an interesting character.' And the painting kind of reflects that."

The exhibition, entitled 'The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy' runs through June 3 and includes a diverse array of faces including Tony Blair, the Dalai Lama, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Hamid Karzai, Angela Merkel and "gentle soul," former President George HW Bush.

It does not, however, feature either of the Bush first ladies. Barbara Bush admitted she refused to sit for her son ("Absolutely not. Good as he is, it might look like me," she cracked), while wife Laura confessed she had gone through the process but was less than thrilled ("It still needs some work") with the results. Asked what he has learned from his short career as an artist, President Bush said simply "Don't paint your wife".


Several top Hollywood stars were wondering last week who was the actress whose Diva from Hell behaviour was described in great detail by her former assistant in a magazine expose. Some top names were being bandied about as suspects in the guessing game to identify the "Hollywood household name" whose former PA published a scorching takedown about her nightmare gig with the actress in New York magazine.

The anonymous assistant paints a pitch-perfect, Devil Wears Prada picture of life with the demanding star who required a Starbucks coffee with her 5am wake-up call each morning along with a comprehensive summary of whatever news events she might have slept through.

There is also plenty of dish about the assistant having to drive her boss to therapy (which turned out to be a session with a palm reader) and the strain of having to micro-manage the actress's love life for her.

"I broke up with a very prominent actor boyfriend of hers," the assistant tells the magazine. "She said, 'Oh, we're done making a movie together; it's not really going to work; I'm sort of seeing somebody else. Could you just tell him to back off and leave me alone?' And she said this over the phone, over Christmas. So, that's what I did. You would think sending a text is the worst – no. Sending your assistant to break up with him is the worst."

Not quite the worst. That, it turns out, was the moment the assistant realised she was being used as a drug mule.

"I had to go to pick up her quote-unquote 'herbs'... she said 'herbs' because she was being holistic, and I was naive and thought it was something herbal to help her calm down. Once when we went to a film festival, I flew out early so I could lay out the clothes she would wear. When she got in, she was like, 'Did you get my stuff?' What stuff? 'Oh, I put some stuff in your bag.' I could have gotten arrested!"

Instead it now looks like the assistant might get a happy Hollywood ending with book publishers and, natch, moviemakers jostling to sign her up.


Mommy bloggers aren't the only people mocking Gwyneth Paltrow's latest blooper. In what was best described as a Marie Antoinette moment for the Sheryl Sandberg age, the Oscar-winning actress unleashed an online revolt when, before consciously uncoupling from husband Chris Martin, she unconsciously complained about how "much harder" it is for celebrities to raise kids than "regular" people.

"I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it's not like being on set," Paltrow whinged to E! News. "I think it's different when you have an office job, because it's routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening," she continued, striking a chord with Breaking Bad star Dean Norris who killed it with his response on Twitter. "Watching my wife take care of our kids," he wrote, "is so much harder as an actor than a regular dad."


Proving he is nobody's fool, Bill Clinton used April 1 to remind everyone just how cool his wife is.

Just after midnight last Monday, the former prez tweeted a new avatar of himself spoofing the iconic "Texts from Hillary" meme of the then secretary of state checking her BlackBerry aboard a C-17 transport plane the day before the capture and killing of Col Gaddafi.

"I'm following my leader!" Bubba tweeted along with a black and white image of himself photoshopped into a military plane wearing sunnies while checking an oversized iPad.

He also added the words "meme appropriator" to the tail-end of his 160-character Twitter bio. Hillary threw in her two cents by retweeting her husband's post with a meta "Well, that's what happened to my iPad!". Sweet.

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