The launch of Jani Allan’s new book ‘Jani Confidential’ created no fireworks yesterday, as many attendees had expected at the Literary Launch lunch organised by Gorry Bowes Taylor for Wordsworth Books. The low-key, almost hidden, A Tavola restaurant was a good choice, with a special lunch, and reflected Allan’s shy and coy nature as a speaker. Surprisingly few attendees bought books, maybe because Allan did not do a good job in marketing her book to her audience, not reading extracts from it nor providing tidbits which would intrigue one to buy the book.
Soon after we arrived at the fully-booked launch event, for which we paid R280 for the three course lunch, a selection of Antipasti was brought to the tables of ten to share: Bruschetta
Our main course order was taken, being a choice of six Secondi dishes, the majority of us ordering Vitello ai funghi e vino bianco (veal scallops with wild mushrooms, white wine, rosemary and thyme, which was served on fresh pasta). Other options were beef fillet, Saltimbocca alla Romana (chicken breast), seafood linguine, tagliolini with mushrooms and truffle oil, and oven-baked tuna.
Western Cape Sales Manager and Brand Ambassador Paula Teixeira from Solms-Delta, having sponsored the wines, including a Chenin Blanc 2014, provided the background to what she called a ‘social enterprise‘ instead of a wine farm. Co-owners Professor Mark Solms and professional benefactor Richard Astor have created a number of trusts to benefit others, including their own staff, sharing the income of the wine sales on a 50%/50% basis. The farm supports ‘South African things’, and has a social conscience. It has been surprisingly Afrikaans in its creation of wine names. She made a passionate plea for us all to be part of ‘cause South Africa‘, and that we should all move forward together. She did not share any information about the Solms-Delta wines in general, and about those which we were drinking.
After the main course it was time for Allan to address us. There were a number of surprises: she was late in arriving for her own launch lunch; she spoke very softly and without impact as a speaker, contrary to one’s expectation of her as a power-frau, at times one not being able to understand some of what she said; she is trim and slim but her face is well-wrinkled and weathered (Google reveals her to be 62 year old, having been born on 9/11 in 1952, just 3 months older than I am); she was heavily made-up, laughingly telling us that her BA Fine Arts degree is well used in the art of ‘painting my face’ (the humour and word play a rare occurrence during her talk, of which one would have expected more), and that she spoke from notes, instead of speaking off the cuff, which one would have expected her to be good at.
Surprising too is how Allan edits out aspects of her past in the talk, to make it sound worse and to attract more sympathy. For example, her adopted father passed away when Jani (from Janet, her mother’s name too) was 18 months old. Her very detailed Wikipedia (auto?)biography mentions a stepfather, but he was not mentioned by her in the talk. It was a surprise to many of us that Allan was at her journalism peak 30 years ago, when she wrote the notorious article about Eugene Terreblanche, a name she told us she would not mention in her talk (but it slipped through once thereafter), and would not write about in any future book. She said that she was ‘coming out‘ at the launch, not in being Jewish nor gay (her words) yet wishing she had been both she said, trying to make a joke in starting a new life but not succeeding, not being half as sharp when speaking compared to her writing.
She described her alter ego, the loved-or-hated Hamilton’s Grill Room waitress Juliette, who lives in Lambertville New Jersey in the USA, with ‘hair done with an egg beater‘, who drives a beat-up yellow VW Beetle, and has three toy pom dogs, who are her one and all life. A few of the colleagues know about her book, but she still has to clean the restaurant toilets, they told her. It is impossible to imagine Allan as an order-taker, having to tolerate patrons, or moody kitchen staff, some of her frustrations being channeled into a blog she wrote about her restaurant life. She became braver and braver on her Jani Allan blog, and especially on Twitter, loving the reaction her Tweets caused. Her Oscar Pistorius blogpost, accusing him of having taken acting lessons for his court appearances, and having a secret witness to confirm this but never identified, launched her back into public notoriety. She has just over 5000 followers on Twitter.
She mentioned her (adopted) mother a number of times, twice telling us that she had taught her ‘survival’. She also sent Allan to a range of lessons: art, ballet, Scottish dancing, piano, tap dancing, elocution (she speaks British English) and Ikebana, to mention a few. But most importantly her mother taught her to be humble, of which one does not pick up much in her public persona. She described herself as having been seen as a ‘Barbie Doll‘ in her hey day. She explained that she does not take herself very seriously, and that she has ‘a huge dollop of self-mocking’, perhaps explaining her poor attempts at jokes and word-play in the talk.
She spoke about the Sunday Times, and its editor at that time (Tertius Myburgh), loving her and then signalling her end when he banished her to London, subsequently terminating her column. Interesting is the debate created on Twitter by Allan supporters that the Sunday Times is snubbing Allan, not having interviewed her since she arrived in our country, returning for the first time in ten years. She admitted to her addiction to the ‘Jani Allan’ column, which both drained her and put her on a high every week, and cost her the first marriage. She referred to her ‘friend’ and former colleague Linda Shaw, causing a surprise amongst the audience, but one suspects that this was irony at its best. Shaw was a key witness against Allan in her London court case, which she lost.
The launch lunch ended off with a Dolci feast, being shared plates of Tiramisu, Pavlova, and Panna Cotta, all polished by our table, despite the hearty portions of our main courses, and the Antipasti selection!
It was a surprise that the meal was so good, especially for such a large group of attendees, my last experience at A Tavola not having been a good one. Our waitron Adlady looked after our table well. It was the first time in a long time that I booked under a different surname, having been blocked on Twitter by Allan in mentioning her waitress career choice about a year ago, and due to the previous A Tavola review. Allan hinted at wanting to give up her waitress job, obviously hoping that her book sales will tide her over financially. The photograph on the book cover and the publicity pics clearly date back to 30 years ago! The book title is a contradiction, as little about Jani Allan remains ‘Confidential‘!
POSTSCRIPT 19/4 : The Sunday Times did write a review of Jani’s book, albeit a very short one, in its Lifestyle Section today.
POSTSCRIPT 19/4: We have found a reference to Gareth Davies, who has been vocal on Twitter about Allan, and who wrote a Comment to this Blogpost (which he also posted on his Twitter account @GarethDaviesZA but thought about it, and deleted it again!). It appears that he set up Allan’s Twitter account, and may have had a hand in blocking ourselves (and others)! He has all of 90 Twitter followers!
POSTSCRIPT 23/4: It was inevitable – Jani Allan the writer could not resist commenting on this blogpost, using a pseudonym ‘Mags/Mags Taylor’. She sent 13 comments, vitriolic and filled with hate-speech regarding myself and two other critical commenters to this blogpost. It was her repeated issuing of instructions to Gareth Davies (see Postscript above) in the comments, and obsessive references to ‘Schaden Freude‘ (sic) and to the creator of the word Schopenhauer, that I recognised in the interview with Allan fan Marika Sboros, leading me to deduce that Jani Allan is the abusive and nasty ‘Mags Taylor‘ in the comments sent to our blogpost. Not one of her Comments is publishable, but her threats will be watched, and Comments saved at the back-end of our Blog.
POSTSCRIPT 25/4: Jani Allan, a.k.a. ‘Maggie/Mags Taylor’, has stopped sending further abusive comments to this blogpost, as we have not allowed any of her barrage of 15! She is now sending e-mails to us directly, including this latest one of blackmail threat: ‘I advise you to delete your comments to me on your Jani Allan slut shaming blog with immediate effect – I have given you a small taste of who you are dealing with and if you wish to avoid further retaliation online from me you will delete your vile untruthful comments‘! Nasty lady!
Jani Allan: ‘Jani Confidential’, Jacana Media Twitter: @JaniAllan R220.