A casual browser of the women's weeklies might have been a little confused by the main headline of New Idea a couple of weeks back: "Why I stand by Tea." Although this appears at first sight to be a testimonial for the drink which refreshes but does not inebriate, closer inspection reveals it is attributed to Vanessa Ropati, whose husband was, until recently, not in Guatemala but in a whole lot of trouble. However, like so many League players before him, Tea has escaped the rape charges made against him and now his wife is free to tell the media about her nightmare experience, presumably for a fee. The headline also is evidence that sub-editing has gone south and obviously is in the hands of people whose cultural knowledge is so slight that they do not recognise their unintentional pun on the title of a well-known song; but that is by the by.
So why does Vanessa stand by Tea? The obvious and possibly unfair answer is that she has no choice: without him she is nothing. She is a trophy wife, whose role at times like this is to defend her husband. Of course, that is not how her testimonial puts it. She stands by her man because she loves him and because his "infidelity" was just one of those idiotic things that men do.
Yes, that's right, "infidelity." Although celebrity interviews in the weeklies usually are as similar to one another as their subjects, being in all probability produced by a Quark plug-in rather than a writer, this one stands out for its glibness. After all, the beloved Tea was not prosecuted for infidelity but for rape. The case collapsed not because a great miscarriage of justice was revealed but because of insufficient evidence: the complainant had been so inebriated at the time of the incident that she could not remember what had occurred.
New Idea puts the matter differently: Tea, that loveable rogue, went to a bar (the Whiskey on Ponsonby Road, which used to be quite agreeable until trash like him discovered it) and met some people; these included the complainant, who had partaken both of drink and cocaine. She and Tea got on very well very publicly. Later, (as they used to say in the News of the World) intimacy took place.
Although New Idea is at pains to mention the complainant's state of intoxication and her age range (dirty Thirties, the trollop) the interview is quite coy about the exact nature of her complaint; perhaps they did not want the servants to read this sort of thing. No mention is made of the rectal injuries she sustained in the course of this intimacy. No mention is made of Mr Ropati's brother threatening a private prosecution against the complainant for her cocaine use. However, New Idea does find space to mention his charity work and her fashion line.
One might have thought, given that New Idea's readership is mostly women, that the editor might have some concern for women like the complainant, who get drunk, get stoned and get into trouble. Whether that trouble, in this particular case, was at the hands of a lounge lizard or a rapist is something we shall never know; whatever the facts, similar experiences are had by many ordinary women, who do not have the benefit of money or celebrity to make their case. One might have thought that a women's magazine might stand up for ordinary women; but then one would not think it for a moment. In these times all that matters is celebrity. The winners take it all.