6th January 1978
Grovel writes: The clatter of carpenters mixed with the strange noise of plumbers is to be heard on the Daily Titsbychristmas this week.
Work is going on round the clock to construct a private teak-lined bathroom for the chairman, Mr Fingers.
This will allow him to conduct his toilette without danger of catching rabies from Jocelyn Stevens.
Naturally, no expense has been spared in the refurbishings.
Titsybychristmas observers also report the arrival of a new chauffeur to replace the one who was fired for tiredness.
He is a tiny figure, dwarfed by the uniform he has been forced to wear.
So far he is an example of industry and sobriety.
It is to be hoped that hordes of journalists will not make it their duty to appear at Tottenham Magistrates Court on January 27th when the enraged former chauffeur takes out a private summons for assault against Fingers.
20th January 1978
Grovel writes: I hear that Victor Matthews is maintaining the grand tradition of company bosses who don’t know much about art and defer to their wives’ judgment.
When their Barnet home was recently redecorated Mrs (‘I read the Daily Mirror’) Fingers decreed Louis-Quinze for the dining-nook but was displeased with the result, especially the solemn-faced cherubs.
‘Ere, Vic,’ she told the unpleasant eel-guzzler, ‘I want them angels done again. I want them smiling.’
The artist, Brian Rance, whose work adorns some of London’s plushest hospices, wasn’t thrilled either. For eight months work chez Fingers he received the princely sum of £1,000.
Dining with Princess Margaret not long ago, Jocelyn Stevens – whose wife Janie is HRH’s lady-in-waiting on occasion – was subjected to the Royal thoughts on Roddy [Llewellyn].
Yvonne painted the exotic young buck as diligent, honest, hard-working, and, above all, discreet on the subject of his royal lover.
‘Dammit, I’ve heard enough!’ thundered Piranha Teeth at last. ‘Why, I’ve got the photostat in my pocket of a cheque for £6,000 which the Express paid Roddy for his story and pictures. How’s that for discretion?’
Pausing only to down her Scotch and soda, Yvonne replied: ‘Only £6,000? Not nearly enough.’
3rd February 1978
Grovel writes: Buy Trafalgar House shares now!
Word reaches me that Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour, who is paid £19,000 plus expenses plus car to do goodness knows what except intimidate Victor Matthews with his newspaper expertise, is thinking of retirement.
How will this affect his relationship with Ms Audrey Slaughter, the flame-haired temptress who is sharing his life? ‘I am buying a cottage in Wiltshire,’ says Sir Charles, ‘and Audrey will come with me.’
Wintour, who will be 61 in May, is quite the youngest lover Ms Slaughter, over-47 editress of Over 21 magazine, has even taken. Previous successful applicants have been 30 and 40 years her senior.
Shock horror scenes at a debate on press freedom at the Cambridge Union last weekend.
Rounding on his opponent, the cherubic Peter McKay, editor of the William McHackey column, the intemperate Huw Thomas pointed at a pulchitrudinous blonde seated nearby and accused the beaming scribbler of ‘adultery’.
The usual Grovel fiver will be sent to Thomas if he forwards proof of this disgraceful and libellous accusation.
17th February 1978
Street of Shame
Readers of the Daily Express are currently being offered the chance to win a £25,000 house with the offer of £1,000 deposits on ten other houses as consolation prizes.
The houses are all being built by New Ideal Homes. It is no accident that New Ideal Homes is owned by Ideal Building Corp (Chairman V Matthews) in turn owned by Trafalgar House Investments who also own the Express (Chairman V Matthews). It is also no accident that house sales are not exactly booming right now.
So one house given away and ten subsidised is better than none being sold at all. In the event of a tie, winners will be asked to give ‘an appropriate name to the house as a permanent memento of your good fortune’.
What about Fingers?
Grovel writes: The price of Victor Matthews extracting a £2 million profit from the Beaverbrook chain has proved too much for Mrs Fingers.
Long accustomed to having her Vic snug in slippers and in front of the fire for Nationwide every evening, Mrs Fingers burst into the Piccadilly offices of Nigel Broackes [founder of Express owners Trafalgar House] the other day complaining that her hubby now stayed all hours of the day and night at the Express offices.
‘Why,’ said Mrs Fingers to a quaking Broackes, ‘I never see him now before News at Ten.’
3rd March 1978
Grovel writes: Editor John Junor takes the greatest pains with his prose in the Sunday Express. This explains a comic row in the Black Lubianka last Saturday when Junor, seeking to demean the Daily Mirror, wrote that it was a ‘tits, bums and buttocks’ paper. It was pointed out to the Monarch of the Glen that bums and buttocks were the same thing. Nothing of the kind, he cried. It was only after the Oxford English Dictionary was trundled from the library by his frightened assistants that ‘bums’ was finally erased.
17th March 1978
Grovel writes: An unseemly struggle is expected tomorrow when the Daily Express Triumph Hurdle is contested at Cheltenham.
Lady Vi ‘I like my men dark and dirty’ Aitken, wife of ‘Biggles', who sold his birthright to Trafalgar House for a measly £13 million, says that the trophy is hers to present and that she intends to do just that when the winning owner leads the victorious nag in.
Not so says Beaverbrook (sorry, Express) chairman Victor ‘Fingers’ Matthews. The race, and the prize money donated by the Titsbychristmas, is now in the domain of Fingers and, avid racegoer that he is, (‘I will win the 1979 Derby,’ says Vic) he insists that the pulchitrudinous Mrs Fingers should present the cup.
Expect a tug of war in full view of the BBC cameras with commentary and inter-round summary by Peter O’Sullevan.
Drone note: The 1979 Derby was run by Troy, owned by industrialist Sir Michael Sobell.
What is Wilhelm Davis, former Editor of Punch, doing in his new role as personal assistant to Britain’s Greatest Builder Victor Matthews?
Writing Fingers’ speeches for a start.
When the Master Builder hosted a lunch at the Hyde Park Hotel for (cut-price) advertisers, the magic words 'Some people say Fleet Street is over-manned, I say it is under-employed’, among other catchy phrases, came for the febrile mind of The Fuhrer.
He says there is no extra pay involved and that the relationship is just a meeting of two great minds.31st March 1978
Grovel writes: Alarums and excursions at Chateau Despair last week when the TitsbyChristmas printed a front page ‘exclusive’ by old Etonian scribe Peter Hardy to the effect the Prince Charles was being offered £50,000 a year to be ambassador at large for a group of British businessmen.
This highly unlikely story caused near apoplexy for Victor Matthews who has been voicing confidence that the royal favour will shine on him to the extent of his being given a cherished knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
‘Fingers’ immediately railed at his compliant Editor Derek ‘Sid’ Jameson screaming hysterically that the Palace had complained about the story and that his gong, so tantalisingly close, was now in jeopardy.
Hardy – who has another Nelsonian touch in that he is one-eyed as a result of a childhood accident – was hauled up by ‘Pearly’ Jameson who demanded to know the source of the story. When Hardy refused to divulge it on the grounds that it would then be revealed to Fingers who would then take his revenge on the unfortunate man (or woman), he was suspended from work and given 48 hours to come up with a name – or be sacked.
A Mexican stand-off has ensued with Hardy refusing to budge and Pearly unable to fire him without causing a massive walkout of his militant journalists.
I fear that it will be Mr and Mrs Fingers for some time yet.
14th April 1978
Grovel’s revelation that Lady Vi (‘I like my men dark and dirty’) Aitken was unwilling to hand over the Daily Express Triumph Hurdle Cup to Mrs Fingers for presentation at Cheltenham was slightly preempted when the race meeting was snowed under.
The race is being rerun today but Grovel can forecast another dramatic confrontation.
Two cups are likely to find their way into the winner’s grubby hands, for ‘Fingers’ Matthews who took over Beaverbrook (whoops! Express Group) a year ago, has hurriedly found a replacement, which the pulchitrudinous Mrs Fingers plans to hand over.
Tune in again for the dramatic final stages of the cup-giving race, with commentary by Peter O’Sullevan and an inter-round summary by ‘The Scout’ (fat, bankrupt tipster Charles Benson).
28th April 1978
Victor Matthews, Commodore of the good ship Express, may have dished his chances this time of gaining a knighthood but he is making sure that there will be no impediment next year.
He has issued an edict to his hacks that no mention whatsoever will be made about any member of the Royal Family except in reference to their official duties.
It’ll be Lady Fingers yet!
My Fleet Street dentist Henry Arnold is highly regarded in his profession.
So I was not too surprised when he confided in me the other day when I was in his chair that he handled the teeth of TitsbyChristmas chief Victor Matthews.
Impressed, I asked: ‘You mean he actually sits in this chair, Henry?’
‘No, no, he just sends his teeth over,’ replied the orthodontist.
It appears that the good Henry has a special attachment which, when fitted to a high-speed drill, is ideal for removing the detritus of whelk and other piscatorial substances from the crevices of Fingers’ dentures.
But he won’t handle mad Jocelyn.
12th May 1978
Grovel writes: The world of Fleet Street has been rocked by the news that rotund Scottish gossip-monger Peter McKay, alias William Hickey, is flirting with Trotskyism.
I have been told that McHackey has been supplying the notorious revolutionary organ Socialist Worker with spicy titbits about High Life.
Of course there is no truth in this story. But can McHackey continue to report for work at Black Lubyanka under the disapproving gaze of his fellow hacks?
Fingers Matthews has a new plan to cut the losses on the Daily TitsbyChristmas.
He has decided that in future when the paper gets sued for libel, he will recover any cost to him from the ‘stringer’ who supplies the story.
Stringers are that sorry band of honest men who supply titbits of information to newspapers for the odd £50 or so.
Of course, those foolish MPs and captains of industry who take a £20-a-head meal off Fingers will also be liable for this treatment should they give him any information that his not 100% kosher.
I must warn those who receive my £5 that I will be watching progress of this scheme with interest.
9th June 1978
Grovel writes: Fears are being expressed for the personal safety of Evening News Editor-In-Waiting Robin Esser who joined the Harmsworth camp after being jilted by Sir Max Aitken who had promised him the editorship of the Daily Getsmuchmoreinthered.
Lunchtime strollers were treated to the invigorating sight of former Suez hero Esser being beaten up by a hefty blonde (bearing more than a passing resemblance to Mrs Lynne Esser). A few days later the wretch hack appeared back in Chateau Harmsworth bleeding profusely from gaping back and neck wounds.
A ‘fall’ from his bicycle was blamed.
It is not thought that either of these incidents has anything to do with the fact that Lynne has only recently discovered her husband’s close interest in the career of brunette harpie Ms Tui France (sic) who has been employed by the Evening News ads department.
Two Laurel and Hardy-style hacks are expected to trip down Tin Pan Alley next week. Their names: Peter Tory and Brian Vine.
This is the infamous duo who gave us the unreal Joyce McKinney in the TitsbyChristmas.
Now they have returned to these shores bearing cassette tapes of their two weeks of hell in a South Carolina hotel room with the barking mad Bible-puncher.
At the height of her hysteria – just after TitsbyChristmas editor Derek ‘Pearly’ Jameson thoughtfully read [to her] the Daily Mirror’s bucket of filth about herself over the telephone – she was narrowly prevented many times from jumping from her hotel room balcony.
Endlessly she cried ‘Oh please let me join Jesus!’ while the monstrous Vine brutally advised: ‘He doesn’t want to see you in that state, my dear.’
The tapes also record some of the jollier interludes. Like the sound of El Vino trying to get into the bathroom while the religious fanatic was bathing.
‘I want to see you lathering those enormous mammary glands,’ Vine is hear to bellow.
There follows a long and complicated argument in which the bibulous Vine is heard advising that they should all risk arrest by the FBI by crossing into North Carolina out of dry South Carolina so that he can secure a bottle of hooch.
Now, with a commentary by Sir John Gielgud, and possibly a new song by ‘Pearly’ Jameson – Let Me Join Jesus – the tapes could be in the record shops by Christmas.
Editor's note: Former Foreign Editor David Richardson has been in touch about the above piece.
He writes: I hate to admit it, but to defend the reputation of Derek J … t'was I who confirmed to Joyce that the Mirror were sullying her reputation with a front page pic ... well the entire front page ... of her extremely large mammaries.
I was on the night desk at the time. Not sure what my position was - maybe deputy night news editor or night foreign editor - but that does not matter as the expenses were the same and there was a game of three-card brag waiting.
Around midnight, just after the rival first editions had dropped, the phone rang and an excitable American voice at the other end demanded to know if the Mirror had used a photo of her.
It had and we had not had time to warn Vine or Tory of the problems ahead.
'Well Joyce', I said. 'They do have a photo but it is very tasteful.'
'Are my breasts on show?' she demanded.
I think I replied: 'Marginally, but it is a very discreet photo.'
In fact it was a pin-up pic dominated by massive mammaries.
Those were last last words I ever spoke to Joyce McK.
All I heard was screaming as she ran over to the hotel window and threatened to commit suicide.
It took all of Peter Tory's RSC training smooth talk to get her off the balcony.
I think I put a Joe Allen's bill in that week ... 'entertaining Joyce McKinney … £31.50'.
23rd June 1978
Grovel writes: The latest series of drug busts featuring the upper class’s favourite narcotic, cocaine can be directly credited to Jocelyn Stevens.
The Piranha, distressed at the dependence on cocaine of members of his near family and the daughters and sons of old friends, sought out the Commissioner earlier this year and demanded action.
Further meetings took place between high-ranking Yard ‘tecs and parents from the Stevens circle who passed on pitiful accounts of how their brilliant, gifted, privileged kids had been ensnared by the cocaine pushers who seem to inhabit the lavatories of every top London club these days.
In the last two months at least three prominent gangs have been rounded up and the Yard are expecting to pounce on a further like number before the summer is out.
Security guards at Fortress Northcliffe have been issued with a likeness of Mrs Lynne Esser, estranged wife of Evening News editor-in-waiting Robin, following various attacks on his person and property.
The latest incident concerned the MGB [car] of Ms Tui France, the lady who has replaced Lynne in the old newshound’s affections.
A mysterious blonde was seen the other day in the News car park artistically running a key round the shining paintwork of the car, thus necessitating a complete respray.
This one will run and run.
7th July 1978
Toadish Paul Callan of the Daily Mirror (staying at the Hotel de Paris, of course) never drew a sober breath for the ten days he was there.
But what really shot all expenses skywards was the appearance on the Côte d’Azur of a dreaded figure – Brian ‘El Vino’ Vine, the Titsbychristmas New York hack who was on his annual hols.
El Vino’s idea of a perfect holiday is this: up by noon, several very large drinks, then a four-hour lunch by the pool at which at least ten bottles of wine are consumed. In the afternoon, a brief siesta followed by several more very large drinks at ‘sharpening time’ – about 5.
This lasts until about 8pm when he likes to sit down to a five-course dinner of very exotic food which has been ordered the night before. Of course, there is a Mediterranean of Muscadet, or some similar wine, to accompany this; and the port flows freely until about midnight.
Vine would then lead his party, which would by then have grown to about a dozen, to the casinos. There he invests a few hundred pounds, refreshing himself all the while with magnums of the best champagne.
The sandman comes about dawn. In a few short hours, the whole process starts again…
4th August 1978
Grovel writes: There has been a second disgraceful attack on Fingers Matthews, first Tsar of the Titsbychristmas. Last time it was his chauffeur, a white-whiskered figure who pounced on the managing director of Trafalgar House after weeks of unseemly bickering in the huge Rolls.
Whiskers was fired, then paid off after threatening legal action over his eviction from a tied cottage on the Fingers North London estate.
The new aggressor is a security man who prowls the appalling front hall of Chateau Despair.
Apparently the worst for drink after a session at the Popinjay next door, he too pounced on his diminutive employer, and had to be dragged off by colleagues.
He has not so far been fired. Instead, a la Soviet Russia, he is receiving medical attention to cure him of his dissident deviations.
18th August 1978
Grovel writes: Poor Fingers Matthews, already the victim of two attacks in the Titsbychristmas building, is in the middle of an even nastier punch-up at Chateau Despair.
On my left, editor Derek ‘Pearly King’ Jameson; on my right barking mad managing director Jocelyn Stevens.
These men are now on the point of coming to blows over what Royal toady Stevens sees as intrusion into the affairs of Yvonne [Princess Margaret].
Now Piranha, who has presided over every major cock-up at the Express for over five years, threatens to fire the pugnacious Pearly.
But already a ‘Save Our Sid’ campaign has taken root in the dark, filthy corridors of the Titsbychristmas. In addition there is a ‘Dump Jocelyn’ mood abroad.
Latest reports from the shiny Chateau speak of Stevens, head buried in arms, slumped on executive-type desk, crying brokenly: ‘I cannot get through to the man…’
15th September 1978
Grovel writes: Just one day after the Spectator’s press columnist sensibly suggested that the Titsbychristmas was ‘the most disgusting newspaper in the country’, barking mad Jocelyn Stevens cancelled an advertisement he had placed in the magazine’s 150th anniversary edition.
This recalls the withdrawal of ads once by Fingers from The Times after they had mentioned that some of his Cunard ships were over-run by rats.
29th September 1978
Street of Shame
There is consternation at the Titsbychristmas over the launch of the new Daily Smut [Daily Star], which is to be published from Manchester.
At long last it has dawned on the greedy hacks that Fingers wants them to produce their new paper on the same staffing levels.
The simple-minded chairman reasons that since the Dirty Digger can bring out The Sun with something like half of the Express’s number of hacks, and manage to make it ten times more profitable, then he can bring out a filthy paper by using the large number of Titsbychristmas hacks who do no work of any kind and collect, with expenses, wages of £300 a week.
Not only do the Titsybychristmas hacks, led by NUJ figure David Ross, want the Daily Smut to have its own staff; they want this to be supplemented by casual hacks from the Titsbychristmas, who would be paid not less than £60 a day for their ‘extra’ labours. Further, they wish before the launch next month, to be paid a ‘lump’ sum of, say, £300 to secure their goodwill.
In addition, all hacks will get a shiny new car, whether they can drive or not, for use in driving to the seaside on the three full days off they have each week, six weeks’ holiday a year, and regular ‘sabbaticals’.
Barking-mad Jocelyn Stevens has been taken up by the Irish novelist and Ugandan expert Edna O’Brien.
I must warn the Piranha that those incautious enough to enter into free-ranging East African studies with Edna usually appear, thinly disguised, in her next novel, their most private parts described in most unnecessary detail.
A disgraceful scene at the Lyceum: Derek ‘Pearly King’ Jameson in the arms of Bubbles Rothermere, who appears to be offering Sid some kind of job.
Does Fingers know?
Regarding the ‘Tits-by-Christmas’ epic you may be interested to hear that BRMB radio’s Ed Doolan Show has instigated a ‘mammary monitor’ to record the progress of the Daily Express’s decline.
Listeners to the midday show are encouraged to count the number of nipples (or any substantial part of a nipple) appearing in each issue and phone in with their findings.
7 Carriage Drive, Witton, Birmingham
13th October 1978
Street of Shame
Chapman Pincher has been paid £25,000 for his extraordinarily unrevealing series in the Daily Express based on his fatuous biography Inside Story.
This is believed to be something of a record. Firstly, because all of the ‘stories’ Pincher refers to should have been covered by him originally in his capacity as an Express reporter and should therefore be Express property. Secondly, because Pincher devotes much of his time to explaining that none of the ‘stories’ were true anyway.
Typical of Pincher’s method is his reference to the cuts Marcia Williams [Harold Wilson’s secretary] forced on George Wigg’s autobiography. The book, says Pincher, ‘ran into legal difficulties which have not, I believe, been fully revealed before’. Pincher then rabbits on for a bit but fails to mention exactly what was cut.
The whole story, including the deleted passages, was of course printed in Eye 324 (May 1974). Back to sleep Pincher! It is far too late for you to wake up. Unfortunately Pincher has now persuaded Michael Joseph (Wigg’s publishers) to publish a second volume of his memoirs, this time devoted to what passes for his ‘social life’. He has written to M Joseph saying that much of the book will be devoted to his sporting weekends with Harry Hyams and Charles Forte, and announcing that he intends to charge up his guns, rods and wellies against tax.
This ludicrous man is so self-important that when he gives dictation to the Express secretaries he locks the door to prevent security leaks.
13th October 1978
Kenneth Fleet, formerly of the Daily Telegraph now of the Sunday Times, has been persuaded to join the Sunday Express as City Editor. Fingers Matthews, who has always admired Fleet far more warmly than any City boss should admire a City editor, is terribly proud of his acquisition. He sees Fleet as the next editor of the Sunday Express with dour incumbent John Junor elevated to editor-in-chief and columnist bizarre.
In the trade Fleet is known for the astonishing number of crates of booze that are presented to him by City admirers at Christmas time. He is also remembered as the man who accepted a free US trip from Burmah Oil and replied with a glowing account of the Company's prospects a few days before it collapsed.
Grovel writes: John Junor of the Sunday Express is rightly pleased with his amazing column.
But like all true artists, he is occasionally, beset by doubts.
The other morning he telephoned his Manchester editor, the unflappable Howard Bygrave.
‘Tell me Howard, how was my column on Sunday?’ he asked.
‘Absolutely brilliant, John,’ Bygrave replied unblushingly.
‘You’re a liar, Howard,’ rasped Junor. ‘It was no good at all.’
‘John, it was brilliant, I assure you,’ said Bygrave.
At which point Junor rang off, greatly relieved.
Turning to an executive who had heard Junor’s voice come over on the intercom, Bygrave remarked: ‘One thing to remember when dealing with Junor. Always stand up to him!’
27th October 1978
Grovel writes: Disgraceful scenes at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, where inky hacks of Fingers’ new Daily Star gather to toast their sexy future.
After the hacks had consumed a Lake Windermere of free liquor of all kinds – one was seen imbibing simultaneously from a tumbler of brandy and one of vodka – Derek ‘Pearly King’ Jameson climbs on top of a chair to address the sullen perspiring mob. One tired hack kneels before him and starts to shake the chair. Another punctuates the end of each Pearl of Wisdom with the word ‘Bollocks’.
Eventually poor Sid is toppled from his rostrum. His position is then taken by one of the keen-to-please Manchester men who cries ‘F*** the Mirror, f*** The Sun’ and then falls insensible to the floor.
The poor, reviled staff of the Midland Hotel, who have had to deal with many comatose hacks during the night, reflect that their troubles are not over.
There is another orgy on 1 November.
10th November 1978
Grovel writes: That most exclusive club, Those Who Have Swum With Yvonne [Princess Margaret], has recruited a talkative new member: Titsbychristmas hack Ross ‘Pretty Boy’ Benson, who was summoned to do a breast-stroke with our thirstiest royal while she was visiting California.
Like ‘Lord’ Dempster, another club member, Benson happily agreed to abide by the royal doggy-paddle rules: always swim a length behind Yvonne.
Auberon Waugh’s Diary
I refused all invitations to attend the opening night of the Daily Star in Manchester, although it is a beautiful town and I have several friends there I would love to see again. It is just that there seems to be nothing to celebrate in this monument to human stupidity.
Its editor-in-chief Derek Jameson is also editor of the Express. On a recent radio programme, he asked why he was called Sid Yobbo, maintaining that he was, in fact, a highly intelligent, sensitive and cultured person.
The reason, I can reveal, has nothing to do with his yobbish manner, his brutal insensitivity or even his incompetence as editor of Britain's worst daily newspaper. It refers to the strange, crab-like way he walks, the result of having to scratch his bottom every few paces.