5th January 1979
On 31st December, the Sunday Express enthused over the appointment of Kenneth Fleet to its staff. The Sunday Getsmuchworse burbled: ‘Kenneth Fleet, who is widely recognised in the City and the industry as the outstanding journalist of this decade has been appointed City Editor.’ The paean of praise continues: ‘His appointment to the Sunday Express marked the peak of a distinguished career.’
Other observers of the financial scene may take a less rosy view of Fleet’s career. They remember unfortunate incidents such as his 1968 letter to various advertising agents offering fulsome editorial coverage to generous advertisers. They also recall his support in 1974 for life insurance brokers and major Telegraph advertisers Anthony Gibbs who guided clients into the now extinct National Life insurance outfit (RIP). Unkind people might also recollect Fleet’s unending support for Changi Jim Slater.
Surprisingly, the old master Slater summed up Fleet and his ilk better than most when he told Anthony Sampson: ‘Any financial journalist who was really clever would be making himself money in the City.’
Another contributory factor of Fleet’s reputation was his well-timed vote of confidence in Burmah Oil’s recovery 24 hours before it collapsed into the arms of the Government four years ago.
Drone note: Kenneth Fleet died in 2000 aged 70. Jim Slater was a controversial asset stripper in the 1970s.
Grovel writes: Getsworse editor Derek ‘Pearly King’ Jameson has had to return from his winter vacation at Benidorm for an important London engagement next week.
At the Japanese Embassy, Nipponese Ambassador Mr Kato will present 200lbs of real shell pearly buttons for London’s Pearly Kings and Queens.
30th March 1979
Street of Shame
The spicy tale of Ann Max-Muller’s romance with Yard chief John Crisp, and how McKnacker’s disapproval of the love match has caused Crisp to resign, has been given sparse coverage within the papers of the Express group.
Could this be because Commons expert Miss Max-Muller, a former secretary of the Lords Defence Group, has shown kindness to so many Express hacks?
Here are the Magnificent Seven of Chateau Despair:
Derek ‘Pearly King’ Jameson, Getsworse editor.
Roy Wright, Evening Standard deputy editor.
George Lochhead, Getsworse parliamentary reporter.
Keith Renshaw, Sunday Express political reporter.
Don Perry, Sunday Express industrial reporter.
James ‘Kojak’ Nicholson, Daily Star crime reporter.
Peter McHackey, former Getsworse gossip columnist.
Incidentally, the record ought now to be put straight on what exactly MacNee said to poor Crisp when the latter announced his intention of marrying Miss Max-Muller.
‘If you do that,’ said McKnacker, ‘your career in the force is as good as over.’
27th April, 1979
Street of Shame
The funereal atmosphere of the Sunday Express, where elderly, salaried toadies tap away for a Tory future, has been shaken by scandal.
Associate-editor-cum-leader-writer Ronald Spark, a Peter Lorre lookalike much given to bashing Labour, the unions and welfare spongers in his pieces, has been dramatically fired for fiddling his expenses. Although such fiddling is now endemic in Fleet Street, Spark’s method – the Spark Transfer as it will henceforth be known – was unusually daring.
First he would get tight-fisted Sunday Express editor John Junor to sign a modest expense claim. Then Spark would add substantially to the claim before submitting the sheet to the accounts department for ‘reimbursement’.
The hapless Spark could not run for cover at the NUJ after the Fingers money-men trapped his fingers in the till. He was not a union member.
And the Express management, for whom he had drummed up drivel for two decades, took the view that he was lucky not to be prosecuted, and kicked him straight out of Chateau Despair.
22nd June 1979
The doyenne of hackettes, lovely Olga Maitland of the Sunday Express, has been crying on my shoulder.
She complains about the uncouth behaviour of her employer, earthy editor John Junor.
And with good reason.
It seems that on occasion Junor has rung her up to complain in his thick Scots brogue that her column is ‘piss-poor’.
This is no way to talk to a lady.
6th July 1979
Street of Shame
Getsworse leader writer James Macmillan has toiled for years in the Tory cause. So you can imagine his excitement recently when, just before Thatcher’s honours list was announced, an envelope arrived for him at Chateau Despair bearing the unmistakeable 10 Downing Street seal.
A knighthood at last?
‘Sir James’ opened the envelope with trembling fingers. It was from Denis Thatcher and made no mention of honours. Could James be a decent chap and tell him where he could pick up a copy of Gary Player’s golfing hints referred to in the Getsworse?
Comely Irish hackette Mary Kenny is no longer persona grata at the Evening Standard.
Recently she attacked the disgraceful decision of the Family Planning Association to sell French letters to eight-year-olds.
The piece displeased the editor, the ageing trendy Sir Charles Mostyn Wintour.
‘We don’t want Mary Kenny and her bloody Christian morality in this newspaper,’ he fumed.
Fleet Street’s most beautiful gossip columnist, Lady Olga Maitland, rings me to complain about Bubbles, Lady Rothermere.
‘That woman is rude and I’m jolly well going to tell her next time I see her, expostulates the fragrant doyenne of hackettes.
‘I have met her on more than half a dozen occasions. Yet each time we are introduced, she says “No, we have never met”.
‘If you ask me, that is the height of rudeness.’
I happened to bump into Bubbles at Ascot after hearing Lady Olga’s lament and I put it to her that she had slighted the earl’s daughter.
‘Lady Olga Maitland? Never heard of her,’ replied the incorrigible Bubbles.
20th July 1979
Sid Jameson let loose a terrible roar of rage when he saw the deshabille condition of his demure young companion Ellen in Disgusting’s roller disco.
While skating with Dirty Dai Llewellyn, her dress had somehow become disarranged, rendering her semi-topless, Daily Star-style.
‘Get off that floor immediately,’ roared Sid, flinging himself into the skating throng.
Street of Shame
There is panic at the Getsworse. Peter Lorre lookalike Ronald Spark, fired from the Sunday Express for deceiving canny Scottish editor John Junor over expenses, is taking Express Newspapers to the Industrial Tribunal for unfair dismissal.
It is suspected that part of Spark’s case was that he was a mere minnow in the great Express expenses ramp, which is incontestably true.
PS: Poor Spark, clutching his girlie mag, tried to book a place on the Marmite train, but was told that all seats were reserved.
[Drone note: This is a reference to Sir James Goldsmith’s launch of NOW! magazine which was hiring hacks at greatly inflated salaries at the time. It folded after two years.]
28th September 1979
The poor confused boobies of the William Hickey column have had to pay out £6,000 to the Polish harpie Regine, whose ghastly ‘club’ in Kensington they have slavishly publicised since last January in exchange for free drinks.
Their story about staffing and licensing difficulties was muted, to say the least, and quoted the absurd co-owner ‘Ram’ as saying they could go on for years, but the Getsworse legal department advised Fingers to pay up and print a grovelling apology.
Now Regine and Ram are laughing their heads off.
They have been handed a nice tax-free £6,000, which would just about cover dinner for four and drinks at their tatty clip joint.
However, the Grovel campaign to close this hellhole for loud, drunken Arabs and their scented English tarts is just beginning. Residents of the thoroughfare most affected by the late night banging of car doors, Kensington Square, have been in touch and the local council shall soon hear the necessary evidence.
12th October 1979
Nigel Broackes is trying to sell the seedy Daily Star to the Mirror Group.
There is open disagreement between Broackes and his colleague ‘Fingers’ Matthews over the future of the Smut.
The rag is draining profits from the Sunday Express, which can make in excess of £10million a year.
Few advertisers wish to appear in a publication which has found a generation of readers for whom the pornographic Sun is too intellectually demanding.
In a last desperate, cynical attempt to boost circulation, Fingers has allowed Smut editor Peter Grimsditch (who?) to publish pro-Labour leaders.
This was not allowed before the General Election – the only time it might have counted – lest it damage Fingers’ hopes of a knighthood.
FACT: The only reason for Fingers’ involvement in the Getsworse is Honours, and he is getting extremely perplexed by Mrs Thatcher’s failure to ennoble him.
Of course, in the present climate it is practically impossible for her to ennoble either Fingers or Broackes especially as they are now branded in the eyes of all right-thinking men as Peddlers [sic] of Porn.
Fingers now grumbles openly about his lack of title.
At a lunch last week given by Lord Barnetson and attended by such worthies as Sir ‘Jams’ Goldsmith and Mr Alan Coren, the funniest man in the world, Fingers turned to his host and said, ‘’Ere, why ‘ave you got a title anyway? You only own local papers, not nashnuls loik the Daily Express.’
26th October 1979
Melodeon-playing Sunday Express editor John Junor celebrates 25 years of editorship this week, and the poor, frightened boobies under his control have been ordered too pay a total of £17 each to provide Auchtermuchty’s champion with a ‘fork lunch’ and a silver bowl.
Pass the silver bowl, Alice!
9th November 1979
The Daily Star is calling itself ‘the success of the century’ on its first birthday.
At a Savoy dinner for 300 guests, Fingers Matthews was more realistic: ‘Provided that the Daily Star continues to go forward we shall be printing in London and I look forward to a dramatic increase in the circulation when that occurs.’
What this means is that they have as yet no agreement with the unions to print in London. Even if they do reach an agreement, they will not use the facility unless the Star ‘continues to go forward’ and such a move would have to be justified by ‘a dramatic increase in circulation’.
Good news and bad news for Jocelyn Stevens.
With his divorce from Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting Janie about to be made absolute, he is free to marry his Miss Moneybags.
Mrs Vivien Duffield (née Clore) has been panting to wed Piranha Teeth for nigh on two years, during which her riches have increased beyond the dreams of avarice – father Sir Charles Clore died three months ago leaving £80 million (on top of the £20 million he gave Vivien and her brother Alan) and legal action is being taken to ensure that the loot does not end up in charitable causes as Sir Charles mooted. Jocelyn’s own fortune has vanished with good living.
The bad news: Piranha is about to be sacked by Victor Matthews, chairman of Express Newspapers, after he started sounding out potential purchasers for the Express Group.
Why? Trafalgar chief Nigel Broackes, who really isn’t interested in the Press and only bought the papers as a plaything for ‘bored’ Victor, is sure that the ludicrous Times settlement spells doom (and reduced profits) for Fleet Street, and wants to flog the company – but instructed Jocelyn to do the spadework and ‘forgot’ to tell Victor.
When Fingers eventually found out …
Fingers Matthews, Express Chairman, likes nothing better on a Sunday than to settle down with his News of the World.
The other weekend his fancy was tickled by the leader column ravings of ‘John Field’ the NoW’s so-called answer to John Junor.
The following day he told ‘Pearly Jameson: ‘’Ere! We should 'ave that Field chap on the Express, 'e writes a lot of sense, 'e does.’
Sid had to explain tactfully to the Chairman that behind the pseudonym ‘John Field’ lurks none other than Ronnie Spark – recently fired from the Express for massive fiddling of expenses.
Another indignant call from fragrant hackette Lady Olga Maitland.
Apparently Scots Sunday Express editor John Junor has been insulting her again by rudely referring to her delightfully entertaining gossip column as ‘a load of piss’.
‘What’s more,’ sneered Junor, cruelly rubbing salt in the wound, ‘Mrs Thatcher doesn’t think much of your column.’
‘Really!’ expostulates the doyenne as I do my best to soothe her, ‘after all the support I’ve given that woman!’
It appears that Junor got ticked off on a recent visit to Chequers following an inaccurate paragraph about Mrs Thatcher secretly holidaying in Portugal.
The Prime Minister was especially annoyed by the idea that she could go off to Portugal for a two-week holiday without anyone noticing.
But Lady Olga had nothing to do with this story.
It was written by a creep called Tim Satchell.
23rd November 1979
With the approach of Christmas, puritanical Scots editor John Junor has worked himself into his normal towering rage at the slackness of his Sunday Express hacks.
No one is safe when he is in this mood, not even mild travel bore Lewis de Fries.
De Fries’s Weekend in Vienna was set for publication in the 'Winter Break’ series when the choleric Junor eye fell on what the portly hack had to eat while sitting in Vienna admiring the view on behalf of readers – spiced beef, venison, ice cream gateaux.
The Man from Auchtermuchty went berserk:
‘How can ye eat this muck, man? Nae wonder y’re gross!’ cried Junor. ‘A’m nae puttin’ news of such gluttony in ma paper.’
Despite protests from de Fries – who attracts millions of pounds of advertising with his harmless jottings – the menu for the Vienna dinner was changed.
‘Spiced beef’ became ‘pickled herring’ – although de Fries said no such thing was on sale in Vienna.
‘Another thing,’ rasped Junor – ‘only pooftahs drink white wine.’
7th December 1979
The delightful Lady Olga rings me with news of the ‘John Junor 25 years at the Sunday Express’ beano.
Fingers Matthews, she shrills, made a bollocks of his speech at the Ritz. In particular he made jocular references to ‘Auchtermuch-tity (sic) – the fabled Fifeshire community of Auchtermuchty immortalised in JJ’s column.
But so sensitive is old retainer Junor that when he came to his own speech he also referred to it as ‘Auchtermuch-tity’ just to please Fingers.
Shame on ye John.
So Victor Matthews is planning to bid £7 million for Sutton Place, the Tudor mansion in Surrey formerly owned by ‘Oklahoma crude’ J Paul Getty.
This may have something to do with the much-delayed roadworks which have recently started on the Enfield, North London estate of Fingers which he bought originally in the hopes and expectation that an extension of the M25 would cut through his acres, thereby entitling him to enormous sums in compensation.
Apparently Fingers was less than pleased when work was held up. Now, however, the hi-macs and bulldozers have miraculously appeared, thanks in part to the urging of local MP Tim Eggar, who won the seat at the last General Election.
The other day Fingers gave Eggar a two-page spread in the Evening Standard in which to expound his views and policies.
Street of Shame
The Ritz dinner to celebrate John Junor’s 25 years at the Sunday Express was an embarrassing affair.
First of all the date was arranged long after the actual anniversary in order to fit in with Margaret Thatcher’s schedule.
The whole occasion was designed by Fingers Matthews and his ridiculous flunky Jocelyn Stevens to remind Thatcher of the ‘knight starvation’ at the Getsworse.
Fingers even mentioned his lack of title in his rambling speech which had been cobbled together by Jocelyn at 5pm that evening. And we may be sure that in his tete-a-tetes with the Iron Maiden at Downing Street, Junor – ever the fawning retainer – has urged her to ennoble his tiny employer.
Of course, there is a big problem.
How can Thatcher possibly knight a man whose only contribution to journalism has been to destroy the Daily Express and create a smut paper, the Daily Star, which features centre-page articles about the private parts of criminals?
[Drone note: Fingers was given a life peerage the following year, taking the title Baron Matthews of Southgate. He died in 1995]
21st December 1979
An indignant call from my old friend Lady Olga.
‘Have you seen that stuff in the News of the World by Peter Mackay about how much money Peter Jay earns?
‘Mackay’s got quite a cheek ,’ shrills the delicious doyenne, ‘when you think of all the money he earns. £200 a week from LWT! £22,000 a year from the Standard! Goodness knows how much he gets from the News of the World!’
I agree that the situation is perfectly scandalous.