2nd January 1981
Earning comparative peanuts for the thankless task of helping run Express Newspapers, Princess Margaret intimate Jocelyn Stevens has a lifestyle way beyonds the means of his boss Lord Whelks.
A Chelsea riverside house has been bought and decorated, with money no object, and the Hampshire country home of Stevens has just undergone a lavish refit.
The Piranha had better pay attention, though, to his lusty companion Vivien Clore, whose inheritance from her late father Sir Charles now stands in the region of £20 million.
As she said the other day when he cancelled a date to dance attendance instead on Whelks: ‘If Matthews messes around with my love life any more, I’ll buy the f***ing business.’
16th January 1981
Is Fleet Street’s most musical editor, Sir Jonah Junor, preparing to abandon ship?
Reports from the tiny Normandy fishing port of Barfleur indicate that the ruddy-faced schemer – known to locals as M’lord Junor – is preparing for a French retirement.
For years Junor has holidayed at Barfleur on his yacht, sleeping on board and conducting his ablutions on the net-laden pier. Now, as his paper slips below the three million mark under the ruinous ownership of the ghastly Lord Whelks, Junor is spending increasing amounts of time with his French cronies and he is negotiating to buy a house there.
Drone note: Junor in fact continued as editor of the Sunday Express for another five years.
30th January 1981
The Dirty Digger has a thing about shoes.
‘No journalist of mine will wear suede shoes,’ he has said.
Recently he and Sir Jonah Junor repaired to the Savoy Hotel for lunch.
Sir Jonah, himself something of a shoe fetishist, noticed as they paced along The Strand that the sole flapped from one of the Digger’s cheap shoes.
‘Rupert, why don’t you buy a new pair of shoes at my own place, the Savoy Tailors’ Guild?' said the solicitous Scotsman, guiding the Digger through the doors of the said emporium.
At length Murdoch found a modest pair of casual shoes which fitted his kangaroo-style feet.
‘How much?’ asked the multi-millionaire.
‘Very reasonable, £27,’ replied the salesman.
The Digger blanched, tore off the shoes and cried: ‘£27? I’m not paying that for a pair of shoes!’ With that he put the flappers back on and strode with an embarrassed Sir Jonah into the Savoy Grill (minimum £25 a head for lunch).
30th January 1981
Lord Whelks is under a cloud at Trafalgar House.
The seafood-guzzler, through his friendship with fellow ATV board member Lord Greed, persuaded the company to put up a large sum of money to make the epic film ‘Raise the Titanic’. As all cineastes will now know, this picture would have been more accurately been titled Sink the Titanic.
Losses on the £12 million saga are likely to be huge and Trafalgar directors feel their involvement is all down to former Able Seaman Whelks.
13th March 1981
Street of Shame
In the midst of its worst-ever crisis work is proceeding at the Getsworse on a £40,000 refurbishment of chairman Lord Whelk’s office. Artisans talk of suede-lined walls and bathroom/shower arrangements of breathtaking vulgarity. Whelks has also bought a new Rolls-Royce.
Meanwhile, to economise in other directions, Whelk’s hacks now take freeload trips abroad in search of publicity material.
The entire holiday section of the Getsworse is financed by holiday companies. Even Hickey man Peter Tory, who sought to visit New York two weeks ago, was instructed to arrange a free trip with British Airways in exchange for free publicity about Concorde.
Now Londoner’s Diary Adonis Adrian Woodhouse is off on an extended trip to America by courtesy of the Hyatt Hotel group.
His bouffanted colleague Alexander Walker spent a few restful weeks in the Philippines as a guest of the dictator there, and is said to have found the Filipinos less morally restrictive than his brethren in Ulster.
Meanwhile, the Getsworse group slides further down the pan. The New Standard is still losing money. The Getsworse loses even more – and Whelks has now been driven to invite ‘Sir’ Larry Lamb, the porn expert, to be editor-in-chief.
10th April 1981
The buds are reflating. The daffodils are escalating. And a Shetland conger eel has fallen in love with a length of steel pipe. I’m suddenly convinced Britain will survive. – Jean Rook, Daily Express.
24th April 1981
Street of Shame
The Digger and Sir Larry have finally fallen out and the breach in their relationship seems irreparable. But Sir Larry has been talking to Victor Matthews about taking over the editorial directorship of Express Newspapers, and in four meetings they have reached some measure of agreement.
Sir Larry joining the Express would be a first-rate solution for Lord Matthews, ending his desperate search for somebody to shore up his editorial strength – the much sought-after Nick Lloyd, newly-appointed deputy editor of the Sunday Mirror, turned down his offer of the deputy editorship of the Daily Express a few weeks ago.
Final straw for Sir Larry was the fact that he was not only not consulted but also kept out in the cold in the Times Newspapers takeover; the rift had set in when he was accorded much the same treatment in the New York Post deal.
He now envisages overlording the eventual amalgamation of the Mail and Express groups, which would bring the effervescent Bernard Shrimsley back into his orbit – the man who took the fizz out of the News of the World and after that failure was promptly hired to create and launch a new Sunday newspaper for Associated Newspapers.
22nd May 1981
Are the higher-ups at the Black Lubyanka aware, I wonder, that Daily Getsmuchworse Associate Editor Felicity Green is officially involved with the Social Democrats?
It does not seem so. Otherwise they would be putting a stop to the massive amount of flattering coverage that Shirl the Pearl is receiving in Express Woman, which Miss Green – known as Felicity Spleen – oversees.
Backbiter cannot believe that Lord Whelks has tired of his heroine, the Leaderene [Margaret Thatcher] and decided to build up Shirl [Shirley Williams] as an alternative. I can only assume that ferocity has not declared her interest – that she is now helping the SDP with their press sand public relations – and that Lord Whelks is unaware of the free advertising she is giving them.
To paraphrase Sir Jonah: ‘Surely he has a right to know.’
22nd May 1981
Auberon Waugh’s Diary
A sad little cri-de-coeur from Jean Rook, loveliest of all the Daily Express columnists, under the heading: GIVE US A BREAK, PLEASE:
‘Can’t newspapers please tear the ‘Yorkshire’ off ‘The Ripper’ … Won’t somebody give us a break and remember that Yorkshire also produced pudding and Boycott. And me.’
I was not aware that La Rook was a Yorkshire lass, but it comes as no surprise. She is part of the great invasion of Northerners who took over many key points in the 1960s. Michael Parkinson, interviewed recently, revealed that he owes everything to his revolting accent:
‘I came from Yorkshire with my Barnsley voice and, although people have accused me of exploiting it, it was pure luck that my accent fitted with the fashion. If I hadn’t had a Yorkshire voice, I would never have been offered a job at all … It was a Barnsley accent that was instantly acceptable. If I had been born in the Home Counties I would never have got this far at all.’
Most of us are beginning to feel we have suffered from these people for long enough. Perhaps Ms Rook has lost touch with the folks back home, the dismal leftovers after 70 years immigration from the region, but I personally feel it would be more appropriate to refer to Mr Sutcliffe as ‘the Yorkshire’.
The only long-term solutions to problems in what used to be the industrial North of England must be to saw it off and let it drift away to join the Soviet Union, with Mr Arthur Scargill and all his vicious, lazy, whining, cretinously stupid inhabitants.
3rd July 1981
Street of Shame
An amazing row has broken out at the Black Lubyanka following the disastrous launch of the Sunday Express colour magazine in April.
Disaster-prone Jocelyn Stevens, the so-called managing director, has launched a public attack on the magazine’s editor, pasty-faced creep Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour, a fellow director.
Answering questions about a readership survey, the mad Piranha lashed into Sir Charles, blaming him for the magazine’s failure. Sir Charles, however, refused to make any public comment on the attack.
A non-speaking situation now prevails in the Lubyanka boardroom.
Sir Harry Llewellyn has been in touch with Daily Getsworse editor Arthur Firth over a series of stories that have been printed in the William Hickey column concerning his younger son Roddy’s imminent wedding. These were largely allegations about rows over who was to pay for the reception.
After some delay at Chateau Despair, Sir Harry demanded to know who the source was. Back came the answer: ‘Your son Dai.’
3rd July 1981
Sir Jonah Junor tells me that he is trying to persuade Margaret Thatcher not to attend the gala performance of Anyone for Denis? on 12 July.
Says the shrewd Sir Jonah: ‘This muck is a disgrace. It’s a charabanc show of the worst kind.’
Denis has already pleaded ‘a previous engagement’ – thought to be his second such engagement this year.
11th September 1981
Street of Shame
When Jean Rook filched Ashley Walton’s ticket to the royal wedding, the Daily Express hack left on holiday with revenge on his mind. He determined to write a book about the romance of ‘Charles’ and ‘Di’ and in a matter of weeks – under the pseudonym Janice Dunlap – his Sylvie-style work was in the hands of publishers.
To the great surprise of everyone – Walton included – this sugary nonsense has become a best-seller. Now Lord Whelks is trying to get Walton fired for using his position at the Getsworse to feather his own nest.
The Getsworse is wracked with rows over venality. Hickey editor Peter Tory has been called before the management to explain a series of payments to members of the news and photographic staff – and, occasionally, their wives and dependants.
The management is shocked in particular by payments to one Steve Wood, a Getsworse photographer. Wood has made figures like £300 a week from Hickey – not to mention far larger sums from other newspapers. In jobs for the Getsworse he loads at least three cameras, one with colour film. This means he can do the job for a number of publications simultaneously.
Wood, who boasts of having six building society deposits, is also, however, a highly-rated photographer at the Getsworse. In a showdown with editor Arthur Firth over his Hickey payments, Wood admitted everything and Firth buried his head miserably between his knees.
‘I don’t know what to do,’ he told a startled Wood.
‘Should I fire you or make you editor of the Hickey column?’
A decision is pending.
Royal snooper James ‘He Knew All Along’ Whitaker of the Daily Star appeared, carrying his famous binoculars, at Braemar over the weekend. His account of how he tracked the Royal Family kept local hacks spellbound.
‘I have even entered Balmoral Castle,’ claimed the portly scribbler, sipping a beaker of malt whisky.
There were gasps of disbelief. But Whitaker’s bearded photographer Kenny Lennox hastened to support his chief’s tale.
‘God, how did you do it?’ asked an incredulous hack who knew from experience that Balmoral is ringed with Inspector Knacker’s men.
‘Simple,’ replied the great Whitaker. ‘We got ourselves attached to a special party of disabled visitors. I wheeled the chair.’
25th September 1981
The fragrant hackette Lady Olga Maitland tells me she has made an exciting new friend: Lord Kagan.
‘He invites me round for tea, which is served by his butler, and tells me the most fascinating stories,’ says the doyenne of diarists.
‘So far he has not laid a finger on me.,’ shrills Lady Olga.
9th October 1981
Street of Shame
Christopher ‘Captain Magic’ Ward’s appointment as fourth Daily Getsworse editor in five years can be traced to Felicity Green, the former Vidal Sassoon PR who now advises Lord Whelks on women’s affairs. Miss Green, 64, and Ward, 39, formed a close friendship at the Daily Mirror.
Outgoing editor Arthur Firth, too nice to edit the Church Times, let zone the Getsworse, was finally toppled by Green after refusing to print a piece of advice she had given to mothers of young daughters.
Miss Green said that, to ensure their virtue, girls should be fitted with new-style chastity arrangements in the form of sticking plaster. Firth refused to print this filth and now he has been punished.
Another Mirror dinner at the Grand [Hotel, Brighton] was marred by the unexpected arrival of gatecrasher Paul Callan, the world’s most famous Old Etonian.
The bow-tied buffoon swayed into the Grand in a severely tired and emotional state with a diamante-encrusted strumpet in tow.
Callan proceeded to ‘entertain’ the Mirror men with a bad impersonation of Winston Churchill.
When the bouncers moved in, he shouted at Mirror chairman Tony Miles, accusing him of wanton halitosis.
Jocelyn Stevens tells me that reports that the Sunday Express magazine, ineptly edited by Charles Wintour and his flame-haired temptress wife Audrey Slaughter, has lost £3.5 million are grossly wrong. ‘It’s more like £6.5 million,’ he says cheerily.
NOTE: Audrey Slaughter sued the Daily Mail successfully for daring to imply that her appointment was due in any way to nepotism.
The Queen has been telling her family about the ‘most wonderful man’ she sat next to at dinner the other day.
His name? Charles Benson, alias The Scout of the Daily Express, who is married to the former Carolyn Gerard Leigh. Her father, Colonel ‘Gee’ Leigh, is known as polo-stick-in-waiting for his devotion to the Royal Family.
Taking time off from being the fawning social secretary to ‘His Highness’ the Aga Khan and pools heir Robert Sangster, Benson met Brenda [the Queen] at his father-in-law’s house near Windsor and was seated on her left. She was soon spellbound as Bunter Benson, a noted raconteur, went through his repertoire of risqué stories, liberally sprinkled with tales of ‘boffing’ (upper class slang for Ugandan discussions) among the aristocracy.
For someone who has led a sheltered life like Brenda it was exciting stuff, and a return match has been arranged. The unlikely friendship will do Benson’s standing with his bookies (six grasping creatures at last count) a power of good, not to mention his credit rating at Aspinall’s den.
Drone note: Charles Benson, an Old Etonian and famed bon viveur, died in 2002 at the age of 66. Sir Peter O'Sullevan, who worked on the Daily Express with him, said: 'He was an amazing man who commanded a high degree of affection throughout the spectrum of the racing world. He was one of the most accomplished court jesters of his age and will always be remembered as a great character who had his own special way of operating.”'
6th November 1981
Lord Kagan’s burgeoning friendship with the fragrant hackette Lady Olga Maitland has reached an interesting point.
The old Gannex crook is now using the delightful aristocrat to find out who is writing unflattering articles about him in the papers.
The other week Kagan was appalled to read a Getsworse leader saying that he should be stripped of his peerage. Lady Olga discovered that this was the idea of the new editor Christopher Ward. When Kagan heard this he ran amok.
For Ward and Kagan have an interesting connection: the former bolted with the latter’s girlfriend many years ago – fashion expert Judy Innes.
20th November 1981
Street of Shame
Mole fever continues to grip the hacks of Fleet Street.
The latest news is that the Daily Getsworse have sent a team of ‘mole’ catchers down to Cornwall waving chequebooks, following allegations by one Paul Hill that the late Sir William Armstrong, former head of the Civil Service and Chairman of the Midland Bank, was a Russian mole, later exterminated by his Kremlin bosses.
Perhaps the Getsworse would not take these claims quite so seriously if they knew more about their informant. Mr Hill is a colourful ex-solicitor, now best known for his frequent bouts of emotionalism. In 1979 he was charged with the manslaughter of one Scott Tuthill, a man with a colourful and notorious reputation. Hill was acquitted of the charge.
It is thought that the Armstrong story may be a desperate attempt to restore his fortunes, now sadly depleted by the demands of over-tiredness.
4th December 1981
Grovel’s suggestion that the launch costs of the Sunday Express magazine were greater that the £3.5 million reported – a jocular remark by Jocelyn Stevens to former Punch editor William Davis – belatedly brought writs from Piranha Teeth and the mag’s editor Charles Wintour, along with his wife Audrey Slaughter, his deputy editor.
Neither Piranha nor pasty-faced Wintour are known for using writs – Sir Max Aitken used to forbid his editors to sue the Eye – and litigation was prompted by Lord Matthews in a vain bid to keep his plan to hive off Trafalgar House’s printing interests, including the loss-making Express Newspapers, under wraps.
For Matthews to succeed in making money from the float, significantly superior profits from Express Newspapers were sought and, at first, Piranha believed he could deliver them – thus ensuring City and institutional support for the sale of shares in the new group.
But then Stevens changed his view and is said to have advocated that both Sir John Junor, the editor of the Sunday Express, and Wintour be sacked, as the duo, already faced by falling circulation, would not be able to cope with the rivalry next May from the new Mail on Sunday which would eat heavily into the Sunday Express’s estimated £8 million annual profit (the Daily Star loses £10 million a year, the Daily Express £2-3 million).
Naturally the canny Junor – the longest-serving editor in what used to be the Beaverbrook group – was quick to turn the tables on Jocelyn and fed Lord Matthews with tales of Piranha’s all-round disloyalty to Trafalgar, which led to his sacking.
Why does does Trafalgar House wish to rid itself of the Express group? Should the newspapers continue their slide and eventually reach a situation where massive redundancies are sought, Trafalgar (present capitalisation £228 million) would not be responsible for payments – which would be in excess of £40 million.
Instead they have stripped the Express Newspapers group of all property, bar the Black Lubyanka in Fleet Street; will make a good profit in any case by selling the group along with Morgan Grampian for around £40 million (purchase cost £36 million altogether), and be scot free of future redundancy obligations.
Nice one Lord Whelks!
4th December 1981
Back in the spring of 1967 when Jocelyn Stevens was about to join Beaverbrook Newspapers as personal assistant to the then chairman Sir Max Aitken, he was telephoned by the William Hickey column. They asked him if it was true he was selling Queen magazine (which he had bought for £250,000 as a 25th birthday present to himself) and moving to Beaverbrook. In typical fashion, Stevens denied both moves out of hand, then lost his temper and threatened the journalist with the sack for impertinence. Three days later he sold Queen and moved to the Black Lubyanka.
It was not an auspicious start. At Queen Jocelyn’s rages were legendary – throwing a heavy telephone console through the glass separating his office from the editorial floor was an annual event; sacking a whole department over the intercom and even, once, dismissing a total stranger he met on the stairs in the belief that the man was the magazine’s ballet correspondent.
At Beaverbrook Newspapers Jocelyn’s behaviour was no less mercurial. ‘There are two Jocelyns,’ observed Lady Aitken, Sir Max’s wife. ‘My husband is employing the carpet-biting telephone-throwing one.’ One of the Piranha’s first moves was to consolidate his position – he quickly moved from his PA role to run the ailing Evening Standard, and he engineered the dismissal of Captain John Coote, an old sailing pal of Sir Max’s who had become managing director of Beaverbrook, taking over his job.
During the next seven years he appointed six editors who between them lost the Daily Express 1.4 million in circulation. Six weeks ago he fired Arthur Firth, who should have been made editor in the first place, and appointed Mirror man Christopher Ward. In time-honoured style Piranha then offered the hapless Firth the job of editor of the Sunday Express which, when Sir John Junor heard of it, led to row between Piranha and Whelks and the undermining of Stevens’ position.
The live-in lover of Jocelyn Stevens for the last two years – Vivien Clore (whose inheritance from her doting father, the late Sir Charles, is said to be worth £25,000,000) may now be able to do what she has always boasted she will – buy the Express for Piranha.
‘Santa’ Clore took her initial £7 million fortune into tax exile in Switzerland a decade ago when her first husband, Old Harrovian economist John Duffield doubled and trebled it with astute investments. She used to vaunt when Express business kept Jocelyn away from her bed: ‘If it interferes any more with my sex life, I’ll buy Lord Matthews out.’
Auberon Waugh’s Diary
I’m flying over the Hindu Kush in a Jumbo Jet at 40,000 feet when the news is flashed to me that Jocelyn Stevens has been sacked from Express Newspapers. Champagne corks start popping immediately and even the economy class passengers in their huddled masses at the back of the plane break into a feeble cheer.
It is only when we are flying over Turkey, with the Anatolian Mountains retreating beneath us, that I begin to have second thoughts. Jocelyn Stevens looks disgusting, of course, and is indeed a thoroughly disgusting person, but we was practically the only person left on Express Newspapers with any claim to be upper class.
Not much claim, it is true – I don’t suppose he could get past the butler at Combe Florey [Waugh’s family home in Somerset] for all his blond curls and self-confident, bottomy walk. But at least he tried. Now that the Daily Express does not have a single person on its staff who can begin to hold a knife and fork properly, I fear it will just sink into the London sewers with a horrible gurgle.
Which is exactly what is happening to The Times under its ghastly new editor. When Murdoch appointed Dame Harold Evans rather than the bushy-tailed Charles Douglas-Home (alias Charlie Vass) he wasn’t to know that Vass would turn out to be the first cousin of the Princess of Wales. Murdoch must be kicking himself now, stuck with this boring, under-sized piss-pot, and his court of lower-class sycophants, while even the Queen Mother has changed to the Daily Telegraph.
Back in England I find that Fleet Street is in a state of turmoil. Peter McKay has been missing from the Mirror for a week – presumably police have caught up with him over the incident when he assaulted a London taxi driver with a bottle of champagne in a carrier bag after the Royal Wedding. He spent the night in the cells then but they had to release him when there was nobody to lodge a complaint after the wretched fellow died. He claims to be holidaying in Scotland.
Next I learn that there is a new William Hickey in my old friend Michael Leapman – another refugee from the sinking Times. Today he reveals that the Duchess of Rutland has just had a baby, which is jolly interesting as the Duchess doesn’t seem to be aware of it. But he publishes a picture of the lad, so I suppose it must be true. Perhaps after a certain age one doesn’t notice these things.
It is an ill wind. I will try and sell him the story told me by McKay about how the Cockney philanthropist Lord Maffews goes to bed with his wife Queenie. It is incredibly funny, involving a sack of goose feathers, a bowl of jellied eels, the inner tube of a tractor tyre and 3lbs of peppermint bullseyes but I’d prefer not to tell it here or he won’t pay me.
18th December 1981
Auchtermuchty’s most over-exposed son, Sir Jonah Junor of the Sunday Express, has undergone a recent and quite alarming change in his appearance.
Greying locks that were turning white have suddenly become raven black. I am told that this is due to a preparation called Grecian 2000.