Nigel Dempster, ex-king of the gossips is dead
Another Seventies icon hits the bucket. Nigel Dempster, my old mentor has died after suffering from a wasting disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. When I was the gossip columnist for David Bailey's 'Ritz Newspaper' in the late Seventies, he was one of the first people I went to interview - in his office in the Daily Mail. From then on, we were best friends. He even got me into the NUJ, and I shall always remember going to collect his signed NUJ form in the Private Eye Office. (The 'Greatest Living Englishman' wrote a column called “Grovel,” for the satirical rag). Richard Ingrams (Lord Gnome) who was then the editor offered to second me for the NUJ, but I refused. I wanted a friend to do it, so I asked Maggie Koumi - then editor of '19' magazine to second me. (She went on to become editor of 'Hello' magazine). I was a film critic at the time and Maggie and I sat next to each other every night in screening rooms (We were both permanent fixtures on the magazine film reviewing lists).
I used to see Nigel day in, night out as we were both invited to the same events. Once, (Sir) Sir Dai Llewellyn invited all the Fleet Street gossip columnists and myself to a dinner at Wedgies, a Kings Road club which he ran. (He was dressed in black stockings and suspender belts when we arrived). Nigel didn't show, and my fellow hacks spent the entire evening bitching about him, accusing him of being too grand to show. Yes, I was best friends with Nigel for years until he turned on me. But, he did that with all his best friends. A story was more important to him than friendship, and many a bewildered friend of his couldn't understand why he betrayed them in his columns in the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. He was the consummate gossip columnist. For him, a story always came first.