Seventies Nostalgia

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hedda and Louella

In 1976, Adrian George, the painter and illustrator was so fed up with me going round to the flat he shared with Celia Birtwell and gossiping for free, he encouraged me to write a gossip column on spec. He then took it to Ritz Newspaper's office in David Bailey's house in Primrose Hill, and the editorial team (including Bailey and his wife Marie Helvin) thought it was so bitchy, I was hired on the spot.

Nicholas Haslam was hired at the same time as me for the magazine's second issue, and David Litchfield, Ritz's editorial editor took us both out to lunch at Langan's Brasserie to anoint our hiring. Nicky decided to gossip under the pseudo name 'Paul Parsons', presumably to avoid confusion re: his role as a fashionable interior decorator. He agreed to write about his British aristocratic friends, and I had no option but to write about the flotsam and jetsam which came under the 'cafe society' category.

Nicky and I were rivals - we often attended the same parties - but we were the 'best' of friends. He used to regularly take me out for lunch at restaurants like San Lorenzo's. I think our luncheon dates dried up after he couldn't land an invitation for a showbiz party thrown by Allan Carr, the producer at Burke's club. It was held in Marvin Hamlisch's honour (he had recently composed "A Chorus Line"), and after his televised concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Jeffrey Lane, the then publicist at the London office of Rogers and Cowan did the PR for the party. I'd known Jeffrey since he was the publicity director at Columbia (EMI-Warner) in Wardour Street in the early Seventies. I was the Press Officer for Warner Bros. at the time, and we both worked at opposite ends of the publicity corridor.

When Nicky heard about the party, he immediately called up Rogers & Cowan's office to be told he couldn't come as I was covering the party. According to David Litchfield, Nicky rang him up afterwards and burst into tears at being barred from a party, probably the first and last time in his life as a serious party goer. Immediately afterwards, Nicky befriended Jeffrey and was put on Rogers & Cowan's 'A' guest list for the rest of eternity.

Nicky was the consummate party giver and It was an unsaid agreement that I would write up his parties in my column. I wasn't complaining, as Nicky's parties were the best: he knew 'Everybody Who Was Anybody'. When Andy Warhol and his retinue were in town once, I went along to his party for Andy Warhol at Bubbles Harmsworth's aparmtent in Eaton Square after I had finished interviewing Steve Rubell at the Savoy (Andy, Halston, and a naked man covered in hundred dollar bills had also been present in the room). Nicky sent out the invitations at the last minute, so people whose post didn't arrive punctually thought they hadn't been invited and were hysterical with grief.

Nicky also threw a party for Warhol at Regines and for the chosen few, a dinner party at the Casserole (which he had just redecorated). I was too tired to go to the bash at Regines and went home to change for the dinner, praying I didn't have to go. I almost got my wish as due to a bickering between Nicky and Litchfield (a common occurence), Nicky rang me to disinvite me. I told him I was so relieved and was going to bed. A few minute later, an emotional Nicky rang me again, begging me to attend the dinner, saying it wouldn't be the same without me. So, I dutifully threw on my party gear and took a a taxi to the restaurant in World's End, where I witnessed Rupert Everett, recently expelled from drama school flirting with Bianca Jagger. She asked him to go home with her but he declined, saying she wouldn't respect him if he did!