Diary – July 6, 1994


Time to allay the fears of the ENO’s front of house staff, who, I gather, have spent the past few weeks terrified that they will be asked to take their two-month summer holiday without pay. The word from the top is that they will be paid, although catering staff who are sub-contracted will no longer be required.
Frankly, the news is astonishingly good, given the circumstances. Everyone knows that ENO has been struggling financially but few are aware just how dire the current situation is. Advance bookings for the recent production of Janacek’s Jenufa numbered an appalling 60.

Meanwhile, the company has largely failed to rent out the Coliseum, as in previous years, to touring theatres during the summer months, and, while its rival, the Royal Opera House, gave a buffet lunch press conference to launch its new season, the ENO kept its hands in its pockets and sent out leaflets by post.

With luck, the opera company will pull through the crisis: as I have already recorded, it is re-doing the very popular Rigoletto next season, sure to be a success. None the less, it will need to think of other ways to raise funds. Here’s one for starters: how about gaining some publicity with a drinks party for the press?]

To the Roy Miles Gallery, Bruton Street, where I chanced upon freelance photographer George J Grimes, also known as Commissionaire Grimes, since his other job, he confided, is safeguarding Kensington Palace. No easy task recently, it seems. ‘One intruder has been really irritating,’ he grimaced.’ Each night he tucks in behind an official vehicle and speeds down Millionaires’ Row as if it were a public road. Last night we nearly got him, but the guard on the other end was new and did not know to stop him.’ No surprise when I tell you who the culprit is. . .try not to yawn. . .it’s Jamie Blandford.

Not long after two of his secretaries left to get married, Paddy Ashdown is about to lose another member of his staff. David Vigar, 37, Ashdown’s speech-writer and policy adviser for the past year, has opted for a slower pace, as publicist for BTEC – the Business and Technology Education Council. Vigar, a former producer of the Today programme, refuses to discuss the exact reasons for his departure, muttering something about still pursuing his political career and staying in touch with the party. Those who know him, however, are more illuminating. ‘He just wants to get some sleep,’ giggled one.

In true swings and roundabouts fashion, model Naomi Campbell becomes a novelist, and mother Valerie Campbell becomes an actress. She is, she says, to star in a film – produced by her close friend, the Duke of Northumberland (right). I encountered the two at a party to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Bill Wyman’s restaurant, Sticky Fingers, where they were debating the film’s subject matter. ‘I want it to be about the private life of Tarzan,’ explained the duke jovially.

‘Valerie can be Jane swinging through the trees. . .’

A footnote on the above event. Bill Wyman says he is to open a chain of Sticky Fingers, but Americans need not get over-excited. Wyman is terrified of flying: ‘If it ain’t possible to drive or take a train there, I ain’t setting up a restaurant there,’ he grinned.

Lurking in the sidelines at the launch of Mary Higgins Clark’s Remember Me at Claridges was ex-FBI agent and the man who coined the term ‘serial killer’, Colonel Robert Ressler. He, it transpires, is one of Higgins Clark’s more useful literary aides – advising on realistic detail in horror scenes. Not, he confided, that all his tips go down well. She once screamed at him: ‘But we can’t have the killer eating the shoes. . .’

Latest gimmicks to sell like hot cakes in the Commons are, surprisingly, tacky cigarette lighters. Why? Some bright spark has emblazoned them with a red heart and the logo: ‘I love Corfu’.

(Photographs omitted)