LIZ JONES’S DIARY
In which I wonder: what was it all for?
IREMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I tasted prosecco. It was September 1998, and I was in the little bar of my hotel in Milan, waiting for my ‘team’. I was about to set off in a chauffeur-driven car for the fashion shows, and I was nervous. I’m always nervous. One of the fashion editors on my magazine came to join me. ‘We’re a bit early,’ she said. ‘Doesn’t do to turn up early. Let’s have a glass of prosecco.’
It took the edge off. I folded myself into the car and we went to the Burberry show. There were handsome young men in narrow suits balancing flutes of champagne. I took one. There was champagne after the show, too. My years of fashion shows were buoyed by bubbles; the one thing I have in common with Kate Moss. The shows were ghastly: no one ever talked to me. My publishing director would come out for a couple of designers, to woo advertisers, though I’m sure she put them all off. I remember once, in the lobby of the George V hotel in Paris, having yet another glass of fizz with her, when one of my fashion assistants clattered past. ‘I don’t see why assistants have to come to the shows, swanning in and out,’ she said, ordering another bottle. I should have said, ‘Well, it’s giving them valuable experience, contacts, and as we pay them next to nothing, they should at least have some perks to keep them in the job and not disappear to have babies after a couple of years.’ But I said nothing.
She went on, ‘And why does your executive fashion editor put the hotel tips on expenses?’
I could have pointed out that, ‘ Well, tipping is normal: it ensures we get the booking twice a year, that all our freebies make it to our rooms and, anyway, why should a badly paid executive fashion editor fork out when she is here for work, not on holiday?’ But I said nothing. ‘And why can’t you all get the metro in Paris?’ she asked me. Fashion is all about appearances: the shoes, the shiny car spilling us out just inches from the salon. Again, I kept my mouth shut.
It’s horrible being an editor, being a boss. My first proper boss was a remarkable, always cheerful woman called Maggie Goodman. She was the editor of Company magazine, and although I’m sure she had her fights to get a star on the cover, budgets to meet, advertisers to woo, I never once heard her shout or moan. She didn’t even have her own office: she just had a desk in the corner. She never banged on about all the famous people she had met and interviewed: I’ve only just found out, today, that she used to write for Petticoat – the bible of the Swinging Sixties! I never once gave her worries a thought as I sat at my desk, gazing out at Carnaby Street, disappearing for lunch every day in Soho. You’d think it glamorous and fun, staying in hotels in New York and Paris as an editor, but it was hell. I’d get back to letters on my bed from lawyers about a model who was suing us. Or messages from writers refusing to get on a plane as we’d booked them an economy ticket*. Or missives from my PA telling me that the Guardian was on the phone, planning an exposé on me. (They still do this. Only the other day, an email was forwarded to me from a Guardian journalist, sent to my insolvency practitioner, saying, ‘Where are we on the bankruptcy?’ Just read my column, you halfwit!)
Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is that, yesterday, I had to take my horrible cheap car for a service. I sat in reception and got out my iPad. By mistake, it turned its evil camera on me. Oh my God. I knew my mouth was sagging, but my eyes are now in deep hollows, so I resemble my mum on her deathbed. My hair is black and crispy, with an Alice band of grey. I resemble my old cleaner, H. But even she has Sky TV and a flat in London. That isn’t to say a cleaner doesn’t deserve TV and a home, but that I deserve it, too. Otherwise, what was the point of all those early starts, those dashes to catch a plane, the stories in the Guardian, the fear, the sackings (of me; I barely sacked anyone), the legal complaints, the meetings with the scary women at Prada? What was it all for? *I think this is why I’m very uncomplaining as a writer and never say, ‘I don’t want to do that stupid story!’ Similarly, being a writer makes you a better editor. I once googled my male boss on a daily tabloid and he had just one story to his name: a travel piece! The only celeb he ever secured for an interview was David Suchet, who cancelled – ha! I have 33 million entries on Google! Just saying…
My eyes are now in deep hollows, my hair is black with an Alice band of grey