As the It Girls, we used to be arch-ri­vals. Now it’s like a part of me has died too

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By LADY VIC­TO­RIA HER­VEY

scared of her. Over the com­ing years, our paths in­evitably crossed. It was a small so­cial pool. Every­one knew every­one. We all went to the same par­ties at clubs such as Annabels, Tramp, Browns, L’équipe Anglais. We went to the same so­ci­ety wed­dings, the same so­cial events. We dated the same men.

We had some stand-up scream­ing rows, mostly over boyfriends. But they helped to clear the air. We re­spected each other and soon be­came firm friends.

LON­DON in the 1990s was in­sane. The whole point of be­ing an It Girl was to act like you didn’t care. It was Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous for real. We were stalked by the pa­parazzi and our pic­tures were ev­ery­where, even in an age be­fore so­cial me­dia. Ev­ery­thing was free. Chanel would in­vite us to Paris and put us up in a suite at the Ritz. You’d get free Chanel clothes and hand­bags and then head to a party with Karl Lager­feld. There were mul­ti­ple par­ties ev­ery night. Ev­ery­thing was on of­fer: free booze, free cham­pagne, free ev­ery­thing. It’s easy to get sucked in. It’s a heady, he­do­nis­tic world. We were treated like rock stars. Ev­ery door was open to us. We could be­have as badly as we liked, no­body cared.

They im­me­di­ately called us ‘Lady V and TPT’. That tag stuck.

I was there the night in De­cem­ber 1998 when Tara wore her fa­mous Bond bikini out­fit, com­plete with snorkel. It was at Tramp and Johnny Gold, the owner, had or­gan­ised a big birth­day party for her. She stopped traf­fic and sent the pho­tog­ra­phers into melt­down. It was a brilliant en­sem­ble, un­pre­dictable and hi­lar­i­ous, just like her.

I learned a lot from her that night. She had such con­fi­dence she could carry any­thing off.

We were highly com­pet­i­tive. I dated Damien As­pinall and so did she. We were al­ways vy­ing to be on the front pages of the news­pa­pers.

Peo­ple called me ‘The Baby It’ and I started get­ting more and more at­ten­tion. I think Tara found that hard to deal with. She didn’t like the idea of a younger girl com­ing on the scene and steal­ing her thun­der.

I have a fairly thick skin and gen­uinely didn’t care what peo­ple said. But while Tara tried to pre­tend she didn’t care, deep down she would be wounded by harsh words. Yet you never saw Tara down – quite the op­po­site, in fact. Per­haps that’s why some peo­ple imag­ined her to be some sort of an air­head – which was com­pletely wrong. She had real ta­lent and in­tel­li­gence. We’d be at a party and she’d sit down at a pi­ano and give an amaz­ing per­for­mance. She had a lovely singing voice and was an ex­traor­di­nar­ily tal­ented pi­anist.

She was an ex­pert at rid­ing, fab­u­lous at ski­ing. Even at the height of her drug-tak­ing and par­ty­ing, she went to the gym and had a six-pack, which al­ways im­pressed me. She had a great sense of hu­mour. We lived close to each other for a while and we’d go for cof­fee and I’d end up cry­ing with laugh­ter. I’d been scared to get close to her be­cause of the way we met but as I got older I saw she was just a girl who wanted to be loved. She was batty in her own way but that’s what every­one adored about her.

BUT there was an in­evitable dark side to our life­style. I was never drawn into it but Tara was. There were peo­ple who never said no, who never knew when to quit the party. As time went on, I started to no­tice that darker side of things more and it fright­ened me. I didn’t want to go down the rab­bit hole.

I think a lot of Tara’s drug use was to mask the very real pain she was in. Un­der­neath it all, she was in­se­cure. She went to re­hab in Ari­zona in 1999 and I took over her man­tle as the most fa­mous It Girl.

When she came out of re­hab, she re­lapsed sev­eral times. By 2000, I’d opened a bou­tique in Knights­bridge called Akademi and she came in one day and a bunch of pills fell out of her bag. I thought ‘uh-oh’. They were mus­cle re­lax­ants or some­thing like that.

She never knew when to stop. I never could take it to that ex­treme. I’ve al­ways loved sleep. When it gets light, I go to bed. I can’t party for three days. I def­i­nitely had some big nights. But Tara had years and years of big nights. That takes a toll on you.

When I have a glass of wine, it’s to re­lax. But some­one like Tara, who had is­sues with drugs and al­co­hol, needed that drink to mask ev­ery­thing else. She was over­sen­si­tive. There was so much ta­lent there but the fame, the pub­lic­ity, the drugs, it was all eat­ing away at her on the in­side. When I moved to LA full-time in 2005, we drifted apart. I’d been an It Girl for ten years and I knew it was time to get out of Lon­don. I was scared some­thing bad would hap­pen to me if I stayed. It felt claus­tro­pho­bic.

When I think of her now, it’s that dirty, wicked laugh I re­mem­ber. And her ter­ri­ble driv­ing. She did ev­ery­thing to ex­tremes. We went to a coun­try wedding and I got a lift with her and I spent the whole drive ter­ri­fied with my hands over my eyes. She was an adren­a­line junkie, push­ing ev­ery­thing to the ex­treme. Live fast, die young.

When I heard she had died, I was shocked but not sur­prised. I re­mem­ber that feel­ing of in­vin­ci­bil­ity we had. Now she’s gone and it’s like a part of me is miss­ing. When you go through a shared ex­pe­ri­ence like we did, it’s al­most like sur­viv­ing a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence. You bond and, when­ever you meet, you have that shared ex­pe­ri­ence and a bond which never breaks. With her death, that bond has been bro­ken.

Tara wasn’t some­one who wanted to get old. She talked about death a lot. She was scared of look­ing at her­self in the mir­ror, of get­ting older.

I hope she has fi­nally found the peace she never found in life.

HID­DEN PAIN: Tara PalmerTomkin­son mod­el­ling her own out­fit for the MoS last year, main pic­ture, and, right, par­ty­ing in 1998 with fel­low It Girl Lady Vic­to­ria Her­vey

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