Friends In High Places

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Celebrity -


Duke of Ed­in­burgh

‘We were start­ing

Good Evening Ul­ster in North­ern Ire­land in the mid­dle of bombs, bul­lets and bar­ri­cades. Young peo­ple were not top of the list at that time but, hav­ing done their Duke Of Ed­in­burgh Award, a group was go­ing to the palace. I said to my pro­ducer, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could film them?’ The Duke said yes.

‘The first time you go to Buck­ing­ham Palace, it’s daunt­ing. I was ner­vous. I knew the Duke could be crusty, but it was in­cred­i­ble. I’ve al­ways ad­mired the Duke. He’s a won­der­ful con­sort. His one-lin­ers have got him into trou­ble, but I quite like that naugh­ti­ness. This not only gave me a chance to in­ter­view him, but I also got a glimpse of the Queen walk­ing the cor­gis down the cor­ri­dor. A dou­ble whammy!’

Princess Diana

‘So much is be­ing said about Princess Diana on the 20th an­niver­sary of her death. Ev­ery­body talks about how charm­ing she was, how easy to talk to, how beau­ti­ful… and she was. At the time we met, Princess Diana was the most fa­mous woman in the world. I never dreamt I’d be do­ing a cam­paign with her, so it was very ex­cit­ing to be in­volved.

‘The cam­paign was about a straw that would go to Africa – you could drink dirty wa­ter with it and the straw would fil­ter out bad things. I have a photo of us cut­ting a cake to cel­e­brate. It has the two of us with both our hands on the knife. I re­mem­ber say­ing to her, “I think we’re mar­ried now…” She was very friendly. So friendly that I could say that. You’d never dream of say­ing some­thing like that to the Queen!’

Doris Day

‘Grow­ing up, there was noth­ing else to do but go to the pic­tures.

Doris Day was the star at the time.

I wanted to be her re­ally!

‘In 1993, I got a call from a record com­pany friend who said that a lost record of hers had been found and she was will­ing to do in­ter­views. She hadn’t done an in­ter­view since her hus­band died in 1968, so it was a coup.

‘She was just the same with her white polo neck sweater. I was bowled over. I thought she might be hes­i­tant but she was very open, talked about the abuse she’d had about her hus­band’s fraud of mil­lions of dol­lars. If only I’d known as a kid that one day I’d walk on the beach with Doris Day!’

Cliff Richard

‘When I first met Cliff, it was the height of the Trou­bles. He was do­ing a con­cert in Lis­burn. I was on the Belfast equiv­a­lent of the To­day pro­gramme and sug­gested an in­ter­view [to bosses]. They said, “We’ve tried, you won’t get him.” But I knew the vicar host­ing Cliff and asked if he would have a word with him. I in­ter­viewed him and that meet­ing led to a won­der­ful friend­ship. Cliff’s loyal and kind. And his coun­sel has been in­valu­able. When you lose a child, it goes to a depth you never thought pos­si­ble. The year Caron died, 2004, he asked how I would man­age Christ­mas. I replied that I didn’t know. He asked if Caron liked Christ­mas and I said she adored it. He sug­gested that I go big­ger and bet­ter than ever be­fore for Caron and her boys.

‘I thought, “Why don’t I?” We had five Christ­mas trees… be­cause he gave me the li­cence. I thought I’d never smile again. You al­most feel guilty if you’re en­joy­ing some­thing, but Cliff gave me the key, gave me per­mis­sion. Cliff is fam­ily to us.’

Les­lie Caron

‘When I went to Canada at 17 to visit fam­ily, I’d never been out of Ire­land. It was an ad­ven­ture. Ev­ery new film was shown on the boat and one of them was Gigi. Les­lie Caron was so beau­ti­ful. I thought, “I could be Gigi!” I saw the film nearly ev­ery day and have many times since. I called my daugh­ter Caron af­ter Les­lie Caron.

‘Years later, when Les­lie Caron was on the Royal Va­ri­ety Per­for­mance, she was in the same dress­ing room as me. I opened the door and there she was. I was ner­vous. The first time with your idols, you hear your­self say the most ridicu­lous things!

‘There’s al­ways an af­ter-show party and Les­lie Caron asked if she could go with me. We ended up tak­ing her there and she sat with us – such a sweet end to a long-stand­ing ado­ra­tion.’

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