DOWN MEMORY LANE THREE

One of Auberon Waugh’s last pieces written for Private Eye as he was leaving it in 1986 to become editor of the Literary Review speculated that:

[He] will spend time on the Literary Review surrounded by beautiful and intelligent young women from the Attallah Seraglio. After that I shall retire and drink my way through the huge cellar of wine which has been quietly maturing in Somerset. But what does one do with a tiny fifty-seven-year-old bachelor journalist who has seen better days? Someone must have the answer.

While all this excitement was still in the offing, Tatler had published its Christmas issue, featuring under the heading ‘Special Treat’ what various friends, acquaintances and famous people had said in answer to the question what sort of Christmas treat would make them feel beautiful. With some measure of flippancy, I came up with the saucy reply that it would be having my toes sucked by a beautiful woman.

Unlike Bron, who was amused by my frivolous reply, many people reacted with outrage and it took me a number of years to live down the remark. Byron Rogers was one of the first to seize on it as a piece of good copy in his television-review column in the Sunday Times at the end of January. Channel 4 had asked me to fill the ‘Comment’ slot after the end of the Seven o’Clock News and I took the chance to attack the moral standards of politicians then in government.

Mr Rogers wrote:

[On] Tuesday night a figure crying ‘Woe, woe,’ like Solomon Eagle during the London Plague, burst on to Channel 4. Mr Naim Attallah, probably the most mysterious figure of his time – publisher, parfumier, employer of Auberon Waugh, and now prophet – was delivering the Comment . . . [the same] Mr Attallah who a month ago was telling Tatler readers of his dream of having his toes sucked by a beautiful woman . . . A dark-eyed figure, his tie lit by red, blue and green flashes, he stared grimly out of the television set. ‘And now a look at the weather,’ said the announcer.

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