RAIDING MY BACKLIST 3

In September 1987, Quartet published Naked London, a ‘coffee-table’ photographic essay created by Katya Grenfell, which contained a catholic collection of celebrities in various degrees of nudity. It’s worth remembering for its celebration of a gentler time when nudity was rarely in the mainstream. Here’s what I wrote in Fulfilment & Betrayal:

The continuing speculation on who was and who was not included in Katya Grenfell’s book Naked London came to an end with its publication in September. It became caught up in the general uproar surrounding my book Women. Both books fell foul of the intellectual snobbery endemic in literary circles. In actual fact, notwithstanding its provocative title, the notoriety Naked London attracted was created by the media. Its sensational content was more mythical than real; but when it came to the crunch the participants, with very few exceptions, lost their nerve and confined their state of déshabillé to something symbolic which did not reveal all that much. The advertising that is common in the glossies of the twenty-first century makes more explicit use of erotic nakedness than anything in Katya Grenfell’s relatively tame collection. Even the outrageous Taki, posing in a display of physical prowess, guarded his modesty, unlike my friend, the actor Simon Callow, who revealed all in a somewhat defiant mood. Julian Sands, another actor, was more adventurous, showing his well-proportioned torso while holding a child. Jeffrey Bernard, the turf correspondent, journalist and frequenter of the Coach and Horses in Soho, sat imperiously on a chair while shielding his genitals with a book. Anthony Blond was cautious for a change, sitting at his desk with a bare chest. Dai Llewellyn lay on the floor, covering his midriff and his lower region – the hub of his activities at the time – with various bottles of booze. Neil Norman, critic, stood outside the Groucho Club fully dressed on top but dangling his penis to air it in the gentle breezes of Soho. Matthew Freud, PR executive, was protected by his telephone unit amid his many newspapers. Marco Pierre White relaxed with a piglet, displaying a macho bare chest and naked legs. David Jenkins, TV producer and now eminent feature writer, showed a naked cool, lying on his stomach on the floor as he watched a television with his feet crossed in the air behind him.

On the whole the women tended to be less inhibited. Patsy Kensit, who graced the cover, was visibly naked but draped in a film of celluloid, which made the image more titillating than revealing. Caroline Kellett made herself less exposed by wearing rows of beads and adopting a sitting posture. Nicki Freud, unmistakably pregnant, with her daughter Martha lying on the bed beside her, made an inspiring shot, beautifully composed and full of human passion. Kyle Morison, chef, lay totally naked on a bed of fruit and vegetables, looking extremely feminine and rather delectable. Sally-Ann Lasson, interior designer, stood behind a column in lush surroundings and showed a glimpse of one breast, while her long black hair, cascading in total uniformity, conveyed a distinctly slinky look that was irresistible. Jeopardy Control and Harriet Hall, two mud wrestlers, engaged in their bizarre sport and seemed jolly pleased to be photographed. Equally pleased was Naomi Coke, university student, who posed topless to display huge breasts fit to overwhelm any hot-blooded male.

Over eighty people appeared in Naked London and showed good humour, taking a pride in being able to overcome some of those inhibitions natural to us all. The critics found it hard to attack the book for fear of tarnishing their avant-garde and go-ahead image by showing old-fashioned or boringly traditionalist tendencies. Instead the media kept its focus on the gossipy aspects rather than the artistic dimensions. Of them all, as I said before, the only photos to cause me personal worries were those of Jubby Ingrams and her brother Fred.

Jubby first came into my employment through Bron, when he suggested to me that I might give Richard Ingrams’s daughter a job at Quartet. She was not particularly qualified academically to be an editor, he said, but she was very bright and energetic and I was bound to like her. My immediate reaction was a deep sense of relief. Surely the never-ending attacks on me in Private Eye would stop once Richard’s daughter was working for me. Bron predicted correctly that I would take to Jubby, but my assumption regarding Private Eye turned out to be completely misplaced. The thing that actually happened was that Jubby went home each evening to tell her dad whatever had been going on that day at Quartet. The next morning, after she arrived for work, she would come to me and say disarmingly, ‘You’re going to kill me. I promise I didn’t mean to tell him; it was an accident. I can’t control what he does.’ Jubby was irrepressible; there was no way she could keep anything bottled up. Employing Jubby was not in any way the sort of insurance I had hoped for, and the sniping from Private Eye continued as relentlessly as ever.

My reaction when Jubby first told me she was going to pose naked for the photographs with her brother was to say, ‘Oh, no, Jubby. Your dad will slaughter me. I get into enough trouble with Private Eye without you posing in the nude.’ I felt certain it was not going to go down well. Quite apart from any other considerations, there was always a deep-seated puritanism at the root of Richard’s satirical style. Nothing I could say made any difference and Jubby went ahead with the photo session. When it was done she telephoned me, quite delighted, and said, ‘Nami, Nami,’ using the nickname she had coined for me, ‘it was really great. I’m coming round to show you the Polaroids.’ Along she came with three prints of herself, and I knew at once that, left to herself, she would show them to all and sundry, so I confiscated them despite her protests and put them away in my wallet. Three days later I had an appointment in New York to see a bank manager. During the course of our conversation I happened to take out my wallet and Jubby’s prints fell out face up on to the table. The humiliation of that moment is with me to this day. I imagine something went through his mind along the lines of, who is this seedy customer, carrying photos of naked young women about with him – some sort of sex maniac?

Before long Jubby was on the phone again, this time with the news that Richard had summoned her to Private Eye. He was finding the whole thing very funny, she told me, and had already phoned the Evening Standard to tell them Brian Sedgemore MP, one of Quartet’s authors, was to feature in the book naked – which explained how that story had got around. I had to admit that the photos of Jubby and her brother Fred, when they appeared in Naked London, were sensationally good. In one pose Fred was standing while Jubby sat in front of him, blocking her brother’s lower part while displaying her glorious bosom, which would have been the envy of many a woman. In another pose, Fred was made to seem as if he was taking a punch at one of Jubby’s breasts as part of a joyful prank. In fairness to Richard, he never made a fuss and was able to see the funny side. This was not to say he was pleased for his son and daughter to have appeared in the book. The way-out nature of many of Quartet’s parties, like the one where Jubby and the other girls were dressed in rubber, caused Richard some distaste and disquiet on her behalf, but he found himself torn between that and a father’s loyalty to his daughter. He was amazingly supportive and always found a reason not be angry with her. Later on he confided in me that any displeasure the book caused him seemed to evaporate when it failed to attain bestseller status. It was impossible not to love Jubby dearly for her free spirit. That was her great attraction, but she got us all into such trouble. She even got Bron and me banned for life from the Reform Club after using the gents and being found out.

The last word on Naked London went to the Literary Review of March 1988, in which Bron printed a lampooning letter of legal advice to Henry Root of the Bookseller, who was given to printing disparaging remarks about my publishing activities. It concerned an imagined review of the book and purported to come from Susan Grabbit of the firm of Sue Grabbit and Run in Grays Inn. The following are extracts from what was a sustained burst of wit:

3. You suggest that the book’s publisher, Mr Naim Attallah, is a personal friend of yours. Such an assertion certainly defames Mr Attallah. The fact that you have, as you put it, ‘twice lunched with him without ejaculation, the plovers’ eggs and the choice of wine on each occasion being served by pretty girls with double-barrelled names and unearned incomes’ would be no defence. He might have thought you were someone else, you could have been there as a bet or an editorial joke, or to make the other guests appear less common . . .

5. I do not understand your reference to Mr Dai Llewellyn, the Welsh nightclub greeter, as Princess Margaret’s walker-in-law. I further notice that you refer to all the naked men in this book either as ‘flowerarrangers’ or ‘a friend of Princess Margaret’. I am familiar with the expression ‘a friend of Dorothy’. Has this been replaced by ‘a friend of Princess Margaret’? I am aware, of course, that both Mr Kenny Everett and Mr Elton John are welcome at Kensington Palace . . .

7. You say that Mr Taki, the little Greek, recently visited a Turkish bath. He took off all his clothes and waited in a queue for the attention of a Nubian masseur. When the steam cleared he found he was in a fish and chip shop. ‘I’ll have sixpennyworth of that,’ said the man standing next to him, ‘but go easy on the vinegar.’ Is this true? I do not think Mr Taki would sue, but he looks formidable still in the upper arm and has a reputation for settling legal disputes with a display of Eastern fighting techniques up alleys. I would advise caution.

8. Your description of the art dealer in high-heels as a ‘a floppy-bottomed fairy’ is dangerous. ‘Floppy-bottomed’ can no longer be predicated of a person since the actress Charlotte Cornwall called Miss Nina Myskow ‘a floppy-bottomed journalist’, the latter receiving substantial damages on appeal. I suggest you substitute ‘theatrical’ for ‘floppy-bottomed’ and ‘angel’ for ‘fairy’ . . .

9. You say that Miss Emma Freud, the talkative TV person, is a pretty lass but that she recently confused her KY Jelly with a tube of industrial putty with the result that all her windows fell out. I don’t understand this. Further, the claim that you recently ejected her father, Lord Freud, from your flat because he gave your cats asthma is possibly defamatory.

10. I am unhappy with your description of the two girls on page 5 as ‘being joined at the G-spot in a sapphic embrace’. ‘The G-spot,’ you say, ‘was discovered in 1980 by Dr Theodore Whipple as a result of experiments carried out at the San Diego Institute of Advanced Sexological Research. The G-spot lies directly behind the pubic bone on the anterior wall of the uterus. Imagine a small clock inside the uteral tube with 12 o’clock pointing towards the navel. Most women will find their G-spots at approximately 12.25 a.m. Alternatively imagine a street map of London with St Pancras on the navel. Go up Pont Street and turn left into Hans Place – the G-spot is just behind Harrods where the old Jacaranda Club used to be.’ I would be unhappy with the inclusion of this passage without a sight of Dr Whipple’s paper.

11. What evidence do you have for saying that Mr George Michael wears a frozen chicken down his trousers?

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