Monthly Archives: November 2019

THE NAMARA FOLLIES

by Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia

I came to work for Naim during the heyday of his entrepreneurial activities that were in many ways the talk of the town. Assembled around him was coterie of the most desirable young ladies, all of them noted for their profiles, intelligence and social graces. The atmosphere throughout the group was mesmeric. The papers seemed to pounce constantly to catch the tidbits and cover every nuance of all that happened. They unabashedly reported in full what amounted to high-octane gossip, as any girl who worked in the group became newsworthy and was likely to find herself turning up in the diary columns of leading newspapers. I was no exception, especially when I found myself as one of the six Namara girls dressed in rubber dresses for the launch party of Naim’s perfume Avant l’Amour and Après l’Amour. Black rubber stood for Avant, white rubber for Après. I was chosen to represent Après. Heaven know why.

We first had to be photographed in the basement at Namara House, which was transformed into a studio for the occasion. We had chiffon arranged round our bare shoulders and were professionally made up, with our hair done in readiness – my hair being quite long and curly, like a subject in a Pre-Raphaelite painting. As I faced the camera, I had to gaze up the ceiling as if at someone I was in love with. This was in order to make my neck profile seem quite elongated with the shape to echo to erotic curves of the scent bottle designs. When the prints arrived back for Naim to check, we were perturbed at how transparent the chiffon looked in the photographs. At the launch part it intrigued the press to find me there attired in a rubber costume as well as appearing on a six-foot poster.

This was one of many incidents that kept us au fait with the latest follies that were always a feature of the place. All in all, working for Naim was a madly unpredictable but enlivening experience. His energy and lack of inhibition were object lessons in how to work and play, and all those who had the chance to share in his merry-go-round of remarkable adventures have been touched by them ever after.

JO CRAVEN

During 1993 a new recruit had begun to grace the offices of the Literary Review. Her name was Jo Craven. She was a delightful young lady with heavenly looks, who enlivened the atmosphere and became one of Bron’s favourites. Her recollections of the time she spent there give a further insight into what Bron was like, both at home and in the office. The piece that follows illustrates yet again the reason why Bron was loved and revered, especially by the young.

Saved from Spiritual Death

Jo Craven

When I first walked through the door of the Literary Review’s Beak Street office, in 1993, straight from university and fresh off the train from Yorkshire, I was amazed to be greeted like a long-lost friend by a beaming Bron Waugh, whose first words were, ‘How long can you stay?’ Never one to miss an opportunity, I dived in with, ‘As long as you like.’ ‘Good,’ he said in a very pleased way, looking around the room at the other two staring members of staff for confirmation. It would be some time before I would witness him wave vaguely at his own daughters and mistake many another stranger for an old friend. But it would never occur to him to go back on his word and I stayed for the next five years.

Within weeks Bron had invited me to stay in his Brook Green flat, taking pity on my penniless state and constant flat-hopping. At that point I was working for free as ‘a slave’. I couldn’t have been luckier and quite enjoyed my friend’s taunts about our ‘special relationship’. My part of the deal was to make sure there was always plenty of loo roll and Bran Flakes, and occasionally arrange a party with food from Lidgates. Bron’s son and girlfriend would also move in, his daughter for a period, and then my boyfriend, and then the deputy editor. It was open-house for the impoverished.

In the overcrowded office I would package up books, type in copy, eventually commission reviewers and generally be in the same room, at the same lunch table as Bron, his other editors and some of the most fascinating figures in British literature. I’ve never been so drunk in all my life. I loved sharing a couple of bottles of wine over lunch – Bron always paid from his own pocket – and often in the afternoon, over a game of bridge, I could never remember the rules, probably because of the port we’d sip, and maybe thanks to lunch. Then there’d be more boozing after 6 p.m., downstairs in the Academy Club, from where I’d stagger back to the flat; and late at night in Brook Green, Bron would often suggest a nightcap of sweet gin, half gin and half red Martini. It was revolting, but I’d do anything to please this kind generous man for saving me from spiritual death in an ordinary office. By the following morning, I honestly thought no one noticed as I sat at my computer, nestling a can of Coke to cure the worst of my hangover.

I always knew I was lucky to be part of this wonderfully ramshackle universe, so removed from the regular working world. I was one of the last in a long tradition of girls who either worked at Quartet Books, waitressed in the Academy Club or slaved on the magazine. Most had already gone off to find fame. Of course one day it would come to an end: the rickety buildings heated by plug-in radiators, doing everything by hand, paying only £25 for reviews – many writers framed the beautifully handwritten cheques rather than cash them – and top writers being paid with wine from Bron’s cellar. It couldn’t last. Every few months reality would come knocking. Naim Attallah, the endlessly benevolent owner, would apologetically announce that he just couldn’t keep supplementing us while we failed to make any money. Bron would go into a spin. He most of all didn’t want anything to change and was always the first to say how much we had to be grateful to Naim for. Naim in turn was hugely fond of Bron and was only doing what any rational person would when the debts kept coming. Selfishly the rest of us found it hard to understand that twenty-first-century accounting had a part in our lives. We were used to being paid terribly and producing a brilliant magazine, and having so much fun that we didn’t want anything to change. For me, the moment of departure came when I finally gave up on the notion that someone would headhunt me as a brilliant literary editor, and decided £7,000 a year could be improved on. Two years later Bron died, but the Literary Review lives on with its present proprietor, Nancy Sladek, who keeps Bron’s flame burning and the spirit of Naim’s commitment.

LORD LAMBTON

In the late 1970s, George Hutchinson had introduced me to his friend Charlie Douglas Home, who subsequently became editor of The Times. Charlie was a down-to-earth gentlemanly character, warmly disposed towards his fellow men and bereft of any pretensions. His upper-class background in no way affected his relationships with those who came from other sections of society. Because of these qualities, I found myself drawn to him and felt quite at ease in his company. In the years before I met him he had been battling a drink problem, not uncommon in members of the journalistic profession. Only by resorting to total abstinence did he manage eventually to lick it. Whenever we met for lunch, usually at his office, he would unselfishly offer me a drink, which I then ceremoniously turned down as a gesture of solidarity. Charlie was always easy going and prepared to be a listener, liking nothing better than to engage in light humorous gossip about people we both knew. One thing that fascinated him about me was the way I had become integrated into British society. He thought it quite an achievement, given that I had arrived in the United Kingdom as a student of limited means and had had to make my own way in an environment that must have been harshly alien.

During one of our lunches he had mentioned his cousin, Tony Lambton, now living in Italy following his resignation from his post as a junior defence minister after being secretly photographed smoking cannabis in bed with two prostitutes. It was a public scandal that contributed to the collapse of Edward Heath’s Conservative government nine months later. Tony Lambton only came into the conversation because Charlie wanted to find out if, as a publisher, I would be interested in reading the manuscript of a satirical attack his cousin had written in the form of a novel. The subject was George Weidenfeld, loathed by Tony with an intense passion. Weidenfeld was certainly no friend of mine in that epoch; in fact he was my most consistent adversary. His uncompromising Zionist ideology and his blind support for Israel whatever the circumstances placed us in diametric opposition. It therefore intrigued me greatly to have the chance to read the Lambton manuscript, though I was doubtful whether it could ever be made publishable. The word in publishing circles was that it had been going the rounds for a while and had been rejected by various imprints as too antagonistic and probably legally actionable.

Once I had read the manuscript I realized why. Not only could it be interpreted as libellous, but the fact that it was mainly fired by Tony’s splenetic loathing of his subject came over more strongly than the storyline. The flaws in the novel rendered it unworthy of its author’s talents, which were clearly discernible. My conclusion was that Tony would have better prospects in establishing himself as a fiction writer with a text free from such shortcomings. These views I communicated to Charlie, stressing that my rejection should not be seen as closing the door to other possibilities and that I would be interested in becoming Lambton’s publisher, though it would have to be with the right manuscript.

Before very long the right manuscript arrived. It was called Snow and Other Stories and heralded a remarkably original début by a storyteller with a calm, laconic eye for the odd and the ordinary alike: as Christmas approaches, a London housewife begins a leisurely diary of her daily life – leisurely, that is, until the snow arrives and its proverbial whiteness turns into a vision of the apocalypse; in 1918 a Russian aristocratic landowner of utopian persuasion is slowly and unwittingly delivered up to the very different utopia of the Bolshevik revolution; an Englishwoman in Italy has premonitions of disaster and prays at the ancient shrine of Minerva, pagan goddess of handicrafts – and of violent conflicts. These were the themes explored in the author’s first collection of short stories. Harold Acton wrote of it: ‘This illuminating medley . . . brings to mind an eclectic art collection in which oil paintings, pastels, watercolours and etchings are discriminatingly displayed on the walls of a spacious gallery . . . One rubs one’s eyes before the revelation of a fresh literary talent.’

The launch party for Snow and Other Stories was a grand occasion attended by over three hundred guests who flocked to the Arts Club to celebrate the event. I was anxious to mark the author’s return to the London scene in his new role as a writer rather than as the budding politician he had once been. Lambton was spoken of as having had the makings of a future prime minister, had it not been for the scandal that wrecked his chances. He was still considered a most intriguing and charismatic figure. Nearly tout Londres was there to greet him, attended by the usual turnout of gossip journalists, anxious to find some mischievous story to fill out their columns. The large number of his friends who were milling about included Angus Ogilvy, Lucien Freud, Lord and Lady Harlech, Woodrow Wyatt, Lady Melchett – as ever in the company of Sir Hugh Fraser – Lady Falkender, Guy Nevill, Auberon Waugh, Taki, Nigel Dempster, Tracy Ward, Katya Gilmour, Valentine Guinness, Liz Brewer, Nicholas Coleridge, Charlie Douglas Home, Lady Liza Campbell, Minnie Scott and Domenica Fraser.

All of Lambton’s five daughters were present, as was his son and heir, who arrived with his new bride Christabel (née McEwen). His estranged wife Bindy, with her arm in a sling, was looking rather baffled and out of place, while his long-time mistress, Mrs Claire Ward, was clearly enjoying the party. Lambton himself was in his element, as if to say (to adapt the words of General MacArthur), ‘I have returned.’ The evening was judged a great success, not only as a public-relations exercise but also for the number of copies of the book sold. Lambton’s first published venture as a storyteller was to prove triumphant, and to lead on to even more accomplished and ambitious work.

In 1985, we published Tony Lambton’s epic novel, Elizabeth and Alexandra. We considered this to be a potential bestseller, and planned the campaign with the precision of a blitzkrieg on all fronts. The launch party was to be hosted by the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava and myself at the Dufferin London home in Holland Park, where guests could spread out and drift in the neoclassical garden. The invitation card was so heavily embossed that, as some journalists remarked, it must have broken half the thumbnails in London. Catering was arranged by my cook, Charlotte Millward, aided and abetted by Charlotte Faber. Both were talented cooks and artists and the sublime ideas they introduced achieved a new high in buffet presentation. The sumptuous cocktail they devised had pieces of real gold leaf floating on the surface of each drink. The Quartet girls were provided with specially designed, slightly transparent, flowing evening dresses in lilac to wear while circulating among the guests, their exquisitely toned, gold-painted bodies shining through from underneath. The concept and stage management of all this were down to the two Charlottes, whose creative imaginations knew no bounds. Among the Quartet girls was a new recruit, Richard Ingrams’s daughter Jubby, who was already making her mark, both within the ranks at Goodge Street and in the world beyond. Jubby was a free spirit whose sense of fun was to find a place on the London scene, though sometimes to the dismay of those encumbered with a stuffy outlook. Her impishness had a whimsical appeal for the literary set as well as for the young ravers who clustered around her, always on the lookout for mischief.

At the party itself there were four hundred guests from every walk of life. Aristocrats were there in hordes to celebrate Lambton’s first major novel, including his family. Lady Lambton (Bindy), unmissable because of her imposing presence, was seen chatting to Lady Soames. She stood at a distance from his companion of many years, Claire Ward, the mother of the film actress Rachel Ward. The tension between the two women seemed to be allayed by the grandeur of the occasion. Sir Jack Colville and old political colleagues like Lord Jellicoe and Viscountess Lymington mingled with the group round Lady Sylvie Thynne, who was drawn in turn to the haute art set, among them Lucien Freud and Kasmin. Princess Michael of Kent and Nicky Haslam were engaged in good-humoured conversation. Others busy circulating included the satirist John Wells, the novelist A. N. Wilson and the columnist Nigel Dempster; Auberon Waugh and Richard Ingrams; John Saumarez-Smith from the Heywood Hill bookshop; Lord Durham, the Earl of Wilton, Emma Soames, Susan Ryan, Countess Fitzwilliam, Arabella Weir, Roc Sandford, Lady Delves-Broughton, Lynn Arial, Ari Ashley, Dennis Walker MP and Mrs Walker, Nigella Lawson, Laura Faber and Amanda Lyster, to pick names from the guest list at random. The Quartet girls looked stunning and entertained the guests with their usual social aplomb. In his account of the party Auberon Waugh waxed lyrical, describing Lambton as ‘the great swordsman turned novelist, being fêted by the most glittering people in England and the most beautiful young women’.

Tony Lambton was definitely back in the limelight, but this time in triumph rather than for reasons of political disgrace. The scandal that had wrecked his political career was relegated to the past and no longer mattered. His emergence as a first-class novelist was a clear sign of a new dawn for the man who had once been a rising politician. The difference was a change in direction, and in his new role he would excel. Significantly hidden behind dark glasses, he was delighted to see the large number of celebrities who had answered his invitation call. Among the crowd of people who were keen to shake his hand were David Dimbleby and Diana Rigg. His indiscretions had clearly been forgiven by the establishment, while to the bohemian section largely made up of the young set, many of whom referred to him as Uncle Tony, he remained a hero. Possibly they admired his wicked sense of humour, which could be biting indeed, and a disregard for conformity he tempered with a certain aristocratic fastidiousness.

Elizabeth and Alexandra was well received by the critics. The Times wrote that, ‘Antony Lambton shows himself to be a considerable novelist, deftly handling a large cast of characters from Queen Victoria to Joseph Stalin.’ The Listener called the book ‘a good solid read’. The Daily Telegraph concluded that, ‘Antony Lambton’s research has clearly been prodigious, and his description of the stifling atmosphere of the Russian court is memorably convincing.’ In line with that opinion, the Observer considered ‘it accumulates respect . . . by sheer archival industry’. And the Literary Review called it ‘a massive achievement’. The book attained the bestseller status we had anticipated for it. Quartet’s promotional campaign proved highly effective.

CELEBRITY PUBLISHING

1987 established a new Quartet departure and gained an exposure for the imprint in a field that was entirely outside its normal range. We began to publish various celebrity books, and one in particular sticks in my memory. It concerned an actress and was entitled: Charlotte Rampling with Compliments. It was a collation of snapshots, fashion shots and movie stills of the star over a period of twenty years. The Standard commented:

The divine Charlotte Rampling has been turning strong men to porridge ever since her début in 1965 as a water-skiing nymph in Richard Lester’s The Knack. Now one of her most devoted fans, Mr Naim Attallah, the Arabian connoisseur of the fair sex, is bringing out a book . . .
Another admirer, Dirk Bogarde, who starred with her in The Night Porter, contributed an introductory portrait of the actress: ‘She was as free, simple and skittish as a foal, hair tumbling in a golden fall about her . . . the grace of a panther . . . the almost incredible perfection of her bone structure.’ The Japanese film director Nagisa Oshima, who had recently directed her in Max My Love, in which she co-starred with an ape, contributed four pages of painstakingly drawn Japanese ideograms in celebration of his leading lady. Both contributions gushed shamelessly and showed the amount of love and admiration people in show business felt for her.
I was particularly glad to be publishing this book. In 1973, when Charlotte Rampling starred in The Night Porter with Dirk Bogarde, she began to inhabit the dreams of a whole generation of men. I, for one, had never recovered from the sight of her straddling Dirk Bogarde, and the image remained in my mind like an old sepia photograph. In the film she played a young girl who blossomed into a sophisticated woman, and her performance was so haunting as to move one critic to compare her with Garbo. Two years later, in the 1975 remake of Farewell My Lovely, her seductiveness was supreme yet perfectly contained.

When I met her in the 1980s, I found the real Rampling even more compelling than the screen version. She struck me as both exotic and English – a near contradiction in terms – and she underplayed her sex-symbol status with a rare intelligence, despite the allure of her emerald-green eyes, her velvety voice and the perfection of her bone structure.
Underneath the poise, however, Charlotte Rampling seemed haunted by demons. As the daughter of an army colonel, she had had an unsettled – and sometimes unhappy – childhood. She had felt rejected by her mother in favour of her older sister, who later died tragically at the age of only twenty-three. Charlotte reacted by exceeding the traditional boundaries of women’s lives. During the 1960s, when everyone else was on CND marches or off to India doing ashrams, she went to live with gypsies in Afghanistan (a dangerous and violent experience) and later to a Tibetan monastery in Scotland. By the time she was twenty-two, she was in Hollywood and had earned herself the title of ‘Europe’s kinky sex-film queen’ by living in a ménage à trois with Brian Southcombe and a male model. Later she told me that she had loved both men but, to spare her parents’ feelings, thought it best to marry one of them.

In 1976, she met Jean-Michel Jarre at the Cannes Film Festival after what she described as a coup de foudre, and the following year they married; unfortunately they are now divorced. Jarre was a highly successful composer and musician with an international following. Looked at from the outside, they seemed like a dream couple, combining art, beauty, glamour and intelligence in enviable proportions. It could have been an ideal partnership, but it was never likely that Charlotte Rampling would subscribe to the Jane Austen view of marriage as a woman’s principal act of self-definition. Rampling was always far too unconventional ever to be defined by marriage. ‘Jean-Michel and I are very marginale, as we say in French,’ she told me. ‘We do things which are off the beaten track.’

Just as she had always chosen cinematic roles that explored the darker side of human nature, so she was given to delving deep into her own soul. More than once she had suffered depression and come close to nervous breakdown.

Evidently it was improbable that marriage would ever bring her stability in the conventional sense; rather, it was always likely to be a continuation of the restlessness from which she could never find a refuge. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. She was truly a woman to break boundaries.

Charlotte Rampling with Compliments was virtually a biography, but it told its story visually. It illustrated the early modelling career of the beautiful girl in the London of the swinging sixties as well as documenting the international film career that followed for her soon after. Fashion photographers, including the world-famous Helmut Newton, David Bailey and Cecil Beaton, captured her compelling, enigmatic moods, which were often mysteriously melancholic and invariably conveyed an erotic aura of unique intensity. The volume was also beautifully produced and it did well commercially. It created a good rapport with Charlotte, which led to her becoming yet another candidate for my projected book of interviews with women.

A WONDERFUL COOK

I employed many talented young ladies during my time in my new Asprey offices above Garrard. Being prepared to work hard was always a prerequisite for being part of the team, and a sense of humour was essential. The atmosphere was charged with every kind of excitement. New ideas – often outrageously original – were bandied about. Intoxicating new projects were thought up daily. The buzz was so contagious that each one of the girls had her own theories, perceptions and striking images to contribute. After so many years I still cannot tell whether the energetic environment was the catalyst or vice versa. Each one of them was a character worth describing, either for her singularity or her eccentric disposition. But since I consider food to be one of life’s most pleasurable diversions, I will mention my cook, Hattie Beaumont.

Hattie was endowed with exceptional culinary talents and used them with remarkable originality. She improvised almost on a daily basis, creating the most delicious dishes that seemed effortless but always had the required effect. She ranked alongside Charlotte Millward, my cook at Namara House, who likewise never failed to dazzle everyone with her exquisite cuisine. Charlotte herself was not without her eccentricities, but in Hattie it was her skittishness that was her most lovable trademark. Both were cheekily attractive to suit their personalities, Charlotte being more controlled while Hattie was a bit of a loose cannon. When Hattie was on her best behaviour, she had no equal, and conversely, if she was being naughty, her equal would also have been hard to find. She was adorable and exasperating in equal measure. Her exploits were hilarious and sometimes played havoc with her life and ours. But once you loved her, nothing mattered. She became irresistibly addictive and there was no getting her out from under your skin. Her secret was eternal youth, for she looks no different today from the way she looked then: radiant with optimism and joie de vivre.

Work and Antics

Hattie Beaumont

I worked for Naim for several years, moving with him from Namara House to Regent Street, where he then presided as chief executive of the Asprey group. When I look back on those years, I do so with much nostalgia, for they were indeed some of the happiest of my life. We were an eclectic gaggle of girls working for him with a fierce loyalty that we maintain to this day. Most of us agree that he was endlessly forgiving, even when he felt compelled to sack us for chronic misbehaviour, which in my case was not a rare occurrence. But he always relented in the end.

He was more of an indulgent father figure who managed us all charmingly well. Even with so many hormones flying around, we never fell out. In fact we looked forward to every morning breezing into work with a skip in our steps and a smile on our faces that reflected our pleasure in working for such an enigmatic and caring man. Along with the normal workload, we had time for many amusing antics, which we played on our wonderfully patient boss. He would turn the tables on us occasionally, like the time when I was meeting a potential boyfriend at the local pub and he and some of my workmates came to spy on me, after warning me beforehand to play hard to get and not to succumb to any physical temptation in the early stages of the relationship. He had also told me he would easily find out whether I’d taken heed of his advice by the expression on my face next day: a roguish smile would divulge all and I would be in trouble! So it may be imagined how I felt when I saw him and his entourage sitting in the corner of the pub watching my every move. I turned tomato red and wanted to flee, but I was too embarrassed to tell my companion. The following day, when we all gathered in Naim’s office to dissect the goings-on of the evening before, there were too many episodes to recount and I suspect they’d be far too naughty to repeat to gentlefolk. In a nutshell, Naim is a man who deserves great respect, who has had a wonderfully colourful life, has not been immune to his share of hard times but has always taken them in his stride with an upbeat attitude. I shall retain these happy memories and consider myself lucky to have had the pleasure to be part of his life.

THE DISTINCTIVE MS MOCKETT

Another recruit to Quartet during the early eighties was Caroline Mockett. Her mother, Ann Foxell, who was then head of the press office at Harpers & Queen, introduced her to the Namara Group. Eventually Caroline became a notable addition to the Quartet girls. In the following contribution, penned by herself in her own distinctive style, she reveals some aspects of the goings-on at Quartet that sadly had escaped my notice. I can well imagine the wicked glint in her eye as she set out to recall the somewhat nonconformist atmosphere in the Goodge Street offices at the time.

Learning the Ropes
Caroline Mockett

‘Dalleeng. You’re pretty. You’ll do.’ With these words – welcome and verbal contract in five words – I began my tenuous career in publishing.

My introduction to Naim Attallah had been arranged by my mother, exasperated by her daughter’s consistent ‘failure to launch’. By the age of twenty, I had managed to fail a secretarial course, get chucked off a cooking course and then get sacked from my first five jobs.

I returned home one evening to find mother chatting up a Middle Eastern man. This might not have been anything unusual, except that I noticed that the topic of conversation kept returning to me: my mother’s laughter and energetic chat suddenly turning to sighs and sad tales of, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with her.’ It took about ten gin and tonics for the charismatic visitor, Anwar Bati, finally to crumble before the twin onslaught of flirtation and sorrow. He agreed to find me a job. ‘I know someone,’ he said mysteriously, before swaying slightly out of the house.

Wheels turned and I was summoned to Namara House for my brief interview with Naim. Having received the seal of approval, I was whisked away to another address – Wellington Court – where I was shown into a small but pleasant office and told to sit behind a desk.
Across the room was an accountant – the accountant – a breed I had never before encountered in my years of deb parties and balls. He was nonplussed by me and I was mystified and unimpressed with him. And so it was for the next three months. I had nothing to do (the accountant seemed to have guessed that I was mostly useless) except occasionally answer the phone – and then pass the call over to the accountant, make coffee (the accountant only drank a cup a day) and read the paper. As Beckett might have said in my position (hard to imagine): ‘Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!’

My dwindling will to live was given a boost by a change of duties. I was summoned to help with the launch of Bella Pollen’s new collection (I thought I had joined a publishing company). I spent a few giddy days helping to hang her fashionable floral skirts and jumpers (it was the 1980s).

For these first three months of working for Naim, I caught only occasional glimpses of him. He seemed to be locked away in his ivory tower at Namara House, only to appear at parties with a retinue of pretty young women about him, all vying for his attention and favour. Seemingly shut away far from his attention, I began to give up hope of ever escaping the accountant’s office and getting involved in the heart of the matter – the great endeavour of publishing. Then, just as I was beginning to work out the best way to get sacked without too many repercussions, I received a summons to Namara House.

‘Dalleeng! I need a secretary. Come, sit there.’ With that, I took up position at a desk in Naim’s office. From the frozen wastes of Wellington Court, I was suddenly bathing in the continual sunshine of Namara House and the launching of the Literary Review. My initial panic about actually having to do something and so being discovered to be entirely incapable of doing anything was soon allayed: there was even less to do than there had been at Wellington Court. I sat, looked pretty, chatted to Naim and tidied my desk. A lot. Which seemed to be exactly what my job description required.

After this period of close examination, Naim arranged for me to be given a proper job in Quartet. Not for me the giddy heights of editorial; I was bundled off to sales and marketing. And here my real education began. Naim had found me a slot as post girl and general supplier for David Elliott (who called me either ‘the postie’ or ‘the failed deb’) and Penny Grant. Within the friendly chaos of the sales and marketing office, I quickly learnt the essential skills needed for success in publishing. First and foremost was the golden rule: get your work done in the morning because you never know how long lunch is going to last.

I managed to make myself useful by taking David’s shaggy dog Tramp for walks and buying toasted bacon and tomato sandwiches for David and myself, a cure for a thumping hangover. And I actually did the post. The post scales I was in command of came in handy when I added to my list of job titles that of ‘supplier of soft drugs to the publishing industry’. Marijuana was carefully weighed out and priced alongside letters and stamps, before being delivered – with the mail – around the office.

Occasionally I was sent out on to the front line of publishing to flog books to retailers. This operation involved the donning of an indecently short skirt, plenty of make-up and an innocent smile before targeting Harrods, Smiths and – my favourite – Mole Jazz. I would pile books into the back of my Morris Minor and splutter off to spread the word of Quartet. I soon discovered I was good at the business of flirtation – reps were putty in my hands and I rarely returned with an unsold copy.

Of course it helped that I was selling one of the most controversial lists in British publishing at the time. A mini-skirt and a car-boot load of The Joy of Sex was enough to get even the most jaded rep excited. Back at the office, Quartet ran an impressive after-sales service – I would take calls from keen and interested readers who wanted to discuss details of the positions pictured in More Joy of Sex. I happily chatted away, describing various obscene acts to male strangers. Anything to sell a book, I thought, not realizing that I had started probably the first and only free sex-chat line in the world. In the lunch break I sold books to transvestites and other colourful Soho characters. Flexibilty and an open mind was an essential part of the sales technique.

The success of The Joy of Sex didn’t go down well with The Women’s Press, whose presence within Naim’s harem of publishing was probably due to a mutual misunderstanding of each other’s intentions. Naim must have thought, ‘How nice, more women.’ The Women’s Press probably thought, ‘He publishes Dennis Potter – how bad can it be?’ The Women’s Press had a fearsome reputation; enough to put the fear of woman into David Elliott– his dog Tramp and I would be called upon as escorts when David had to venture into their territory to obtain sales figures. Little was I aware that The Women’s Press was making publishing history by releasing classics such as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, as well as pioneering texts such as the Lesbian Mother’s Handbook.

Looking back, I can now appreciate the innovative and risk-taking books Quartet published: Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven, Jonathan Dimbleby and Don McCullin’s The Palestinians, Julian Barnes’s Metroland, as well as publications by Bob Carlos Clarke and Derek Jarman. My time at Quartet was an education in many ways, a formative experience that taught me the value of originality and of thinking in brave new directions. It all helped in my later career working with artists and other creative types. For all of this, and in particular to Naim, I am thankful.

PAULA YATES

There seemed to be no stopping Quartet in 1981. Children’s books were a specialized market that conventional wisdom said was better left to those experienced in the field. Nevertheless two illustrated books appeared: Liza’s Yellow Boat by Bel Mooney, the well-known Fleet Street journalist; and The Adventures of Chatrat by Venetia Spicer, whose father was a director of Lonrho. Despite both titles achieving reasonable sales, Quartet took a policy decision that this line of publishing was not really their forte. The experiment had been well worth the effort but the possibilities were not pursued. The only exception to the rule was made in 1983 for a charming book by Paula Yates, illustrated by Sophie Windham, called A Tail of Two Kitties. It told the story of two cats, Porky and Rowdy, thrown together by fate in the Clapham home of the Yates family. Porky had been rescued from a cats’ home whereas Rowdy, a white-haired Persian feline, had been acquired from a smart pet shop in Bond Street. Rowdy at once became the family favourite, thanks not only to his good looks but also to his ingratiating behaviour. All of this inevitably irritated Porky, who always got the blame for Rowdy’s escapades. It was an amusingly entertaining tale of the trials and tribulations in the lives of two cats.

I had known Paula Yates since she was fifteen, having met her at the home of my friend, Michael Deakin. Michael and I were planning to collaborate with her father, Jess Yates, also known as ‘The Bishop’, on producing a musical extravaganza for the famous Casino du Liban in 1974. Jess was out of work after having been discredited by scandal following his antics in Spain with a buxom blonde at the same time as he was fronting the religious television programme ‘Stars on Sunday’. In the end, our efforts came to nothing, partly because Jess’s frame of mind was in total disarray and he was feeling the pinch financially. Scandal continued to stalk him when four years after his death in 1993 it emerged that Paula’s biological father was not in fact Jess but Hughie Green of television’s ‘Opportunity Knocks’.

I followed Paula’s career over the years. In 1978 she posed for Penthouse magazine, and in the 1980s became widely known as a co-presenter, with Jools Holland, of the Channel 4 pop-music programme ‘The Tube’. In 1986 she married Bob Geldof, whom I first met in New York through Sabrina Guinness. We remained in touch until two years before her tragic death, but I will always remember her as an impish teenager with a sharp cheeky tongue, always full of mischief. She was a child of her generation, out to try anything to create a sensation yet invariably great fun – a gifted extrovert whose zany personality endeared her to her many friends.