One of my friends asked me the other day “what you going to write about in your first blog?” I thought about it for a while as I saw flashes of twenty years, “I’ve no idea,” I said, “there’s too many stories, each adventure as memorable as the other”. I’d wanted to write memoirs mostly for myself and thought, maybe some others out there might enjoy them too. “Well, if anything’, he said, “It’ll be something to read on the loo in the morning,”
Truth is, I kept going back to the start, reflecting on what now seems a mapped path, funny that huh?
I had a deja vu moment recently, watching the BBC’s news coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s post engagement ‘walkabout’ across the UK. They’re packing some serious celebrity punch, the Brits were going mad, screaming “Meghan, we want Meghan!”, a battery of flash bulbs going off.
I’d first experienced the real power of ‘celebrity’ in the early 90’s, just as I was starting out as newbie journalist, or ‘Hack’ as we were often known. An intern at The Sun, at that time, the biggest selling tabloid newspaper in Britain.
To a certain extent, I was working under Piers Morgan, the editor of the showbiz column ‘Bizarre’, but as he was based in the London office and I was in Glasgow, it meant my immediate boss was the local News Editor, Del. An inspiration, to this day I credit Del with giving me my first break while I was still at college, and years later he enticed me back into print journalism as a showbiz columnist.
Growing up reading pretty much every British newspaper out there, I felt a sense of pride to be working for an actual ‘for real’, Rag, not to mention the most talked about one. Who cared if some of it was bad, as long as they’re talking about you, right?
I was excited to part of the (mostly male), team of journalists, working in what was a demanding, often intense atmosphere. Looking back, I think I settled in pretty well, maybe because I grew up, the only girl in a house full of boys.
That’s not to say I wasn’t scared sh*tless most of the time...
Fascinated with life on the newsroom floor, I buzzed on the frenetic activity, the immediacy, the crazy deadlines, and the thing that struck me the most? The stories flying around the office that would never make the light of day. It’s insane how much Hacks knew from ‘sources’, but couldn’t publish for various reasons. That is, until the rumor grows so big, some doorstepping is in order.
BB, short for ‘Big Boss’ (named because he was big, and he was the boss), in my view, never spoke to anyone other than Del, and he spent his entire time in his BB glass office, in full view of everyone. BB rarely came out of that room and when he did, everyone’s head would go down, including mine.
I wasn’t even sure if BB knew I existed, since he’d never acknowledged me or uttered a single word in my direction. He was and still is, in my memory, tall, blonde and incredibly intimidating.
One day, Del - who always walked around the office barefoot - summoned me into BB’s office.
The meeting was initially a bit of a blur, granted I was in, ‘scared sh*tless’ mode, till I heard the words “you’re the lucky person picked to meet Princess Di today”. Stunned, I thought, “Huh? Diana’s giving an interview and you want me to do it?”
Chance would be a fine thing of course, but that wasn’t quite how it went down...
It was around the time of the infamous “Squidgygate’, the leaked recordings of Princess Di’s private phone conversations, but I thought it was just another “it’ll never get make it”, rumor floating around the office.
As part of her royal duties, Diana was visiting Scotland that day, meeting members of the public ‘shaking hands and kissing babies’, the sort of thing The Royals didn’t do back then, but Diana had come to change all that.
My assignment: mingle in the crowd, get Princess Diana’s hand and ask her about her marriage, more of ‘an onlooker in the crowd said’, than, ’a sit down with Fiona Bruce’. And better still, “try and get a quote on whether she and Charles are planning to divorce.” No Mean Feat.
Word had come from the top and I was the Patsy, Ahem…The Chosen One.
I was hired to write features, report on ‘light’ stuff like music and fashion, not this news stuff. Naïve, I didn’t hesitate and off I went, a photographer in tow.
However, the day didn’t turn out quite as planned.
Yes, I did chase Di around that day, squeezing through the crowds, stretching my hand out time and time again, until I finally managed to catch her attention. And Di did eventually reach back, gesturing towards me as I shouted the Million Dollar question (in broad Glaswegian), “Is it true you and Charles are getting a divorce?”.
Gasps all around, Diana paused for a moment, looked directly at me and with a glint in her eye, squeezed my hand just ever so tightly. Then glided off, effortlessly.
In that second I was captivated, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so in awe of anyone quite like I felt with Diana. She had this unique presence, no wonder she remains the epitome of ‘celebrity’. Without Diana, there would be no Kardashian.
As fate would have it, my photographer was nowhere in sight, lost in the crowd, our career making ‘photo op’ lost. It goes without saying, my head was down a lot in the office that week, but I didn’t care, ‘I’d met Princess Di’.
Not long after The Sun broke the story, released the recordings and the rest is history.
Now two decades later, here’s hoping the Princess in training is bracing herself for the impending ‘Meghan Mania’…