As part of the Blog Tour for Last of The Summer Moet, Wendy Holden has kindly written a post about “My Years on Glossy Magazine”. Last of the Summer Moet is published by Head of Zeus and is out now, so be sure to check it out.
MY YEARS ON GLOSSY MAGAZINES by Wendy Holden
Laura Lake, heroine of Three Weddings And A Scandal and Last of the Summer Moet, works on a magazine called Society. It’s an upmarket glossy, a bit like Tatler, and I have to admit that there might be a tiny weeny connection.
I was deputy editor at Tatler some years ago, under an editor who had a fearsome reputation. To be her number two was a bit like being one of the six wives of Henry VIII. You knew your number would be up sooner or later. But hopefully the fun and glamour would make it all worthwhile.
I joined the magazine from The Sunday Times, which had a few fearsome characters of its own. And so I was fairly relaxed about what might await me. All the same, the Tatler office did not disappoint. It made Absolutely Fabulous look positively pedestrian.
Take the travel editor. She would sit at her computer saying things like ‘Darlings! Only three more weeks until fun fur!” (this would be in mid-autumn). She was passionately fond of her dogs (pugs, as I recall) and when one of them fell ill, the entire office had to write it a get-well card as it reclined in its private clinic on its own water bed under the care of its personal nurse.
The editor tended to hire people according to the strength of their address books and so there were various minor aristocrats about the place. My assistant’s family home was a famous stately pile complete with butler and ancestral carriage with nodding plumes. She wasn’t the sort of person you felt you could send out for coffee.
No-one was really. Another person on my desk once rang in to say she’d be late because she’d missed the train. At least that was what I thought she’d said. In fact she’d missed the plane – from Nice. Yet another couldn’t come in because she was trying out lots of different shades of white paint on the wall of her flat. Like a less racy version of E L James, I suppose.
Despite being not the least bit posh myself, I got on well with the editor. She was very good at what she did and if she occasionally treated her staff rather brusquely, that was all part of the fun. She always had an interesting take on things. As I joined the magazine Princess Diana had just died and the editor’s idea of a tribute was to put together a piece on Di’s famous sense of humour (as I remember, it involved ringing up lots of gym instructors).
The Tatler I worked on also relaunched the It Girl phenomenon and made Tara Palmer-Tomkinson famous. Yes, I know. But we were never in Large Hadron Collider territory at Tatler. I remember rather desperately trying to persuade a bunch of peers to take part in an ‘Earls In Pearls’ feature. They didn’t buy it, unfortunately.
One day the editor called me into her office and asked me if I knew the difference between upper and lower class legs. Confessing my ignorance, I was instructed that upper class legs are thin and have a kneebone equidistant between the hipbone and anklebone. Lower class legs, by contrast, were thick with a long thigh and short calf. It’s a Tatler lesson that has stayed with me ever since, along with the folly of wearing flowing silk outfits at parties on Cap Ferrat in summer (much too hot).
The editor could be generous, too, once passing on to me a vast floral arrangement someone had sent her. A good six feet tall, it was made up of thick-stemmed exotic blooms lashed around with thick, kerosene-scented rope. Going back home with it on the 73 bus was quite the challenge.
Tatler was a positive cornucopia of freebies. If the loos themselves were often occupied by weeping staffers that the editor had offended, the basins in those loos were permanently crammed with bouquets sent to the fashion girls. And all manner of the usual glossy-mag largesse rained down on the other departments, plus a barbecued turkey that one restaurant sent every Christmas. I may have had a bit of that, but everything else passed me by. Despite being deputy ed, the only freebie I ever actually got sent myself was a small black-handled knife which was part of a Eat British Apples promotion. I treasure it all the same, and try to eat British apples whenever possible.
Tatler was a brilliant place to work if you had a sense of the absurd, possibly because none of the other staff members had. The annual Black Book List, in various young privileged types about town are lauded for talents like eating Fruit And Nut bars with a knife and fork or singing Happy Birthday in Chinese, was particularly hard to put together without laughing. Most of these incidents have made their way into Laura’s world. She too works for a dragon of an editor – Carinthia Gold, who suffers from a rare affliction known as ‘editor’s spine’ thanks to the weight of the designer tote bags she receives as freebies. Actually, I made that up. But in Glossy Magazine World it could easily be true!
LAST OF THE SUMMER MOET
Release Date: 1st Feb 2018
Published by: Head of Zeus
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Top reporter Laura Lake has struck journalistic gold.
She’s discovered a super-exclusive English village where the rich and famous own weekend retreats. Where film stars, Turner-prize winners and Cabinet ministers park their helicopters outside the gastropub and buy £100 sourdough loaves from the deli.
Outsiders are strictly forbidden. But luckily Laura’s best friend Lulu, a logo-obsessed socialite with a heart as huge as her sunglasses, suddenly fancies a quiet life in the country. The door to this enchanted rural idyll opens for Laura. Revealing a great professional opportunity.
Can Laura write an exposé before the snobbish villagers suss her true identity? And before the world’s poshest pub quiz triggers a political scandal not seen since Profumo?
ABOUT WENDY HOLDEN
Number-one bestselling author Wendy Holden was a journalist on Tatler, The Sunday Times, and the Mail on Sunday before becoming an author. She has since written ten consecutive Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers. She lives in Derbyshire.