Splash king Harry takes his leave from royal circles
A Daily Mirror farewell dinner at the Savoy was rudely interrupted one summer’s night when the first edition of The Sun dropped with a Harry Arnold splash that Fergie was pregnant. James Whitaker had to leave the table to check it out. He telephoned Harry.
The next day Mirror editor Richard Stott was walking down Fleet Street when a familiar voice yelled: “Oi! You nicked our (adjective) story!” It was Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of The Sun. “No,” said Stott, “James matched it. He phoned a contact.” “Contact?” said MacKenzie, puzzled. “That’s more than Harry’s got. He made it up.” Not true, of course. Harry didn’t make up Fergie’s pregnancy nor fistfuls of other page one leads.
He didn’t make up Princess Diana throwing herself down the stairs at Sandringham, the fact that the royal honeymoon was in Egypt (Queen of the Nile) or that royal protection squad detectives would be armed and dressed as footman for the wedding. It was Arnold, too, who revealed that Charles had found love on the rebound after breaking up with Anna “Whiplash” Wallace. “The new girl,” he said, “was Lady Diana Spencer” and the world said, “Lady Who?” Why are we telling you all this? Simple.
Arnold, probably the greatest royal correspondent ever, is retiring at the end of the week. He covered the royals for The Sun for about 15 years and taking him off the royal beat – and, as a result, letting him go to the Mirror in the early Nineties – was probably the dumbest thing MacKenzie ever did.
Arnold is looking forward to a break from journalism and thrilled that his sidekick on The Sun, photographer Arthur Edwards, was recently awarded the OBE. But he says that if he himself ever knelt before Her Majesty she would swing the sword sideways.
Phones the new fags in critic world
Film critics who miss the fiery temper of Alexander Walker, the veteran sage of the Evening Standard who died recently, might be imagining that life in the cinemas will be a little quieter with his passing. Not necessarily so.
Walker, who abhorred smoking to the point of paranoia, was well known for his occasional volcanic eruptions, particularly if someone was foolish enough to light up a fag in his vicinity. But all is not lost. Step forward Five Live’s saturnine critic David Aldridge.
He displays a dislike of mobile phones – especially when they go off in the middle of a film. And he is prepared to do something about it. At a screening in a Soho private cinema, a man in the next seat answered a call and went on talking into his phone. Whereupon Aldridge snatched the infernal machine from the fellow’s ear and hurled it across the cinema – to the applause of his fellow critics.
Who said critics are a dull bunch?
Readers of the Herald & Post in Luton may have been surprised to find a personal accident compensation company advertising some unusual services in their paper. According to the Herald & Post advertising department, the rogue line was already in the advert when it arrived with them. Apparently a computer left on overnight at the design company responsible for putting the ad together may have been tampered with. Dog suspects Herald & Post proof readers will be casting a more than usually attentive eye over the advertisements from now on.
Fan of the clones
An assistant editor on one of the quality broadsheets has become the subject of gossip. He is, apparently, a fan of cloning and has recently hired four female subs for news and foreign affairs who have remarkably similar features. Each is tall, has dark, shoulderlength hair and is aged 29.
Things looking up for all those lonely hearts out there
The very sober Times Educational Supplement is the latest trade publication to launch its very own lonely hearts service. Readers will be invited to call a dedicated telephone line, which will have its number published alongside their message. And the TES is offering readers detailed advice on getting their message right.
It says: “Think about what you want to say before you ring. You’ll be asked to say a bit about yourself and about what kind of person or relationship you’re looking for. This is recorded for other people to listen to.
“For example, you might not want to mention straight away if you have children. But you should mention whereabouts in the country you are.” No doubt this industry-focused service for the lonely hearts is set to proliferate in many other trade publications.
The weekly Scottish Farmer already runs lonely heart adverts mainly focused at rural readers.
Perhaps Dog should be ingratiating himself with Press Gazette’s commercial manager James Parsons by pointing out just how many lonely journos there are out there!
The Croydon Advertiser is searching for the cutest babies in town and has told readers where to take their “little wonders” for a free snap. But will they? Accompanying details of the competition are two photos of a little toddler – cuddly all right, but hardly what mothers in the year 2003 will go gooey over. Is this really the yardstick? No.
The pictures, in fact, were part of a planned goodbye spoof front page for retiring arts correspondent Roger Bing. They were taken when he was nothing but an Ovaltiney. Somehow they got into the newspaper.