Gareth Gibbs on Don Bodie London Evening News

It was a
bright November day in 1969 when I was ushered into the office of Don
Bodie of the London Evening News. I was looking for a job. Half an hour
later, I emerged with his words still ringing in my ears. “You can
start next month. Some people sell themselves better than others.”

Later I learned that this translated into: “Yes, I know you’re a bullshitter, but I’ll take a chance on you.”

He
took a chance on me on the news subs desk and I didn’t let him down. I
blundered spectacularly. I was rewriting a page one splash about Derek
Ezra, then chairman of the Coal Board. For some reason I changed his
name to Ezra Pound. Nobody reads page one splashes about the Coal Board
so it took a while for the error to be spotted. However, I wasn’t
fired. In fact, I was handsomely rewarded. “You know about Ezra Pound…
I want you and John Robbins to start a gossip column for the paper.

We’ll call it NewsTalk.”

Suddenly
a new world opened – expenses, membership to the Playboy and Penthouse
clubs, freebie trips and all the booze your liver and pancreas could
handle. But then I boobed again.

I returned from a veggie lunch
full of wind and self-righteousness and reacted to a note from him that
read: “I didn’t understand that Serena story. 

What went
wrong?” I replied (foolishly): “Sorry you didn’t understand it,
sir. Nobody else seems to have had any trouble. Next time I use irony
I’ll lay it on with a spade.”

Bodie got his revenge. “You’ve had too many good trips lately. I want you to take a bus trip to Frankfurt,” he said.

I
arrived at Frankfurt tired and sore but brightened immediately. The
National Bus Company had tipped off the German Tourist Board that there
was a hack on the coach and there were three of them waiting to greet
me. “We’ve got you a suite at the Intercontinental,” they said.

“Someone will pick you up this afternoon to show you around.”

That
someone turned out to be a red-headed Lufthansa air hostess named
Ingrid. She showed me where Lorelei had lured sailors to their death on
the Rhine. Then she showed me other things and I spent the rest of the
time revelling in her pulchritude.

The only tough assignment I
ever had from Bodie was catering to the whims of Rothermere’s wife,
Bubbles. But these were the days before she started eating all the
groceries, so even nights at the Pied Piper’s Ball in Park Lane weren’t
too tough. Alas, Bodie was too good, too nice and too loyal. They axed
him after a few years.

Garth Gibbs is new editor of Quicksilver magazine

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