June Smith-Sheppard on Les Daly, OK magazine

It
was the long, hot summer of ’76. I was 16, fresh out of school and
beside myself with excitement at getting an interview on OK magazine.

It was a teen mag, owned by IPC magazines but produced by Carlton Publishing.

The offices were in Newman Street, near Tottenham Court Road. Number 26 to be precise, I will never forget it.

I was shown into the editor’s office, a huge room with big sash windows, brown carpet and cream walls.

Seventies chic at its best!

Les was sitting behind a massive desk and I was so in awe I almost lost the power of speech – not ideal at an interview.

He was young, handsome, friendly and bubbling with enthusiasm for his magazine.

In my eyes, he was almost a God.

“So, how’s your typing?” Les asked after we’d been chatting for 10 minutes.

“I did an RSA course,” I said. Not adding that I failed it.

And so I was offered the job as a trainee sub, on the spot.

Les
was an inspirational editor. Always full of ideas, he loved his
magazine and the fun he could have with it. And boy, did we have fun.

Gabrielle Donnelly, who is now a celebrity journalist in LA, and Rick Sky, the pop journo, were the staff writers.

Laugh? We didn’t stop. There was a lot of singing too, for some reason.

Les
had a particular hatred of Elkie Brooks’ Lilac Wine and would yell
“Shut up!” at the top of his voice if anyone sang along. That would be
the subs – not Rick!

Les never walked if he could run. He would hurtle up and down the stairs in his bright red Kickers.

His enthusiasm was infections. I couldn’t stop writing and he gave me huge amounts of encouragement.

Ordinary
little quizzes I put nervously on his desk, he would transform with
catchy headlines: “Are you a peach on the beach or a prune on the dune?”

He gave me my own letters page, on which my head appeared on a stamp!

“You’re A Star”, it was called, and seeing my face there I really felt like I was.

But
Les was the true star and everyone knew it. Shortly after I left OK to
go to IPC’s new teen launch My Guy, he went to freelance in New York,
returning to England as features editor on The Sun . In 1982 he became
deputy editor of the women’s glossy Options .

Les’s talents meant he had no trouble moving between magazines and newspapers.

After
another spell at The Sun , this time as assistant editor, he made his
mark on the broadsheets as features editor on The Times , then The
Sunday Times Magazine.

Tragically, Les died in December 1992, at the age of 39. His many friends and colleagues were heartbroken.

I for one will never forget him, or the fact that he gave me my first break.

Thanks Les, wherever you are.

June Smith-Sheppard is the editor of IPC’s Pick Me Up

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