Mandy Bruce: journalist, author and originator of the trendsetting Ad Lib showbiz column

Mandy Bruce, the journalist and author, helped to create the new, youthful celebrity journalism which has become the staple of modern popular newspapers.

As a co-founder of the Ad Lib column on the London Evening News she was, in many ways, the first of the 3am girls. She was also a hugely popular, extrovert Fleet Street character with a great passion for life, people, stray dogs, stray kids and stray hacks. Her life was far too short.

Mandy was born in Plymouth on 4 June, 1954, to marathon runner Lee Bruce and Rosalie Shann, the celebrated columnist with the News of the World. Her grandmother was Renee Shann, the bestselling novelist.

Mandy spent her first three years in Cornwall before the family moved to Wimbledon in south-west London. She enrolled at Wimbledon School for Girls, where her talent for writing began to shine. A poem she wrote about the Aberfan disaster, while she was in her early teens, gained national acclaim when it was published in the Daily Mail.

In 1972, Mandy joined the Mirror Group IPC training scheme in Plymouth, where she worked as a journalist on the Torquay Times before moving on to become a reporter with the Sunday Mirror.

In 1974, she joined the London Evening News as a reporter under the inspired editorship of Louis Kirby. A year later she helped to found that newspaper’s revolutionary Ad Lib column. At a time when stories in newspaper diaries were dominated by obscure aristocrats and wealthy business people, Ad Lib focused on stories about a new generation of popular celebrities. The column was first weekly, then biweekly, then – in response to huge enthusiasm from the readers – the newspaper carried the column six days a week. Ad Lib’s format and style inspired numerous imitators, from The Sun’s Bizarre column to the Mirror’s 3am girls.

Mandy was one of the first journalists in Britain to identify the new cult of celebrity, which burgeoned in the mid Seventies and which now dominates every popular newspaper. Yet, despite helping to create one of the most trend-setting newspaper columns of the period, Mandy maintained a healthy distaste for pretentiousness. When a fashionable magazine asked her to name her favourite record of all time, she perversely nominated Benny Hill’s Ernie: The Fastest Milkman In The West.

When the Evening News closed in 1980 she went freelance, specialising in big celebrity interviews with stars such as Michael Caine and George Segal for the national newspapers and all the major women’s magazines. Her sassy prose style was a joy for any features editor or sub.

Mandy also had a passion for astrology and wrote columns under various pseudonyms for several newspapers and magazines. As Ariane, she was responsible for the hugely popular astrology column in The European newspaper.

She pursued a parallel career as the author of an extraordinarily diverse range of books. Her children’s rhyming books featured characters such as Walter The Worried Tadpole and Jasper The Adventurous Cat – which were acclaimed by The Sunday Times as among the best children’s books of the year. She produced a series of children’s books for Greenpeace, raising awareness of environmental issues with her Adventures of The Sunset Patrol.

In complete contrast was her series of best-selling books produced with Kate Kray, the widow of gangster Ronnie Kray. These included such lurid titles as Murder Madness And Marriage, Lifers and Hard Bastards 2. She also wrote a book about the rock band Status Quo with Patty Parfitt, wife of guitarist Rick Parfitt..

She enjoyed 25 hugely happy years with Ross Tayne, the legendary Fleet Street sub-editor. They married on 20 May, 1989, Cup Final Day.

Mandy had a passion for the small seaside town of Whitstable, in Kent, where she and Ross had their second home, overlooking the beach. Shortly before her death she completed a long-cherished ambition to write a book about the town and the original Wheelers fish restaurant, which is located in Whitstable High Street. The book, entitled The Oyster Seekers, will be published by Metro Publishing in June.

Mandy’s funeral will be at 2pm on Monday, 12 May, at St John’s Church, St John’s Road, Wimbledon, followed by a private family interment then refreshments at the nearby Belgrave Harriers Club.

Flowers should be sent to Frederick W. Paine, funeral directors, at 6 Coombe Lane, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8ND

John Blake

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