Chrissie Barker

I joined Campaign as a reporter in the mid-'80s. My desk was next to Chrissie's and it proved to be an intense and occasionally hair-raising introduction to the magazine business.

On my first day, Chrissie strode into the office, dressed from head to foot in a suede designer cowboy outfit, complete with tasselled boots, her mane of auburn hair preceding her by several seconds.

Then she started to hit the phones.

Phones hit by Chrissie stayed hit. I've never known a journalist use the instrument to such devastating effect.

Chrissie was a reporter to her bones.

She'd started off in her native Australia on Perth's Daily News and the Sunday Times, and the techniques she'd learnt taking on cattle barons and dodgy Australian politicians were quickly applied to the rather more cosseted inhabitants of the UK advertising industry. She pummelled away until she got her story and to hear her at work was, for a greenhorn like me, an education, a revelation and, sometimes, a terror.

Having got her scoop, Chrissie would switch to personal matters. She'd recently had an operation and wasn't shy of describing the full and gory details to her ad contacts. I'm not sure how they coped, sitting in their plush Soho offices with captains of industry waiting on the other line as the gynoepics unfolded. I frequently had to dash out to Lancaster Gate to get some air.

When the tragic Brian Davis quit as editor after a few weeks, Bob Heller asked Chrissie to take over. She was a surprise appointment. Apart from an unhappy stint as deputy on Options, she'd seemed content coming in parttime to hammer those phones while devoting the rest of the week to her young family and her marriage to the agency boss Mike Townsin.

But she was a brilliant choice. This was the high noon of British advertising.

Budgets were huge, expenses and shoulder pads likewise. British advertising, already the most creative in the world, embarked on a frenzied period of expansion here and in the States. There were stories everywhere and Chrissie, larger than life in an inflated universe, was in the middle of the lot.

She showed her independence, too.

The Saatchi brothers, whose rise and rise had been loyally supported by Campaign, found they weren't getting the favours they were accustomed to and boycotted the magazine. When I managed to land an interview with their then-obscure finance director, one Martin Sorrell, I had to use the back stairs. Time passes, and Maurice Saatchi's was one of the more elegant tributes to Chrissie.

Come the end of the '80s, the business hit the rocks, and the bean counters moved into Haymarket as elsewhere.

Chrissie, like her heroine Margaret Thatcher, was never going to be happy in the humdrum atmosphere of the Major years, and left Lancaster Gate after a famous screaming match with management. I took over and Chrissie was full of good wishes and good advice, which didn't stop me falling out with the said haricot experts within the year. She also made life rather more difficult by taking my column in the Evening Standard and filling it with scoops the day before Campaign hit the streets.

I last saw Chrissie at a party before Christmas. She'd turned from '80s diva into something of a Sharon Osbourne lookalike. But the feistiness of La Osbourne and the earlier Chrissie had been replaced by something rather mellower: Richmond mum, gardener, and communications expert respected (and about to be promoted) at J Walter Thompson. But the old Chrissie fire and her wicked Aussie shout of a laugh was still there.

The lunch we planned never happened. She was diagnosed with cancer three months ago and now she's gone.

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