Friday, November 13, 2009

David Litchfield interview: 'Ritz, Ms Nicky Haslam and other lewd acts'

David Litchfield

If you don't know of Ritz then just fuck off. Ritz was the best British magazine ever, the magazine that ushered the antichrists of celebrity journalism and the paparazzi into our modern UK media with its pioneering Q'n'As, swaggering photography and total respect for the uncorrected hiccups of A-listers - their burps, farts and slip-ups. It was co-founded in 1976 by David Bailey and ... its editor David Litchfield.

Mr Litchfield is a shadowy coolish figure, a bold name phantom of murky European blue blood - [my] "step-great-grandmother was a Hungarian Countess, Ottilie von Schosberger" - and for more bio click hereRitz was the size of a newspaper and had the heft of a glossy: it dazzled with its range and bitchery - speaking personally, its daubed logo alone prompted dilation, pupil or otherwise, as if a sculpted buttock in a WH Smith pew. Ritz roamed as an invited member of the slebby party circuit, and repaid the best canapés with delicious copy for the kleptomaniac stay-at-home broadsheets. It made you feel so-not-up-there.

Mr Litchfield and Madame Arcati interacted ....

David Litchfield! My God! I mean, you are a God. You co-founded with David Bailey the most glamorous magazine Britain ever had, Ritz. I guzzled on its celebrity teats before its closure in the early 90s. George Michael cites it as a major influence, even Jordan appeared in it. EVEN Nicholas Coleridge with all his umms and errs. He's so inarticulate. Why David, why? (did you close it down?)

Not ‘that’ Jordan! The World’s End Jordan. Michael Roberts’ Jordan. ‘The Dyke from the Deep’. Coleridge only ‘umms’ and ‘errs’ when he hasn’t had enough Retsina. After fifteen years of partying, I needed some fresh air.

Ooops, if you've seen one Jordan you've seen them all. Ritz was modelled on Warhol's Interview, was it not?

Yes, but only enough to annoy Bob Colacello. We had fashion and girls, for God’s sake. Andy loved it because Ritz had gossip. He never understood why Interview didn’t. Did you know Andy and I had the same mother?

Er, really ....You are to blame for our celebrity-obsessed culture just as Lichfield brought the paparazzi to Britain? Defend yourself. Are you to blame for .... OK!?

Celebrity is ‘fame without talent’. We only did people who did things. We did gossip, bitch and parties so that we didn’t have to pay for our own champagne and cocaine. We used to travel by taxi, singing ‘Cocaine, Cocaine, The Musical Fruit’ to the tune of ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’. How was it all going to end?

Photo: Mr L, by John Swannell, National Portrait Gallery

Is it true stars like Brando, De Niro and Her Serene Highness Grace Kelly used to pop into your office for a booze up with Bailey, photographer Richard Young and yourself?

Yes, it’s true. It’s all true. But rarely in the office. Usually at Langans’ or Eleven Park Walk or Bailey’s place. And never Grace, or the Bagel Snapper. He was busy convincing Bubbles Harmsworth that he worked for the Daily Mail. I did Princess Stephanie at her hotel.

Name a few of the favourite celebrity pieces you ran, and least favourite. And name one star cunt. Lord Lichfield said when you interviewed him, "Now, let's get this straight. Why don't I get paid when I work for you?"

My favourite interview was with Orson Welles, who only said: ‘NO’. Nothing else. My second favourite interview was with The Queen. I said: ‘Oh, Hi’. She smiled and said: ‘Oh, Hello’, and then security arrived. My third favourite interview was with Jack Nicholson. One whole night at Blakes, with every organic chemical known to man.

My favourite introduction to an interview was by Francis Wyndham, who introduced Tony Snowdon to me by saying ‘David, have you met the Queen’s sister?’. Some of my favourite quotes included Elton asking Bailey if he still flew from aerodromes and listened to the wireless.

Bailey saying to Bob Marley: ‘What do you put on your hair, Bob?’

Harrison Ford saying to Bailey: ‘Is that my shit or your dog’s shit?’

Tennessee Williams saying to me that he was just a sad old queen and to Lyndall Scott Ellis that he didn’t like niggers. She was one. And probably still is. You know Lyndall? She was the one who, when asked by a TV-interviewer what were her interests, said in that wonderful drawling voice of hers: ‘Canine atrocities and infanticide’.

Our highest selling front cover, by the way, was a picture of ‘Clive’, Clint Eastwood’s Orang Utang. I can’t remember who did hair and make-up.

My favourite star cunt was Kelly Lebrock, Yum! [Who? - MA]

In response to Patrick Lichfield’s question, I told him what Helmut Newton told me, we should only pay the photographers we rejected. And he never asked again.

And Nicky Haslam. He roamed party-land for you along with Frances Lynn ("Bitchiest gossip writer..."), Amanda Lear. What was Nicky like to work with? Did he come into the office? Are your memories fond? He's nice about Ritz in his memoir Redeeming Features ...

Ms Haslam [pictured left] was a nightmare. She used to ‘blub’ all the time. I only used her as a favour to Bailey, because she couldn’t get any other work apart from walking Princess Michael and Mick Jagger. She was such a snob. And now we discover her father was in trade. Isn’t it wonderful? D for divine.

Amanda Lear only stayed long enough to polish her whip. I was the only one who stayed until the end of the party.

Clive James and Peter York worked for you. What's happened to Clive? And I spotted lots of Ambre Solaire on York's collar once: face dyeing is an understated art, doncha think?
Poor Clive. He never recovered from my refusing to sell him shares in Ritz. Peter York never worked for us. I tried to warn him about face-painting. I told him what it had done to George Hamilton. But then I also warned him ‘If you are going to perform a lewd act with a vacuum cleaner, do it at home, rather than at the car wash’. But you know Peter, he never listens.

Is there anything like Ritz today? And what do you think of the "professionalising" of titles like Tatler and Harpers & Queen (now dreary Harper's Bazaar minus Jennifer's Diary). Wouldn't you say Ritz was the forerunner of Hello! after its brain and teeth were taken out?

No, I don’t think [there's anything like Ritz today]. Harper’s should have kept Jennifer’s Diary and thrown away the rest. Tatler needs more Retsina.

No. No. No. Ritz was about ‘vanity, avarice and malice’. Hello! is about ‘shag-pile carpets and ranch-style homes’.

Now David, tell us about your life today. Where do you live? And where do you party? Do you still see Bailey? Oh, and your brand of toothpaste.

Cowes, Shepherd’s Market, Müllheim/Baden, Havana and Castellane.

And Heinz Schumi still does my hair.

No, I don’t see Bailey, ever since he stopped drinking and started going out with Damien Hirst. It’s so sad.

Would you ever bring Ritz back? How much money would you need? Or a website ... ?

Yes, but only as a very expensive newspaper. And all for the same money it cost me the first time around. Sealed bids, please! I’d just love to get Frances Lynn back with the headline: ‘The Bitch Is Back’. Fran really was the bitchiest bitch. She taught me all I know about libel. Bless her!

Have you thought to write a book about Ritz? Or if you have, reissuing it?

Yes, with my daughter, Summer Lee.

And what's this about a film script, Hannibal, The Legend?

Isn’t it wonderful? Van Cleef and Arpels is playing the lead.

Have you ever consulted a psychic?

Yes, and they were both right: I am of Gods and Kings.

And finally, David, is there one decent gossip writer or site left in the world?

Oh, come on, Mary!

David! Thank you so much. I'd get on my knees but I'd never get up again. xx

You should talk to The Queen. She’s got this wonderful tilting throne.

David Litchfield's website


Oh, and here's an extra bit. Frances Lynn recalls working with David ...

David Litchfield was the best editor I've ever had. I always obeyed him even when he warned me to write even bitchier stuff about my then friends, most of whom I thankfully lost.

I was the only one on Ritz who got paid. I would go to the office dressed in rotting rags, begging Litchfield for money. After I gave him a generous glug from my hip flask, he would sign a cheque with a shaking hand, so traumatised that each time I thought he would have to check into the Maudsley.

Litchfield was psychotically mean about money, but I have to hand it to the vicious old sod that he managed to con hacks like Clive James to write for Ritz for free. Litchfield is the only editor I’ve had who didn't edit my stuff, not even when I wrote something libellous shortly after Ritz started. Although I sobbed for forgiveness, I was secretly praying the rag would get closed down because I was exhausted from going OUT twenty four hours a day. Litchfield might have been vindictive towards his victims, but he told me not to worry and found the whole thing amusing.

During the late Seventies, Litchfield was my Svengali and I shall be eternally grateful to him for making me realise what a talented old bitch I used to be!


Frances Lynn said...

Remember Litchfield, I own the copyright to all my old columns and interviews!

veritas said...

my faith in humanity is restored.

A Gossip Columnist said...

David Litchfield always suffered so much when people discovered he was nothing to do with Patrick Lichfield, the aristo-photographer. The names were spelt differently - but the let-down lingered nonetheless.

A former Ritzer said...

My God, what phantoms you have conjured up this time, Madame Arcati. What have you let out of the bottle, the Pandora's Box!? Ritz was a brilliantly shambolic NEWSPAPER, full of errors, but with more gossip per paragraph than your average so-called diary today. I do hope Litchfield becomes regular to your site.

Madame Arcati said...

Yes, thank you. I do recall reading the Gore Vidal interview in Ritz, and I may have imagined that the interviewer - perhaps DL himself - saying Vidal's first novel was something like Willy Wonka when he meant Williwaw - stupid title anyway.

The late Timothy Swallow said...

Ritz inspired me to write for Blitz.

The late Jeffrey Bernard said...

David Litchfield didn't pay me either.

The late Nigel Dempster said...

Frances lynn went mad in my office.

Alastair said...

So was Ritz a society magazine ? I do lve a European blue blood X

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Alastair, Ritz was a straddler, a bit of society, a bit of showbiz, bits bits bits. I think it sought stars, not the sort that necessarily make you hard, my dear. You're seeking titles, floppy hair and stately homes/os. If you like, Ritz was the 7th Marquess of Bristol to Tatler's Duchess of Kent in a plaid miniskirt (in its current mode).

In other messages - why did Frances go crazy in Dumpster's office? Did she throw a pot plant. Details, details.

Dear Mr Swallow, how is it? There?

Dear Jeffrey, how is it? Legs back now?

Anonymous said...

I agree Ritz was the best, but it did not pioneer the Q & A. That I would attribute to the Paris Review and its literary chats. I can think of no magazine at present which isn't blighted by the need to impose a thought- and style-control on everything that appears in its pages. Nicholas Coleridge is to blame. He was championed by genius amateurs and now as a boss hires mediocre professionals. Every one of his editorial appointments is bland, dull, conformist. Keep it up Arcati!

A Late WWD staffer said...

Interview, which Litchfield and Bailey plagiarised had Q & A interviews too.

Anonymous said...

It's bad karma not to pay writers.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Tim Satchell?

Alastair said...

I do love floppy hair, titles and bouncing around a stately homes/os

Lady Marchmain said...

Get this fucking fruit Alastair outta ma house!

Madame Arcati said...

Madame Arcati has a number of Peculiar Poppets and Alastair is one of them: my poppets are like cute missiles with a relentless need to satisfy A Yearning, usually an odd one. And provided it's legal and decent, Madame Arcati holds them to her saggy bosom, and may even allow them a dry suck. It's psychological, see.

Anonymous said...

I am in total bliss. I am straight but if you want me to fuck you just the once I will, "Madame".

BC said...

We were there first.

Anonymous said...

Sexual harassment!

veritas said...

to shamelessly name drop-I once gave Andy Warhol a copy of Frizz and he said :
"this is a rip-off of Ritz which is rip-off of Interview but it's on much better paper. Why can't we use this paper Fred ?"

Anonymous said...

Who wrote the Wikipedia piece on Ritz? It says there that Peter York wrote for Ritz.

Anonymous said...

Ah Peter York - the man with no background

Frances Lynn said...

Oh-oh! i wrote the Ritz piece for Wikipedia, but I'm not changing it now.

Frances Lynn said...

Wikipedia won't allow me to work on my Ritz article anymore, so anyone cam alter it if they want. I always presumed Peter York did work for Ritz as he was always calling me up day and night asking me which parties I was going to etc.

Anonymous said...

Who was the very charming Irishman with the white Rolls Royce who wrote for Ritz ?

Anonymous said...

Duncan Fallowell gave Tim Satchell a nervous breakdown

Madame Arcati said...

How did Duncan do that? I worked with Tim once, a unique experience. The floors of his London home completely covered in toys, books and detritus. Things got moved about by being kicked en passant, including Tim himself.

Fish said...

That is not a picture of Nicky. I believe it's Nikki Sixx...

Madame Arcati said...

Oh well, we'll keep that between ourselves. xx

Disgusted from UCL said...

I knew it! Wikipedia is never accurate! I'm going to do my research at the British Library from now on.

Edna Arkles said...

Ritz's inaccuracies was its selling point, wasn't it? Like Private Eye's. Accuracy is very common.

Anonymous said...

The mag's logo looks very contemporary and fresh. Pity Ritz is dead. Didn't you say you were thinking of bringing out an Arcati mag, Arcati?

The late Muriel Belcher - burp said...

Ritz made me famous!

Madame Arcati said...

You were famous well before Ritz came along, dearie. Now shoot up Derek Acorah's colon and say cunty.