So I was talking to my publicist the other day and frankly I wasn’t happy. “Listen,” I said, “this News of the World hacking scandal is a real problem.” He looked aghast. “What? Someone’s hacking into your phone?”
“No!” I exclaimed “That’s my point. No one’s hacking into my phone. It’s been months since the hacking story reignited and frankly there’s no sign of any interest. No crackle on the line; no messages going missing. No evidence that any of my closest friends have been targeted. For God’s sake,” I yelled, “what do I pay you for?”
It’s not easy convincing my nearest and dearest of my celebrity status. None of them has even been offered a backhander to keep reporters informed of my movements.
“It’s not good enough,” I told him, “I pay you to get my privacy invaded.” He looked worried: “Most people pay me to protect their privacy.”
“I know that,” I replied testily, “but you can’t very well protect my privacy till you’ve got it invaded, can you? Think big picture here. For heaven’s sake, even Gordon Brown is having his phones listened into. Don’t you see how bad that looks for the rest of us?”
He thought for a minute. “We could leak it that you’ve asked the Met to investigate whether your phone was hacked,” he suggested. It was a bold play that put me up there with Sienna Miller, George Galloway and Heather Mills.
“But what if they issued an immediate statement clarifying that they had absolutely no interest in me?” I worried. “Just say you don’t believe them and that a number of messages disappeared,” he said smoothly.
“That’s true actually,” I said, brightening up,
“I never got that one from my Mum asking if we were coming to dinner.” He lowered his eyes, “You did get it; you just told her you didn’t.”
“What if the police deny it?” He barely paused. “It just proves what a shambles their whole investigation is. If you say this loud enough, they’ll have to look into it. News International may even pay you off just to buy your silence.”
“But I don’t want to be silent, I’m looking for maximum impact,” I countered.
“I think what you mean is that you refuse to be bought off by these peddlers of sleaze,” he reminded me gently.
Another tactic was to boost my lustre for tabloids, to “put me on their radar” as he put it.
“I can get you photographed leaving a nightclub with Jodie Marsh,” he said. It seemed that what we needed were photos of me on a beach with some glamorous, scantily attired babe.
“I guess that’s to show what a hot catch, babe-magnet and international jet-setting type I am.”
“No, the papers just like pictures of women in bikinis,” he replied. I told him I didn’t want some airhead but a glamorous intellectual. “Like Naomi Klein or Noreena Hertz?” he asked. “Actually I was thinking of Geri Halliwell,” I confessed. “But they’d be good too.”
The good news was that he had plenty of models on his books. We’d both just whizz off to a beach and strut around on the sand for some snapper hiding in the bushes. “It’s a doddle,” he said. “She sticks her chest out; you suck your belly in; 20 minutes and we’re done.”
He called back the next day sounding furtive. The women didn’t mind being photographed with an older man but it seemed my wealth/weight ratio was not high enough and could damage their image. On the bright side, however, they were prepared to accept messages from me on their mobile phones, which they were sure were being hacked.
“How do they know?” I asked. “Well they’ve got them on call divert to the Sun newsdesk,” he said. I wondered whether another strategy might be better. He told me there were a number of celebrity campaign letters going around and he could get me added as a signatory. “There’s one to save our forests,” he said, brandishing the list. “But everyone hates these people,” I protested.
“That’s the beauty of it, he said, “they don’t know you well enough to hate you yet. But don’t worry,” he smiled. “I’m working on it.”