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Diary

Rachel Johnson’s diary: Why I told my book party I was coming out as a lesbian

…and the woman I might actually turn for. Plus: any chance of men’s final tickets for Wimbledon?

27 June 2015

9:00 AM

27 June 2015

9:00 AM

My husband says I only write books in order to have a launch party. Not so. I also write books in order to give the author speech at the party. To this end, I hired a wild warehouse under the Westway flyover. Faced with a stream of emails from PAs asking things like whether vegan canapés would be served, and a direct call from financier Peter Soros asking whether 7 p.m. to midnight meant dinner or ‘cocktail prolongé’, I replied that it was BYOB — buy your own burgers. The great, the good, the bad, the ugly and the US ambassador streamed in to drink my wine out of plastic beakers. A bespoke light show played against the graffitoed warehouse walls. A DJ in a pink beret played ‘beats’. Piers Morgan arrived saying, ‘I’ve just seen someone who wants to punch me (Angus Deayton), a man I want to punch (Jeremy Paxman) and someone who’s already punched me (Jeremy Clarkson).’ I wore an understated short plunging day-glo orange dress with a zip down the front. When the moment came I mounted a table and grabbed the mic.

As my entire family shuffled in front of me, I decided not to explain why the Mail has called my new book a lesbian romp, but to own it instead. ‘It’s the longest coming-out note in history,’ I pealed, and then assured everyone present they were in it. Even though my Notting Hell neighbours are cross with me again, I realised long ago that there’s no point demurring. If you’re a female author, everyone thinks you can’t make anything up. After my oration, Katie Hopkins took to the dance floor in tight batik trousers (both my sons have asked me for her digits) as did Boris, who did his special St Vitus dance. Ian Hislop almost got locked in a Portaloo, and many women rushed up to me to confide their lesbian experiences. A Vogue stylist unzipped my dress and grabbed a breast. A photographer snapped a picture. Oh well. As Martin Amis says, if anything bad was going to happen, it was going to happen under the Westway. That was my bad. I enjoyed it so much I might have to write another book.


Memo to publishers: as you no longer contribute a cent to book launches, authors are spending their money on promotional activity to benefit your bottom line. Contracts should be drawn up enabling authors to offset the cost of a launch against advance. Despite the publishing recession, as the Beastie Boys almost said — we must fight, for our right, to a book parrr-ty.

I spent a day with Joanna Lumley, and I could actually turn for her. She gets more beautiful and funny by the day and when her Garden Bridge is spanning the Thames, all the haters and neggers will be claiming credit for it. She is undimmed by criticism of her charming plan. ‘I love everything, every job I do, I’ve been happy all my life,’ she told me as we drove across Battersea, currently being scarred by developers. The bridge still needs another £50 million. If I were running things around here, I’d make it a pay-bridge, on the Oyster system, free only to those with concessions, and forge ahead. If she builds it, they will come.

I bumped into Philip Brook and his glamorous wife Jill at a function on Monday and made a beeline. After all, Brook is chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, i.e. Wimbledon: and as well as being handsome and funny is the most important and popular man in the world right now (English grass court season). Plus I had just discovered that the ranking sibling and my sister-in-law Marina couldn’t make the chairman’s gold-plated invitation to the gentlemen’s singles final. Anyone who knows me can imagine how the conversation went. How I wish you could have all seen Brook’s face crease with laughter as he returned my feeble lob about taking the two seats myself with a practised overhead smash.

The Evening Standard gave plenty of space to that picture of my breast being groped, so there is no use pretending — to anyone in Greater London, anyway — that I didn’t have a huge thrash last week. However, half the e-vites I sent never arrived, and half of those who received them forgot to reply or come, so it wasn’t entirely my fault. I started sending a ‘re-vite’ on the day but ran out of time and energy. I am getting a lot of grief from people who say, ‘Thanks a bunch. Clearly the best party I’ve never been to.’ But my fave morning-after text came from the travel writer Catherine Fairweather. ‘I thought it was going to be the usual two-hour Twiglet and warm white wine affair at Daunt’s. Didn’t bloody realise it would be rave meets Davos.’ It almost makes a year of staring alone at the laptop worth it. Almost… .


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