Richard Madeley

My Sunday lunch with George Michael

[Bettmann Archive]

All is grist that comes to a columnist’s mill. The late Alan Coren once wrote that if he heard a screech of tyres in the road outside his house, he rushed out, notebook in hand, ‘because you never know where the next 300 words are coming from’. I find that the Anniversary Almanac can be a reliable source of copy during thin times; my particular favourites being 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries because they’re all potentially still in living memory. I’m already eyeing up anniversary options for 2023. And here’s an early heads-up – expect a deluge of words to mark the 60th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Just as everyone remembers where they were when they heard Princess Diana had died, so those who were sentient on 22 November 1963 can recall the exact moment they learned of the president’s death.

For some, it was career-defining, as in the case of a London newspaper editor I once worked for, Bob Hutchings. He longed to work for a big American title, and bombarded US papers with job applications. Finally, he got a bite – from the Los Angeles Times. If he could show up in the editor’s office in 48 hours, he’d be given a month’s trial. Bob was on a plane from London the next morning. But bad weather delayed him. He landed at LAX barely an hour before deadline, threw a fistful of dollars at a Checker cab driver, skidded away and lurched up outside the Times office with five minutes to spare. Rushing across the vast lobby to the lifts, he was dimly aware of an atmosphere, all around him. Sounds of sobbing. Bowed heads. Hugging. No time for that. He emerged on to the executive floor and stalked straight into the editor’s office. A beehived blonde receptionist blocked his way, eyes red-rimmed.

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