At first, I thought the reason the British Consul General in Los Angeles had agreed to have lunch with me was because he knew who I was. Before setting off on my annual pilgrimage to Hollywood, I had emailed Bob Peirce to see if he might be able to squeeze in a quick drink. I was interested in chatting to him about BritWeek, an annual celebration of the Old Country that he inaugurated last year. To my astonishment, he suggested we have lunch at the Four Seasons, the grandest hotel in Beverly Hills. ‘Perhaps he’s read one of my books,’ I thought.
It didn’t take long for the scales to fall from my eyes. Shortly after I took my place opposite him at the best table in the restaurant, we were joined by Sarah Cairns, the Four Seasons’ director of PR.
‘Have you met Toby Young?’ he asked her. ‘He’s from The Spectator. Actually, what am I saying? He IS The Spectator.’ So that was it. This 53-year-old British diplomat thought I was the editor of the magazine. Naturally, I did nothing to disabuse him of this notion.
‘Boris interviewed me a couple of times in Hong Kong,’ he said, referring to a previous posting. ‘Very impressive guy. Really knew his stuff.’ In other words, a tough act to follow.
‘Er, yes. Quite.’
The director of PR excused herself and, before long, various members of the hotel’s staff began appearing at our table.
‘I hope you enjoy your lunch, Mr Young,’ said the head chef.
‘Let me know if you need anything,’ said the restaurant manager.
Evidently, word had got around that the editor of The Spectator was in the building.