Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the socialite and reality TV star, has died at the age of 45 from a brain tumour. In the 27 July 1996 issue of The Spectator, she advised people not to believe all that we read about her in the papers:
It is agreeable to wake in the morning and find a national newspaper praising one’s beauty. It is far less agreeable to discover that this praise has been set in the sour old mould of ‘beauty rather than brains’.
The Times diary recently printed two stories suggesting — not to put too fine a point on it — that I am stupid. In the first, I had apparently been introduced to a member of the Life Guards and asked him, ‘Which beach?’ In the second, I had joined a conversation about Sir James Goldsmith’s party, saying, ‘When is it happening? I think I’m supposed to be going.’ The annoyance at seeing oneself so represented soon gave way to curiosity about the longevity of such stories. Like urban myths, they recur generation after generation, attached to one unfortunate female after another. The archetype of the dim society girl is everlasting. Whether she is Daisy in The Great Gatsby or this year’s gossip-column fodder, the accusations rarely change.
You may recall that in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies one of the characters greets the announcement that there is a Workers’ Revolutionary Party by asking why she has not been invited.
Here, among friends at The Spectator, I can, however, make a confession. Reader, a few months ago I did think Jimmy Goldsmith’s ‘party’ was a social event rather than a political one, and made a comment along the lines of Waugh’s heroine.
In my defence, I would say that the words ‘Goldsmith’ and ‘parties’ have always gone together so harmoniously that it did not occur to me that he might now have turned to the less rewarding business of challenging the Government.