I enjoyed a delicious collision of cultures over lunch on Tuesday. Joining the other distinguished judges from last year’s Biographer’s Club Competition for a reunion at Mon Plaisir brasserie in Monmouth Street, I was startled on arrival to find an absolute scrum of paparazzi on the pavement outside, like a real life scene from The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride.
Opposite the restaurant was the Covent Garden Hotel, a hostelry I know quite well having spent several days locked in a suite there with the colourful Pete Bennett and his mum and entourage, when he was writing his autobiography after winning Big Brother.
Mon Plaisir is a delightfully traditional French restaurant and seemed to be crammed with other publishing dignitaries that day, (you know who you are). Distinguished biographer, Richard Davenport-Hines, had managed to get us a table in the window. So, as the four of us, (Nicola Beauman, mastermind behind Persephone Books, and Anna Swan of the Biographer’s Club making up the party), gossiped and gawped Paris Hilton emerged from the hotel and the street erupted, just as I’m sure her entourage hoped it would, with the paparazzi surging forward, fighting one another for prime position, climbing onto the roofs of their cars.
The elegant Persephone Books is well worth looking into, specialising as they do in the re-publishing of good books that have slipped out of print. Their great success at the moment is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and I can’t help thinking that Paris Hilton could very easily be a modern equivalent of Delysia, the dizzy, glamorous night club singer and socialite who provides Miss Pettigrew with her chance to ‘live for a day’.
What a glorious and varied world it can be some days.