They tell me that, at one stage yesterday, all British national newspapers were interested in buying those photos of the Prince Harry starkers. Then ever so slowly, and one after another they dropped out. A few still published them on their websites, then gradually one-by-one they pulled them from their site. They were, apparently going for 10K a set. I don’t know if that was 10k Exclusive, English Language rights only, or as a share. Seems a lot of money to spend on a set of snaps, knowing that your rivals up the street had exactly the same set of pics.
Maybe it was this high price which made them pull out of the deal. Maybe it was the risk of upsetting Lord Leveson. Perhaps they didn’t want to upset The Palace or the NPA, or whoever nowadays hands out press passes to national events. We will have a couple of funerals in town coming up in the not-too-distant future, I guess, then a coronation and probably a christening or eight ? That’s a lot of monkey positions in the press pen to be giving away for the sake of a muzzy pic of some ginger pubes. Or maybe they didn’t buy the photos because they stopped and thought “Hang-on! Why don’t we respect this guy’s right to party on down. Public don’t need to see these. Stuff the pics ” ? No, I don’t think that happened either. I do know one journal which did exactly that, but they are not in Fleet St. Anymore.
So you’re looking down the wrong end of a £10,000 deal for a set of not-very-exclusive snaps of a nude ginger bloke. Hmmm… I guess in the world of the internet, it’s rather difficult to keep anything at all exclusive. Back in the day of hard prints, analogue wires and when BBC Ceefax was the source of information 24 hours a day, it was a lot easier to find a set of exclusives.
In around 1985 I was a young freelancer selling photos generated by a very small agency to national newspapers in Fleet St. I was enjoying a beer (no, really, I was) one evening after work with a colleague when a young photographer we’d sent out a few hours earlier “to see what you can find” came and found us at the bar. He had on him a developed roll of colour transparency film which had on it various dancers/strippers, C-listers and Christopher Bigginses which a night photographing London usually threw up. Then as I got down to the end of the of the roll of film, there were two blurry frames of a bloke, who looked uncannily like Prince Andrew, walking next to a fat redhead.
“Who’s that ?” I asked the snapper
“Oh that Prince Andrew and some fat redhead” (I told you it was) “I saw a royal motor outside Les Mis so I hung around to see who was in there”
These were the first photos of Prince Andrew and his latest squeeze Sarah Ferguson. They were with a Royal Bodyguard getting into a Royal Jaguar. This meant she was official. She was Andy’s “One” (if only we knew…), confirming what Buckingham Palace had been denying for weeks – that Fergie was gonna be part of the firm real soon. As odd as it must sound now, this was really big news at the time.
Being a Royalist, I immediately cut off the two frames and got a cab down to The Daily Mirror. For reasons which don’t escape me, I refused to go to Wapping and to Rupert Murdoch’s strike-bound News International (what does escape me is why I lifted that self-imposed ban to go work for those wankers later on in my career), and The Mirror was my weapon of choice.
Up to a point.
I arrived at The Mirror‘s picture desk only to find it deserted. Normally I wouldn’t care less that everyone was in “The Stab” down below (The White Hart pub, known by Mirror hacks as The Stab in the Back” – for obvious reasons), and on any other evening may have gone to join them (it was, after all, one of the reasons I wanted to be a journo in the first place) and sell them the odd snap. But this was different. I had a pic which I knew everyone would want, and I had to get it into a paper NOW. On THIS edition. I couldn’t take the risk of other photographers having captured the young couple together and selling it before I could. I certainly couldn’t wait for the Mirror Picture Desk to sober up. So I took a decision. I went off to The Daily Star. Ooh Aah.
It wasn’t what I wanted, but I was in luck . Perhaps the Popinjay (Express Newspaper’s version of The Stab) had burnt down that night as both numbers 1&2 on the picture desk had returned from the pub, unaided, and were just about awake. I think one of them could have been mistaken for being sober. At a distance. The other, his boss (a legendary scotchman and a scotch man) could not.
“What ye got, young fella?” the boss asked.
Carefully avoiding the hot, sweet airstream of scotch & best bitter coming from his mouth, I showed him the two frames.
“It’s Andy and Sarah Ferguson at Les Miserables tonight. Our man…..”
But I could have saved my breath, for he was off. Off an a lap of honour of the newsroom. Past the news desk (yes they had one) and the foreign…erm…reporter, past the back bench, the subs and the assorted ‘tired’ journalists and cleaning staff. He skipped, he whistled, he paused to show and tell his colleagues “Look what I got, ye bastard ye”.
Once the Scot and the scotch had settled, he agreed to pay ten thousand pounds for the photo. (What Sarah Ferguson would do nowadays for £10,000 is a story for another time). It appeared on the front page the very next day. The Mirror’s Picture editor, nicknamed “Grumpy” called me, sparrows fart. ‘Why didn’t I sell the pic to him ?’ he wanted to know. ‘Because he was in the pub’, I replied. ‘Why didn’t I call him out ?’ he demanded. ‘Because he was already well and truly out‘ I said. He didn’t speak to me for months and months after that.
As far as I know, that little photo agency of ours never did get the £10k promised to it by the pissed old fart that night at The Star. He sobered up and swore blind that he’d said FIVE not ten grand. The photographer never believed me, I don’t think. It’s all true, believe me. Over the next few weeks we did get some decent money for the pic from American, Aussie and, oddly, German rags, but nothing on the scale of what The Star (should have) paid us.
I wonder if Harry’s “mate” who took the pics of his arse will ever get paid ? It’s out there now. Everyone has it, or at least has seen it. And once everyone has seen it, who will want to buy it ? If the photos had landed in my lap today, would I have flogged them ? Probably not. When I was 21 who-was-doing-what-and-how-to-whom-and-how-often seemed really interesting to me. I’d passed my “smash the state, bring down the Monarchy” phase, but was still walking around with a press ticket metaphorically stuck in the band of my trilby”.
Not now. Now I care little for that shite. Pop and celebs interest me not. Sod The One Show, give me the World at One. I’m into Big Gussets not Big Brother. Less X-Factor, more Ex-Lax. I’d still like the money, though.