Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Some years back I was at a book party in London and was talking to a guy I’d never met before and whose name I didn’t know, and we started talking about mothers, and he said “The best piece of advice my mother ever gave me was never be photographed with a drink in your hand.”

This seemed an unlikely piece of advice to me so naturally I said, “Who the heck is your mother?”  And he said, “Claire Rayner.”

If you were born at a certain point in history Claire Rayner was a very big deal indeed.  She was best known as an agony aunt, but was also a TV presenter, campaigner, journalist and a prolific novelist.  One of her novels was titled Lunching At Laura’s.  She died just last year.

I have of course searched the Internet looking for a photograph of Claire Rayner with a drink in her hand, and I have, of course, failed, though I did come across this pretty wonderful one of her eating (or at least holding) fish and chips.

The son, of course was Jay Rayner. An online search doesn't bring up many pictures of the man with a glass in his hand, though here he is with a whole bottle.

And obviously if I could have found a picture of him with a drink in his hand I’d have used it, so he’s apparently stuck with his mother’s advice.  I, on the other hand, seem only rarely to be photographed WITHOUT a drink in my hand.  

It’s not so much that I drink constantly, just that I only get photographed at parties.  And yes, just occasionally I get photographed with a drink in one hand and a snake in the other.

A couple of weeks back I was at a party for Benedikt Taschen’s 50th birthday.  There was an official party photographer who certainly snapped me while I had a drink in my hand, though I haven’t see the results.  But bad boy provocateur Terry Richardson was there too and of course he was photographing all and sundry, at least if they were famous, or in my case standing next to somebody who was.  And the results now appear in the diary section of his website, see February 15th.  And the amazing thing is – none of the pictures from the party show anybody with a drink in their hand. 

This is interesting, isn’t it?  Now, Terry Richardson is obviously pretty good at keeping celebs happy, and maybe it’s a rule, written or unwritten, that you don’t photograph them looking as though alcohol ever touches their lips. I, of course, am doing the famous Richardson thumbs up, so my drink’s not visible – it’s in the other hand.

Incidentally, the party is covered in this week’s New Yorker in the Talk of The Town section.  As we all know, the fact-checking at that magazine is impeccable, but the author writes that the party took place in “a cozy restaurant in Los Angeles.”  Trust me, I was there, and it was a very good party, but the place was about as cosy as a bus station, and the guy sitting next to me, the great sports photographer Neil Leifer, is still waiting for his risotto.

Finally, here’s a picture of Benedikt Taschen eating what appears to be the head of a dog (actually it’s a cake, sculpted in the shape of the Taschen French bulldog, name of Sans Souci) but still no drink in his hand.


  1. Hello Geoff

    Thanks for the nice words about my Ma. I'm 99% certain it was me you met. given I'm the son who writes the books and goes to book parties. And it sounds like me. And I recall this exchange. (Can you remember which book party?) I may have acquired more hair since you met me.

    all the best


  2. ... oh, and I very much enjoyed the Hollywood Dodo.


  3. Happy to be corrected on this one. Mr. Rayner is indeed a very distinguished and leonine looking fellow these days.

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