In which Tony explains how an encounter with a vacuous celebrity couple became a springboard to self-employment for LaFlamme.
As a gifted copywriter, LaFlamme certainly had the means of making reasonable money when needed. But she tended to be too opinionated for mainstream journalism and too honest for advertising, at least in the eyes of her employers.
“I can be dishonest,” she said to the advertising agency. “I can write like a pleb if you want,” she said to the magazine editor.
It was clear that the issue was consistency. On a day-to-day basis her talent was often sabotaged by boredom, which allowed vicious, opinionated writing to creep in and eventually take over.
One memorable piece for Home & Garden began innocuously enough as a review of a middle-aged celebrity couple’s neo-classical home:
‘Charles and Georgina Demille describe the effect that their home has on visitors. “One particular guest compared it to a Hermes handbag,” said Georgina. I nodded in a knowing way, although I had no idea what she was talking about. Why would the guide of the Underworld be designing handbags rather than protecting the way of travellers? I suppose he might have designed the odd handbag in a moment of extreme tedium. In fact I’ve worked out a particularly fine design in my head as I continue to trudge around this dreary abode.
The house is the epitome of neo-classical style, ideal for the particular drones currently inhabiting it as it removes the need for any personal sense of style or taste and replaces it with an overwhelming sense of smugness in its owners. “I like to keep it simple,” says Georgina, and she ought to know as she’s a walking vacuum.
Husband Charles is an ideal match for the hoover woman, and I ask him how it feels not to be burdened with complexity. “I’m an American,” he says. “Less, not more.”
As we enter the dining room, Georgina tells me it was the classic proportions of the space which first drew her and her divot partner to the home they now share with their obnoxious offspring, Charles jnr, aged nine, and Wolfgang Amadeus, six. Together they truly are a gift for those dangerous advocates of compulsory sterilisation and I end my interminable visit by warning them they should probably remain indoors at all times.’
Unfortunately this article was actually published, as no-one in the editorial department ever read the ingratiating puff pieces written as side accompaniments to the glossy photographs. Only after they received a letter from the Demilles was it brought to the editor’s attention:
‘To: Edward Wonderful (Editor)
Dear Mr. Wonderful,
We the Demilles would like to thank you for your excellent puff piece in this month’s H&G. It’s marvellous to see your publication continue to use such quality paper despite these difficult times.
Your reporter was most unorthodox in her methods but was a regular Rosalind Russell in the field. Her jokes about sterilisation may not have been to everyone’s taste, but being supporters of the Conservative party we found them most amusing.
We have since replaced the broken items and replenished the drinks cabinet.
Demille x 2’
This was sufficiently unusual to compel Mr. Wonderful to re-read the original article and LaFlamme’s career as a freelancer began in earnest from that point.