HOW WE MET

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The Independent Culture
LYNNE FRANKS AND PAUL MCKENNA

Lynne Franks, 49, founded her eponymous PR company - which would become as much a symbol of the Eighties as wine bars and red braces - when she was 21. In 1992, shortly before her client Jennifer Saunders parodied the PR world in `Absolutely Fabulous', Franks sold the business and left her marriage to travel and meet spiritual leaders, politicians and environmentalists. She now lives with her partner in London. Paul McKenna, 33, was a successful DJ before switching to hypnotism in the late Eighties. His regular TV shows now attract millions of viewers; off screen he is the first port of call for celebrities seeking hypnotic therapy. He lives alone in London

LYNNE FRANKS: Eight years ago, Lenny Henry or Ruby Wax - it may even have been Dawn French - told me that I had to see Paul McKenna's show. I didn't know anything about him, but I went along. He made a dramatic entrance and said: "Would anybody like to be hypnotised?" I thought: "Who'd want to volunteer to do something like that?" - but to my amazement, hundreds of people just ran down from the seats to be on stage. He was inundated! He was fascinating to watch and I was very impressed. Afterwards, I went backstage and then had supper with him at the Spaghetti House in Leicester Square. He is such an easy-going, nice person; we talked about life, and found we had lots of mutual interests.

Paul and I kept in touch and, because we had so much in common, our friendship naturally evolved. When we met he was still a DJ at Capital Radio and had only just started his career as a hypnotist, so he used to call a lot and ask for advice. And he came and did me a favour by performing at the Lynne Franks PR Christmas party one year - at what is now the Cobden Club - doing this brilliant cabaret act. There were lots of journalists at the party, and when Paul asked for volunteers to be hypnotised, no one came forward. It was amazing how embarrassed everybody got - including me! Paul said afterwards that it was the toughest gig he'd ever done, because his "audience" hadn't gone to a theatre especially to see him- they'd just gone to a Christmas party wanting to have fun and get out of it. But people did eventually volunteer and then they all got into it and it was the talk of the town for months.

Although I was too scared to volunteer at the party, Paul subsequently hypnotised me privately. When I get really desperate about losing weight - my constant thing - I say to him: "Oh, Paul, give me a bit of help so I can be a bit more in control." He puts simple little techniques inside my head and if I keep doing what he tells me, it works. He can also, by using certain key instructions, make you feel very high just by connecting with your endorphins which are things that you release if you do sports, or after sex. He did that on the phone once and it was fantastic. Paul is terribly good-tempered and never minds being asked to hypnotise people. You'd think it would drive him mad, like it drives doctors mad being asked to diagnose people at parties!

Paul is always positive, very up and chirpy. I was reading about Elton John's fancy-dress party in Hello! magazine, and it had several paragraphs of quotes from Paul saying how wonderful the party was. That's typical of Paul - incredibly enthusiastic and oozing good energy. Paul and I were talking about the fact that people often go to fancy-dress parties as their secret type. I didn't go to the party, but he told me that our mutual friend, Janet Street-Porter, went as Wonderwoman, and that's definitely an aspect of Janet, and Elton John went as an old French king/queen! Paul went as a cardinal and I think that there is a certain amount of the priest in Paul, because he goes on stage and likes talking to people about the values of life.

Paul and I like to talk, so we generally have dinner. He'll come round here and we'll have supper and talk all evening about the new ideas coming out of California, and the experiences we've had. We both go to the States a lot - Paul is extremely ambitious and determined to make it in America, where he is investing a lot of his time and energy. Paul is over 10 years younger than me and I don't have that driving ambition any more. I am at the point where my children are grown up, I've had my business and I've been recognised as being very good at what I did. I've had my big house, I've had my big car - I've done all that stuff. Paul has still got all that to go through. I have absolutely no doubt that he'll be a huge star in America. I'm quite sure that Paul will do anything he wants to - he has that ability.

Paul has split up with his fiancee Clare Staples, but they are still good friends and business partners. I keep saying to him that I'd love to see them get back together because I think they are a couple made in heaven. She is very pretty, but she's also a wonderful person - warm and funny. They told me a wonderful story once. Clare had a dream that she and her soul partner were spirits in heaven. Her soul partner said to her: "We have to go down to earth now, we have to get born." And she said: "Oh but I don't want us to lose each other." Her soul partner touched them both in the same place on their backs and said: "We'll always know each other because we'll have this mark." Now, Clare told Paul that story before they'd ever seen each other undressed - and they both have the same birthmark! I always thought they were absolutely suited to each other and I keep my fingers crossed that they will get back together. I love them both, and I think they are wonderful people and wonderful together.

PAUL MCKENNA: I was doing my first London stage shows, at the Duke of York's theatre in 1989, and someone said to me: "Lynne Franks is coming to see your show tonight." I'd heard that she was the PR guru and a fascinating character. So after the show we met up and she invited me to go for dinner. We talked about meditation, yoga and Buddhism - things which have always been of interest to me. There are a lot of parallels between Buddhism, meditation and modern psychological techniques like hypnosis.

After that I'd bump into Lynne at functions or we'd arrange to meet up. She helped me with some PR and, early on, asked me to do this show for a load of hard-nosed journalists at her Christmas party. Nobody wanted to volunteer for hypnosis: the journos were all standing there with their glasses clutched tightly to their chests going: "You're not getting me." Eventually a group of people volunteered and I had them do some funny stuff, but it was hard work. The only other audience I had like that were estate agents.

Lynne and I are from different generations, but the things that she's interested in, like ecology, appeal more to my generation - maybe that's why we get on so well. She's incredibly bubbly, light-hearted and playful, but at the same time she's cleverer than some people might think. Lynne has a lot of energy and she's a doer - she built a PR empire and that doesn't happen by accident. She is a very open person - on occasions too open for her own good, considering the things that have been written about her interest in New Age stuff. I don't think she gets wound up about what the tabloids say - she knows that often people laugh or make snide comments because they don't understand, and people fear what they don't understand. If you think back, Galileo was in big trouble for saying "Look through the telescope", Louis Pasteur was accused of being in league with the devil, and even 20 years ago osteopaths were considered quacks.

If Lynne was upset by the outrageous caricature in Absolutely Fabulous, then I didn't notice. Obviously there are some similarities between Lynne and Edina. Lynne is someone who tries out new or unusual things (she's tried crystal and spiritual healing, rebirthing, celibacy), but at the same time the Edina character is extremely flaky and drunk a lot, and Lynne is not like that at all. I told Lynne that, like a piece of journalism, a programme says as much about the person who writes it as it does about the person being written about.

I was surprised when she left her husband, they seemed like such a happy couple. But he is obviously a very clever businessman, so perhaps when her values changed and she wanted to move away from the hustle and bustle of business, maybe leaving the marriage was part of the change too. I'm very pleased that she has found a new partner. Tom Blakeslee is a cool guy. Like Lynne, he ran a successful business - in electronics - but he is an artist as well.

Since giving up her business in 1992, Lynne has been much more relaxed. The pressures of running a huge PR agency were phenomenal; when I'd phone up she'd be on two telephones and very hyper. Although Lynne's values have changed since then - she's stopped earning so much money, she's sold her big house and big car - I don't think her core personality is any different. She's still got lots of energy. But I think she's enjoying going on retreats and hanging out in India and the west coast of America, mixing with more artistic people and doing workshops rather than convincing hard-nosed business people that they need to follow this or that strategy.

What I would miss about Lynne is the fun, the laughs, the adventurous spirit, the conversation. She's a very optimistic person and I really like that. Optimism is something I find more in America than in the United Kingdom. We are a much more pessimistic race, generally speaking. I can't be around the pessimists too long and neither can Lynne; perhaps that's why we're friends.

! `Absolutely Now', Lynne Franks's book about her life since leaving the world of PR, is published on Thursday (Century, pounds 16.99).

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