To a 26-year-old just getting used to the newsroom of a national paper, meeting the legendary Marje Proops was nerve-racking. I had just been made women's editor of the Mirror and one of my tasks was to assist Marje in running the Mirror Bride of the Year competition she had launched 15 years before.
You never popped in on Marje, you were always summoned. She was definitely what I would describe as old school. She dressed immaculately and had her own huge office with a coterie of staff. In someone so formal you would expect a very stuffy manner, but she had the most wicked sense of humour. She was marvellously indiscreet about her then boss, the young Piers Morgan. "He's just a boy," she'd say to me. Moments later I'd marvel as she was all sweetness and light to him, telling him what a brilliant journalist he was.
Once Marje liked you, you'd be taken for one of her regular lunches at the First Edition restaurant in Canary Wharf. If you were accepted into the inner circle, you would then be invited to her favourite restaurant, Pont de la Tour. I'd watch in awe as a stream of diners walked over to say hello. She had a ferocious curiosity and would ask me about my sex life. I'd blush as she explained why it was important to be having good orgasms.
Marje was unstintingly kind. One year, I was her companion to the Press Awards. She looked amazing in a sequinned outfit but, increasingly infirm, she needed help on the stairs and constantly apologised for being a nuisance. The next day a parcel arrived - Marje had sent me a Dior diamanté pin in the shape of my initials. It's a treasured possession.
I was so sad when I found out she had died. She would have loved her own funeral, a stream of the great and good of Fleet Street paying their respects. I'm sure she was looking down on them all, making some marvellously waspish remarks.
Jane Johnson is the editor of 'Closer', which marks its fourth birthday next week. Marje Proops was the 'Daily Mirror' agony aunt for 50 yearsReuse content