My Mentor: Polly Graham on Matthew Wright

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The Independent Online

Matthew seemed to be the celebrity of the paper at the Daily Mirror. He was always jetsetting and meeting celebs, and the showbiz desk looked so much fun. I was working on features, thinking the grass was much greener over there. Eventually his assistant resigned and although I didn't have any experience I said I'd like to have a go at it and became deputy on his column. That's where I got my showbusiness training and I loved it. He launched me into this amazing world of parties and film premieres and meeting massive stars like Michael Caine, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. On other days I'd be sent to the latest restaurant where Madonna was dining, to sit at the table next to her. Or I'd go undercover to the EastEnders Christmas party to see who snogged who. Matthew could be difficult sometimes but mostly it was for my own good. One of the first things he said was that I had to accept every single invitation I got for the next six months, so I met all the PRs and built up my own contacts. He would hate it if I was just sitting around and say: "Get up and go out and do something," which I've always thought is exactly the way to find stories. He also looked slightly scornfully at my scruffy clothes and told me to get a designer wardrobe. But he was also really inspiring. He would often persuade celebrities to do stories you would never think they would. He was incredibly charming and very trustworthy and passionate. People would go to him with stories and I would just watch in awe.

He expected hard work and he could be moody because when you're out all night you get tired, but mostly he was very cheery and positive. It took me a year to settle in but once he thought I'd done my apprenticeship I began to edit the column when he went on holiday. I worked with him until 2000 and towards the end I was his trusted right hand woman, and very proud of it.

Polly Graham is celebrity editor of First magazine. Matthew Wright presents The Wright Stuff.