Power couples who make the news
Monday 12 January 1998
Jamie Rubin is used to making announcements. As the spokesman for the US State Department, he is one of the most quoted men in the world. Iran, the Middle East, Bosnia, Nazi war crimes: you name it, he's been quoted on it. But last Monday was a slow day. "I have no announcements for you," he announced at his daily Washington briefing. The journalists pounced. Every information vacuum must be filled and if Rubin wouldn't get political then things would have to get personal.
Was it true, a diplomatic correspondent demanded, that Rubin was engaged to CNN's star foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour? On the record, Rubin would not say. But later at a background briefing (where the rules forbid naming the source) a state department official confirmed the news, adding: "My mother is thrilled." The couple plan a summer wedding and have not decided which country to live in. Ms Amanpour, also known as the Goddess of War, lives in London while Mr Rubin resides in Washington. "My rent is still paid up and she's someone who needs more an airport than a residence," said the state department official.
The next day the papers were full of "woo and coo" items and it is becoming a bit of a custom for such things to be celebrated with copious amounts of bubbly diary pars and punning headlines ("A foreign affair" etc). Media marriages are nothing new, of course, it's just that now "power couples" are news themselves as the likes of Harry and Tiny and Conrad and Barbara already know. On another level, but still worth a diary par given a slow day, are the dozens of other marriages made in media-land.
"It's hard keeping up with who is married to who but it's a disaster if you don't and say the wrong thing," said one journalist (married to a journalist) with a grimace. These days power does often seem to travel in pairs. Here are just a few from the world of print. The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph have deputy editors married to each other (Sarah Sands and Kim Fletcher) while The Times has columnists (Nigella Lawson and John Diamond). Then there are the likes of Christina and Brian Appleyard (features executive and writer), Robert Fisk and Lara Marlowe (foreign correspondents) and Sean French (New Statesman columnist) and Nicci Gerrard (The Observer) who have even written a thriller together.
Some media couples insist on a news black-out at home, though the opposite seems far more common. The addiction of discussing the minutiae of Westminster politics, those Bosnia peace plans, that transport blueprint, the new Vivienne Westwood collection, fuels the dinner tables of many media couples, both before and after marriage. And don't forget those exciting conversations about who left what how many editors ago or the saga of the outrageous way that semi-colon was removed from the penultimate par by someone who probably didn't even know how to use a semi-colon in the first place. "Who else would have us?"asks Eve Pollard, who used to look out of her front window in the morning to see his-and-her limousines (and chauffeurs) waiting to take her and husband Sir Nicholas Lloyd to edit their respective Expresses.
"The big benefit is that they always understand. They know the stresses and strains. We've missed anniversaries, birthdays. We did manage our own wedding but only just,"says Rosie Millard, BBC arts correspondent who is married to Pip Clothier of World in Action. "When I first started I would ring Pip up and say, `I can't cope', and he would say, `Calm down. It's only TV.' "
So that's the good news, what's the bad? Off the record? Well, much the same as above, really. The hours, the obsessions, the sheer circularity of it all. "At least we'll have something to talk about other than the office now," said one media father-to-be when asked if he was looking forward to his new life as a dad. Nor is it too much fun if you're Richard and Judy at the moment, what with all those rumours, musical sofas and hacks going through your dustbins.
Then there is the trauma of finding a message for you propped up on the kitchen table - in T-line shorthand. The only problem being you don't do T-line. "Those notes in shorthand! I can't understand a word," exploded one journalist without shorthand married to one with. Another favourite is the experience of opening a newspaper or flipping on the television or radio and finding your own life on display. "It's terrible. I've written about our wedding, the birth, everything," admitted one woman. "He just says, `Have you no shame?'"
Next month Bel Mooney and Jonathan Dimbleby will have been married for 30 years. "You do speak the same language and you do know the parameters, pressures and priorities. There you go, there are three Ps for you. It really does make it easy to talk," she says. "I suppose the only negative was when I was having the children and I felt rather left behind. I was sitting up in bed and watching the television and saw Jonathan chairing a debate on abortion. I had done a lot of things on the subject and when he came home I was in tears. It was just straightforward jealousy."
Then there are always the envious eyes of others. Already it is said that Christiane Amanpour will have the inside track at the State Department (sources identified as "Rubin's pals"dismiss this as sexist claptrap). Back in the London world of advertising, Moray MacLennan and his wife Helen Chaffy still raise eyebrows when people find out that they work for the rival Saatchi agencies. "It's really not too much of a problem," he insists.
Other employers can be less understanding as writer Julie Davidson found out. "It's my good fortune to be married to the new editor of this newspaper. It's my bad luck to be sacked by him," she wrote in her (last) Glasgow Herald column six months ago. Scottish Media Group has a nepotism rule and her husband Harry Reid could not convince it that Julie should be the exception, not least because she was there first. And so she went - but not without having the last word. "I'm not bitter," she wrote, "but after 16 years of weekly service I claim the right to labour the point."
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