From time to time I come to London for the day, if for no other reason than to give myself the pleasure of returning to the country, and I was there again this week, steering my way through Soho past the queues of tired-eyed people waiting to get into the Groucho and interview each other. And who should I bump into but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the man who has done for PR what Max Clifford has done for Max Clifford.
"Adrian!" I cried. "Long time no see."
He didn't hear me. He was walking along the street with a mobile phone clamped to each ear. I stepped in front of him and waved my arms.
"Must go," he said to his phones when he saw me. "I'm just starting a meeting." He terminated both calls simultaneously.
"Hi," Adrian said. "Time for a cup of something?"
"Fine," I said. "How do you manage two simultaneous phone calls and walk at the same time?"
"I don't," he said. "It was the same call on two phones. When you get it in stereo, it cuts out the background noise. Let's go in here..."
And he took me by the elbow and steered me into a coffee bar defiantly called "Not Starbucks", where a moment later I was having a double espresso and he was having a bottle of mineral water.
"Mineral water, Adrian?" I said. "At 11am? Is it time for your clean-living cycle again?"
Adrian's lifestyle, he told me once, is a bit like that of a washing machine. But instead of soak, wash, rinse and spin, it's smoke, drink, repent and clean. The "soak" cycle is common to both, he added wryly.
"Not particularly," he said, "but I am working for a client who does not approve of alcohol and I like to fall in with his little ways."
"A puritan?" I said.
"A Muslim," he said. "You may have heard of him. A Mr Osama bin Laden."
"Not exactly a PR man's dream, I would have thought," I said.
"I always look on the bright side with my clients," shrugged Adrian. "In Mr bin Laden's case, that's not as hard as you might think. I mean, in his favour he has not ever taken any money from Enron. He is not the dictator of Zimbabwe. And he has never killed anyone in Jerusalem. So already he is streets ahead of President Bush, Robert Mugabe and the state of Israel. Plus, he doesn't drink, and he keeps a tidy cave. I like that in a man."
I wondered briefly what sort of a job Adrian would have done on Hitler...
"So, what does Mr bin Laden want from you?"
"My client has a problem," said Adrian. "He has been landed with a whole chain of terrorist training camps round the world which are all currently making a loss due to adverse trading conditions in the terrorist world, and he wants me to rethink them."
"And I have recommended him to turn them all into holiday camps. Club al-Qa'ida. Club Kalashnikov AK-47. Taliban-a-Go-Go. The name doesn't matter, as long as the image is right."
"Image?" I said. "But the image is of killing! The image of al-Qa'ida camps is of people being trained to go out and kill other people!"
"Exactly the same image as any Territorial Army training camp," said Adrian patiently, "but nobody ever bombed a Territorial Army base on the grounds that young Christians were being trained to kill people there."
"I still don't see how you can sell al-Qa'ida camps as holiday places..."
"Easy! They're all in hot sunny countries, so if you add a smell of adventure and danger, you're home and dry. People don't want the old sea, sand and sex holidays any more. They want sun, shell and shoot! The safer civilised life becomes, the more danger the average red-blooded man craves! You don't get people going bungee-jumping in times of war. Look..."
He pulled something out of his briefcase. It was a mock-up of an advertisement reading: "Are you man enough for an Al Kaeda Holiday?"
"I don't know..." I said.
"Food's going to be good," said Adrian, pulling out a menu. "Different, too. Allah carte... Thousand Virgin dressing..."
His phone rang. He answered it.
"Osama, old boy!" he cried. " 'Fraid you're breaking up a bit. Any chance that you could step out of the cave and move into the open..?"
I left him to it.Reuse content