Gay Times October 08 - Issue 361
In The Know: Mark Frith
The former editor of Heat is the man who kick-started our contemporary obsession with celebrity culture
More from Gay Times October 08 - Issue 361
Will Young is my least favourite celebrity. He was very rude to me when we were on Pop Idol Extra together. We’d just run an interview in Heat with Gareth’s mum, and Will accused me, on live TV, of making up the quotes in that interview, which we hadn’t done. Simon Cowell says the reason Will has a problem with him, and with us, was because it seemed we were supporting Gareth. You just have to get over that.
I was ridiculously shy at school and hardly had any friends. Magazines were my world – I read them obsessively and I did a paper round purely to raise money to buy them. When I went through my A-Level years, I had a really confident best friend who pulled me out of my shell.
My family were OK when I dropped out of college to work at Smash Hits, because they knew that’s what I’d have wanted to do at the end of my course.
I’d never been on a plane when I started there. Then suddenly I was flying to Munich, on the day of the German reunification, to interview Lisa Stansfield. To be there during that weekend was just incredible – it felt quite glamorous and exciting.
I was the youngest-ever editor of Smash Hits until Kate Thornton became editor. It was sickening that she was younger than me. I’ve checked interviews where she’s said her age, just to work out whether she really was. Unfortunately, it’s true.
If I were a biscuit, I’d be a fig roll. It seems a bit northern and sentimental, and probably a bit old-fashioned.
I’m one of those annoying people who leaps out of bed in the morning and is all, “Hello world!” It’s the way I’ve always been – I’m lucky like that.
What interests me about celebrity culture is that it’s anthropological. It’s all about how people get on, fall out and fall in love with each other. That’s what engaged me and kept me engaged.
Victoria Beckham saved Heat. I was trying to talk her PR into letting her do an interview with us. I suddenly said, “What about all this rubbish in the tabloids – surely Victoria wants something out there that says it’s a load of nonsense?” She did, and we were on our way.
I had a few sleepless nights as editor, but not as many as you’d expect. I worried more during the day than at night.
Jordan and [her son] Harvey are on the cover of OK! magazine quite a lot, and she talks with humour about his eating habits. So [the sticker Heat printed] was a reference to that. In our world it made sense, but in the cold light of day it didn’t and we were very quick to apologise. We made a mistake and we regretted it.
The celebrity I feel most sorry for is Kerry Katona. Her life turned upside down when [her husband] Bryan McFadden met [Australian singer] Delta Goodrem. Previously she was in a cosy, secure, happy family set-up, which she’d never had a chance of in her childhood. Suddenly that all ended through no fault of her own.
I’m a real advocate of what they’re trying to do in LA, with paparazzi keeping their distance. There’ll always be paparazzi photographers – it’s part of the deal for celebrities – but there’s an issue with how close they get.
The day I left Heat I made a speech. I said, “I hope that, if nothing else, I’ve shown you can be the editor of a magazine without being a wanker, wandering around screaming and shouting, like the stereotype in films and TV shows.”
Reality is now a part of all TV. In the Olympics, you had these little films before Rebecca Adlington swam, where you got to meet her parents and you knew about her childhood. So when she was swimming you felt you were part of that because you’d got to know her.
I wouldn’t pose naked for a million dollars. Never in a million years.
I’m a dad now and a lot of people around me think that’s made a huge change. My son was born in December 2005 and we have a second baby due at the beginning of next year. I’m not sure whether [my girlfriend] Gaby would like more children, but two is fine for me.
I sometimes look back at how someone who got into magazines because he liked Pop music could end up doing a magazine that’s so controversial, when, in himself, he’s not at all controversial. It’s one of life’s weird ironies.
Mark Frith’s book, The Celeb Diaries: The Sensational Inside Story of the Celebrity Decade, is out now from Ebury Press, £14.99
Words: Peter Hart
Photos Leon Csernohlavek, www.leon-c.com