Thursday, December 02, 2010

Lester Middlehurst RIP

Dear, dear Lester, my friend, what the hell happened? I have just found out about your death and I am so, so shocked and sad.

I remember clearly the first time I met Lester because he introduced me to Bollinger champagne. I've liked it ever since. It was 1988 and we were in a crowd of other showbiz hacks on an overnight in glorious Southampton for a seriously second string variety TV special. After the show, we headed for dinner and Lester insisted on Bollinger all the way. It was a major treat for us uneducated hacks - £17 a bottle, I think. Hey, they were the days. I got so hammered that I had to get another journalist to drive my car back to London the next day.

I got to know Lester well in the ensuing years and more often than not the champagne flowed at some point. Lester lived fast and had an impressive in-take capacity. He was also an amazingly diligent interviewer, a real pro' who prepped well and had a subtle charm with his subjects.

We lost touch for ages, but we re-connected only a few years back. He lived in Battersea, just across the bridge from me and we had a fair few party nights with his local crowd. We used to head to Electric and Soho House. Lester inherited a big lump of money and had started living it up even more than usual. He bought a duplex in Battersea Square. A New Year's Eve party there was particulalry memorable, as was his lavish 50th birthday party at the Thai on the River. I last saw Lester for coffee when I was setting up Access We were going to archive all his work on the website. He was upbeat and had been travelling a lot. He had a new young boyfriend.

I always loved Lester's company. He was irreverent and fun and his devil may care attitude was infectious. You'd be out on a night with him and you wouldn't pause to worry about tomorrow's hangover. I fear this constant approach to life exacerbated some of his deep-rooted complexities and may have got the better of him. It is awful to think of Lester, the beating heart of so many parties, being so unhappy in his final hours.

I feel that there is only one way for me to celebrate his life: I will go out and buy a bottle of Bollinger and raise a glass to him. I think he would expect nothing less. Well, OK, he'd expect at least two bottles.

Take care, Lester.

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Journalist, founder of Access, creator of The Definite Article interview column in Daily Mail's Weekend magazine.