For the first time in my life, I’ve requested make-up. Well, for the first time in my professional life, to be sure. The BBC has announced my departure from PM and my new employer, LBC, wants to get me in for a Monday-morning photoshoot to accompany their own announcement. Their studios are always busy, what with being a 24-hour station, so I’m required to be at LBC Towers (as I’m sure no one calls it) for 6:15am before Nick Ferrari needs it at 7am.
They send a huge car to collect me from home. I ask if this is to be the new daily arrangement, and they’re very clear it’s a one-off. I’ve to get a rickshaw home. I’m dropped outside Global Radio HQ in Leicester Square in London.
- Eddie Mair explains his decision to leave the BBC: “None of my thinking has been influenced by pay problems”
- Eddie Mair on his encounter with two muggers in South America
- Eddie Mair reveals his new Radio Times column collection A Good Face For Radio
It is 5:45am. There are several people in Leicester Square and I’m confident I’m the only one who’s been to bed in the last six hours. I’m confident I’m the only one who’s had a shower in the past 48 hours.
The make-up, you ask?
I’m just back from holiday and despite the best efforts of the world’s finest sun-screen scientists in their laboratoires, my face is Central Line red. As I step out of the cab, passers-by clock my crumbling countenance and break into a chorus of The Singing Detective.
I’ve been talking to LBC for a year but have never set foot inside the building until this moment. It’s an unassuming front door in the corner of the famous square. There is a TGI Friday’s next door and just along the way the biggest Odeon you’ve ever seen. The Global front door by comparison looks tiny, like the kind of entrance you might have found in old Soho… no frills, but the promise of something stimulating upstairs.
I press the buzzer and announce myself. Upon entering I take selfies in a slightly overexcited new-boy way. Finally I’m here. There is a short corridor with a security barrier and a staircase to the left. I hang around, taking more photos.
Presently, there’s a voice from upstairs. “Um, you can come up, you know.” Clearly I’m one of those eejits not smart enough to realise that the stairs are there to be used and I shouldn’t stand in the entrance all day. I’m greeted by several senior LBC people who I can tell are startled by my face falling off but are too polite to say.
After a journey through a warren of corridors that hint at Tony Hall’s mind, we arrive in the studio. I apologise to the poor make-up artist who must try to make me presentable. She bursts into tears, resigns, and runs like a gazelle from the building. This happens two more times with two more artists until eventually Nick Ferrari himself comes in with a trowel and some cement. He says he always carries them and I’m grateful to him for his surprising expertise with foundation, blusher and C10 concrete.
The photographer does his best with what he’s given. Having A Good Face for Radio (out soon in paperback, kids), I have seen this before. Photographers can do very little with faces that don’t normally see daylight and settings that are essentially a microphone and a chair. But he’s good, and quick, and before long I’m taken to a boardroom on the eighth floor that resembles Lord Sugar’s.
“Am I being voted off?” I quip, as they study the small print of my signed contract.
And then a trapdoor opens and I’m back in Leicester Square.