ADVERTISER 150: Cockney rebel reporter Steve Harley admits turning ‘scruffy’ just to get the bullet
- Credit: Mike Callow
Cockney Rebel pop star Steve Harley has a confession about his time when he started as a young rebellious ‘cloak and dagger’ reporter in London’s East End in the 1960s. He is one of many celebrities who began their careers on the East London Advertiser, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this week. In Harvey’s own words...
I had worked through most of my indenture period by the time I arrived in the Advertiser offices in the Mile End Road. I shared a room in digs during my second eight-week block release session at Harlow with Malcolm Starbrook.
We became good friends and I remember intimating to him over a pint in the pub with a jukebox that I fancied returning to my roots in London.
The Advertiser editor back then had a vacancy. I resigned from Colchester’s Essex County Newspapers, where I had been given a good grounding.
I made good friends in the far reaches of Essex, and in east London, too. From both sets, I have mates to this day.
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There was Paul Henderson, now an associate editor at the Mirror, and still my friend, Ivan Waterman our NUJ union rep (Father of Chapel) who advised me on how best to go about leaving the job.
“Make them sack you,” he suggested. “Then you’ll receive Dole money straight away—if you resign, you’ll have to wait six weeks.”
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Ivan would become a successful News of the World showbiz reporter in Fleet Street and would probe me in West End nightclubs for gossip after I’d become a pop star.
Harvey Lee was with us, and as well as sharing with me several ‘cloak and dagger’ investigations into drug abuse, prostitution and their effects on the Advertiser’s editorial catchment area, who played bongo drums with me when I did a very early, unpaid gig at St Mary’s College, along the road from the office in Mile End Road. And dear Malcolm [who years later becomes editor, 2006-13].
Richard Madeley told me for the first time on his Pebble Mill TV show (Richard and Judy) that he got my seat after I was fired in the early 1970s. So you could say it’s all my fault (just kidding, Richard).
I was playing guitar and trying out my first songs at Bunjie’s and Les Cousin’s Soho folk clubs, and at Fulham’s Troubadour, during the evenings after days likely spent in Thames Magistrates’ Court.
The music world seemed to become an inexorable attraction and my obvious future career. So I grew my hair to annoy Bob Hutchins the editor, would slacken my tie, forget to shave and generally turn up at 9.30 with a scruffier look than was acceptable in such a job.
Bob eventually had to “let me go”. I had taken Ivan Waterman’s advice and rather regret it now.
I never meant to show disrespect to either the East London Advertiser hierarchy or the great profession of journalism I am extremely proud to have been part of.
Crikey, did I just finish a sentence with a preposition? Spike that piece!