Rachel Johnson explains how she managed to appear on a national television debate in just her birthday suit.
A Tweet to me from the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, the morning after the climate change activists superglued their buttocks to the glass shield protecting the public from our MPs in the House of Commons: ‘Yo Rach can I interview you about the time you took your top off?’
I tweeted back, thinking, how can this even still possibly be a thing?
It turned out Zoe was writing a piece about the history of naked protest down the years from Lady Godiva to the Naked Remoaner, Dr Victoria Bateman, so I let her run on and then I told her what actually happened, so here goes…
It was during the week that you couldn’t switch on the television without seeing Dr Bateman’s pixelated boobs and bush and I suggested to Toby Sculthorp, my horrible overlord of an editor on Sky, that as a silly stunt on The Pledge one of the panellists should got their kit off like Bateman and do the show in their birthday suit.
Toby called me straightaway and said: ‘For once in your life Johnson you have had a good idea.’ And to cut a long story short, he told me I was going to be the chosen one to strip and in return he would definitely take me out to lunch and possibly not sack me in the next round of cuts before the 10th season of The Pledge got under way.
I agreed and together with the genius, delightful, clever Fern Tomlinson and the show’s superb director James Haggar we cooked up a plan that I would take my shirt off and then he would blur the screen from the chest down.
We would not reveal to the public that I was wearing a beige bralet thing but let the public believe that I had gone Brextits up.
I told all this to Zoe and said: ‘I wasn’t naked, and it wasn’t a protest, but who cares? What’s so bizarre is this – the stunt worked far too well. Even though there are no pictures of my boobs online everyone thinks they’ve seen them.’
The stunt (note: not protest) went viral and delighted headline writers across Europe, so I now know the word for ‘breasts’ in many languages. I thought it might make a nib in the Express. Ha! I had calls from the editor of the Daily Mail and the editor of the Sun, just checking in person whether I had flashed or not and sounding disappointed in me that I hadn’t.
‘But I had a notification from the Mirror saying you’d gone topless on my phone!’ complained Tony Gallagher, from the Sun. Oh well. He says his offer for me to do Page Three anytime stands so if I am really on my uppers after a no-deal Brexit I might take him up on it.
Ps. Toby Sculthorp hasn’t sacked me yet (or taken me out to lunch, the utter swine) but it’s surely a matter of time.
I loved At Eternity’s Gate, the Julian Schnabel movie about Vincent van Gogh, and found it immensely tender and revelatory. As the painter-director explained, it’s a first person film, which means the movie is not about him, you are him: you see almost everything through the artist’s eyes and, at the end of it, feel as if you have walked in his shoes down lonely tree-lined lanes towards distant churches, or tramped across fields of dying sunflowers, or cut your own ear off. ‘The movie came out of looking at the paintings,’ said Schnabel, who painted all the painted props (ie Van Gogh’s paintings as seen in the film) himself, and taught Willem Dafoe – who does not play Vincent, but transformed into him – to wield a brush. Go see it.
I was so hooked that I barged into the Tate Britain show, Van Gogh and Britain, for my next fix. Before I plunged in to the must-see stuff I popped into the Djanogly Café for a beetroot and hummus wrap, and found myself next to a Dutch mother and daughter who had come to pay homage to one of their nation’s sons. As Brexit approaches such encounters make me feel very sad that we are getting divorced, but we still have no idea what is going to happen to the children, the house, and above all the dog. A needless waste of goodwill and fraternity, and in exchange for what? A handful of trade deals. Never has so much been squandered by so few for so many.
A text arrives from my former managing editor at the Mail on Sunday, John Wellington. The British Press Awards happened this week and this year I’m not a columnist for that paper and therefore not even a bridesmaid, let alone a bride. ‘But you seem to be getting about a bit, regardless,’ Wellie wrote. ‘I read somewhere you had stripped on TV. Surely that merits an award?’