Today out of my archive comes Now!, a magazine launched by the business tycoon Sir James Goldsmith – ‘Goldenballs’ as he was known to Private Eye – as a right-wing news weekly. Ridiculing the Queen is rarely a good idea for newspapers and magazines – even Kelvin McKenzie could not get away with it at the height of his powers as editor of The Sun. And Now! had a powerful enemy on its back – Private Eye.
Private Eye and Goldsmith had fought vicious legal battles and from the outset the Eye ridiculed Now! , though never using its proper title, instead dubbing it ‘Talbot!’.
Before the first issue came out on September 14, 1979, the Eye ran a page ridiculing the magazine and its journalists under a reversed-out headline in Now!‘s title type, saying WHO?. A subdeck asked ‘Up what part of whom are these seedy looking hacks gazing in admiration?’ The first paragraph read:
You won’t recognise any of these people(except possibly John Lander, who used to be on News at Ten years ago). Others are better known in the bars and betting shops of Soho. But all of them have one thing in common. They are all anxious about the future. That’s why they’ve all decided to invest in the James Goldsmith Pension Fund of Funds.
It goes on to set out the reasons of all the hacks in sycophantic terms. One of the editors has a speech bubble saying: ‘If you know a better hole, look up it!’ (A reference to the Bruce Bairnsfather cartoon character Old Bill, whose most famous cartoon has the grumpy First World War soldier stuck in a water-filled shell hole and saying to a colleague, ‘If you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it!’)
Such was the Eye‘s venom that as well as frequent articles, it even ran a regular strip cartoon, called Focus on Fact – Talbot!, ridiculing Goldsmith and the magazine. When Now! folded with a final issue dated 24 April 1981, Private Eye ran a celebratory cover ‘Talbot memorial issue. A nation mourns’ (5 May).
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design