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296 - The Private Eye Lunch



The satirical magazine Private Eye recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. One of its great traditions is the “Private Eye lunch,” which takes place once a fortnight in an upstairs room in the Coaches and Horses pub in Soho. As deputy editor Francis Wheen explains, the idea is that you invite public figures, give them too much to drink and then wait for them to reveal their secrets:

Francis Wheen (Standard British accent)
That’s always been my policy, except it doesn’t always work because what tends to happen is that I get them drunk, but then I get myself drunk as well and by the next morning I can’t remember a single story they told me! But… we now actually, Ian Hislop, the editor and I, have a… sort of good cop/bad cop – well, actually sober cop/drunk cop more – routine, I think, so he’s very abstemious, he might have one glass of wine, but no more than that, so he can usually, even if I can’t remember… what’s gone on, after a 10-hour lunch, Ian has usually managed to pick it up himself. I do scribble it down before oblivion takes over completely! Now I’m afraid it’s the… last refuge of drinking hacks because all newspapers in the days of Fleet Street, 20 or 30… 30 years ago certainly, Fleet Street was notorious for… most journalists spending their day in pubs and wine bars, in Fleet Street, whereas now journalists in London come into work, log on to their computer, stare at the screen all day and then go straight home again, and all that, the long lunches and the drinking have gone and I’m sure it’s a very good thing, but once every two weeks we try to keep the… the flame burning a bit longer… It would be impossible if you did it every day, but once every two weeks, it’s just about bearable!

(Francis Wheen was talking to Mark Worden)

For more on Private Eye, visit: www.private-eye.co.uk