Lisa Mary London
Meet Lisa Mary London, former producer of ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ together with famous Maltipoo pooch Baby-Girl, the canine star of her hilariously witty debut novel Reality Rehab.
My exclusive interview with them is tongue-in-cheek, but Lisa’s answers are honest, fun, fascinating, and at times, gob-smacking. Enjoy!
It was a crisp winter’s morning in upmarket Highgate, North London, as I waited to meet Lisa and Baby-Girl, the world’s first four-legged reality TV star. Word must have hit social media about Baby-Girl’s imminent arrival, as a crowd of eager paw-tograph hunters had gathered – Reality Rehab fans, desperate for a selfie with mutt-of-the-moment.
I checked my phone for messages, then in the distance saw the candy pink stretch limousine approaching. The crowd surged forward as it drew up outside the Village Bistro. The lady chauffeur, resplendent in a pink uniform that matched the vehicle, shot out to release the door, before Lisa and her famous furry friend Baby-Girl emerged, both wearing designer sunglasses. My vision was blurred by the snapping of cameras as excited fans strained to catch a glimpse of the cuddly canine star of Reality Rehab.
London’s swanky Highgate is home to A-list celebrities including Kate Moss, Sting, Harry Styles and Reality Rehab’s heroine, soap star Gloria Grayson. Gloria had generously loaned her beloved pet to Lisa for the day, for our exclusive interview.
Lisa and I escaped the crowd and headed to Highgate’s boutique shops for some retail therapy. Lisa explained that as a celebrity dog, Baby-Girl never walks anywhere. When a human isn’t carrying her, she travels in Gloria’s chauffeur driven pink limo, otherwise known as The Poochmobile.
Lisa remarked with a wry smile: “Baby-Girl has legs, but she doesn’t like to use them!”
We popped into one Baby’s favourite pet boutiques, ‘Pooches With Panache’, and listened for her barks of approval as Lisa made various pink purchases. We chatted as if we’d known each other for years. Dressed in a vintage leopard print coat with a fabulous Chanel handbag, Lisa is fun, witty and charming and I was looking forward to our interview.
We bought lunch from a classy deli, (needless to say, Baby-Girl only ever eats human food), and returned to The Poochmobile. The three of us settled on the spacious leather seat and the chauffeur popped in to pour champagne for the ladies, and a bowl of Evian for Baby-Girl. Lisa adjusted the pink bow in Baby’s hair and we started to chat.
Jessie: Lisa, let’s talk about your book before we eat. Capture the essence of Reality Rehab in a couple of sentences.
Lisa: Reality Rehab is a topical laugh-out-loud satire on the cult of modern celebrity, written by myself, a former TV producer on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
A cast of hilarious characters, cliffhangers galore, and an authentic voice that could only come from a TV insider, Reality Rehab is a must-read novel!
Jessie: The book sounds great fun and is already getting national media attention. What have reviewers said about Reality Rehab?
At the mention of the book title, Baby-Girl threw her head back and howled, jumped off the seat and retrieved a copy of Reality Rehab from Lisa’s handbag. Lisa laughed and took the book from Baby’s mouth – discreetly wiping down the pink cover with a pink handkerchief.
Lisa: First, here’s an extract from Chapter Two. Gloria and her agent Belinda arrive at a TV station for a meeting with producers about the hit TV show Reality Rehab, and they step into the lift together:
I sneaked a sidelong glance at my esteemed agent. She was 70 if she was a day, pumped to the gills with fillers and on her fifteenth facelift – one more procedure and she’d be facing the other way.
Lisa: I’ve been overwhelmed with the response from readers, they are loving the book’s humour and enjoying a revealing peek behind-the-scenes of reality TV! Here are a few of the rave reviews:
“A sharp and skilfully observed satire that lampoons celebrity culture. The author has worked in TV and is clearly writing about what she knows, with authenticity dripping from each very turn-able page. Enjoy!” Ben Ando – BBC News Correspondent and Author
“Even if you have never seen reality TV, you will be tickled by Lisa Mary London’s hilarious novel. Get ready to read it and weep with laughter. A great pick-me-up… a Bloody Mary of cheerful reads!” Deborah Lawrenson – Bestselling Author
“A book that will lift your spirits, bring a tear to your eye and make you belly-laugh when you least expect it. But don’t be fooled by the frivolity, behind the humour there are some very meaningful themes, moving ideas and wonderful wisdom!” Howard Brenner – Amazon Reviewer
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book and did you miss any of the characters?
Lisa: I couldn’t quite believe I had actually completed a novel, after endless months of writing, proofing, polishing and editing those 86,000 words. When the initial euphoria wore off, I suffered a crisis of confidence – as most writers do – scared that no one out there would want to read it! To my great relief that fear wasn’t realised, and the book is getting rave reviews!
Reality Rehab’s protagonist, feisty former soap siren Gloria Grayson, has a special place in my heart. I based her on the glamorous actresses I looked up to as a child – sassy stars like Diana Dors, Elizabeth Taylor and Pat Phoenix. Women not girls, who dust themselves down and get back in the race, no matter what knocks and shocks life throws at them. Reality Rehab is Gloria’s story, and as I held her hand throughout her many triumphs and disasters, I must admit I was sad to let go after typing The End!
Gloria’s pooch Baby-Girl is one character I didn’t have to say goodbye to, because thankfully she often keeps me company when I write! Baby-Girl would sell her soul for a sausage and when not eating everything in sight, can usually be found fast asleep beside me, gently rumbling from both ends.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another friend, someone famous, a friend or member of your family.
Lisa: Without doubt Victoria Wood, who I was so lucky to call a friend for many years. I met her as a teenager through my love of comedy writing, and she was a friend, supporter and confidante for nearly three decades.
Vic read an early draft of Reality Rehab, and loved it. She said the synopsis was ‘hilarious and exciting’, and enthused that if she read that blurb on the back of a book jacket in WH Smith’s, she would buy it. She described Reality Rehab as ‘…really clever and very ‘now’’, said it deserved to be a hit and could translate well as a TV comedy drama. She was of course a brilliant writer and I like to think, in some small way, her influence and guidance over the years rubbed off on my writing. She generously gave me invaluable pointers which improved the structure and flow of the Reality Rehab plot.
Her death last year at just 62 was a devastating blow. She was immensely wise as well as witty, and a wonderful friend. I was so excited about giving her a copy of my finished book, and I’m desperately sad that she will never read it. Reality Rehab is dedicated to her.
Over the years Vic and I enjoyed many laughs over a cuppa or a glass of wine, and I know my debut novel would have made her chuckle. I’m hugely thankful for the time we shared. And I hope her comments about the book working on the small screen as a comedy drama could one day come to pass. Who knows? Truth is stranger than fiction.
Jessie: How incredible to receive such an accolade from a British comedy icon. It is such a shame she never got to read your published book. Why should I keep Reality Rehab in my handbag?
Lisa: Reality Rehab is that fabulous, funny friend you can always rely on to cheer you up when a red electricity bill’s popped through the door, you’ve broken a fingernail or the dog has weed on your new sofa. Carry a copy of Reality Rehab in your handbag, and you’re never stuck for wonderful company that will put a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and bring the feelgood factor to your world!
Jessie: I am keen to know if you are writing at present? What’s the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
Lisa: I’m currently working on the sequel to Reality Rehab, and the last sentence in my notebook reads: Get tea bags and sausages! I was running low on both items and had to re-stock as priority – I can’t write a stroke without the company of endless mugs of PG Tips and a well-fed pooch!
Jessie: What’s the biggest challenge for an author?
Lisa: Staying off social media – the call of Twitter and Facebook is strong and if you’re too quick to answer it, a five minute browse can easily become several hours of lost writing time!
Jessie: What’s the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
Lisa: Be a ruthless editor! The best writers delete as much text as they keep, are their own toughest critic, and are never totally content with their work. A bit of self-doubt is a healthy thing!
I’ve been privileged to come into contact with some exceptionally talented people in my life, and this rule of thumb applies to all of them. They are hard-working perfectionists to a man – and woman – with no concept of complacency. If a writer is smug and thinks they’re the bees knees, chances are their books will tell a different story!
Baby-Girl started to urgently nudge Lisa’s arm with her nose, fixing her with pleading eyes.
Lisa: She’s telling me she wants her posh deli sausages, Gloria always feeds her about now. In fact Gloria always feeds her – at all hours of the day!
Baby-Girl devoured her bowl of bespoke bangers and we unpacked our deli delights and shared a glamorous limousine lunch, as befits the hot new celebrity satire everyone’s talking about, Reality Rehab!
It was fabulous to meet Lisa Mary London, she is such a unique character. I know that her wonderful wit and skilled comedy writing will make Reality Rehab a winner. I look forward to seeing Baby-Girl’s next appearance on a reality TV show. Who knows, maybe there will be a spin-off series – ‘I’m a Celebrity Dog… Get Me Out of Here!’
I will let Lisa have the final word about herself!
Lisa Mary London is… A total one-off
Lisa Mary London is… A fabulous friend!
Lisa Mary London is… A fearsome foe!
Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows. Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Sir Billy Connolly to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.
‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’
Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria Grayson, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.
‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of attitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’
A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.
Gloria Grayson’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’). Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube). The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.
Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.