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Paul Callan

Posted: November 22nd, 2020

FORMER Daily Mirror Diarist and feature writer PAUL CALLAN has died. (Image: Mirrorpix)

By ANDY LINES, Daily Mirror: PAUL CALLAN had an extraordinary career with the Mirror and was one of the most colourful journalists on Fleet Street. He reported for the paper from all over the world, including the Falklands and China. He died on Saturday, November 21 [2020] aged 81 after a fall at his home.

Paul was one of the biggest characters in the Mirror’s 117 year history. Paul had an extraordinary career with the paper and was one of the most colourful and much loved journalists on Fleet Street.

Daily Mirror editor Alison Phillips said: “Paul was a legend of the Mirror newsroom. A master of the written word who covered some of the biggest stories of his generation, he was also a friend and mentor to younger reporters. He will always be remembered and very much missed.”

Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan said: “Paul was a wonderful writer whose copy always sizzled with great flair. He was also one of the great characters in Fleet Street history, a fabulous raconteur and enormously good fun at any social gathering. The Daily Mirror was hugely enriched by his journalism and his presence in the newsroom.”

Paul’s daughter Jessica was one of the Daily Mirror’s first 3AM girls in our ground-breaking showbiz column. In a poignant post on Facebook she said: “I’m heartbroken to have to say that my father Paul Callan died today. He had been unwell for some time and was recently diagnosed with cancer which he wanted to keep quiet. So unlike him to want to keep anything quiet!

“He had a fall in the early hours of today and passed away very quickly. He wanted a huge, great send-off at St Bride’s so we will arrange a memorial next year when we can all see each other. Raise a toast to him in the meantime, if you can. He would have loved that.”

Paul is survived by his wife of 47 years, Steffi, former news editor of NBC News London bureau, daughter Jessica, son Jamie and his two grandchildren Scarlett and Gabriel.

By ALAN FRAME  (With thanks to Daily Drone:

Paul Callan, one of Fleet Street’s greatest talents — and greatest larger than life characters — died on Saturday, November 21 [2020]. He was 81 and had a heart attack after falling at his home in Wimbledon.

Callan was a star on whichever newspaper he planted his ample frame and brilliant gifts. The Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary in the late 60s was followed by the Daily Mail Diary with Nigel Dempster in the 70s. That’s where I first met him, though that really should read ‘heard’ him as he made his high decibel return from lunch.

During his tenure on the Mail he persuaded the notoriously reticent and difficult Greta Garbo to grant an interview (it was never ‘give’ with the big stars in those days) whom he met at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc in Cannes. ‘Miss Garbo, I wonder…’ he began. At which point Garbo really did want to be alone, stalking off and muttering: ‘Why wonder?’ Resourceful as ever, our hero got a full-page feature out of it.

Then it was off to Mike Molloy’s Daily Mirror where he wrote a series of notable celebrity interviews, usually conducted around a sparkling swimming pool in Beverly Hills and with film types who actually did want to say something.

In 1973 Paul joined the fledgling LBC radio, making an unlikely pairing with Janet Street-Porter as presenters on the station’s breakfast show. Sound engineers christened them ‘Cut Glass’ and ‘Cut Froat’ in recognition of their very different accents. He also had a spot on Classic FM.

It was in 1991 when he joined the Express and I was allegedly his boss. The truth is, he was a joy to attempt to supervise, the ultimate professional and despite the long and sometimes riotous lunches (as often as not in my company) he never failed to deliver. He was a master of all he was set; a TV column, the parliamentary sketch, news colour and the big feature.

In 1995 on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I sent Paul, who was Jewish, to cover the event. The result was a spread which was as fine and as moving as anything he had done. His expenses a few days later also brought tears to the eyes…

Callan was one of the great fixtures of El Vino holding court along with Brian Vine, Dempster, John Edwards, Peter McKay, Peter Tory and assorted editors. By the 90s he looked more like a judge having a quick snifter after a tricky fraud case over the road, all pinstripes, bow tie and large vodka. Sorry, vodkas plural. He was very well read with wit to match. At dinner at my home I tripped when carrying roasted pheasants as I came out from the kitchen. As the late birds flew past the dining room door Paul exclaimed: ‘My God, they’re still alive!’

Tory, Callan’s great friend and one-time rival, gleefully recounted the story of Paul arriving at El Vino one lunchtime with a massive black eye. ‘We all had our suspicions about its origins but the recipient launched into one of his famed tales, replete with dramatic recreation. He’d been to the ‘Bank in the Sky’ at the Mirror the previous evening and after a sharpener was strolling elegantly to the Tube when viciously attacked by a huge black assailant.

“Callan fought back heroically but his muscled attacker overpowered him, beat him down and raced off with the stash of expenses. As the mugger fled into the gathering gloom, a groggy Callan staggered to his feet and yelled after his fleeing assailant: ‘But I still support the aspirations of your people!”’

Paul was born in London and, despite the myth, was not the product of Eton but of a grammar school. His great sense of self deprecation was exemplified by the purchase of a bundle of OE ties (doubtless on expenses) which he then distributed to Fleet Street’s finest gossip hacks. The man had style.

Paul Callan was married to the lovely Steffi Fields, the former London Correspondent of Women’s Wear Daily, for 47 years. They had two children Jessica, one of he original Mirror 3am girls, and James.

SUE BULLIVANT: “This is so sad, Paul was such good company. When I impersonated Marlene Dietrich at the Man of the People charity show in about 1979, I wore one of his bow ties. He was also the reviewer of the show for [house journal] Mirror Group News. His verdict on my performance? ‘Falling out of tune again’.”

BILL ROWNTREE: “I first met Paul in the late 1950s when he was a reporter for the Auckland Star, the evening paper in New Zealand’s biggest city. I had recently been ‘headhunted’ and joined the staff on the New Zealand Herald, the morning paper

Paul and I were both in our early 20s, and I suspect both of us got the more routine assignments. Some of them had great benefits, but there were no ‘expenses’ in New Zealand. I would regularly meet Paul on what we knew as the ‘ship run’.

Two American cruise ships, ‘Mariposa’ and ‘Monterey’, made regular voyages to Auckland every couple of weeks. Matson Line had an arrangement with the Customs office that allowed a photographer and reporter from each paper to meet the ships as they entered harbour.

It meant being down at the docks at 5am and clambering up a rope ladder to get on board, but we were both fitter and thinner then. The ship’s PR team would almost always have passengers who were happy to meet the NZ press. The most interesting one, I recall, was Ernest Borgnine, star of the film Marty, which had reached New Zealand only a year or so earlier.

But, other than getting a good show in our respective papers, there were two other perks. The ship’s PR would always invite us Paul and I for breakfast and this would be the meal of the week.

Better still, if one of us had been able to acquire a few U.S. dollars, we could visit the ship’s shop and buy a bottle or two of Old Spice aftershave. I would smuggle it back in my camera bag. Old Spice was unavailable at any price in New Zealand, and with a little care, one bottle could last a month. It made us feel like kings! Well, princes anyway.”

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