Saatchi and Trinny find love in a rather convenient place
Sceptics might wonder if the adman and the style guru are in need of publicity, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
It's a bit alarming to be more cynical even than tabloid colleagues, but I must own up. Much as I revel in popular culture and "I-don't-believe-it!" gossip, I'm an historian, and my training keeps kicking in to ask niggling questions and ruin attractive stories. And so I have severe doubts about whether adman and art dealer Charles Saatchi, 70, whose wife, the cook Nigella Lawson, 53, left him in mid-June and divorced him six weeks later, is "finding love again" with fashion guru Sarah-Jane 'Trinny' Woodall, 49.
To those with short memories, Nigella's equanimity had been disturbed less because Charles put his hands around her throat in an altercation in a Mayfair restaurant, and more because when photographs appeared in the press a week later, he stubbornly refused to respond in a way that would have made the story go away, i.e. by publicly confessing, repenting and promising to sin no more.
There was allegedly much private pleading for reconciliation, but Nigella was having none of it and is now living in Los Angeles presenting The Taste, a cookery competition, and charming America.
Since I care for good art and talented neglected artists, I have it in for Saatchi, for without him the horror that is talentless, sensationalist Brit Art (dead sharks, unmade beds and all that) might never have happened (see my vengeful satirical novel Killing the Emperors). So I was thrilled when last month an art gallery showed a work inspired by his unconvincing description of what had happened with Nigella.
Called Playful Tiff, it was in the form of a 6ft 7in mannequin with a blood-red face, horns and an outstretched arm and clutching fingers. Accompanied by a helpful notice explaining "this is not Charles Saatchi", the anonymous artist invited the public "to take a picture of yourselves being strangled by not Charles Saatchi on your mobile phone". Apparently it proved very popular.
Now since Saatchi is known to be reclusive and the divorced Trinny makes much of being shy, a sceptic might ask why they should choose to be seen in public on four occasions since September 9 on what tabloids call "intimate dinner dates" – three of them in Saatchi's favourite restaurant, the location of the "playful tiff", where the paparazzi routinely hang about waiting to see who he's dining with.
With Mayfair awash with private clubs where discretion is guaranteed, it seemed odd that Trinny and Saatchi preferred to sit outside Scott's smoking, chatting and laughing, being papped from every angle and having their behaviour minutely scrutinised and interpreted. There was wounding speculation that Trinny, a recovering drink-and-drugs addict is attracted to "damaged men". Their clothes were described in detail and whether they went home separately or in her car was a matter for much comment.
A terrible suspicion crossed my mind. Could it be that these people might need publicity?
Let's consider the case of Trinny, who in partnership with the equally posh Susannah Constantine made a fortune with TV series like What Not to Wear and Trinny and Susannah Undress ... An inveterate charity fund-raiser, Trinny was once described by the comedian Jo Brand as knowing everyone in Belgravia (Saatchi's stamping ground) "who earns more than £10m a year", from some of whom she extracted vast sums of money for Comic Relief Does the Apprentice. That was 2007: since then Trinny's career's been on the slide.
Unlike Nigella, she and Susannah failed to crack the American market and most recently they've been reduced to performing make-overs in Israel and Poland. Plenty of exposure could only help.
From the Saatchi perspective, was it that he needed the ego-boost of being linked with an attractive celeb? Or was there something more? The guy's allegedly worth £150m, but as he said once, "my aim in life isn't so much the pursuit of happiness as the happiness of pursuit". He still loves finding and making a killing on new cutting-edge art: this month he sold a collection of Middle Eastern Contemporary Art via the Auction Room, a new online-only auctioneer who charges sellers half the normal commission.
If you're drawing attention to new work and a new venture, publicity helps.
If you think that's too harsh, consider that he once explained how when working on an anti-smoking campaign, "I came up with the grisliest copy I could – puffing away happily as I wrote. How sweet of you to think that advertising copy is written from the heart."
The auction is over and though Auction Room doesn't provide information on individual sale results, the overall figures were encouraging.
Of course, I hope Trinny and Charles are finding love again. But if what's really going on is a romance of convenience, it's clear the adman/dealer hasn't lost his touch.
Now what's next for Trinny?