He hired a young Nigella Lawson and was one of the most flamboyant and fascinating figures in the literary world.
Now, the spectacular £400,000 treasures of the late Naim Attallah are to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s.
The Quartet Books publishing tycoon, who died in February aged 89, was known for his love of beautiful women, so it’s no surprise the collection includes 13 nude paintings.
Young women employed by him, often encouraged to wear miniskirts and stilettos, remember the imposing sight of the naked paintings.
Naim Attallah and Nigella Lawson at the booklaunch of ‘Fulfilment & Betrayal’ by Naim Attallah, at Bluebird on May 1, 2007 in London
Writer Anna Pasternak, who worked for him in her first job aged 21, reminisces about ‘his paintings of nudes — which I remember hanging in his office’.
Other lots at next week’s sale include a (clothed) portrait of Attallah and much of the dazzling jewellery he was often spotted wearing as he paraded around the Groucho Club. He was the driving force behind Asprey, the Queen’s jewellers.
Attallah’s ‘harem’ of aristocratic girls included well-bred figures such as Winston Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames, Lady Cosima Fry and Virginia Bonham-Carter. Some were encouraged to wear rubber dresses for launches.
Wall art: One of Attallah’s nudes. The Quartet Books publishing tycoon, who died in February aged 89, was known for his love of beautiful women, so it’s no surprise the collection includes 13 nude paintings
Pictured: A picture seen on a silver and enamel cigarette case in Attallah’s collection
‘No one had a contract at Quartet,’ Pasternak tells me. ‘We were paid a pittance to turn up to parties in mandatory miniskirts.
‘One of Attallah’s most scandalous publications was Naked London, published in 1987, which featured aristocratic beauties such as Sabrina Guinness, Andrea von Stumm and Sophia Sackville-West.
But he also took a chance on more weighty periodicals, including The Oldie and Literary Review.
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Bonkbuster! Toff aims to be the next Jilly Cooper
Desperate not to look too image-obsessed at a Westminster party, I’m A Celeb winner Georgia Toffolo managed to sneak in her selfies just seconds before arrival.
Shooting up to the 29th floor of Millbank Tower to attend a book launch party, she posed in her £60 black frock in front of the lift mirrors.
Toffolo, who has written three novels, tells me: ‘I want to write something a little racier set in Westminster. I’ve met Jilly Cooper once and I nearly fell over. I model everything on her.’
Pictured: I’m A Celeb winner Georgia Toffolo sneaks in her selfies just seconds before arriving at a Westminster book-launch party
- FORMER SAS reservist David Davis managed to sneak his way into Michael Ashcroft’s Westminster launch party for his book Falklands War Heroes, despite not having been on the guest list. ‘I didn’t get an invitation,’ admits the ex-Tory leadership contender. ‘I just thought I’d gatecrash it and they let me in.’ Davis is worried about a ban on MPs having second jobs. ‘I have loads of outside interests,’ he tells me. ‘I will strike a deal. I will vote for whatever you want so long as every MP gets paid exactly the same — the Prime Minister and everyone gets paid £100,000 a year, and not a penny on top.’
Scene and Heard! It’s party time
Amber Heard and Alice Temperley attend an after party celebrating the launch of ‘Annie’s Archive’ hosted by Alice Temperley and Annie Doble at The Groucho Club on November 16, 2021 in London
Having done well in a bitter High Court showdown with ex-husband Johnny Depp last year, Amber Heard is in no rush to leave London.
The Hollywood star has been living here while filming Aquaman 2 and is making the most of the capital’s social scene.
This week, Heard, 35, attended a party at the Groucho Club in Soho, where she was joined by the designer of her dress, Alice Temperley, to celebrate Alice’s new collaboration with designer Annie Doble.
Cocktails served included ‘Potion D’Amour’ and ‘Festive Bellinis’.
‘People are desperate to laugh and let their hair down,’ Temperley says. ‘Long winter nights need friends, fun and dancing.’
Amber, who has been living in West London, has had her hands full lately as she had a daughter, Oonagh, delivered via surrogate in April.
Rod Stewart says he speaks to his old pal and fellow musical knight Sir Elton John only through the newspapers now, after their feud spiralled out of control.
‘We’ve had rows,’ Stewart admits. ‘I’ll say something derogatory about him/her and she’ll say something about me and it appears in the papers.
‘So that’s how we do it now.’ Watch out with those pronouns, Rod, or you’ll be ‘cancelled’!
- Should we hear more about Boris Johnson’s friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell? The Prime Minister’s sister, Rachel Johnson, has revealed that he was on touching terms with the alleged sex trafficker while they were both students at Balliol College, Oxford. ‘As a fresher, I wandered into Balliol JCR [junior common room] one day . . . and found a shiny glamazon with naughty eyes holding court astride a table, a high-heeled boot resting on my brother Boris’s thigh,’ journalist Rachel writes in The Spectator. ‘She gave me a pitying glance, but I did manage to snag an invite to her party . . .’
Not so fine romance for raunchy Rev
Television’s hunkiest vicar is about to get hot under the dog collar.
Tom Brittney, 31, who plays the crime-solving Reverend Will Davenport in Grantchester, reveals that his character will face woman trouble in the forthcoming series of the hit ITV drama.
Tom Brittney, 31, who plays the crime-solving Reverend Will Davenport in Grantchester (pictured) has revealed that his character will face woman trouble in the forthcoming series of the hit ITV drama
‘There’s going to be a lot of female problems and attention coming his way that will be a cause of concern for him,’ Brittney tells me at the opening night of Skate at Somerset House in London.
‘And, of course, this is Grantchester — anyone can be murdered.’
Bowie’s light fantastic
Having illuminated an armada of superyachts, a plethora of royal palaces and a mammoth number of mansions, Sally Storey is the go-to expert when it comes to lighting.
And one of the designer’s more unusual assignments was transforming the mood of David Bowie’s New York apartment to make it the perfect place to host his album-listening party. ‘I had to ensure the mood was the right one to listen to a new album,’ she tells me. ‘There were no complaints, thankfully, so I must have done something right.’
Storey — who has just published a book, Inspired By Light — adds: ‘David was such a nice down-to-earth person. He just left me to get on with it. I left on a real high.’