Times Magazine – April 7, 2007
– Ginny Dougary

Fired as editor of The Mirror, Piers Morgan published a bestselling diary of his rollercoaster career. Now the former tabloid bad boy is back and talks to Ginny Dougary about praying, his beloved granny, and stardom in America

Piers Morgan
Photo: Mark Harrison

The Penis on Legs – aka Piers Morgan – is resiliently handling my barrage of offensive, tabloid questions. It’s just as well that’s
he’s so robust since two days after we meet he gets fired again; only this time it’s for charity, Comic Relief’s celebrity The Apprentice, where we see Morgan enjoyably insulted by the likes of Maureen Lipman (responsible for the aforementioned penis jibe), Alastair Campbell, and later, Graham Norton’s: “Piers Morgan – what an easy person to hate” is greeted by whooping cheers from the audience.

The timing of this panto-villain acclaim is highly convenient for the latest chapter in the saga of Morgan’s entertaining career – as the former “shamed” Mirror editor (to give him the treatment his old paper meted out to the likes of Peter Mandelson) prepares to become a boo-hiss judge on the British answer to Simon Cowell’s America’s Got Talent.

The latter – involving “zany” acts such as granny rappers and men who put scorpions down their trousers or kick themselves in the head – has been a huge hit Stateside (number one in the ratings game last summer for the NBC network, attracting more than 14 million viewers) and Morgan has found himself recognised in the streets of Beverly Hills and – joy of joys – “papped” frolicking in the surf with his girlfriend (gorgeous!/glamorous!/posh totty!/blonde bombshell-with-brains!) the Telegraph’s gossip columnist, Celia Walden.

Never one to suffer self-doubt, Morgan predicts that Britain’s Got Talent, unleashed this summer, will be equally huge… more weirdo acts and a more savage audience made up of strangers from the street “and it’s like a Roman ampitheatre where someone will start an act and suddenly the mob will start screaming, ‘Off, off, off’ and it’s crazy! And Cowell holds his hand over the buzzer like a Roman Emperor asking, ‘Should he live or should he die?’ and the crowd starts chanting, ‘Press it, press it, press it’ and he looks around, smirks and goes ‘boom’ and that’s it. Cowell came out of the first day of auditions and said it was the best television he’d ever been involved with – completely crazy, I mean, hilarious! And with Ant and Dec presenting and Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden and me on the judging panel…”

So would you say that it’s downmarket? “Er – it’s not upmarket. I don’t think it claims to be Newsnight in a different guise, no. But is it damn good entertainment? Yes. Is it fun to judge? Yes.” Do you feel a bit moronic doing it? “No, because I’ve never worried about being taken seriously…” It’s quite an odd move after… (Morgan’s anti-war campaigning years on the Mirror when he hired heavyweight writers such as John Pilger and Christopher Hitchens, and won the sort of awards which are usually reserved for the top end of the market). “Not really,” he says, anticipating where my question’s going. “If you’re the editor of a tabloid newspaper, you’re not really saying,‘I want to be taken seriously.’”

What he’s learnt about television is that it’s all theatre “whether you’re Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight or Simon Cowell on X-Factor – one is very intellectual, the other isn’t, but I believe they’re both thinking, ‘How can I make this work from a televisual point of view’ and I’d say that if you’re looking at quick-wittedness and sharpness of wit, they’d both go head-to head. I’ve never sought to be, you know, a serious intellectual and I don’t claim to be massively well-read, although I’m reading a lot more now and I’m enjoying it – but I don’t think I’ve ever been stupid and I’ve always tried to be open to anything and I’m interested in people and events.”

Here’s a confession: some people actually don’t find it easy to hate Morgan and I’m one of them. He was only 28 when Rupert Murdoch promoted him from Bizarre showbiz columnist on The Sun to editor of News of the World (the youngest national newspaper editor for more than half a century) and much like the boy bands he used to dish the dirt on, Boy Morgan had to do his growing up in public. He made plenty of indefensible mistakes and had his knuckles duly rapped (the photographs of Victoria Spencer leaving a detox clinic allegedly prompted his proprietor to say, “The boy went too far” hence Morgan’s enduring nickname). He continued to make them when he became editor at The Mirror ( the ACHTUNG SURRENDER headline on the eve of the England v Germany Euro ’96 semi-final; the Viglen shares scandal of 2000 which dragged on for four years with Morgan eventually cleared while his City Slicker columnists were fired; culminating in the publication of the hoax photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners which finally did for him).

Morgan’s adventures in the tabloid world were revealed in his first bestseller The Insider – a rattling good read, fascinating for its glimpse into just how much power a red-top editor can wield with the great and the good (so many visits to No 10; so many e-mails from Peter Mandelson), but also riveting for its self-penned portrait of the author as a sort of Artful Dodger happily nicking scoops off his senior colleagues, playing fast and loose with the truth, distorting celebrity photographs and so on, if it suits him.

But it’s not all harmless high jinx as Morgan discovers only when his own marriage difficulties are written about in other publications, and finds himself growing up rather abruptly. These personal complications coincided with the build-up to the Iraq war and suddenly Morgan was a man with a mission – The Mirror was to transform itself into a tabloid with a conscience, reconnecting itself with the pre-Maxwell Cudlipp era, taking on governments rather than bothering itself with the minor peccadilloes of B-list celebrities. His anti-war campaign there lasted for two years, during which time the circulation went into freefall and he was eventually sacked.

Even during his glory days Morgan was still capable of behaving unattractively, to put it mildly. There were his petty long-running feuds with Ian Hislop (against whom he launched a campaign in The Mirror, thereby making himself look both vindictive and ridiculous); ditto David Yelland, then editor of The Sun – and that strange business with Jeremy Clarkson who docked him for printing photographs of him kissing a woman other than his wife. All of it to do, rather loweringly, with either being exposed or exposing – and none of it showing anyone in a particularly good light.

So what’s there to like? Not a lot, if your only experience of Morgan is through his TV appearances. Television may be Morgan’s new career but it does not flatter him. He has certainly improved since his early excruciating performance on Have I Got News For You – but he can still seem horribly pleased with himself, bumptious, brash, arrogant, tub-thumping and generally not someone you’d want to spend any time with.

But off the screen, on the few occasions I’ve bumped into him – he is smart (as opposed to a smart-alec), funny and generous-spirited. He can be immensely charming, and his character makes a great deal more sense when I discover that he’s Irish on both sides of his family (the Pughe-Morgan double-barrel is from his Welsh stepfather who brought him up, rather than evidence of plummy landowning stock). I happen to know that he has been helpful to all sorts of organisations without reaping any personal reward or kudos and he’s naturally meritocratic, trebling or quadrupling the number of women journalists on The Mirror as well as people from ethnic minorities. This is one of things he’s proudest of in his journalistic career, alongside his editorship of the paper after 9/11.

He was to be applauded for saying “Enough!” to copy control when a transcript from a Richard and Judy interview came back littered with absurd “corrections” (he printed the two versions alongside one another and a humbled Richard Madeley phoned up to apologise). But what is perhaps most attractive about Morgan is his energy. When he’s on form – and I’m sure he can be a nightmare when he’s not – he’s one of those people who makes you feel immeasurably more alive to be around. His whole family, it seems, is the same way. He comes from one of those big extended clans of matriarchal grannies and loads of aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces, “and we all tend to be the life and soul of the party”. He also gets ragged something rotten by his siblings particularly his brother Jeremy (a major in the Royal Regiment of Wales who was dispatched to Basra): “He takes no nonsense at all from me about my ridiculous, shallow, showbusiness life.”

Like most former journalists turned celebrities, Morgan is far too alert to the dangers of being wrong-footed to allow himself to be led into perilous personal territory. He refuses point blank to talk about The Guardian columnist Marina Hyde for whom he left his wife, Marion. In The Insider, he refers to Hyde in the acknowledgements only as “my best friend, most amusing companion, and unpaid but razor-sharp proof reader” (they are no longer together). Private Eye, among other publications, thought that Morgan’s private life was fair game since he had no qualms about running similar stories about other media figures (eg, Clarkson).

“You know, it’s just that I’ve never felt comfortable talking about a relationship or my private life and I always find that Hello! stuff really gut-wrenching and never understood why people wanted to do it,” he says. “Now obviously I was a rank hypocrite as an editor because I wanted people to do that… but it’s a bit like when somebody would ask me, ‘How do you feel about the snitches who ring up and offer dirt?’ And I would say, ‘Well I used to hate them but be delighted that they were doing it.’ And it’s the same with people spilling their guts out. I think they’re ridiculous but I’m quite pleased that they do it. And with this new book [Don’t You Know Who I Am? The story of how Morgan rose from the ashes to conquer America and become a celebrity himself] I was told that it would be nice to know who you’re with and what you were doing and who was sharing this adventure with you. And that’s why I put Celia in this book because I thought that, actually, not to do so would be unnecessarily – you know – standoffish.”

There’s a whiff of disenchantment with his old tabloid world in the new book, which opens with Boy Morgan – not yet 40 – suddenly feeling a bit like “a semi-retired old fart, running around Sainbury’s all day and watching DVDs because that’s what happens when you’ve come from a huge job and you’re suddenly ex-communicated from a big corporation – the reality of your life is the mundanity.” At some point, “you just start thinking, ‘God, this is really bad, you know I really need to sort myself out.’ At no stage was I depressed [although he does read as though he was], it was more a sense of listlessness and an increasing feeling of edginess and frustration about what was I going to do for the rest of my career since I was only 39.”

Not only did Morgan find it increasingly intolerable to be asked “So what are you doing ?” after years of never having to explain himself, but when he got together with his old mates at The Mirror, he felt out of the loop and simply unable to get excited about this or that scoop with him no longer in the driving seat. He says now – and this is not going to endear him to his former colleagues – that he doesn’t hang out with journalists very often these days because he finds them “really aggressive. It’s quite funny, I know. But I do find them really aggressive.”

In what way exactly? “If it’s been a really busy news day, they’re all absolutely wired with adrenalin and aggression and competitive spirit and it’s obviously the way I used to be. And I realise now why people had a view of me when they saw me at those award shows and I got so fired up, so competitive and so desperately wanted to win. And if I didn’t win, I’d just be blindly in a rage about it and feel cheated for me, my staff and everybody and now I can look back at it and laugh and think, ‘My God!’”

He makes no apologies for his editorship of the News of the World. There is a certain freedom of youth which makes the paper really exciting, you know. Did I go over the top a few times? Definitely. Do I regret some stuff? Definitely. It was only later as I got a bit older and had my own life and started getting responsibilities that I began to rethink things. And writing the book, it was quite cathartic to look back on the impact of some of those stories and the slightly carefree way that you dealt with people’s lives. ”

Most journalists, in his experience, have to be hardbitten. One of his least proud moments was being disappointed when Concorde crashed and there were no celebrities on the plane. “It was full of German pensioners on a charter and I reacted in a really offensive and ugly manner – pissed off because there was no story. But when you go home and have a drink, you think, ‘I really should not have reacted like that. A hundred people have died.’ But there’s this protective shield of “I’m a journalist… I’m above
human reaction in this.’ And when you’re a newspaper editor I think you’re so completely consumed with it that everything just becomes a story.”

It was the Mirror readers themselves, he says slightly surprisingly, who made him think more seriously about what he was doing. “I’m not talking about all of them but as a rule of thumb, I found their letters and their thought processes – the way they voted on issues on phone lines – a great insight into the type of people they were. They were just more caring and sensitive, and I think that evolved me completely.”

He believes that most newspapers misread the public’s appetite for stories which crucify celebrities. “The worst hypocrites I know are editors and senior journalists. I could tell you about the private lives of all of them and they’d fill the News of the World for weeks,” he says. (But then most members of the public would not be all that interested since they hardly expect journalists to be pure as the driven snow.)

As regards his own affair, “Without being drawn into specifics, I would say that my life experiences over the past ten years did radically alter my moral code as an editor because I realised that human frailty can be something that, you know, can pop up with everyone and your ability to be utterly censorial and moralistic about everybody else starts to look vaguely ridiculous.

“Actually, I think what all journalists should do is lose their jobs and go and live a normal life for a few years and then come back into it because they’d have a much better understanding about how real people think about things and react.” Most people who have been involved in a massive scandal, in his opinion – from Jonathan Aitken to Jeffrey Archer to Lord Levy to Jade Goody – get almost universally positive reactions from the public. “The media wants to say, ‘You are a disgusting human being and everybody thinks so.’ The public says, ‘You did something stupid but forget it – you’re actually just like the rest of us.’ They are much less judgmental and not into this media bombardment of hatred and fury and destroying people’s lives.” And, in any case, he says, everyone’s a celebrity now.

Despite his own transcendence into celebritydom, Morgan hasn’t ruled out the possibility of editing another newspaper – it’s just that no offers have been forthcoming. He keeps his hack’s hand in with a weekly column for the Mail on Sunday, a column in the national children’s tabloid First News (of which he is editorial director) and a monthly celebrity interview in GQ magazine. The questions Morgan asks his celebs in that slot are beyond belief – “I’m certainly not going to answer any of those!” he says. Oh go on, Piers, don’t be coy – are you good in bed? “No comment.”

And what position, pray, do you like? “Look, you and I would say ‘No comment’ but what is unbelievable is they [see, for example, Ulrika Johnsson and Billie Piper] seem pleased to answer them.” He’s just done Naomi Campbell (rather sporting of her to agree to be grilled by Morgan, one might think, after he exposed her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Chelsea with all the ensuing courtoom dramas.) “I found her a joy to interview,” Morgan says, because she made very little apology for her behaviour. I asked her, ‘Why are you always late?’ and she said, ‘Because I can be.’ What a great answer. There’s nothing to say to that, is there? It’s obviously reprehensible but it’s also great, I think.”

This comes on the back of me asking Morgan for his Top Five All-Time Gruesome Celebrities, and him saying that he’s quite sympathetic to the genuinely awful “pieces of work… the grand divas” who make no pretence to be anything other than they are. Top of his black list is – da-da-dahhh – Elizabeth Hurley, “the ultimate example of a talentless wannabe becoming grander than the biggest star in the world bleating about privacy and then selling her wedding for two million quid. You cannot complain about privacy and then sell your wedding – the most private event in the world – and the whole excessiveness of it, the whole celebrity thing that came with it is just ghastly, utterly ghastly.”

Hugh Grant is next: “The biggest whinger in the world, constantly saying he hates being a film star but constantly making movies when he probably doesn’t need the money. If he doesn’t like it – disappear. Hugh, you are a very annoying, miserable little man. Right? Go away.” I point out that he’s always calling people he dislikes “little”, even when they’re not. “It’s my ultimate insult,” he says. “I like people who are over 6ft, men and women. Oh and, Kate Winslet has just disappeared up her arse. Awful, awful, awful. I used to love her, such a sweet girl who’d ring me up effing and blinding and having a laugh and it’s the Catherine Zeta-Jones syndrome – they go off into Hollywood and never re-emerge.

“I saw her [Winslet] on Parkinson recently where she began sobbing when Parkie asked her what Sam Mendes thought of her new movie, and she said the reason she was sobbing was the memory of Sam having come home from watching a rough cut of the film and he was in tears saying to her, ‘You were absolutely wonderful, darling’ – and at that point she sobbed – sobbing at the memory of her husband sobbing at her being wonderful.”

Kate Moss and Pete Docherty complete his list. “Awful, skanky little Croydon girl. I don’t get it at all.” But she looks beautiful in every snap of her I’ve seen. “So she scrubs up well, like a lot of Croydon girls do. Why is she this great phenomenon?
I have no idea because when I saw her she was revolting and he was disgusting – fat, bloated heroin junkie sweating and singing tunelessly and I thought, ‘God, these people are supposed to be the hottest stars in the world.’ They’re not exactly Mick Jagger
and Marianne Faithfull, are they?”

It is perfectly possible to construct a convincing portrait of almost anyone based on a few slender facts. So with Morgan, the military family, childhood in an East Sussex village, prep-school education, early admiration for Margaret Thatcher for whom he cast his first vote. “I thought she was a great leader for most of her reign but then, like most of them, went slightly potty”, short-lived stint at Lloyds and the double-barrelled name all created a certain pukka image… but it’s not the whole story.

Of course, he’s not averse himself to hamming up the toffee-nosed Brit bit particularly for his American audience for whom he is thinking of reinstating his dropped barrel – “They want me to be a sort of James Bond charming, smiling assassin – so I posh it up in America.” Anyway, the only reason he excised it on The Sun was because it made his by-line too long and in Sussex, where he spends most weekends with his family, he’s still a Pughe-Morgan, as are his three splendidly named sons, Spencer, Stanley and Bertie.

He only discovered recently, when he went to Ireland for his aunt’s funeral, that his natural father – Vincent O’Meara – who died when Piers was one year old, was a journalist for two years on a local newspaper. “There I was in the middle of southern Ireland in a place called Bannagher and all these people came up to me who had known my father,” Morgan says. “His mother persuaded him to become a dentist because there was more money and security and all that but it was interesting to find that out that it’s obviously in the blood, you know.”

His maternal grandfather was a “proper investigative journalist” on the Sunday People back in the Seventies. Piers’s first introduction to Fleet Street was through his grandfather’s connections with friends such as Brian Hitchin, then editor of the Star.

Dublin, he says, feels like his spiritual home… “my best nights out have been there at Lily’s Bordello [which turns out to be a nightclub, rather disappointingly, not a brothel]. I do actually feel quite Irish – the blarney and the craic and all that – and I’ve got lots of Irish cousins and I like Irish people very much and feel a certain affinity with them.”

Morgan was brought up as a Catholic and went to church most Sundays. He describes his mother, Gabrielle, who is a part of the Cantopher clan as “very Irish who has remained a pretty devout Catholic whereas I’ve become less so”. He still prays when times get tough and he is a definite believer. Does he suffer from Catholic guilt? He says not although he has become more reflective “now that I’m calmer and less in that volatile cauldron of competitive tabloid nonsense”. He’s suddenly a bit worried about how this will look, saying, “You know I’m not a Sinead O’Connor in a male wig, if that’s what you’re getting at. I don’t want to overdo my devoutness because I think a proper devout Catholic would see me as pretty lapsed – it’s just that my whole family, apart from my dad, are believers and that’s the way we were brought up.” He describes getting instruction from nuns when he was a small boy “which I rather liked, actually”. Now this is a revelation. What was it that he liked? “You’d just go along and chat for an hour and I liked the purity of the nuns and their pure view of life and the world. It was nice.” Is there any way that could be seen to have a bearing on his life now, I ask somewhat doubtfully. “I don’t think that I’ve led such a pure life as those nuns, no. But I thought there was an idealistic side to them that was rather nice, you know. Always looking for the good in people is a nice trait to have.”

Talking about his natural father makes him feel uncomfortable because he’s worried that it will seem as though he is downgrading his relationship with the man who brought him up – “And, you know, he’s been absolutely incredible. He took on two young boys when he was in his twenties and did a great job for us. All four of us children [he has two younger siblings through his mother’s second marriage] had a lovely upbringing and a lot of fun. It wasn’t privileged and we didn’t have much money but we had a great time.”

Morgan is extremely close to his grandmother, Margot, known as Grande to whom he dedicates the new book: “To Grande, my
incomparable grandmother.” She was largely responsible for looking after her grandchildren when Morgan’s parents were working “unbelievably long hours, catering to maybe 200 people a day” running a pub, the Griffin Inn in Fletching, seven days a week.

When Grande had a stroke some years back, Morgan converted the garage of his half of the family house (a Grade II Georgian wreck, set in six acres, which Morgan’s parents had done up slowly over the years), so that she could be looked after. “She was living on her own in Shoreham on the beach and I thought, ‘I’ve got a big garage, why not just convert it into a lovely little cottage for her?’ And now she’s back on fighting form and it’s a bit like the Waltons. There’s my granny and mum and dad next door and then my brothers and sister all come down with their tribes and at night it’s “Goodnight, Grandma” [cheesy American accent] and I love it. And I’m totally unashamed about it because I like having a close family.”

Before we move on to the present-day Piers, there is one last incident from his childhood which is illuminating. Like all his siblings, Morgan’s education was a mixture of private and state; Jeremy and Piers went from a prep school to the local comp, while Rupert and Charlotte did it the other way round. Morgan reckons that he and his older brother got the better deal. “I think my education was, in many ways, perfect. I went to a great prep school until I was 13 and then I got my snobbish creases ironed out [at Chailey, near Lewes] where some of the kids did give me a hard time for being a posh twit. [His younger siblings suffered a lot of snobbery, he says, having come from the state sector.]”

I wonder whether he was bashed around? “Yeah, a bit,” he says, naming a boy called Gideon Short (what’s the betting he was teased?) who had an orange mohican and another kid in particular, John Surret, who had done some boxing training in Canada. Morgan can still vividly remember getting off the school bus outside his house and slugging it out in the street. “The first couple of punches when he smacked me in the face were really bad. But after that I became completely immune to the pain and didn’t feel anything else. And I think that’s not bad as a template for life, really – the first couple of blows hurt, and then after that it’s fine. And you just have to keep in there fighting.”

Years ago, I spent a riotous evening with Piers, after he had given a most unentertaining speech which went on interminably and ended up with him being jeered off the stage (even though he had funded the event). It was at the height of his tabloid madness, and a group of us piled into Mirror-chauffered limousines and went from club to club dancing into the early hours and quaffing champagne paid for presumably by Morgan’s expense account. It was enormous fun but did have a slightly excessive Scorsese-Coppola feel about it. When I mention that it’s somewhat nerve-wracking that he tends to dissect his interviews in his books, he growls with a Corleone look: “Yes, you gotta show me respect.”

Although he does remember that long night, it was clearly one of many and his life – just as well – is no longer like that. “It’s different now. I’m calmer now,” he says again, “and I don’t feel the need to get wrecked like I used to.”

In Los Angeles, where Morgan spends about two and a half months filming America’s Got Talent, he has a ferocious German trainer who feeds him dreadful purging potions and is very “big on the burrrrrrrn”. He goes to the gym a lot, and has lost almost a stone which shows more in person than on unforgiving telly where he still looks a bit jowly and puffy. So will he be getting American teeth and all that jazz? Absolutely not, Morgan is horrified by the idea. Cowell “who obviously has had all that stuff” has bet him a $100 that he will succumb to the knife or Botox at some stage… “and I have resolutely said that the day that happens, I’m out of here – because I’m quite happy with the way I look, thank you.”

But it’s a different sort of training in Morgan’s life that’s really interesting. His new girlfriend, Celia – with whom Piers is clearly very smitten indeed – has made him put ten bookshelves up in his flat to accommodate her essential reading list. It’s not that he was anti-books, he says, “it’s just that from the age of 21, I was on The Sun and rampaging around seven days a week.” What he’s learnt recently, he says, is the pleasure of quietly listening to music of an evening – be it Snow Patrol or Tschaikovsky and going to art galleries, travelling for the sake of it and “walking in parks and stuff”.

He’s just finished reading Madame Bovary and then there’s the complete works of Shakespeare – a gift from the girlfriend “a beautiful bound thing”, and lots of Dickens and Hemingway and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and “In the next five years, I’d like to have read the hundred great classics,” Morgan says. “I want to immerse myself in the great works of literature because I never had the time or the patience to do it before.”

What really draws him to Walden, Morgan says, isn’t her undeniable prettiness – “I’ve never really been attracted to people just because of the way they look” – nor her accomplishments (she speaks French, Russian and Italian fluently and has her first “beautifully written” novel coming out shortly) but the fact that she’s always roaring with laughter: “She has a lovely sunny disposition and I find that very appealing.”

It’s just as well that she has a sense of humour because she’ll certainly need one if she’s to hang in with Morgan in the years to come. I ask him how he’s going to cope if he becomes absolutely huge celebrity-wise. “What do you mean if?” he says, with mock-outrage, and then proceeds to tell me about his last Christmas in Barbados.

There’s this bloke buried up to the neck in sand who worked for an agency Morgan always used when he was at The Mirror. And our man is tipped off from someone else on the beach that the snapper has been taking photos of him and the girlfriend walking up and down the beach. “So I walk over to him and he’s stuck there with some sort of camouflage over his head, and his great big lens and looking very sheepish and I said, ‘Mate, you’re gonna have to do better than that. This is my game you’re at.’ So I tell him to show me the pictures and I said, ‘You’ll never sell these.’ And he said, ‘I already have, mate.’ And so he’d taken the pictures, sent them back to his office and sold them all in three minutes.” Well, talk about the papper papped.

Do you think, Piers, you’re ever going to have a sense of humour failure? “Of course I will,” he says. “If they get a picture of me looking fat on a beach I’m going to be absolutely incandescent at the brand damage this will cause!”

There’s no question that the papper papped is having the time of his life after the initial strangeness of being a bit lost in LA without all the familar buffers of old friends and family. But he is under no illusions about the ephemeral nature of his new fame: “It’s great fun and you’re treated brilliantly over there but it’s a very brutal world and if the ratings dip, you know the game – you’re sent back on economy. But I can cope with that very easily. If it all ended tomorrow, I’d think what a great laugh that was and come home and do something else.”

* * *

Don’t You Know Who I Am? Insider Diaries of Fame, Power and Naked Ambition by Piers Morgan is published by Ebury Press, and is available from BooksFirst

priced £16.19 (RRP £17.99), free p&p on 0870 160 8080; www.timesonline.co.uk/booksfirstbuy