The Amorist launch party

Editor Rowan Pelling

Hot crush: the launch party gets into swing

A can-can girl from People Pile

And so at last, after weeks of hunching and sighing over laptops, the first issue of The Amorist flew onto the shelves of WH Smith. The occasion was celebrated at a launch event beautifully hosted by the Ape and Bird in London’s Cambridge Circus where, as at all good festive occasions, the excitement came from  unexpected guests: former model Koo Stark and artist Jack Vettriano.

 As the dying light of a beautiful day streamed through the upstairs windows of the Ape’s welcoming old-fashioned pub, guests sipped on seductive cocktails provided by sponsors 1800 Tequila while non-alcoholic Amoristas gratefully imbibed iced draughts of lemonade, provided by fellow sponsors Fentimans.  The Ape’s friendly staff circulated with chilled white wine donated by Mischief and Mayhem – famed as the only Brits who make fine burgundy in France – and can-can girls from People Pile cheerfully frothed their high kicks and low splits amongst the crowd.


John Mitchinson of Unbound

Someone was heard to observe that this was the first launch party he’d been to that actually felt like a party - especially as the provocatively moustachioed can-can girls stayed on after their set to dance with guests long into the night.

Lucy Litwack of Coco de Mer, actor Neil Pearson and Gillian McCallum from Drawing Down The Moon

Another clucked how typical it was that, despite an invitation requesting ‘seductive’ attire, many of the hacks’ crumpled jackets had smudges on them. She was duly ribbed for not realising it was in fact chalk from Tony Common’s Amorist blackboard mural beside the stairs that had rubbed off on their clothes as they mounted to the revelry on the first floor.

Howard Jacobson with his wife Jenny de Yong and John Gordon

Heads craned to admire genial Howard Jacobson, author of a paean to married love in The Amorist’s first issue, and his lovely wife Jenny de Yong. One guest confessed that, having introduced herself to the man sitting next to her on the window seat, she’d refused to believe that he was painter Jack Vettriano. ‘So what’s your real name?’ she demanded.

‘Well, just call me Jack,’ he replied.

Artist Jack Vettriano celebrates The Amorist launch at the Ape and Bird

After this, the Amorist’s eyes were peeled to see who was coming up the stairs next, and she was rewarded with stylish founder of the Design Museum and Amorist reviewer, Stephen Bayley,  bestselling romantic author Jojo Moyes, heartthrob actor Neil Pearson - a longterm pash from his days in ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’ - Lucy Litwack of Coco de Mer and new heart throb-on-the-scene, Eastenders actor Ted Reilly.

Design legend Stephen Bayley

Spontaneous new friendships were sparked amidst the heat and crush: novelist Jenny Colgan, in conversation with ‘Jack’, discovered she now lives in le Vettriano’s former house in Scotland, so they had a long conversation, as you do, about making tea in the kitchen.

Burlesque dancer Betsy Rose

Meantime, The Amorist’s publisher, James Pembroke, wondered if it was divine intervention when ravishing burlesque artist Betsy Rose busted the power circuit almost as soon as she set foot on stage. After electrical circuits had been re-connected, and Betsy had charmingly dis-robed down to her nipple tassels, his wife Josephine - sex goddess, jazz singer and founder of Radio Gorgeous - blew away any existentialist doubts by providing a deliciously old-fashioned play set for revellers to indulge their rusty swing moves, 1960s hip gyrations, and other happy dance floor capers.

Josephine Pembroke leads the way on the dance floor

The Amorist swapped her heels for sensible shoes halfway into the proceedings and sank into bed in the early hours feeling that, even if she’d got a little hot under the collar now and then, it had been for all the right reasons: fun, flirtation, laughter, meeting old friends and new, and that ineffable sense of happiness that comes with launching a new project you believe in with all your heart.

The Amorist team: l to r James Pembroke, Belinda Bamber, Lawrence Bogle, Annie Blinkhorn and Rowan Pelling

It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men
Mae West