Shortly before Holly and I left for Peru, we received the news that Peter Stuart, the father of my best friend Clare, had slipped into a coma after brain surgery. Sadly, Peter never came round from the coma and passed away on Friday 22 April here in London.
Some of you will have known and worked with Peter, who was the award-winning publisher of GQ, and previously of Vogue, for many years. To celebrate his life there will be a memorial service held at a church in London on the afternoon of Friday 27 May.
Clare, aware that she won’t have emails for everyone who knew Peter and who may like to attend, has asked me to write that if you would like the details of the service to please email me at contact [at] libertylondongirl.com and we will forward on your email to Clare.
When I was sixteen I met my best friend forever – Clare. She was everything that I was not: confident, loud, extrovert, funny, the ultimate metropolitan teenager. Where I saw the world through shades of grey disasters, hanging out with Clare turned the world into a rainbow of opportunity.
On our first weekend at boarding school, Clare persuaded me to break bounds to go to the pub with a boy she’d picked up in chapel choir. I hadn’t quite realised it was a forty minute tramp across muddy fields but Clare, effervescent as usual, took it in her townie stride, even when country-bred me had to show her how to wee behind a tree when the three illicit pints took effect on the way home.
It was when I was invited to stay for half-term in Loughton at the Stuart family home with Penny, Peter, Mark and SmokeyWokeyBestestDoggyintheWholeWideWorld a few weeks later that I discovered that the ebullient charm which made Clare a magnet for everyone around her at school had been directly inherited from her father, Peter.
(Not that I ever saw Peter wee behind a tree, let me make that clear.)
I was the very definition of teenage awkwardness but, of all my friends’ parents, Peter was the one who could draw out a shy teenager and make her feel like her opinions mattered, that there was an exciting world out there to be grabbed.
And that, to me, was the essence of Peter, a man who always treated the world like a selection box of chocolates, waiting to be explored, and most importantly, enjoyed. He was ideally suited to the twin worlds of Vogue House and advertising, where his love of life and of people found their natural home.
When he discovered that I lived for fashion, he always supported and encouraged me in my aspirations. I still have the treasured Vogue book that Peter and Clare gave me for my 18th, he (very gamely) employed Clare and me to flog GQ subs at the inaugural GQ Show in our third year at uni, and my very first office job after graduating was as a temp in the offices of GQ at Vogue House, where Peter employed me (even more gamely) to cover for his much-loved PA’s holidays.
I soon discovered that my two key responsibilities were (a) calling Jesus at the Caprice to ensure Peter’s almost daily lunch table was available and that (b) the GQ fridge was fully stocked with contra bottles of beer for the legendary weekly Friday after-work drinks. (I still remember the hangovers.)
But anyone who took the bonhomie that Peter always spread around him at work as the sum of the man would soon be on the back foot, for behind it lurked Peter’s razor-sharp business mind.
There was no one whose opinion I trusted more in the first years of my career. It is thanks to Peter, who had pronounced from the moment that we met, that I should one day work at Vogue House, that I managed to get a sought-after interview with Susannah Amoore, the legendary Personnel Director at Conde Nast the year after I graduated from uni.
In my naivety I hadn’t quite realised how much weight an endorsement from Peter carried, or how much he believed in me by making this introduction: a few years later I managed to, ahem, catch sight of Susannah’s notes from this initial general interview: They said “good writer, lovely voice, most importantly, recommended by Peter Stuart.” And so, some months, and many interviews later, I embarked on my first full-time job, as second assistant to Nicholas Coleridge, MD of Conde Nast.
When job offers and opportunities came my way during my years at Vogue House, the first person I always consulted was Peter, making my way down to the first floor to his office overlooking Hanover Square, knowing that he would always make time to see me, and would always see straight through to the heart of the matter in seconds.
In the intervening years Clare and I have remained the bestest of best friends; her son Oliver was the first of my godchildren (actually, being of Jewish heritage, he’s technically my oddson) and, in the last few years since I moved back from New York, I’ve been lucky enough to see both Peter and Penny frequently at Clare’s family home in Highgate.
Last summer Peter and I spent hours in the garden at Clare’s birthday party arguing over whose dog had inherited the crown of best dog in the world after the sad passing of SmokeyWokeyBestestDoggyintheWholeWideWorld. We came to the conclusion that Lettice was the Best dog in the world, but his dog was now the Bestest.
And there you have the king of advertising in action – Peter made me feel like we had drawn equal honours, but really he’d got the better side of the deal.
The last time that I saw Peter was one early morning this January in Regent’s Park by the duck pond. We were both out walking our respective Best Dogs in the World, and bumped into each other. Peter was particularly thrilled to be introduced to my friend Chloe, another Conde Nast alumna – TWO Vogue House Blondes on a Sunday morning? Lucky me, he cried, and winked as he walked off, back straight and step jaunty. And that’s exactly how I want to remember Peter, my mentor and friend, loving husband, father and grandfather, and a kind man who always saw the joy in everything, even on a grey January day by a duck pond.
RIP Peter Stuart. 1938-2016