Flowers, pictures and messages left in tribute to late British singer Amy Winehouse are pictured near her house in north London, on July 25, 2011. Source: AFP
THE sight of Amy Winehouse's tiny body being carried out of her London home in a red body bag this week was one of the saddest things I've ever seen and for me, it felt awfully close to home.
I met Amy several times during my days as a 3AM Girl gossip columnist on UK newspaper the Daily Mirror.
The first time was in 2003 when she was promoting her debut album, Frank, and in later years, propping up the bar or bursting into an impromptu ditty at her local, the Hawley Arms in Camden. Sometimes she was sober, often tipsy, occasionally trashed – but always sweet, witty and funny.
I last saw her a few years ago at the Hawley. I’d spotted her at the bar, apparently having fun with friends. just a couple of hours later, I was shocked to encounter her hours later crawling on her hands and knees in the ladies’ toilets, banging on the cubicle doors, begging for cocaine.
Amy was better than that. she recently appeared to be back on track but for a while, she was swallowed up by the drinking culture of London’s trendy young things.
The London media circuit is seductive and addictive, especially if you are young and hedonistic. It’s easy to get sucked into the glamour and there’s a fine line to be drawn. Some stop shy of it, some cross it and some just snort it.
I was 26 when I landed my dream job as a 3AM Girl. It was a high profile gig and there were three of us on the column; our days spent writing up gossip in the office, the evenings a whirlwind of parties, premieres and award ceremonies. everywhere we went, the celebs were glamorous, the people beautiful and the drinks on tap.
One minute we’d be jetting first class to Hollywood to sip champagne at Elton John’s annual Oscars bash with Paris Hilton, Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, and the next, mingling with Penelope Cruz and George Clooney at the Cannes Film Festival.
The following week could see us gate-crashing Robbie Williams’ top of the Pops dressing room, partying in Ibiza with super-star DJs and hanging out with Pink, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and P.Diddy at the MTV Awards.
February used to be particularly gruelling, with the Baftas, Brits, Elle Style Awards and the start of London Fashion Week all taking place in the same seven days.
It was fun, but loved and reviled in equal measures, mainly because it was the norm to stay awake for days in a row, and spend the weekend in bed nursing the mother of all hangovers.
But it wasn’t all hard work.
Whether it was taking contacts to the Ivy for dinner, stalking Prince Harry in Boujis, or trying to get PRs drunk enough to divulge their famous clients’ secrets, the drinking sessions went on for hours, four or five nights a week, sometimes more. they were tiring, but brilliant fun.
I recall thoroughly enjoying a bizarre party with a PR friend that had dwarves stood on strangely-painted boxes, pouring the liquor straight into our mouths.
We carried on partying in some woeful 24-hour drinking hole – with a guy dressed as Elvis singing in the backroom – until 9am. I was knackered but, more importantly, had secured the next day’s splash.
There was never any pressure from my colleagues or bosses to drink, but it got to the point where I couldn’t actually enjoy going out and working those long hours without having a drink, “to take the edge off.” and then another.
I suffered an anaphylactic shock in 2003 and my doctor diagnosed a yeast allergy and put me on an anti-candida diet. when he asked how much drank, I said four to eight units. “a week?” Nope, a night. I was embarrassed. He was horrified! I subsequently cut out all yeasts, including white wine, champagne and beer.
My health deteriorated even more. I’d had enough of the constant late nights and was burnt out. my skin was battered, I had some other issues going on out of work and needed a long break, so I left the column in 2004 and went travelling, finally ending up in Australia.
I have fond memories and a few war wounds from those days, including battle scars from falling out of a tree trying to sneak into a VIP party in Cannes and an aversion to my old tipples.
Champagne makes my eyes puffy and my skin break out in hives, beer causes a rash on my chest and even just a whiff of white wine makes me gag.
Some of the best days of my life were working with the girls on the column but if I had my time again, I’d pace myself – maybe alternate red wine with water.
Sydney journalist Niki Waldegrave was a ‘3am Girl’ gossip columnist with London’s Daily Mirror until 2004.
<a href="http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/i-was-shocked-to-see-amy-winehouse-begging-for-cocaine-in-the-womens-toilets/story-e6frewyr-1226105142290tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/i-was-shocked-to-see-amy-winehouse-begging-for-cocaine-in-the-womens-toilets/story-e6frewyr-1226105142290Sat, 30 Jul 2011 14:22:14 GMT 00:00″>I was shocked to see Amy Winehouse begging for cocaine in the women's toilets
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