Arnie Wilson started hunting down “big names” after being hired by a news agency to telephone titled people and charm them into divulging stories he would sell to Fleet Street gossip columns. But the ‘celebrity’ landscape was changing. Instead of targeting lords, baronets knights and their ladies, he was determined instead to find ‘real’ celebrities, persuading them with a combination of cheek, charm and chutzpah to divulge funny and intimate anecdotes for publication.
Ten years as an ITV on-screen news reporter reinforced his skill at putting interviewees at their ease, and he started working on many of the columns he had once himself supplied with tales of the famous. Even during 15 years as the Financial Times ski correspondent he kept the gossip tap turned on, interviewing Hollywood stars on the slopes. He chatted to (and sometimes skied with) film stars, rock stars, astronauts, comedians, authors, government ministers, former prime ministers and the odd American president. Although celebrities today are two a penny, he’s still at it, chatting to anyone famous he can find.