December 27, 2019
The former Guardian Weekend magazine editor, who died in October, is remembered by former colleagues as original, inspiring – and never, ever dull
‘As an editor, she didn’t worry about breaking conventions’: Deborah Orr remembered
Julie Burchill, columnist My career has been up and down more often than a bride’s nightie, but the late 90s were particularly volatile. I had just inked a hefty mortgage on a six-bedroomed fun-palace complete with outdoor swimming pool when I got the heave-ho from my cushy billet at the Sunday Express, where I later learned my nickname had been “Caligula’s Horse” because my best friend – briefly the editor – had appointed me. For the first time in my brilliant career, no one wanted to hire me. Somehow I limped into a column on the doddering Punch – and then I got the boot from there, too! Surely I had reached the mythical rock bottom at last?
And then my mate Suzanne Moore brought her mate Deborah Orr down to see me in Brighton, and while our combined children frolicked in the pool, Deborah narrowed her eyes, exhaled cigarette smoke and said in that combative Scottish husk: “Well, it looks like you’ll just have to come and work for me.” And so began my most improbable career move to date – as a Guardian columnist. But it didn’t feel like I was working for the Guardian – it felt like I was working for Deborah. She was the dream editor. Many editors will hire you for your USP, then try to change you; Deborah never touched a word.
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