A.20 -

sued by A.K.

HL Top gossip has only the best enemies

Credit: VANSUN


Notes: Christina Onassis, daughter of Aristotle Onassis and heir to his fortune, lived her brief, troubled life in the fast-lane. Now, a year after her death, English journalist Nigel Dempster has written her biography, Heiress, The Story of Christina Onassis - to be excerpted exclusively in The Vancouver Sun, Oct. 10, 11 and 12. Southam News correspondent Peter Bakogeorge caught up with Dempster in London.; interview with Nigel Dempster DD 10/07/89

SO Vancouver Sun (VSUN)

Edition: 3*

Section: LEISURE

Page: D1


LP --- Top gossip has only the best enemies --- Nigel Dempster really begins to hit his stride when he talks about his enemies.

TX His already rapid-fire delivery turns a notch faster and more excited. "You're judged by your enemies. So you've got to have the proper enemies," says the man who unashamedly lays claim to the top spot in the competitive world of British newspaper gossips. * "And right now my enemy list is topped by the Aga Khan, Stavros Niarchos, various English dukes and most of the Royal Family." None of them, he says, are the "stumble bums and tramps" you could find on the enemy list of one of his less adept competitors. The brash and boastful, but still likable, Dempster is the so-called aristocrat of the gossips. His long-running column in the Daily Mail newspaper is the common man's peek inside the world of the Royals and their hangers-on, the aristocracy and celebrated figures from the world of sports and arts. "I know everyone," he says in answer to why he is on top. That claim is repeated often, even in a short conversation with Dempster. He says his new book about Christina Onassis came about because: "I knew her, and it interested me, and I know everyone involved. "The previous call to yours was from the man . . . in whose house she died. "He was in Paris and he just rang me up." Those connections, and his self-promotion, have given Dempster an audience of millions. His name appears over more than 300 newspaper columns each year, and he does about 75 television appearances and an even greater number of radio reports each year. He doesn't say how much this pays him, but does say he has turned down an offer equivalent to $500,000 Cdn to work for a rival tabloid newspaper here. Dempster delivers a mix of items about royalty (Princess Margaret's latest escort); sports figures (Ivan Lendl's secret marriage); and financiers (the stop-work on the renovation of a $20-million estate purchased by a now-struggling businessman.) Asked about his biggest scoop, he replies: "They're all good stories." But he concedes that a coup was his reporting of "the time and the day when (Prince) Andrew and Sarah (Ferguson) would get engaged. "I knew they were engaged, and I told people when it would be announced." Dempster says he gets the stories others don't because celebrities know he will report them more fairly. "The British know . . . I'm more accurate." A friend who travels in some of the circles from which Dempster gets his gossip says he is successful because he is "very charming and very professional. "Most people have taken to ringing him and telling him things. He gets to the right parties." Dempster, born in India to an Australian father and raised in Britain, is married to aristocracy. His wife's late father was the 11th Duke of Leeds, meaning Dempster is, by marriage, distantly related to the Royal Family. And like the people he writes about, he is a celebrity. He has been sued, sometimes successfully; was once reported to have punched a rival gossip in the nose (he denies it); and has had a public falling out with his employer. He left the Daily Mail after it wouldn't print his entire account of how a cabinet minister got a black eye (a woman and her angered lover were involved) but went back when the newspaper relented. * And his feud with the Aga Khan is a running gossip item in itself. * "He's constantly trying to sue me. Everything I write about the Aga Khan, he sues." ILLUSTRATION: Nigel DEMPSTER; Christina Onassis: poor little rich girl LOCAL KEYWORDS: BOOKS @Art: L; P @Art: Nigel DEMPSTER Christina Onassis: poor little rich girl

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