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February 10, 2017updated 17 Feb 2017 10:12am

Writer Rob McGibbon reflects on conducting Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s last interview: ‘She had guts and character’

By Rob McGibbon

Writer Rob McGibbon conducted the last interview with Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Here, he gives an insight into that conversation…

In all these years of interviewing celebrities (30), I have on occasion wondered what it would feel like to have conducted the “last interview” with someone who then died suddenly. That happened this week with the shocking death of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

Two weeks earlier – on 26th January – I interviewed her for The Definite Article, my weekly Q&A column in the Daily Mail’s Weekend magazine.

Given what has happened since, how does it feel?  Strange and discomforting, to put it mildly. I listened to the tape again yesterday and hearing Tara’s voice again was really quite haunting.

This interview will be published tomorrow (Saturday 11/2/2017) as planned because the magazine had already been printed. The Mail will run an explanation in its news pages out of respect to the family, in case the piece appears insensitive.

I am at ease with it appearing because Tara had already read my article and was more than happy. In fact, she told me that she felt “honoured” and “very flattered” I’d asked her to feature in the column. She was sweet and self-deprecating like that.

Our interview was done by phone, but nevertheless it was an intense, emotionally charged and searingly honest conversation. It was a brief, yet potent insight into Tara’s skewed world.

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The Definite Article has the same 25 questions each week and is deceptively difficult. It often leads a subject to the darker places of their life and Tara was no exception.

She dealt with the questions with self-effacing candour and good humour, but there were also tears as the demons of her life were roused.

At one stage, I was worried she wouldn’t get to the end, but between sniffles, she valiantly said, “Don’t worry, I will come through.”

In that hour or so, we covered a lot: her drug-taking, her childhood, the hell of still living with the paparazzi on her doorstep, her regrets, her loves, her successes, even her funeral. Little did we know then…

After the interview, I felt drained and sad and I was left with a sense of fear for her because she was clearly so desperately vulnerable. But I  also felt affection for her because I admired her spirit and verve, despite all she had been through. She had guts and character.

I read a huge amount of the coverage this week and I couldn’t help but be vexed by a stark omission from the portraits of her current mindset, mostly gleaned from anonymous sources, long-since disconnected pals, even builders and Earls Court shopkeepers. It is this omission that has driven me to add my two-penneth to the mountain of copy.

Amidst all the inevitable talk about her darker times, I got a definite sense that Tara was positive about her future. She had recently launched her own fashion label and she talked of cocaine very much in the past tense.

The most touching moment of our interview came when I asked the 14th question: “The unending quest that drives you on…”

“To make my family proud of me again…” she replied quietly. Hearing herself say such a profoundly painful sentiment made her cry. It made me well up, too. It still does. Our conversation fell silent for a few beats and all I could hear was her trying to hold off the tears to continue. She then repeated the answer two more times.

Those words were disarmingly revealing. They encapsulated Tara’s lasting regret for her past, but also her longing and hope for a better future. I truly felt that when she said it, Tara believed deep down that it was possible, that she had the inner strength to come through – for her family and for herself. I think she could have achieved her dream and it is so very sad that she did not live to have the chance.

I send my sympathies to her family and I hope that the ill-timed publication of my interview does not add to their suffering.

 

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