Video star: Anne goes behind the camera in 1984
Broadcaster Anne Diamond, 69, made her name presenting Good Morning Britain on TV-am in the 1980s.
She tells Dan Moore how she and co-presenter Nick Owen once had to beg for their wages, before their onscreen chemistry led to the pair being poached for Good Morning on the BBC.
Anne has had five sons with her former husband, TV executive Mike Hollingsworth. Following the cot death of their third son, Sebastian, in 1991, Anne campaigned for more rigorous research into the condition. Her endeavours were lauded as contributing to the massive decrease in cot deaths.
Anne, who is divorced and single, lives in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. She co-presents a weekend breakfast show for GB News with Stephen Dixon.
She was awarded an OBE last month for services to public health and charity.
What was your first job?
It was as a support teacher in my old prep school. I loved it and ended up teaching French to a class of nine-year-olds that included my little sister. I was paid pin money, nothing much.
What did your parents teach you about money?
My parents were strong believers in the old adage that if you can’t afford it – you can’t buy it.
How did you break into television?
I was exceptionally lucky. I’d taken up an an apprenticeship for a weekly paper in Somerset, the Bridgwater Mercury, earning about £7 a week. I was sent to write an article about a treatment programme for brain-injured children that had been set up in a huge country house in our patch.
The programme arranged for me to visit their American HQ in Philadelphia, and I subsequently wrote a big centre-spread piece for my paper, and then for one of the nationals.
That got me noticed by BBC Bristol who invited me on to the evening news show to talk about my experiences.
After I’d appeared, the TV news editor took me to one side and asked if I’d ever thought of working in TV. I never had. But I looked around the studios, with its plush carpeting, TV monitors everywhere and a coffee machine bubbling in the corner and thought, ‘This’ll do for me.’ So I said, ‘I’d love to!’
Did Good Morning Britain make you rich?
I was about 26 when I landed my job presenting Good Morning Britain. That’s when it started to be reported in the newspapers that I was ‘obviously’ earning a big salary. In fact, co-presenter Nick Owen and I had to regularly go and bang on the office door of the head of finance and beg for our wages.
When did you feel you’d made it?
There’s no doubt it’s a thrill when you are recognised for the first time – particularly by a maitre d’ in a restaurant who then offers you the best table. But you also get a lot of people who come up to you and say: ‘Do you know who you look like?’ One lady in an off-licence once told me I looked ‘just like that Anne Diamond off the telly. I bet you wish you had her money!’
What was your best year, financially?
It was probably before I became a national reporter. You felt that everything seems possible, as long as you weren’t in debt. Marriage, family and a career always felt like a marathon.
Honour: Anne with her OBE last month
What has been your career highlight?
The best TV memories always seem to centre on interviews you never forget. In my very first week at TV-am, I interviewed the great Kirk Douglas. Shortly after that the incredible Bette Davis.
I spent an afternoon with her and she was the only person I have ever met who was allowed to smoke in the studio during our interview. You don’t tell the great Bette Davis she can’t smoke. It was pure cinematic poetry watching her light her cigarette and blow smoke rings whilst she pondered her response to my questions.
What’s your biggest regret?
I always think my biggest regret is not staying awake all night on the night my third son, Sebastian, died. I always wonder whether I would have noticed anything that would have suggested he had stopped breathing and that I could have done something to save his life. He died of cot death in 1991. His death sparked the cot death campaign ‘Back to Sleep’ which dramatically reduced the cot death rate in the UK and beyond.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I’m a spender by nature, but never on anything big, except holidays. I have learned to save just so I can go on sunshine holidays.
Do you save into a pension?
Yes. Peggy, my sister’s mother-in-law, took me to one side after I’d got the TV-am job and said: ‘Don’t think I am being a boring old woman but please take this advice – start paying into a pension NOW. One day you’ll thank me.’ She was right.
Your best and worst money decisions?
The worst was falling into the trap of having too many credit cards – it becomes easy to overspend and forget any sense of budgeting. I had about ten of them, and while I was going through a tough period including divorce, I started to use one card to pay off another. That gets you into the most awful predicament.
The best money decision I ever made was to cut the bloody cards up, and face the financial music. Nowadays I have only one debit card for one simple bank account and every time I spend, I know where the money is going.
What is your financial priority?
Ensuring that my boys are protected.
What charities do you support?
I have always supported the cot death charity, the Lullaby Trust, with whom I have worked many times since Sebastian’s death. With my roots in the Midlands, I also support Midlands Air Ambulance Charity.
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