By Piers Morgan For Daily Mail Online
Keep a diary,’ said Mae West, ‘and some day it will keep you.’ I’ve been keeping mine for 30 years, and it’s certainly kept me well in return, providing enough juicy literary fodder for five best-selling books and 630 columns for The Mail On Sunday over the past 15 years.
But as any sociable diarist can attest, the best time to leave a party is when people still want to hear more from you, not less . . .
So, as I prepare to focus on my new global daily TV show launching in 2022, I’m packing up my gossipy quill and giving the world’s celebrities and public figures a much-needed break from my beady eye.
It won’t be an easy transition into non-diary-writing life.
I dined with the irrepressible Dame Joan Collins on Tuesday, and she regaled an eye-popping story about Boris Johnson and Katie Price that made me gasp out loud.
(You’ll just have to wait for the great lady’s own next volume of diaries to find out what it was …)
But as a farewell, I thought it would be fun to go back over all 630,000 words I’ve penned since writing my first diary back in October 2006 and pick my All-Time Morgan Awards.
As I did so, I realised how bloody lucky I’ve been to have lived such a rich, varied, unpredictable, occasionally dramatic, and always entertaining life.
I hate name-dropping, obviously, but my right hand has now pressed the flesh with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the six most important royals of my lifetime (the Queen, Queen Mother, Princess Diana, and Princes Philip, Charles and William), and the most infamous ‘royal’ (Meghan Markle), four U.S. Presidents (Carter, Clinton, Obama and Trump — and I’ve chatted on the phone with a fifth, Biden), seven British Prime Ministers (Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May and Johnson), movie legends Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Leonardo Di Caprio and George Clooney, music icons Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Bono, Barbra Streisand and all three Bee Gees, TV superstars Oprah Winfrey, Simon Cowell and Jerry Seinfeld, radio emperor Howard Stern, sporting greats Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Ian Botham and Sir Lewis Hamilton, reality TV queens Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, business moguls Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, my football team Arsenal’s three greatest players (Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira) and 32 England cricket captains.
I’m fairly certain only MY right hand can make this claim.
And I’ve found it an enthralling and fascinating experience to hang out with the most famous, significant people of my lifetime.
The Prince of Wales speaks with Mr Piers Morgan at Buckingham Palace 14/05/2004
As Sinatra sang, I’ve travelled each and every highway, had times when I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, loved, laughed and cried, had my share of losing, but found it all so amusing, and I have no regrets at doing things my way, for what is a man if not himself?
Or, more succinctly, as Sinatra also sang: ‘You gotta love living, baby, ‘cos dying’s a pain in the a**.’
Here then are my All-Time Morgan Awards:
My diary-writing days nearly ended as fast as they started. Dining in 2009 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel’s Cut restaurant in LA, I found myself at the table next to Bruce Willis, then 54, and his new British bride, Victoria’s Secret model Emma Heming, then 30.
In my next column, I branded them a ‘ludicrous couple’, and wrote: ‘The most striking thing about young Emma is that she’s the absolute dead spit of Demi Moore at the same age. Proof that if you’re a Hollywood millionaire superstar living in Tinseltown then you really can achieve every man’s secret dream — to reverse the ageing, and relationship-maturing, process and have the woman you first fell in love with, and married, all over again.’
Three weeks later, I was back at Cut, at the same table, and when I looked to my right, I saw Bruce Willis and Emma back at their same table, staring at me.
I felt an instant freezing of my spinal cord.
Bruce stood up and walked over.
‘You’re Piers, right?’ he asked.
‘Erm, yes. I am.’
Silence for several seconds.
‘You OK?’ he asked, with all the warmth of Michael Corleone kissing his treacherous brother and whispering: ‘I know it was you, Fredo.’
‘Erm, yes. Thank you.’
‘Good, good. That’s good.’
‘How are you, Bruce?’
‘I’m good. Very good. Thank YOU. Have you met my wife, Emma?’
‘Erm, no, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.’
She smiled and said hello.
Bruce turned back to me. ‘I just want to say something to you, Piers: EMBRACE DEATH.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘To live your life to the full, you must embrace death.’
‘I see. Will I need to be embracing it this evening?
‘I don’t know yet.’
Bruce sat down again, and I urgently asked the sommelier to offer him a potentially life-saving bottle of wine on me.
Bruce nodded, perused the list, and settled on a $400 Chateau Margaux.
Minutes later, two tequila slammers arrived at my table.
I looked at Bruce who beseeched: ‘Inhale, exhale, then down in one. EMBRACE DEATH!’
I did as he said, and he smiled.
Then two more tequila slammers arrived, with the same entreaty from Mr Willis: ‘Inhale, exhale! EMBRACE DEATH!’
‘I will if this carries on,’ I slurred, but downed them again.
He laughed. Menacingly.
It was time to return fire, so I sent tequila to HIS table. He hesitated.
‘Go on,’ I urged, ‘are you man or mouse?’
Emma giggled, Bruce didn’t.
But he downed his tequila and minutes later, sent over two giant Sexy Alligator cocktails (Malibu, Midori, raspberry schnapps, Jagermeister, pineapple.)
‘EMBRACE DEATH!’ Bruce exclaimed, and I nearly did, given how strong they were.
When he went to the loo, Emma told me: ‘I’ve been a fan of yours for years, I was so disappointed with what you wrote about us.’
She seemed a lovely lady and on closer inspection, didn’t look much like Demi at all.
So, on every level, my previous column had died a horrible death.
I just hoped I wasn’t going to as well. ‘Do you still want to kill me, Bruce?’ I asked when he returned and prepared to leave.
‘Probably not,’ he replied. ‘This has been fun.’
‘If you do, I know exactly how I’ll die,’ I said.
‘Oh yeah?’ Bruce replied. ‘How?
‘Hard. I’ll Die Hard.’
He stared at me again, then guffawed. ‘That’s funny. Are you going to write about this as well?’
He shook his head, laughed again, left, and I lived to tell another tall tale.
During a delightful chat with Gwyneth Paltrow at an Oscars party in 2011, I joked: ‘I didn’t realise you were this nice.’
‘Oh, I’m very, very nice, Piers,’ she purred.
‘Except in the bedroom.’
Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA – 23 Apr 2018
Sir Michael Parkinson described me thus: ‘Piers, you’re proactive, fearless . . . and sometimes you’re a total twerp.’ I’ll take that.
I didn’t think anything could be less appealing than ‘Celebrity Shark Bait’ where I was offered £100,000 to be lowered inside a cage into a South African sea full of deadly Great Whites.
(‘What happens if the cage breaks open?’ I asked. ‘Great TV!’ came the response.)
But then I was promised an even larger large cheque to fake my own death, and witness how the news was then received by the world.
‘This needs to be very hush-hush,’ the production company said, ‘and obviously, certain people would need to know . . .’ You think?
I can imagine the BBC News headline now: ‘Tributes failed to pour in last night . . .’
When I followed four cast members of U.S. TV legal drama Suits on Twitter, one of them sent me a private direct message minutes later.
It read: ‘Well hello there — thanks for the follow. Big fan of yours!’
Suffice it to say, I don’t think Meghan Markle remains quite such a big fan.
Amid all the fulsome tributes to Muhammad Ali, I tweeted: ‘I hope people don’t make me sound too perfect when I die. No coats of sugar please.’
‘You could always test us?’ suggested singer John Legend.
After I mocked Little Mix for posing naked with insults such as ‘slutty’ painted on their bodies, Ariana Grande — who I’d also criticised for initially fleeing from Manchester after the terror attack that killed so many of her fans — fired back at me by tweeting: ‘I look forward to the day you realise there are other ways to go about making yourself relevant than to criticise young successful women. I think that’s a beautiful thing for you and your career . . . or what’s left of it.’ Ouch!
Three months later, I was dining with my manager at Ocean Prime restaurant in Beverly Hills when we spied Ms Grande at a nearby table.
To my shock, the world’s biggest pop star (that week she became the first solo artist to ever have the top three singles in the U.S. Top 100 Billboard chart) clocked me and came over to our booth to announce: ‘Let’s chat.’
And chat we did, for hours until 1am, about everything from feminism, politics and terrorism — to love, music and friendship.
Ariana bought us some very expensive red wine but wasn’t happy with the way I toasted our new alliance.
‘NO! NO! NO!’ she screamed. ‘Always look me in the eye as you clink. Do it again! LOOK ME IN THE EYES!
We clinked again, and this time I stared straight into her eyes. ‘That’s better! OK, now we can drink.’
‘Fiery little thing, aren’t you?’ I laughed.
‘I’m Italian, half-Sicilian, half-Abruzzese. So, I make no apologies for being passionate — it’s in my blood!’ Ariana was warm, whip-smart, emotional and hilarious.
It was a fabulous evening.
When I got up to leave, she sprang up, too, ran round the table and exclaimed: ‘Can we hug? Would that be inappropriate?’
‘Yes, of course,’ I replied.
So, we hugged.
‘I’m so glad we met,’ she said.
‘Me, too,’ I replied.
‘I think we’re going to be good friends,’ she said, ‘we’re a lot more alike than I realised.’
Holly Willoughby posted a photo of us captioned: ‘Lovely afternoon with Piers Morgan, thank you for a wonderful lunch. X.’
To which one of her followers commented: ‘Big t*ts meets a f***ing massive t*t.’
‘Trump has no chance of becoming President,’ Lord Sugar declared during a dinner party thrown by designer Kelly Hoppen in May 2016. ‘None, nada, zero. Never happening. I know these things.’
(This narrowly beat Lord Sugar’s own previous best prediction in 2005: ‘Next Christmas, the iPod will be dead, kaput.’ Apple went on to sell 400 million iPods.)
Pictured: Joan Collins, Piers Morgan and Alan Sugar
I had my feet massaged on a Barbados beach in 2009 by a 6 ft 6 in local legend Rastafarian named ‘The Doctor’ who told me: ‘I’ve done all the big stars.’
‘Who has the best celebrity feet?’ I asked.
‘Alan Shearer. Very smooth.’
‘And the worst?’
‘Hugh Grant. Short and fat.’
Cristiano Ronaldo direct messaged me on Instagram (he’s the most-followed star in the world) to say: ‘Hello sir! How are you? I saw your (crime) documentary on Netflix! I watch them all with my girlfriend in bed and we love them. She said I should tell you that, so I am now telling you!’
Soon, we began chatting on the phone and texting, and I persuaded him to sit down for a rare personal interview, in Turin, where he was playing for Juventus.
After a brilliant chat, Ronaldo invited my eldest son Spencer and I to dinner at his favourite local Japanese restaurant where we spent four fabulous hours eating sushi, drinking delicious wine, and chewing the fat about life, football, and serial killers.
‘I’d like to pay for dinner,’ I said at the end.
From my expensive experience, most celebrities are very happy never to get their wallet out, but Ronaldo’s made of different gravy on and off the pitch.
‘No, no, NO!’ he cried indignantly. ‘You are MY guests and have come to MY home. I pay!’
Piers Morgan and Cristiano Ronaldo: Friday 13th September 2019
Then he gave us two signed Juventus shirts, hugged us, and slipped away into his £250,000 Rolls-Royce.
We’ve stayed in touch ever since, messaging on an almost daily basis, and aside from his wondrous talent with a football, he’s the most down-to-earth megastar I know.
The man with the greatest abs in world sporting history also gave me a compliment that may end up on my tombstone: ‘Piers,’ he said in the interview, ‘you have good abdominals.’
The clip, now my pinned tweet, has so far had 35 million views — more than any single TV show/event in British history.
Several years after Jeremy Clarkson and I brawled at the British Press Awards, we bumped into each other in a Kensington restaurant, and I complained that he’d left a two-inch scar on my right temple. (It’s still there …)
‘My injuries were far worse,’ he snorted, showing me the crocked and gnarled little finger on his right, punching, hand.
‘I broke it on your head,’ he said, ‘and it’s never reset properly.’
Many years, and vicious public barbs, later, I received a 1am text: ‘Morgan, Clarkson here. We should stop it. Drink?’
‘Pint in the Scarsdale?’ I responded. (We frequent the same West London pub.) Two nights later, we arrived at the same time, shook hands, and marched to the bar as startled locals spontaneously choked with disbelief on their pork scratchings.
For the next four hours, we sat outside and drank — me, vast quantities of London Pride bitter and Rioja, him gallons of rosé.
As the alcohol flowed, he revealed why he waved the white flag.
‘I’m going through a difficult divorce,’ he sighed, ‘my first ex-wife has also come out of the woodwork to give me hell, I’m smoking too much, drinking too much, my back hurts, I’m all over the papers with scandals, I’m at war with my BBC bosses, and my mother has just died. I simply don’t have the energy for you any more, Morgan.’
We finally agreed that what our mutual friends have always insisted may be true — the reason we waged war for so long was because we are so similar: quiet, modest, devoid of opinion, and universally loved.
To cement our new peace, I appeared on Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire last year.
After I gave what he knew was the wrong answer, Clarkson smirked, flashed his disfigured finger, and quoted Chinese warrior Sun Tzu:
‘They say that if you wait by the river for long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by, and yours has come by, Morgan. You’ve humiliated yourself. Goodbye.’
When Sir John Major joined me in fellow knight Sir Ian Botham’s box at Lord’s, I asked him if he’d do a selfie with me.
He looked repulsed.
‘No, Piers. I do NOT do selfies!’
‘And definitely not with you!
Raquel Welch invited me to meet her in her hotel suite the day before our Life Stories interview, then cancelled at the last minute.
‘Sorry Piers,’ she explained when we finally met at the studio the next day, ‘I just remembered that I never take tea in the morning with any man I haven’t slept with.’
Piers Morgan and actress Raquel Welch
I came top of a ‘Most Popular Beer-Goggles Pin-up’ poll which revealed 39 per cent of British women don’t find me remotely attractive when sober but do when they’ve had a few drinks.
‘What nonsense,’ I spluttered indignantly to my wife Celia. ‘I can’t believe women only find me hot when they’re drunk.’
‘No, it’s true,’ she replied. ‘I’m one of them.’
I’d always had a sneaking suspicion that things had got a little too . . . ahem . . .spicy, between some of the Spice Girls.
So, when I interviewed Mel B for Life Stories, I went for the jugular.
‘There were rumours you and Geri were more than good friends,’ I probed. ‘You had a dabble?’
She stared at me, frozen in half-smirk silence for several seconds.
‘No denial?’ I persisted.
‘She had great boobs,’ said Mel.
‘So, you did?!’
‘Not really . . .’
‘You clearly DID!’
Mel B looked over desperately at Mel C, sitting among the audience.
‘I don’t know ANYTHING! This is all new to me . . .’ insisted Ms Chisholm, with a face that suggested she knew absolutely everything but couldn’t believe her friend was about to cough to it.
‘OH, WHATEVER, MELANIE!’ screeched Mel B, whose obvious squirming was all the encouragement I needed.
‘Did you or didn’t you with Geri Halliwell?’
‘Well, what do you consider as doing it or not?’
This was like negotiating over Brexit — every tiny detail of clarification was of vital historical importance.
‘Did you sleep with her?’
‘Yeah, we all slept in a bed together but not “like that”.’
Like all good gossip hounds, I persisted. ‘Did you sleep with Geri “like that?” ’
Mel fell silent again, then a cheeky grin appeared, and she nodded.
‘Yeah, and now I’ve said it, she’s going to kill me and so’s her husband.’
Suffice it to say that all hell broke loose afterwards, with Geri issuing furious implausible denials and threatening to cancel the Spice Girls reunion tour.
But more importantly, my place in the pantheon of journalistic legends was assured — this was the showbiz equivalent of Watergate.
A friend of mine found himself sitting with Victoria Beckham at an event in Dubai several years ago and sent me the following summary of part of their conversation:
VB: ‘Is it true you know Piers Morgan?’
VB: ‘Can you send him a message from me?’
VB: ‘Tell him he’s a c***.’
Friend: ‘Will do.’
Half an hour later, she returned:
VB: ‘Actually, don’t send that.’
Friend: ‘Why not?’
VB: ‘Because it will make him happy.’
Nancy Dell’Olio, Piers Morgan and Victoria Beckham attend the Glamour Women Of The Year Awards 2007, at the Berkeley Square Gardens on June 5, 2007 in London, England
‘What is the secret of the Johnson family success?’ I asked Rachel Johnson during a taxi ride to BBC1’s Question Time in Surrey.
‘Well,’ she giggled, ‘all the men are incredibly well-hung.’
At my 50th birthday party in 2015, attended by everyone from Lord Sugar and Gary Lineker to Ant McPartlin and Amanda Holden, my brother Jeremy gleefully took me down in front of all my celebrity pals with zingers including:
Lord Sugar, speaking at the same event: ‘Piers must have some talent, ‘cos he’s too ugly to have slept his way to the top.’
Jack Whitehall told the star-studded audience at a Hollywood awards ceremony: ‘Piers Morgan is Britain’s answer to Donald Trump, if the question America was asking was: “I wonder what Donald Trump would be like with less charm?” ’
I was a 16-year-old cricket fanatic when Sir Ian Botham destroyed the Australians in what became known as the ‘Botham’s Ashes’ series. To my delight, he then became a great friend over the years and on his 60th birthday the great man invited me to play golf with him at Sunningdale, Berkshire, along with a select gathering including one of his fellow 1981 heroes Bob Willis, followed by an epic long lunch at the acclaimed Waterside Inn restaurant in nearby Bray.
We drank great wine, guzzled dazzling three-Michelin-star food cooked by iconic chef Michel Roux, and as the sun set, we adjourned to a small hexagonal hut by the river outside where we sat for another two hours, smoking big cigars, drinking even bigger glasses of brandy, and talking about the series that cemented my love of the greatest sport in the world.
‘I wish Winston Churchill was here,’ Beefy declared at one point.
But there was no need. We had the modern version with us.
In an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kim suggested I pursue a disconcerting new career.
‘Did Piers Morgan respond to you?’ asked her sister Kourtney, alluding to a Twitter debate that Kim and I had over a particularly tacky naked selfie she’d posted. ‘He wrote a full blog about why don’t I try to be successful with my clothes on,’ replied Kim. ‘I’m like, why don’t YOU try to be successful with your clothes OFF? It’s actually really hard.’
During filming for America’s Got Talent in 2009, I told co-judge David Hasselhoff that I was going to the Midsummer Night’s Dream party at the Playboy Mansion.
‘You’ll have a lot of fun there, man,’ he said. ‘It’s pretty crazy! The chicks are gonna be throwing themselves at you!’
‘Actually, I’m going with my girlfriend,’ I replied.
The Hoff looked totally bemused, then shook his head slowly.
‘Don’t you know the golden rule? Never take sand to the beach!’
Lionel Richie invited me to dinner at his Bel Air home and revealed: ‘Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and me all shared one thing in common — none of us could read music!’
‘How can you create songs if you can’t read music?’ I asked. ‘You do this . . .’ he replied, and began tapping his finger on the table, in a slow, rhythmical monotone. ‘I saw Marvin do it once, and it was incredible to watch.’
Lionel continued tapping the table, with the same finger, and then started riffing with his voice, just making a song up as he went.
It was spellbinding.
Janet Street-Porter told Loose Women viewers: ‘I’d sooner kiss a Gloucester Spotted Pig than Piers Morgan.’ Phew.
‘Is Piers Morgan A Psychopath?’ asked the Radio Times.
They explored this disconcerting question by getting me to answer a detailed test set by Dr Kevin Dutton, a psychology expert from Oxford University.
‘Piers does possess some psychopathic tendencies,’ concluded Dr Dutton. ‘He’s persuasive, charismatic, cool under pressure and can be ruthless when he has to. But in other ways, he is un-psychopathic — he’s reliable, hard-working, and very empathetic. You might call him a good psychopath!’
One Direction star Niall Horan challenged me to a charity pro-am football match at Leicester City’s stadium, and as I stood next to him on the touchline, I suddenly felt a pair of hands clutch my shorts and yank them downwards, as a loud northern voice cackled: ‘Take that you w***er!’.
Terror gripped me: I’d been debagged by Harry Styles in front of 18,000 people, most of whom were armed with camera phones.
(My most recurring nightmare is finding myself naked on camera live on air.)
James Corden exploded with laughter. ‘I think we just saw your limitations laid bare, Morgan!’
Burt Reynolds sent me a love heart-shaped pillow with his face on it and a hand-written note on headed paper from his suite at the Dorchester Hotel which read: ‘Piers, love and warm thoughts always, Burt. PS you’re very special.’
Burt Reynolds and Sally Field at the Steak Pit Restaurant in Los Angeles, California
When Australian fast bowler Brett Lee destroyed my ribcage in a ferocious televised assault on my personage in the nets at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (my horrified sister dubbed it ‘a public stoning’), Shane Warne was the umpire and could be seen cracking up as my bones cracked up. ‘You should have got in line mate, not backed away!’ he chortled afterwards.
Six months later, Mr Warne himself had to face Mr Lee in the Lord’s 200th anniversary game and was thus able to show me exactly how it’s done.
Brett bowled him a vicious (accidental) beamer first ball, Shane duly got in line, the ball struck his right hand — and broke it.
During the first wave of the pandemic, I had to do my own make-up on Good Morning Britain and one morning, I accidentally selected the wrong pot and painted myself bright orange.
I only realised when viewers bombarded me on Twitter with pictures of my head next to one of perma-tanned President Trump with mocking ‘TANGO TWINS!’ style captions.
‘How bad is it?’ I whispered to Susanna Reid.
‘It’s not great,’ she giggled, ‘there are some . . . blending issues.’
When I wrongly thought I had Covid last year, and took several days off work, many celebrity friends rushed to proffer their concerns.
Apart from one.
‘Oh, come on Piers,’ texted Vinnie Jones, ‘don’t be going for the sympathy vote with all the housewives you complete b***end. Let me know when you get over the sniffles, you pansy. Your loving buddy, Vin. X’
Attached to the message was a photo of a smirking Mr Jones wearing a beanie hat with a large woollen penis stuck on the front.
I went straight back to work.
Vinnie Jones of Wimbledon makes a point during a League Division One match between Wimbledon and Middlesbrough at Plough Lane on March 25, 1989 in London, England
When I won Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice show in 2008, his final words to me as he announced the result were: ‘Piers, you’re a vicious guy. You’re tough. You’re smart. You’re probably brilliant. I’m not sure. You’re certainly not diplomatic. But you did an amazing job. And you beat the hell out of everybody . . . you’re my Celebrity Apprentice.’
So, when Trump won the Presidency in 2016, I sent him a letter saying:
‘Donald, you’re a vicious guy. You’re tough. You’re smart. You’re probably brilliant. I’m not sure. You’re certainly not diplomatic. But you did an amazing job. And you beat the hell out of everybody . . . you’re the President of the United States.’
He rang me the moment he got it, laughing his head off.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group