Don’t forget the monkey’s blood


This week I met Donald Zec, the man in the picture above. He’s 94 in two weeks time and must be one of the last remaining journalistic links with the golden age of Hollywood. Beginning as a crime reporter in the London of the 1940s, Zec went on to become a royal correspondent before being despatched to Hollywood by the Daily Mirror, then the UK’s top selling paper. He hadn’t been there more than a couple of days when Humphrey Bogart dropped by the hotel with an invitation to go out sailing on his yacht. Zec went on to befriend Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergman, spend time with Marlon Brando and James Dean, and seriously piss off both Frank Sinatra and Mario Lanza – the latter sent him a tea chest filled with toilets rolls and the message, ‘Donald, these foolish things remind me of you’.

I spent 90 minutes with him in his west London flat for a story that will run in the next issue of PrivatAir. One of the things we talked about – other than Bogart, Monroe, Brando, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, the Beatles… – was how to get a good interview, because if anybody knows, it has to be Donald Zec. Here’s how he won over Marilyn.

1) Don’t concentrate solely on what people say at the risk of missing what they’re really like. When you buy a secondhand car, the novice opens the door and looks inside; the car dealer looks at the door because that’s where the rust shows.

2) Do your homework. If you’re talking to someone who can make ten thousand dollars in an hour, you owe it to them not to waste their time. Don’t ask questions to which you should already know the answer.

3) Make yourself liked, or at least presentable. Your subject has to feel it’s worth giving you half an hour of their time. Ideally, you’re the kind of person they’d like to have on their boat for the weekend.

4) Be completely prepared to throw all your questions out the window. Pay attention to what the person is saying because you might hear something that completely changes the track of the conversation. You’ve got to be able to seize on the moment that the interviewee says, ‘Of course, that was the moment I got so angry that I strangled my wife’.

5) Go the extra mile. There was a journalist called John Dean Potter, who was a reporter on the Daily Express. He’d interviewed a maharaja in India and had written up the story and gone to the cable office to file it. The Indian who was sending the telegram said, ‘Oh you met the maharaja? Did you know he drinks a glass of monkey’s blood every morning before breakfast?’ Potter didn’t. So he travelled all the way back to the maharaja’s palace. ‘I thought we covered everything,’ said the maharaja. ‘Yes, but just one small thing. Somebody back at the cable office told me you drink a glass of monkey’s blood every morning for breakfast?’ said Potter. ‘Yes, that’s right, didn’t you know?’ replied the maharaja. The story was taken off page 12 and moved to page one.

(Posted by AndrewH)

The Bards of Burma

Three literary legends – George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham – introduced Burma to the Western world. But as the country opens to reforms, what might they have made of Myanmar today?

Each of these authors lived in a Burma that no longer exists, so for an article in the March issue of Fah Thai, we went for an evocative, bygone illustrative style to compliment the feature. First we examined the writings of each of the authors and then we built up each illustration, piece by piece, with images and icons from the poems, novels, books and plays which directly reference British Burma in its ‘expansionist phase’.

ORWELL: For Orwell, the ideas for some of his most famous neologisms (‘Big Brother’, ‘thoughtcrime’, ‘Ministry of Love’, ‘doublethink’, ‘four legs good, two legs bad’) were conceived during his time as an Imperial Policeman in Lower Burma. We also examined his two great Burmese essays – Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging. His illustration carries the hallmarks of the cold, harsh realities of colonial rule set amid an utterly foreign culture, hence the steely blue colour.

058-064 Literary Burma-JH_Page_1

KIPLING: For Kipling, we explored his wonderful Departmental Ditties and, specifically, his famous poem Mandalay. Kipling was particularly attracted to the exotic remoteness of the Burmese jungles – and these certainly affected the animal characters he later created in The Jungle Books – hence a tiger and a snake. The colour is jungle green.

MAUGHAM: For Maugham, we explored his famous travelogue The Gentleman In The Parlour, which followed his travels in Rangoon. Maugham was a hedonist and a sensualist, so the illustration is in the colour of ‘golden brown’ opium (which he used daily) set amid the sensuousness of the Burmese people.


Posted by Jake Hamilton & Terence Goh

The Time Is Right

Working months in advance, it’s near impossible to time a magazine story to the daily news. Will your cover actor win the Oscar they are nominated for? Or will the glowing story about your cover athlete be tainted by their arrest days before your issue hits?

But, when it goes right, and serendipity is on your side, it’s a wonderful feeling.

This month’s Hemispheres has a great profile about the brand that is race car driver Danica Patrick, who became the first female to win pole at the Daytona 500 this past weekend. Check it out here.


-Orion Ray-Jones

A poster city for modern living

That the Danes topped the UN’s first World Happiness Report, issued last year, is no accident: Denmark was planned that way. It all dates back to 1864 when the loss of the country’s two southernmost provinces to Prussia saw the Danes suffer a huge national trauma, prompting an identity crisis and a subsequent national debate on what it meant to be a Dane. The result: Noma and New Nordic Cuisine, Sarah Lund, Borgen and The Bridge, smørrebrød, cycle chic, covetable wooden chairs and the out-there architecture of Bjarke Ingels. The March issue of N by Norwegian investigates the Danish way of life with contributions from Patrick Kingsley (author of How to Be Danish), cycle-chic founder Mikael Colville-Andersen and no less a personage than the mayor of Copenhagen himself. The words are accompanied by a brilliant illustration by Danish-born, Copenhagen-based artist Miss Lotion (commissioned by Rickard Westin). Inspired by the idea of Copenhagen as a machine for living, the illo runs over five spreads; ideally it would have been printed as one big fold-out poster, but that would have been a bit difficult to read on a plane. (Posted by AndrewH)


Pop-up Action Part 2: A challenge from across the pond

En garde, Mr Humphreys. Time for a little Transatlantic Ink duel!

I take your Gulf Air Thomas Allen illustration and raise you a feature from Go and a book review from  Hemispheres.

Readers, whatcha think? Have the Brits or Yanks made the best use of Allen’s talents?

p066-67_AT_GO_0210.#583A8B7 p068-69_AT_GO_0210.#583A8C2


-Orion Ray-Jones

Pop-up action


Love the new Gulf Life cover. The cover story is by travel author Tahir Shah. On the occasion of his tenth birthday, an aunt presented him with a copy of King Solomon’s Mines. It obviously struck a chord as decades later he set off for Africa in search of the mines himself (as, in fact, his grandfather had done), taking his well-tattered book with him. I’m not giving anything away if I tell you he fails to find his fortune – he is writing for Ink, after all – but the story does end rather touchingly with Tahir passing the book on to his son. Gulf Life’s cover of adventurers emerging from old books is beautifully appropriate. It was shot by Jonathan Minster, below, and conceived by art director Rob Timm, although due credit must be given to Thomas Allen.


If you don’t know him, Thomas Allen is a genius. He is a US photographer who transforms the lurid illustrations from vintage pulp novels into pop-up, 3D scenes. You can see more of his work on his website.



4 reasons to pick up the latest Thomas Cook Travel


1) It’s had a facelift The current February-April issue is the first to be designed by the super-talented Julia Murray. She’s given the magazine the bright and energetic hit it so desperately needed after a year without a full-time art director. We haven’t pushed the boat out too far and it’s technically more of a nip-tuck. Perhaps the biggest change was refreshing the upfront news section to make it more dynamic and fun.


2) The illustrations I love this illustration of The Saturdays that Pablo Lobato produced to accompany a spoof celebrity guide to Hollywood. He’s captured each band member so well, and his distinctive and playful style is a perfect match for the tone of the piece. I also love the illo that Julia commissioned for our celeb-spotting in Vegas feature – Matt Taylor’s handiwork manages to be both garish and classy at the same time, which is quite some achievement.



3) Baseball Even if you’re not interested in the sport – or sports in general – Robert Stephens’ piece on baseball culture in the Dominican Republic is worth your time. He beautifully conveys the locals’ passion for the game, with good quotes from both Dominicans who played in the US major league and aspiring 15-year-olds. Great writer + great story = great read.


4) The photography We’ve all been a little bit in love with photographer Rahel Weiss ever since Ink UK picture editor Julia Holmes commissioned her for an Italian food shoot last issue. For this issue, we sent her to Bodrum in Turkey. She’s one of those brilliant and talented snappers that just gets a brief and works to it, but is also happy to react to what she finds on the ground: she delivers what you want and then some. Her clean and uncluttered shots managed to capture the glamorous side of the Turkish resort, without making it look gaudy or tacky. (Posted by AnishaP)



Best dinosaur illustration of the month?

That would be this one – as featured in the new issue of Ink’s Airline Passenger Experience magazine. Commissioned by Jo Dovey and drawn by Joe Wilson @Debut Art.


Although a magazine devoted to trends and developments in the soft-services sectors of commercial aviation might not top everyone’s reading list, APEX delivers some fascinating reads, not least in the stories it runs on inflight catering and airport concessions. For example, things learned this issue: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in the US has six live-music stages scattered up and down the concourse; unless it’s double-wrapped, kosher food cannot be warmed in a non-kosher oven (hence observant Jews often get served half-frozen food when flying); and Japan Airlines have been serving KFC meals on routes to the US and Europe – or as they call it, chicken tempura. Where else are you going to find out that sort of stuff? (Posted by AndrewH)