by Paula Davies
IF AILSA GARLAND were interviewing me for a job I would he terrified. Ex-editor of Vogue, exwoman's editor and assistant editor of the Daily Mirror, now fashion co-ordinator for the magazine division of the International Publishing Corporation, she is a formidably powerful person.
She is also, although I hate to use the word, a very nice woman. She is glamorous, witty, amusing — all the cliches apply to Miss Garland except one. She is not a prima donna.
She shrugged her shoulders and laughed when I asked her how she has managed to avoid becoming what is, after all, the accepted role for high-powered
fashion women. With characteristic diplomacy she skates around the answer.
"People say I am not one and I suppose they arc right. All I know is that I have always liked most people and things in life and found everything about it intriguing. When things amuse me they amuse me and I'm getting a tremendous kick out of this."
This is her autobiography, Lion's Share* which comes out in November. "I have had a lion's share of life," she said happily. "Hence the title." But will the general public want to read the life of a woman journalist, however successful?
"I don't know," she admitted. "Probably not." Then she brightened. "Any girl who has ambitions in this field won't lose anything by reading it. "I'm no writer, of course," she added disarmingly, "but I
have had a lot of valuable experience which young people coming along may find useful. Mind you,' she said, "I've had a lot of luck."
Leaning back in her chart. clad in purple sweater and long, beige trousers, she almost makes you believe that her success is entirely based on good fortune. She chortles happily about the marvellous friends she has made, about the people she has known who helped her in her career. particularly those high-powered denizens of Fleet Street, Cecil King and Hugh Cudlipp.
"They were marvellous to me." she said, putting a breathless emphasis on the word. She talks with a gun-shot rapidity that occasionally dissolves into a gabble, jumping from one thing to another until you begin to feel that half a dozen people are taking part in this conversation, not two.
Luck may have favoured her but consummate ability, tact and infectious enthusiasm have been the chief guardians of her success. Everyone who knows her likes her and you'll seldom hear a bitchy remark made about her.
For a woman who has spent her life in the most dicey pans of the Fleet Street jungle, this is
no mean achievement. It may have something to do with her peculiarly Irish gift of making everything seem easier than it is.
She talks about the fun she had starting a craze for hula hoops through an article in the Daily Mirror. She doesn't mention the sheer, hard grind of striving, planning, inspiring, enduring that drives an editor's life.
Nor does she think it particularly unfair that, unlike her male colleagues, she had to go home and get a meal for her husband and son at the end of an exhausting day.
She is obviously no ordinary person, although she shrugs off the suggestion that there is anything unusual in editing the women's pages of the Daily Mirror one year and Vogue magazine the next.
"It is all a question of emphasis,' she said. "If something is good, you use it and change the style of presentation only. As Cecil King once told me: 'What I want for the women readers is the best. I don't mind how thick the icing is, the cake must be a good one'."
The various cakes that Ailsa Garland succeeded in baking have been good by any standards. Her one failure, the
magazine she launched, Fashion, was more a symptom of the changing limes than any failure on her part.
"Magazine circulations seem to be falling all the time," she said sadly. "The economic side of journalism today is to say the least confusing. An editor today must obviously un
derstand the problems but I do feel" — she hesitated, trying to pick her words carefully—"too much of the business side is given to the editors now.
"You are very foolish if you don't understand the economic necessities of journalism but nobody mentions the word "flair" any more in connection with editorship. The journalistic world may be a business but a magazine or newspaper is not a bar of soap. You cannot do market research on it in the same way as you can with ordinary products.
"You cannot research the future or predict what people will like. They always say no to new ideas. You have to be quick enough to spot the corning trend, seize on a new idea, exploit the latest talent."
She wasn't going to say it but the inference was clear, and left her pleasant but unpretentious office feeling that I had missed something by not working for her. There are few editors one could say that about.
*Pliblished by Michael Joseph, 45s.