"Don"t blame the mistress. The man always starts it": Why Lord Archer"s ex-lover Sally Farmiloe doesn"t regret a thing
“Don”t blame the mistress, the man always starts it”: Why Lord Archer”s ex-lover Sally Farmiloe doesn”t regret a thing…
1:50 AM on 21st May 2011
On Wednesday morning, Lord Archer was on Woman’s Hour promoting his latest novel.
During the interview, he modestly told host Jenni Murray that his talent as a story teller was ‘God given’, explained that he told ‘no more fibs than anyone else’ and stated that he considered himself ‘very lucky’ still to be married to Lady Archer after 44 years.
‘Mary and I are close friends,’ he said, adding that they were accepting of ‘each other’s foibles’.
Sally Farmiloe as she is today. Although she appeared in two series of Howards” Way, she is undoubtedly most famous for being Jeffrey Archer”s mistress
At that very moment in another part of town, one of Lord Archer’s most famous foibles was having her photograph taken. Sally Farmiloe, a former mistress of the disgraced peer, was primped, plucked and ready for her close-up.
Her ash blonde hair was artfully tousled, her couture dress by French designer Rachel Elbaz clung in all the right places, her excellent legs were as smooth as peeled eggs.
‘I get lasered, darling,’ she says, speaking of her preferred method of hair removal.
‘Two sessions under my arms, six sessions for the bikini line and ten sessions on my legs. Yes, it is quite a mistressy thing to do, but you gotta have smooth skin. You can’t be a mistress with hairy legs.’
Having been happily married to chartered surveyor Jeremy Neville for nearly ten years, Sally’s mistressing days are far behind her. Nevertheless, she is all set to make a new television series called More Than A Mistress, which will feature a series of interviews with women who have been mistresses at some point, but are also ‘so much more than that’.
Women, of course, just like Sally.
Right now, she stands in a room which is melting under the heat of pink taffeta curtains, custard and lemon striped walls and a scatter of acid green cushions.
In the pink: Sally Farmiloe with Jeffrey Archer in the Nineties
‘I like colour. I love it! I’ve always been quite a pink person,’ says Sally, an ex-debutante, actress, fund-raiser and seducer of men.
True to her rose-tinted word, she is wearing a pink cocktail dress, pink lipstick and pink pearls. Even her nails are a frosty pink, shimmering away as her tiny, strong hands grasp a pint glass of mineral water.
She takes a thirsty gulp and sits down on the sofa in her vibrant West London home.
‘I had a party here last night. I got absolutely rat-*****,’ she says, and giggles. At the age of 57, she is still the fizzy, living embodiment of the bubbly blonde. And she doesn’t intend to let Jeffrey Archer — or anyone else — forget it.
It is not just her soft furnishings that are colourful. Sally’s entire life has been that way, too. Although she appeared in two series of Howards’ Way, the popular Eighties television drama, and likes to describe herself as a ‘West End leading actress’, she is undoubtedly most famous for being Archer’s mistress.
‘Do you think The thing is, he is not even my most famous boyfriend. I also went out with Sir Clive Sinclair and Andrew Neil,’ she says.
Holy trinity of love gods! Never in the field of human nooky has one woman done so much for the sisterhood, venturing forth in her satin basque where so many feared to tread. Sally deserves a medal, preferably one embossed with Services Above And Beyond, tied up with a pink ribbon and pinned to her swelling embonpoint.
She also dated musician Eric Clapton, actor Christopher Cazenove and property dealer Black Jack Dellal, and was close to Charles, Earl Spencer, whom she describes as ‘a lively boy’.
Sally, pictured in 1979, used to date Eric Clapton and Sir Clive Sinclair
Still, it is clear who was the Big Chief Sizzle on her totem pole of love. Back in the days when they were an item, Sally nicknamed Lord Archer ‘Wonder Boy’ because of his sexual prowess.
‘Jeffrey wasn’t highly sexed. He didn’t want it five times a night or anything, thank God, but he was certainly very sexy,’ she recalls. ‘And a good lover, definitely. The sex and the passion were an important part of our relationship.’
On one celebrated occasion, the couple even sneaked out of a Tory fund-raising ball to have sex in a nearby car park in Mayfair.
‘Why do people always bring that up’ she squeals. ‘Well, it was certainly the most embarrassing thing about the affair with Jeffrey. Even worse than when I went topless hang-gliding for charity and the photographs ended up in the newspapers.
Sally was shortlisted to appear on reality TV show “I”m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here”, but was “unbooked” at the last minute amid rumours Lord Archer was also appearing on the show
‘Look. I am respectable now, I’m married, I am a woman of a certain age. Even back then, I always wanted to be dignified and rise above all the scandal, although admittedly, that was quite difficult when all the papers had pictures of me with my boobs out.’
For three-and-a-half years until the affair was exposed in 1999, Sally and Jeff were a hot and heavy team. He had yet to be found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice and sent to prison for three years.
Back then, Archer was still a master of the universe, a mayoral candidate, a millionaire on the make. To Sally, he was all sorts of wonderful. Cue violins.
‘Oh I loved Jeffrey. I adored him, I admired him. I loved his looks, Iloved his books. Before I met him I had seen pictures of him and thought he was a very good-looking chap. I was always attracted to him.
‘AndI also knew about the state of his marriage, which was very, very important to me. I wasn’t somebody who went into a relationship wanting to steal a man from another woman, I wouldn’t do that.’
Sally was led to believe that the Archers had an understanding with each other. ‘I always presumed they had an open marriage and that Jeffrey wasalways tripping up and getting into trouble, but she was frightfully discreet. I think she knew what he got up to. The important thing was I knew she had her own friends.’
These distinctions are important to mistresses, a group of women who are very much in the news at the moment. In fact, wives beware — they are everywhere.
ArnoldSchwarzenegger had a love child with his housekeeper/mistress, Sir FredThe Shred tried to keep his mistress secret with a super-injunction, while on the other side of the legal divide glamour model Imogen Thomas’s alleged affair with a Premier League footballer is the subject of another gagging order.
Just last week, John Prescott and his wife Pauline dismissed his two-year affair with his secretary Tracey Temple as ‘just a boy thing’ which was ‘without emotion’. And elsewhere there are many other shadowy showbusiness figures currently choosing to hide their adultery and misdemeanours behind injunctions, legally forbidding their mistresses even to talk about their affair.
He came ‘charging to my rescue’ following the very public Archer debacle and they have been together ever since. Another member of the family is Catherine, 25, the daughter of Sally’s best friend, Marilyn Smethwick. Before Marilyn died of breast cancer 15 years ago, Sally promised she would bring Catherine up as her own daughter, which she hasdone.
Sally with her husband Jeremy Neville, who came charging to her rescue when the Archer affair was exposed
It is not just this incredible act of kindness and generosity that makes me think well of Sally. I also admire her pluck and indefatigable energy, her sense of fun — miraculously intact, all things considered — and her determination to do well.
Sally Farmiloe is one of those women who always has a slew of projects on the go, even if some seem destined to fail.
‘Evenin the Jeffrey days I was always trying to be respectable. I had won Mensa’s Business Woman Of The Year, after all. I didn’t want to be exposed as a scarlet woman.’
Today, hers is a world of deals for books that never get written and television programmes that rarely get made. She is shortly to launch a mother-and-daughter skincare range (with Jade, an aspiring actress) for the Cetuem beauty company.
She is also launching a theatre company to produce and stage some play readings, mostly starring her good self. ‘In one, I’m going to play a fag hag opposite Christopher Biggins. Different from my usually yummy mummies or cougars!’
She keeps in shape by cycling and playing tennis, and she works out with a pair of 5kg weights twice a week, usually while watching Charlie Sheen on television.
‘He is my secret crush,’ she says. ‘Look out, Charlie!’ She also has not just one, but several ‘strategic’ hairdressers placed all over London and is the kind of woman who takes her grooming seriously and whose looks are frozen in the era when she was at her most sexually potent and alluring.
From her Orville hair, to the shoulder pads in her pink cocktail dress, Sally is unmistakeably trapped in the aspic of the early Eighties. It is something that has made her a big draw in the political circles she oncefrequented, where she was once known as top Tory totty.
On her Mistresses show, she is hoping to interview other glam survivors, such as Nancy Dell’Olio and Anthea Turner, but final contracts have yet to be signed. In the meantime, she quietly continues her mission to give mistresses a better reputation — and she looks back on her adventures without remorse.
‘I don’t think you should have regrets. I know it’s a clich, but je ne regrette rien. What do the Americans say You are the sum of your past experiences. A few years ago I might have said it wasn’t worth it, but not now. I adored Jeffrey. He was good to me, he didn’t treat me badly. He was a lovely boyfriend, you know. He looked after me, gave me gifts and things. He wasn’t all bad.’
Sally hopes to interview Nancy Dell”Olio, who had an affair with football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, and TV presenter Anthea Turner, who started a relationship with husband Grant Bovey when he was married to someone else
Well, I do wonder. In a diary published in the Spectator magazine this week, Lord Archer rather cruelly gloats at John Cleese, the former Monty Python comedian who is currently on a tour of Britain, performing in concert to pay for his third divorce.
‘I look across the breakfast table at the first Mrs Archer and smile,’ writes Lord Archer.
‘I’ve made some stupid mistakes in my life, but I will not be writing the next book to pay for the second Mrs Archer.’
At that very moment on the other side of town, one of his most famous ‘stupid mistakes’ drains the bottom of her glass and smiles.
‘If I have one bit of advice to give to mistresses, it is this,’ she says, still determinedly in the pink. ‘Don’t go out with someone who is famous. And whatever happens, don’t get famous yourself.’