Home > Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)(7)

Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)(7)
Marian Keyes

I knew about Ariella McArthur because she was—aren’t they always?—a PR legend: fiftyish, big-haired, big-shouldered, controlling, impatient. She was rumored to sleep only four hours a night (but I later discovered she disseminated that rumor herself).

So I put on my suit and showed up, to discover that the office suites really were on Central Park (thirty-eighth floor, the view from Ariella’s office is amazing, but as you’re only ever invited into her inner sanctum to be bollocked, it’s hard to savor it).

Everyone was running around hysterically, and no one really spoke to me, just shrieked orders to photocopy stuff, to organize food, to glue things to other things. Despite such shoddy treatment, I was dazzled by the brands McArthur represented and the top-end campaigns they’d run and I found myself thinking: I’d give anything to work here.

I must have glued the right things together, because they told me to come back the following day, the day of the actual pitch, when they were all even more twitchy.

At 3 P.M., Ariella and seven of her top people took up positions around the boardroom table. I was there, too, but only in case anyone needed anything urgently—water, coffee, their forehead mopped. I was under instruction not to speak. I could make eye contact if necessary, but not speak.

As we waited, I overheard Ariella say in a low urgent voice to Franklin, her second in command, “If I do not get this account I will kill.”

For those who don’t know the Candy Grrrl story—and because I’ve lived and breathed it for so long, I sometimes forget there are people who don’t—Candy Grrrl originated with the makeup artist Candace Biggly. She began mixing her own products when she couldn’t buy the exact colors and textures she wanted, and turned out to be so good at it that the models she was making up got all excited. Word began to filter down from The Most Fabulous On High that Candace Biggly’s stuff was something special; the buzz had begun.

Then came the name. Countless people, including my own mother, have told me how “Candy Grrrl” was Kate Moss’s pet name for Candace. I’m sorry if this disappoints you, but it’s not true. Candace and her husband, George (a creep), paid an expensive advertising agency to come up with it (also, the growling-girl logo), but the Kate story has entered popular folklore and what’s the harm in letting it stay there.

Stealthily, the Candy Grrrl name began to appear in beauty pages. Then a small store opened on the Lower East Side, and women who had never been below Forty-fourth Street in their life made pilgrimages all the way downtown. Another store opened, this time in L.A., followed by one in London and two in Tokyo, then the inevitable happened: Candy Grrrl was bought by the Devereaux Corporation for an undisclosed eight-figure sum ($11.5 million, actually. I found it in some papers in the office last summer. I wasn’t looking, I just stumbled across it. Honestly). Suddenly CG went mainstream and exploded onto counters in Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom—all the big department stores. However, Candace and George weren’t “comfortable” with the in-house public-relations service Devereaux was providing, so they invited some of New York’s biggest agencies to pitch for the business.

“They’re late,” Franklin said, fingering a little mother-of-pearl pillbox. Earlier I’d seen him not so discreetly pop half a Xanax; I reckoned he was considering taking the second half.

Then, with a surprising lack of fanfare, in came Candace, looking nothing like a Candace—brown unstyled hair, black leggings, and strangely, not a scrap of makeup. George, on the other hand, could be considered good-looking and charismatic—he certainly thought so.

Ariella began a gracious welcome, but George cut right across her, demanding “ideas.”

“If you got the Candy Grrrl account, what would you do?” He pointed a finger at Franklin.

Franklin stammered something about celebrity endorsement, but before he’d finished, George had moved on to the next person. “And what would you do?”

He worked his way around the table and got the usual cookie-cutter PR ideas: celebrity endorsement; feature coverage; flying all the major beauty editors somewhere fabulous—possibly Mars.

When he got to me, Ariella desperately tried to tell him that I was a nothing, a nobody, just one step up from a robot, but George insisted. “She works for you, right? What’s your name? Anna? Tell me your ideas.”

Ariella was in the horrors. More so when I said, “I saw these great alarm clocks in a store in SoHo at the weekend.”

This was a pitch for a multimillion-dollar account and I was talking about weekend shopping trips. Ariella actually put a hand to her throat like a Victorian lady planning to swoon.

“They’re a mirror image of a regular alarm clock,” I said. “All the numbers are back to front and the hands go in the wrong direction; they actually turn backward. So if you want to see the right time, you’ve got to look at the clock in the mirror. I was thinking it would be perfect to promote your Time-Reversal Day Cream. We could do a shout line like ‘Look in the mirror: You’re reversing time.’ Depending on costings we could even do an on-counter giveaway.” (Note to the girl who wants to get ahead: never say “cost”; always say “costings.” I’ve no idea why, but if you say “cost” you will not be taken seriously. However, liberal use of the word costings allies you with the big boys.)

“Wow,” George said. He sat back and looked around the table. “Wow. That is great! The most original thing I’ve heard here today. Simple but…very wow! Very Candy Grrrl.” He and Candace exchanged a look.

The high-tension mood around the table shifted. Some people relaxed but some others got even more tense. (I say “some others” but I mean Lauryn.) The thing is, though, I hadn’t planned to have a great idea, it wasn’t my fault, it just happened. The only thing I will say in my favor is that I’d stopped at Saks on the way home the night before, picked up a CG brochure, and learned about their products.

“Perhaps you might even consider changing the name to Time-Reversal Morning Cream,” I suggested. But a tiny fierce head shake from Ariella stopped me. I’d said enough. I was getting overconfident.

Lauryn tinkled. “Well, isn’t that the thing! I saw those alarm clocks, too. I—”

“Shut up, Lauryn.” Ariella cut Lauryn off with terrifying finality, and that was that.

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