The fabulous Sara Stockbridge came over to my house for tea and a chat. After a lot of faffing with my jazzy new tape recorder… at one point I nearly had kittens when I thought I’d only recorded 29 seconds of Sara and I going “here, press that one, do you think that’s it?” I finally found the two hours we’d taped! Sara was famously the favourite model of Vivienne Westwood and is an actress and a writer. Her fantastic book The Fortunes of Grace Hammer – A Tale of the Victorian Underworld is out in paperback now.
How did you get into modeling?
I walked into Models 1 when I was 18, and they took me on straight away. They barely got me any work though. I had bleached hair and I was really green at the time. I got this Saudi boyfriend and did loads of drugs, and they sacked me. So that was my modeling start! I didn’t know what I was supposed to do; I wanted to be an actress but I didn’t know anyone who was an actress or how to go about it. I lived in this boring town called Woking, and loads of people kept saying, “Oh! you should be a model.” So I thought I’d give it a go.

What was your first job?
Ah! They did get me a job before they sacked me. This was before I met the Saudi Prince. I found the clippings the other day in a drawer, I look SO young! I was younger than my son is now. It was a denim spread in a magazine called Blue Jeans or something and I look like such a baby. It’s really sweet actually.
How did it all start with Vivienne Westwood?
After I was sacked by my agency I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t a very ambitious or focused person then, I am much more now. Then I was just drifting about. I got this job in a funny little office selling advertising space, which was awful, but I had to eat. I used to go to this sandwich bar downstairs and this guy I used to bump into ran a model agency. Every lunchtime when I got my sandwiches he would ask me if I wanted to be a model. I kept saying that I didn’t, then one day he mentioned the Vivienne Westwood show. Of course, I’d been a punk so my little ears pricked up. I went for the casting and got hired. She wasn’t there but she spotted me later. The other job he got me was doing the round numbers for Frank Bruno at his fights at Wembley Stadium, walking around the ring all dressed up holding up the round numbers. That was loads of fun!
What was the first catwalk you did?
Vivienne’s Mini Crini in 1984. Patsy Kensit and Sadie Frost were in the same show. We weren’t allowed to wear mascara, which was really odd, because the look at the time was very Eighties, all black: big shoulders and silhouettes and lots of make up. This was the opposite: all soft shoulders, big skirts, that 18th Century painted look. Vivienne started the thing where you put blusher in little circles on the apples of your cheeks, everyone before that was wearing big stripes of blusher. We had nothing on our eyes, maybe a tiny bit of eye shadow, but no mascara and smudged lipstick. I remember Patsy and I running into the loo to put on some mascara because we felt naked without it.
What was your favourite job?
I used  to go to Italy a lot. I used to shoot the title sequence for this show called Moda, and they always did something fun. One time they did a take-off of La Dolce Vita, where I played the Anita Ekberg part and got to do the whole bit in the Trevi fountain, which was great.

The shows used to be a lot of fun because you were away with all the other girls. I remember sitting in a hotel room with Carla Bruni. She was fantastic, I can’t believe she’s married Sarkozy!  And he wears lifts in his shoes!
I did some pop videos too. I was in Adam Ant’s video Room at the Top. He was such a gorgeous man. I remember watching him on telly when I was at school with all the other girls, so being in his video was quite a thrill!  I have some funny stories but nothing I can tell you on the tape!
You must have been invited to loads of stuff when you were modeling. Did you go to loads of fabulous parties?
I did, but I can’t remember that much about them!
Which clubs did you go to?
I used to go to the Embassy on Saturdays, Crazy Larry’s on whatever night that was that everyone went. On Monday you went somewhere, on Tuesday you went somewhere; every day of the week there was a different thing. All the same people went on the same circuit. I can’t believe we bothered to do that! We went out so much! How did we afford to do that when we were so young?
The Embassy club used to be great and I used to bump into Lemmy from Motorhead, which was brilliant! I used to go home with Lemmy and brush his hair!!  He was a real sweetheart, I really liked him. He had model aeroplanes hanging all over his house. And peach curtains. Peach, chintzy curtains. I remember leaving Lemmy’s house once to go back to mine. I was living with my boyfriend Miles Landesman, who’s actually in Adam Ant’s band now. I hadn’t seen him for about two decades until I went to the Scala and there he was. He looked no different! Anyway I remember getting on this bus back to Chelsea where we lived, and had to get off the bus at Knightsbridge and be sick round the back of a building because I’d been up all night with Lemmy taking God knows what. What a dirty, nasty girl. I wouldn’t do anything like that now.
How did you get into acting?
I stopped modeling because I really wanted to pursue acting. I’d wanted to be an actress since I was eight. I thought I’d better make some attempt to make that happen, and if I carried on modeling I’d never do it. That was at the time when you were one thing or the other. Now I think it helps if you can do both, you can do whatever and still be an actor. I’ve no problem with people shifting what they do but it was different then. I was a jobbing actor for a long time. My career didn’t set the world alight but I’ve done some things that were really alright. It made me a good living which is great.
What made you decide to write your book?
I’ve always written funny bits and bobs. This time, I started writing again because I was going out with a guy who was a drug addict and he used to sleep quite a lot! He was either being horrible or he was asleep!
Sounds like a brilliant relationship! There must have been something good about him?
(Laughing a lot). He was very, very charming. He’s the model for Jack Tallis, who’s the character in the book. So I started writing when he was asleep. I got bored writing about him and me after a while, and I didn’t want to write about this reality any longer, but I quite liked him as a character in a fictional setting. He came round one day in this hat, you know one of those baker boy hats that look a bit cod Victorian, a cheeky chappy barrow boy sort of thing. I opened the door and he was wearing that and I just suddenly had the whole picture for the story. When I’d written quite a bit I thought, what am I doing? I’ll write a book. I was really just writing it to see if I could apply myself. I didn’t think of showing it to a literary agent or a publisher until I’d nearly finished it.
It’s got good reviews, 5 stars on Amazon
Yes! It’s hard to get newspapers to review things and there’s so many books coming out but not much space for reviews any more. Tatler liked it and Vogue liked it. They obviously reviewed it because of the whole Vivienne/modeling connection. The Book List, in the States gave it a good review.
Which writers have influenced you?
Well Dickens for this. I adore Dickens. I suppose every writer that I read and like influences me. When I look at my book now I think it’s really wordy but it’s the style of the time. I wanted you to know from the first paragraph that you were reading something that was not set now. I really enjoyed Cormac McCarthy recently, I’m trying to think of my favourite writers. I like Nabokov and Roberto Bolano, you know the great big thick novel 2666, that he wrote in Spanish. Having written a book, I’m starting to understand how much you lose in translation if you’re not reading a book in it’s original language. My book is full of English cultural references that probably only English people are going to get. That isn’t to say other people won’t enjoy it, but writing a book has really made me look at it differently.
So it came out last year in hardback and the paperback is just out now?
Yes, and I’m really happy with the cover this time. I wanted it to look like it’s been dropped in a puddle and I asked for all these flecks of dirt to be put on it. Of course they want it to jump off the shelf so you can’t have it too black.
It’s been optioned for a film, which is really exciting! It’s been optioned by a small company, which is a good thing as it’s their only project at the moment, so it has much more chance of happening than if it was a big company.
That’s brilliant! I’m really pleased for you. What else have they done?
I went to see a film they did the other night called Kicks, which is out at the moment. It was great, really, really great! It’s about these two girl football fans who love this footballer in Liverpool and hear he’s going to transfer to Spain so they kidnap him! It’s a bit gritty, a bit dark and it has this real continental feel about it. You know like ugly glamorous. So I’m really thrilled and happy about that!
How do you describe your style?
I suppose punk really. If I’m dressing up to go out, the older I get… I’m just going to talk a load of bollocks now! I like the idea of glamour but I don’t do it. I like slightly punk glamour. When I got to forty I thought maybe I should tone myself down a bit, the hair, everything: you think “I can’t wear certain things now, I can’t wear mini skirts and stuff anymore.” I hate to have restrictions on myself. Then I thought, “why the fuck not?” I’ve shaken myself right out of that one and now I’m starting to regress a little bit style-wise.
Who are your style icons?
Ooh! That’s a difficult one. Vivienne, obviously. The thing about Vivienne is that I’ll go and see her, or we’ll be going out somewhere and I look at myself and think I look good and I’m happy with what I’m wearing, then as soon as I see Vivienne I just wonder why I  bothered! She will look fantastic. She always looks amazing, the way she puts things together! So she’s a style icon, and also she’s been the most influential woman on my whole life, style wise and any other wise. When I was really young, she used to go on about the importance of books and education, and educating yourself and culture and half of it went over my head at the time but I’m so glad she said all of that, because it really helped me, and a lot of her ideas about what’s really important have stuck with me.
My biggest thrill was when she said she liked my book, because if she didn’t like it I know she’d have said: (perfectly mimics Vivienne’s voice) “Oh no. It’s crap I’m afraid. I’m really sorry but it’s just rubbish.” She came along to one of the first readings I did, and she sat very quietly listening. I asked if anyone had any questions, and Vivienne put her hand up and said, “Well I haven’t got any questions, but I’d just like to do an appraisal of this book.” Everyone listened while she gave this talk about how good my book was. It was so brilliant, it really bigged me up, I was so thrilled that she did that.
Anyway, style icons? Marilyn Monroe. I like Marilyn because there’s always something that’s slightly wrong. There’s always something that’s got a crease or a broken strap. I don’t like too overdone.
There’s something I think that Coco Chanel said, well I think it was her, but it was actually my Gran who said it to me. She said: when you look in the mirror before you go out you must take something off; don’t have the earrings and the bracelet and the whatever all together. i like the slightly sparse look, like something’s missing.
I’m going to say Grace Kelly because I’ll never, ever be like that. It seems to make so much sense that she married a Prince. Oh! I’ll tell you who’s style I like! Fagin from Oliver!
Do you have any health or beauty tips?
Don’t smoke. I’ve given up for eight months. I had three fags last weekend. I felt so ashamed. It’s the same old boring beauty tips; don’t smoke, stay out of the sun, be happy and don’t be neurotic about yourself! That’s the best beauty tip of all.
What are your favourite things in your wardrobe?
Oh that’s an easy question. I’ve got this Vivienne jacket, it’s called ‘Drunken Tailor’. It’s long and it’s petrol grey with three quarter sleeves and slightly pissed buttons and it flares out on the hip and it has the Active Resistance patch on the pocket. I just love it. I think it’s the best garment ever.
What’s the worst outfit you’ve ever worn?
[Cracks up laughing] It’s got to be that horrible jeans, blazer and cowboy boot look that we wore in the Eighties! I’m actually blushing now, it’s so embarrassing! With the fucking sleeves rolled up! Ugh!. I’ve worn some awful outfits. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered.
Who are your favourite designers?
Vivienne and Vivienne and Vivienne. I love Galliano and I love McQueen. I like old, old Balenciaga – the stuff that’s in the V&A, all that stuff is beautiful and vintage Yves Saint Laurent from the Seventies. I think .you should get something really good and wear it all the time. Vivienne says it’s terribly chic to do that, she says there’s nothing wrong with that at all. If you think about it, it’s almost heroic, like being a super hero having the same outfit.
What are your favourite high street shops?
Top Shop is getting too expensive, Mr Green! H&M is too boring. I think it’s better to save up your money and buy something really fantastic. It’s a false economy to buy things that are very cheap and not always that nice.
What would you save if your house was on fire?
I’d save my little girls stuffed dog and my computer.
A stuffed dog, you mean taxidermy?
Haha! No a toy dog. Actually I’m waiting ’til my cat dies so I can have him made into a little rug! He’s a ginger cat. He’s very sweet but he’s mental. He’d make a lovely little rug.
What inspires you?
The British Library. I love it. Anything you could ever want to look up is in there.
Who are your favourite photographers?
Irving Penn and Paul Spencer, who I did loads of work with and is really, really clever and not very well known.
Who are your favourite models?
I like Kate Moss. She always does the same face, but she is gorgeous. I love Susie Bick.  Claudia’s got a gorgeous face and it’s still gorgeous. Oh I know who I want to say! Lily Cole. Lily Cole is just other worldly. And she’s great in the film with Heath Ledger – The Imagination of Doctor Parnassus. I love her! Kate’s got that classic look but Lily’s really different.
Who would you have at your dream dinner party (living or dead)?
Brilliant! I like this question… The Queen, obviously, Malcolm McLaren, Martin Scorsese, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Ray Charles, Winston Churchill, David Attentborough and Dimbleby as I love them both! Grace Jones, Cary Grant and Pablo Picasso.
Which person would be your all time crush, or who would you have like to have…..?
Hmmm. Paul Newman – what a beautiful man… you just would wouldn’t you?
Er, yes!
Oh and young Marlon Brando… and Steve McQueen. Oh God! They were just…
Yes I’m with you on all of those!
What ambition would you like to achieve?
I want to write some more books, and I want to write a really important one. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is such an important, stunning book, I’d love to write a book that meant as much to other people as that meant to me. I’d like to do some more acting work, but that’s not something that I’m in control of. That’s what’s great about writing, it’s really appealing to have something that I can do when I want.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
There are lots of things I’ve been proud of. I did have a proud moment when I took baby Max onto the catwalk and everyone stood up and cheered. It was more of an emotional moment than a proud moment. Everyone had seen me pregnant at the show before, that would have been SS90, and by the next show I’d had him and Vivienne said to take him on the catwalk with me. I’m really proud of my kids, they’re wicked.

If you had one wish what would it be?
To have ten more wishes! I wish the planet wasn’t going to heat up and the human race isn’t going to die. I wish people would wake up about it and do something about it, like, yesterday. That would be one of my ten wishes. You know when you have to make a wish on your birthday? I always make the wish that my kids grow up to be really happy old people. That’s my biggest wish.