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Fergie's 'Story' Gets the Royal Treatment

November 14, 1996|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday

It's a British invasion of one.

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, will be telling her story again and again and again in the American media during the next few days to promote her spicy autobiography, "My Story."

The campaign began Wednesday, when Simon & Schuster put the book on sale and the raffish 37-year-old royal was the subject of a full hour on ABC's "PrimeTime Live" with Diane Sawyer. Today, after a lunchtime signing at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble, she is scheduled to appear on Oprah Winfrey's show. Friday, "Good Morning America" and Rosie O'Donnell will bring her back in front of the TV cameras. Next week, David Letterman (Monday), Regis and Kathie Lee (Tuesday), and Larry King (Tuesday) take their turns.

If there was ever a tango between book publishing and broadcasting, this is it, big time. It's this week's vivid example of how to introduce a book in a highly competitive marketplace. It's this season's--November is TV's sweeps month--Technicolor example of tapping book-writing celebs to help boost ratings.

"My Story" was embargoed on these shores until Wednesday, a common tactic when a publisher wants the lively revelations from a book to generate a same-day flood of media coverage. However, some of the contents of the memoir had gone public earlier in the week, following publication in Britain of a first-serial excerpt in Hello! magazine.

And in another familiar promotional ploy, ABC News shared with the New York gossip columns bits and pieces of Sawyer's prerecorded interview in order to pique viewer interest before the hour was broadcast.

What "My Story" has going for it is something quite rare and marketable in the expanding genre of titles about the British royals--a first-person account. Where else is the rabble to learn from a participant of that famous morning at Buckingham Palace when Sarah came to breakfast and found Queen Elizabeth and her princes studying tabloid photos of the topless duchess having her toes romanced at poolside by a balding stranger? "For the record, no sucking of toes had taken place," she writes. "John Bryan and I were actually playing at Cinderella when the picture was snapped."

Oh.

According to the book, Prince Andrew, her husband at the time, eyed the shots with a blank expression. But the queen was so enraged that she bolted from the table, sought comfort from Princess Diana and took to brandy.

The 18-minute gap on the Nixon tapes couldn't have offered such memorable trash.

The duchess' autobiography, which has a first printing of 400,000 copies, will be joined on store shelves by two unauthorized bios. "Fergie: Her Secret Life" (Marlowe & Co.) is the work of Allen Starkie, a former pal and friend of Bryan, her ex-lover. "Fergie: The Very Private Life of the Duchess of York" (Pinnacle) is by Vasso ("Madame Vasso") Kortesis, Ferguson's former faith healer, who taped their conversations, perhaps conveniently.

Meanwhile, overshadowed by the media attention paid to Sarah's dish on the royals is her new pair of books for children from Delacorte Press. "The Royal Switch" is the story of two look-alike 11-year-old girls caught up in a case of mistaken identity that brings to mind "The Prince and the Pauper." In "Bright Lights," the same two characters, Princess Amanda of Britain and Emily Chornak of Brooklyn Heights, engage in a bit of intrigue following a get-together in New York.

Aimed at readers 7 to 11, the two books have received passing grades from Publishers Weekly: "The Duchess's first foray into middle-grade fiction may be something less than the jewel in the crown of that genre, but these companion novels have a solid mass appeal."

She dedicates the books to "my best friends," her daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie.

*

25 Years of Fear and Loathing: Once again, the opening line: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."

Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," his account of an anarchic visit to the city of glitter, was first published 25 years ago this month in two issues of Rolling Stone, and then in a Random House hardcover in 1972.

Now, the book (with those scary illustrations by Ralph Steadman) has received official status as a classic, released this month as a handsome hardcover addition to Random House's Modern Library series. The new edition includes three extra pieces.

Thompson and Rolling Stone Editor in Chief Jann S. Wenner celebrated the 25th anniversary of the book Monday night in New York at the Lotos Club. Mick Jagger and Kate Moss were among those who stopped by.

* Paul D. Colford's column is published Thursdays.

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