[Editor’s Note: This is a supporting document for my The Backbencher report into Ms Marriage’s Financial Times article.]
As Ms Marriage herself said, which is the quote at the top of the main article: “Plenty of women enjoy it, it’s fun, there’s free alcohol, they have a laugh, sometimes they make friends, they got job offers … some women on the night told me they had multiple job offers from men in the room that night.” Jo said “We were given food and wine when we arrived and I remember thinking there is no such thing as a free lunch, which did put me on edge… Later in the evening the men got more drunk, more flirtatious and more ‘handsy’ – they were groping the girls… Another hostess told me one of the men had asked me to come to his table. I told her I’d rather stick pins in my eyes… Some of the girls looked shell-shocked at what was happening, and some were more comfortable and sitting on the men’s lap… Later the event moved to a number of smaller bars in the hotel. I saw some girls go up in the lift with the men.” Louise said “Men were summoning girls to sit on their laps. There were some girls who were voluntarily going over and were happy to talk to the guests. It was very flirtatious… The after-party was downstairs but I didn’t go to that. I suppose this is where everything happened… This felt like a completely different atmosphere to other hosting events that I have worked at. The lines of what is acceptable and right felt very blurred.”
Ex-Page Three girl Suzi Walker said “There would be loads of men getting really touchy-feely, grabbing bottoms and trying to coax girls back to their place or Annabel’s private club in Mayfair… The men thought us girls were garbage, just something to entertain them. They thought they had a right to you and your body. We just had to accept it… I know that a lot of the girls would do sexual favours if they were paid extra… There were a few agencies who would provide girls and some were definitely escorts or prostitutes.” She carried on working there for six years because she “needed the cash”. Other women then arrived later who behaved even more provocatively, she said, with some seen getting into lifts to rooms with guests.
Model and dancer Georgia Krellé, however, enjoys the event, saying “It’s shorter hours than, say, working in a supermarket, plus the pay is decent and it’s not as strict as a normal job. And you also get to socialise… I really do love what I do but when this kind of stuff happens it makes you think twice about it.” Kirsty Gemma, who has worked in the industry for ten years, said “You do get a lot of pervs when doing promo jobs.”
An anonymous former employee revealed girls would wear different colour nail paint to signify how late they were willing to stay. Red nail paint means she finishes at midnight whereas black means she will be staying on for the after-party and will finish at 2am. This was included in the three-page document handed to the girls and the section explaining the nail code was marked “important”. The former employee also recalled how some girls would arrive earlier at 3pm.
Women would also wear red heels to signify they were selling (wink wink). “During the night there were numerous girls going to rooms with men. In previous years girls with extra duties wore red sashes or belts but this year they had red shoes.” Later, three older women dressed in bright red dresses — clearly escorts, according to one hostess – arrived to work the after-party. Last night, a hostess told ITV News: “They were acting very provocatively around the men. Kissing men almost instantly. It was really shocking to see.”
An anonymous 19-year-old said she was repeatedly groped, touched on the bum and offered by an older gentleman £75,000 for sex. She claimed Caroline Dandridge, founder of Artista Events, the agency that provided the hostesses, said to them as they were about to enter the event: “Men go to this event to have fun and get away from their wives.”
Other ex-hostesses came forward, implicating both Ms Dandridge and Bruce Ricthie, co-trustee of the Presidents Club, in the harassment and covering up of abuse. Allegedly, the property tycoon behind the scandal-hit men-only charity dinner demanded ‘tall, thin beauties’ with ‘smoky, sexy eyes and bright red lips’ to work as hostesses. Potential hostesses had to provide bust, waist and hip measurements as well as full-length photos.
Lucy, 19, said: “At some point he was ‘complimenting’ me and telling me I looked beautiful… Then he was like: ‘Yeah I think my girlfriend would really like you. We’d both like you very much’. I was shocked and disgusted – and he knew how young I was… He wasn’t being discreet about it. He was doing that in front of all the other guests. All of them were just laughing. It was horrible.”
Another hostess who was present at The Presidents Club, spoke to ITV Good Morning Britain, saying “Initially, it started quite normally and then, as the night went on, I started to notice that this wasn’t normal. There was a lot of groping, a lot of girls sitting on laps, men beckoning girls over to their tables to talk to them. It just didn’t seem right.”
In response to many of these allegations put forward by hostesses, the police have announced they are considering investigating these claims. Downing Street has also urged women to come forward. Whilst these allegations are horrendous and it is good the police are looking into opening investigations, as it stands, no official complaint has been made by a hostess to the police.
It seems women were ‘complimented’, asked to sit on men’s laps (why would they ask!?) and some actively engaged in sexual behaviours. It would appear a few were not prepared for this, despite all the steps leading to the event heavily indicating this sort of behaviour would be occurring!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It seems the majority of so-called abuse happened at this after-party which the women did not have to attend though was strongly requested. Whether they were staying for the after-party or not was indicated by their choice of nail colour.
As is said by David Walliams and others, nobody seemed to observe any sexual harassment during the auction or before 11-30pm.
An anonymous attendee spoke to Sky News, telling how “things are getting so twisted… They want to support the charity and go for a night out – don’t think there’s anything more sinister than that. I can’t speak for all the men and I’m sure there are men who really like that but the vast majority are good guys. These men have children – they have daughters – probably similar age to a lot of those girls and they’re going to behave appropriately, and that’s how the people around me behaved, like normal, sensible, middle-aged men”.
Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, who attended the event, said he “never saw anything untoward … Tell them to go to London airport and see hen parties going on if they want to see bad behaviour … It has to be both ways, it can’t be all men that they are including. I hear on good report hen parties might be banned on some airlines, they should look into that.” Commenting on the response to the scandal, the friend said: “There’s the whole thing about charities giving the money back. There’s a lot of sanctimoniousness about this whole thing… It’s a big fuss about not very much. All those [women] I knew who were involved in that world knew what it was like to get involved in those events.”
Mr Caring, in the original FT article, said he “was not aware of any of the alleged incidents”.
A spokesman for Lord Mendelsohn said “He was not there for, or had any knowledge of, an after-party. Lord Mendelsohn did not see any of the appalling incidents described in the report but he unreservedly condemns such behaviour.”
Nadhim Zahawi “didn’t stay long enough to really comment on the occasion”.
Jonny Gould said “I have auctioneered at this event for the last five years raising millions for the charities the event supports… I have never witnessed any of the alleged behaviour of guests at this event nor in previous years. If I had I would not have continued to work at the event. I have nothing further to add.”
Rami Ranger commented “Someone invited me for the first time in my life … I went because it was a charitable event … After dinner there was an after-party around the corner. I was totally surprised when I heard about the FT story, as I was surprised things can go this far. These are well-established businessmen successful in their own right.”
So far, no attendee has come forward and confirmed any of Ms Marriage’s allegations.
Other Associated Persons
The Dorchester Hotel has said it was not aware of any claims following the event and an investigation had been launched.
Ms Dandridge said in the original FT article: “It’s a Marmite job. Some girls love it, and for other girls it’s the worst job of their life and they will never do it again… You just have to put up with the annoying men and if you can do that it’s fine”.
An anonymous friend of Caroline Dandridge, the boss of Artista, said the girls “knew what they were getting into”. The friend continued: “Some of the girls who do that sort of work, they are actually taught how it works. It’s actually really empowering for people to say actually, no thank you very much, do you mind?”
(Julia Hartley-Brewer is not related to the Presidents Club event but I thought her tweet made a good point)