How to write a really nasty obituary (but it sells newspapers)

My Left Boob by Sally Farmiloe-NevilleA few days ago, a friend from many years ago died of triple negative metatastic breast cancer, aged 60.

She was an actress; a reasonably good one. Not the best, but workmanlike. She was very pretty, lively, a great socializer and socially very well connected due to a “posh” family background.

She was extremely intelligent and used this to organize events, parties and other functions to raise money for, among other organizations, numerous charities and good causes.

Struck down by the breast cancer just over two years earlier, she battled through surgery and chemotherapy, losing her hair (of course) but bravely sporting a wig and then the short, sprouting tufts you get when it starts to grow out … even at formal functions and in various “red carpet” photos.

While going through treatment she busied herself raising money for a number of cancer charities and wrote a book** about her experiences, the proceeds from which go to the hospital where she was treated.

In all, the funds she helped to raise for charity during her lifetime run into millions.

She was devoted to her family, and apart from her own daughter also adopted and raised the daughter of her best friend – who had died from breast cancer.

She was a Christian and a regular church goer.

But as far as the British media were concerned, and I quote …

(UK Daily Telegraph July 29th, 2014) “Sally Farmiloe, who has died of cancer aged 60, was a former actress who appeared in Howards’ Way, a Sunday night soap of yachting folk and adultery, but became better known in the 1990s for having a torrid affair with Jeffrey Archer, the author and one-time Tory Party favourite-turned jailbird.”

HTWB PWW main in-post logoThis patronizing sleaze is something of a surprise considering that the Telegraph, sometimes known as the “Daily Torygraph,” supports the same political party for whom Sally helped raise many thousands of pounds, and is supposed to be one of the UK’s most conservative (with a small “c”) and proper broadsheet newspapers. And then
they get their teeth in Sally again later on, too. For example…

“Her long list of former boyfriends included the Marquess of Reading; the Woolworth heir Anthony Hubbard; Sir Clive Sinclair; and the comedian Cardew Robinson. In the 1970s she was a frequent guest at Stocks, the Hertfordshire mansion owned by the Playboy tycoon Victor Lownes. After she landed the part of the tarty barmaid Dawn Williams in Howards’ Way (BBC One, 1985-90), her then boyfriend banned her from socialising with other cast members after she was caught in a broom cupboard with her co-star Malcolm Jamieson.”

Nice. I’m sure her family and friends – especially her husband and children – needed to have their noses rubbed publicly in junk like that before they had even started planning her funeral. Especially as it may not even be true.

More trashy inferences from the UK Daily Mail

Another normally right-facing publication, the Daily Mail managed to make a significant chunk of their obituary on Sally, about Jeffrey Archer. Given that he had treated Sally rather badly when their relationship ended and hasn’t exactly led a snowy pure existence, this makes me feel nauseous. But I suppose surrounding advertisers on the web page concerned will have gotten plenty of attention thanks to this lewd headline…

“Jeffrey Archer leads tributes to his former mistress Sally Farmiloe after she loses battle with cancer”

Of course, Jeffrey Archer, who now works as an author, was very quick to jump on Sally’s bandwagon and “lead tributes to his former mistress.”  With no thought for her family, or his own. Sells both newspapers AND books … yee hah!

Heaven help the next media journalist who sneers at us business bloggers and copywriters for being “commercial.”

And if only for Sally’s sake, please buy her book**. It’s a very good read and her refusal to give in to her cancer – expressed through her continuing to socialize and live life to the full right up until a few weeks before she died – is very inspiring.

R I P.






  1. Agh! Makes my blood boil! Many years ago I was working in the press office of a company who had fairly good working relationships with the journalists they dealt with. During the ‘silly season’ between Christmas and New Year when there’s not normally anything much going on in the news the press office were approached to see if they could supply any stories about members of staff who had met and fallen in love at work. It just so happened that was how I had met my husband so we agreed to be featured in the tabloid paper. Despite being given all the facts, they still got our ages wrong, our names and just about everything on the ‘story’ was incorrect. Since then I have never believed anything I read in the papers, especially the tabloids. If they can’t report facts when they are given to them on a plate, how can you trust anything written? Newspapers exist for one reason: to make money. Sadly, heart-warming stories about how someone has raised money for charity and had personal battles with cancer don’t sell as many copies as gossip about their sex life. The only way we can stop this insidiousness is to stop supporting these publications. Vote with our wallets and stop buying them. I don’t buy any magazines or newspapers that print these sort of stories. If we all did the same, maybe journalists would start reporting the truth, instead of sleazy sex stories. My condolences to you at this time. I lost my best friend to breast cancer four years ago, and if people had been saying anything but loving things about her after she’d died I would have been furious. Andrea

  2. Wow, Andrea – that must have been a horrible experience for you. Something similar happened to me years ago when I was interviewed for “Company” magazine … I had a long chat with a freelance journo and when he had gone to the bathroom I sneaked a look at his notes which fortunately were in longhand! He had taken down a lot of what I had said so that was OK. When the article came out, however, he had changed everything and made up “quotes” using words and phrases I would never use in a lifetime – made me out to be totally different. He then had the impudence to phone me and ask what I thought of the article. Needless to say I told him…. 🙂

  3. Disgraceful, of course. But if you think about it, it’s the kind of “socialite” talk people have always had. That’s what sells and makes the world go round.

    When it comes to actors, all people want to remember is the salacious affairs and glamorous stuff. The good stuff a person has done in their life is of no importance.

    All my condolences to your friend’s family!