A Life in the Day of Mark Borkowski
Mark Borkowski, 45, the PR with a celebrity clientele, lives in Gloucestershire with his wife, Kate, and their boys, Janek, 9, and Joe, 7. Interview by Caroline Scott
Coming into work has always felt like walking into a lunatic asylum – so I used to have a straitjacket by the door of my office. I’ve still got it under my desk. Nothing is real in the media world. You live in a glorious bubble filled with breakfast meetings at Patisserie Valerie and lunches at the Ivy with famous people. But if you stop and look at it from the outside in, it’s all very strange.Half the week I commute from Gloucestershire, and the rest I live at the Groucho Club in Soho. I’m always awake at 6.30, and the first thing I do is surf across BBC Breakfast News, Sky, the Today programme and Five Live. I have to see what the world is waking up to. It’s about consuming what’s on the news agenda. The Sun, Daily Mail, the Mirror, FT: I read everything. Then I dress – formal suits with a crazy twist made by John Pearce, who used to make Jimi Hendrix’s stage clothes. A car takes me to the office and I always talk to my wife and kids on the way. Home is what grounds me. If I’ve been away for more than two days, I pine.
I’m at my desk no later than 8.30am and I go straight to my home page, Drudge, which is really quirky, then I trawl through e-mail, deleting all the ads for penis enlargements and home loans but keeping the begging letters. They’re so odd, I love them. I get three every morning from Joshua Nkomo of the Zimbabwe National Bank. Supergeek keeps me abreast of weird things happening on the web. I also have guys in South Africa and California who send me material. I look at what’s engaging in culture and politics. I like the opposing view. I look for what’s happening at grassroots level – films or art shows that the public hasn’t really connected with yet. If there’s one criticism of me, it’s that I’m always a little bit ahead of my time.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have an ego. PR isn’t like advertising, where you design some poster and the client’s happy. We have to dream up an identity, something a company can grasp and make its own. We created the Body Craze for Selfridges, the celebrities in windows, men hanging from hooks, then we had to convince the client this was a good thing.
My greatest influence is P T Barnum – I’ve always wanted to bring his type of showmanship to life. But weird isn’t enough on its own. Weird only works when it communicates the right message. I pitched a while back to the City, who wanted to make a noise pre the Olympic bid. One of my ideas was to turn London into a giant Monopoly board. You paint the streets, drag in celebrities and play telethon Monopoly. It can be done. Anything can, if you want it badly enough.
The strangest person I ever sourced was a hermaphrodite dwarf. He was living in a freaks’ home in America. I’ve staged the world’s biggest custard-pie fight at the Millennium Dome, I’ve driven sheep up the Mall. The only thing I can’t do is get you Elvis or Shergar.
I respect people who work here and I expect them to respect me. My initiation ceremony for new staff involves setting fire to my chest hair. Or I take them out and halfway through the meal push a teaspoon right up my nose. It’s a trick called the Human Blockhead and
I find it a great leveller. I have problems with useless men. Most of my senior positions are occupied by women. They’re multitasking, more dextrous and less egocentric. I have two PAs and my time management is still crazy.
My day consists of meeting after meeting, so my computer goes with me in the car. My iPaq has all my contacts and my diary, and it synchs into updated news on Reuters, PA, The Guardian and the BBC. Even when I’m on the move, I have to know what’s going on.
I always have lunch in town, usually at Sheekey’s because I love fish. I’m a food obsessive. I don’t eat wheat, I don’t drink coffee, I consume carrot juice and wheatgrass and large quantities of water. Okay, so I have a weight problem. If I have a crap-eating phase, I feel terrible. I just believe in looking after myself properly. I go to Dr Joshi for acupuncture and cleansing once a week and I have a massage at home every weekend.
I like the written word. I write down all my thoughts and ideas in an A5 moleskin notebook – my memory is so jammed it’s a relief to download. I’ve had several offers for my diaries. I’ve handled everybody, from Diego Maradona and Mikhail Gorbachev to Jim Rose, the man who used to hang weights from his penis. But I’ll never publish. People give me their trust and I won’t abuse that.
I’m out most nights, but I’m not breathless to go to parties and hang out with celebs. If I’m staying in London, I have early-evening drinks and dinner with clients, then I try to get to theatre or music previews. I live outside London so I can get away from the bullsh**. Home is a tiny village in the Cotswolds, not far from where I was born. If I’m commuting, I’m home by twenty to eight. Pack the laptop away, smell real fresh air, read the kids stories, totally relax.
I’m a naked sleeper. I have an aromatherapy bath and get into bed with Dad’s Army on a story tape in my ear. It calms me down and reminds me of my childhood. I’ve always been a terrible worrier – a true pessimist – but it never stops me sleeping. What I wanted when I fell into this job was an adventure every day, and mostly that’s what I have.