Goodbye Tara: The Original It Girl

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was found dead at her West London flat last week at the age of 45. Brilliant, vivacious, troubled… Grazia’s Emily Maddick remembers her long-time friend.

tara palmer-tomkinson

by Emily Maddick |
Published on

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson called me ‘Crystals’. She also sometimes called me Dave, although we never could remember why. But we both loved crystals and so when my father died three years ago, she consulted her personal crystal healer (obviously) and turned up at the Wolseley for lunch with a giant crystal ball as a gift to comfort me.

‘It also doubles up as a bloody good weapon, but don’t break it Crystals, that’s four hundred quid of Lapis Lazuli,’ she said as she thrust it towards me.

Yes, Tara was brilliantly bonkers which is why she was so widely adored. Yet so many were scathing of her too. She was an easy target: an over-privileged posh party girl with no purpose in life other than a vicious drug addiction was how she was so often cruelly dismissed. She once remarked to me that at the height of her £400-a-day habit even the lines in the road made her want another line of cocaine.

Having become her friend, I can say she was all the things you’d imagine her to be – charming, glamorous, feisty, fragile, smart, side-splittingly funny - but overall the TPT I knew was remarkably kind.

Always enquiring about me and my family, and once gifting me a Chanel handbag after I helped her through one of her darkest hours.

Of her royal connections she was fiercely proud and protective.

And it is testament to Tara that the royals stood by her so loyally. ‘Prince Charles loves my celebrity gossip! He’s always saying, “Old bean, do tell me the latest!”’ she used to claim.

One of her tales about Kate Moss, one of the most wholly unprintable stories I’ve ever heard, apparently delighted our future King.

Before Paris Hilton, before Kim Kardashian there was TPT. The original reality star. The first person to receive all the superficial trappings of modern celebrity simply because of who she was. She knew it, she loved it and she laughed at it. In the loo of her Kensington penthouse there is a series of framed photographs of the making of her Madame Tussaud’s waxwork. Yet the irony is that it was TPT that caused the demise of Tara. Her physical appearance since the collapse of her nose was something that distressed her enormously. But she knew the consequences of the choices she had made.

On a glorious summer evening a couple of years ago, we were dining in the garden of a Chelsea restaurant when mid-way through regaling me about dating Robbie Williams, she suddenly said, ‘But no one will ever love me again, I look like Quasimodo.’ It left me speechless. Some elderly aristo types then stopped at our table, ‘So Tara, what exactly are you doing with your life?’ enquired one in patronising cut-glass tones. ‘Haven’t you heard? I’ve got seven children at home!’ she shot back. It was the judgement that really got her. She longed for a purpose and she longed for love. Recently she had launched a fashion range of shirts, and I still believe her 2012 foray into music – she was a classically trained pianist – was exceptional. My happiest memory of our times together will always be singing our hearts out while she played the piano then collapsing in fits of laughter.

Tara had confided in me about her brain tumours a year ago. She was undoubtedly scared. And although she is believed to have been given the all clear, lately she had been in a lot of pain from various operations and a rare auto-immune disease she had. At time of going to press there were reports she may have returned to her dark vices. I don’t know.

The tragedy in this ending is that everyone saw it coming didn’t they? Everyone that is, apart from my friend Tara, with her eternal lust for life. The last time we spoke was just before Christmas. One thing we bonded over was bad luck in love and had a – bizarre – joke about meeting men in graveyards. After the call she sent what was to be her final text to me.

‘Hey Crystals, if I do suddenly go…u make sure you keep hanging out in graveyards…otherwise I will come back and spook u!! Joke!!! I have a long life and I fully believe it.’

I’m so sorry Tara.

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