Over in London, Nigella Lawson, celebrity cook (she eschews the label of chef), is giving everyone an object lesson in how to handle that awkward situation of being called a drug addict by former employees who may or may not have ripped you off to the tune of about a million bucks. Lawson was called to testify in the trial of two Italian sisters, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who worked in her home while she was married to Charles Saatchi, the advertising mogul. The two women have been accused of running up huge bills for their personal expenses on the credit cards they were issued by the couple.
Video: 10 Questions with Nigella Lawson
In a twist that has London’s tabloids foaming at the mouth, details of Lawson’s divorce from Saatchi have become part of the defense of the Grillo sisters, particularly an email allegedly from Saatchi that calls Lawson “Higella,” and says that she’s a drug addict. The sisters say that they were given permission to spend the money in question in return for their silence re. the drug thing. It’s enough to make a woman want to go into hiding, but Lawson, whose father was U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson (the equivalent to Head of the Treasury), is completely owning it.
Here are the most delicious tactics from Lawson’s first two days in court, should you ever find yourself in the same quandary:
Come clean, and preach: “I have to say with some shame that I smoke the odd joint, starting I would say, in the last year of my marriage to Mr Saatchi….It made an intolerable situation tolerable and it was a false friend and it is not a good idea.”
Show your repentance: “I can say that since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I am now totally cocaine, cannabis and any drug-free. I don’t have a drug problem, I have a life problem.”
Make up an irresistible new phrase: Lawson said her ex-husband was subjecting her to “intimate terrorism.”
Use your ex-husband’s formal name, especially when casting vague aspersions: “Certainly Mr. Saatchi would give huge amounts of cash. He would get out his black Smythson’s folder and go through huge amounts of cash. Mr. Saatchi is a cash man.”
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Play the widow card: Lawson admitted that she used cocaine with her first husband, John Diamond, while he was dying painfully of cancer because “it gave him some escape.”
Use what other people might consider weaknesses as strengths: Lawson pointed out that regular cocaine users “are a lot thinner than I am.”
Play the (future) grandmother card: Responding to assertions that Saatchi was taking cocaine out of her nose in the headline-making photo of him grabbing her neck last year, she said “..what actually happened was that somebody walked by with a very cute baby in a stroller and I said, ‘I am so looking forward to having grandchildren’, and he grabbed me by the throat and said, ‘I am the only person you should be concerned with.”
And yes, by all means, play the single mother card: “I value my health. My children have got only me as a parent. If you think I am going sabotage my health and run the risk of leaving my children orphans, you are very wrong,” said Lawson. (Orphans! Genius! Diamond was her kids’ dad, but she’s not expressing much confidence in “Mr. Saatchi’s” fathering abilities.)
Shame your female interrogator: When asked by Francesca Grillo’s lawyer Karina Arden, whether as the “woman of the house”, she would have been involved in managing Francesca’s housekeeping duties, Lawson replied “I don’t think it is the job of a woman to run a house. I think it is the job of whoever lives in the house to take charge. I feel it is both Mr Saatchi’s job and my job.”
Casually dismiss the opulent life: Lawson, talking about the contents of the Silver Room in her former home, “Yes, there was an amount of silver, an amount of silver I was happy to see the back of.”
Let your general adorability slip out: Lawson acknowledged that her team of personal assistants was dubbed “Team Cupcake.”
Members of the aforementioned Team Cupcake are expected to testify on Tuesday, when the trial continues.