The A List: From BlackBerrys to Viagra - The lives of the A Listers

Want to emulate your favourite A List stars? Then pop along for lunch at The Ivy with John Hegarty, but don't forget your Marmite, BlackBerry and iPod.

The A List is many things, not least a field guide to some of the industry's more exotic and dangerous fauna. It will, for instance, reveal the name of the Glaswegian who always carries a knife; and the man who often gets very angry when he has his hands around his Great Big Bertha (a golf club, should you be wondering).

Would you, for further instance, accept a dinner invitation from someone who always carries about their person a wolverine tooth, a Congolese power fetish and some Rennies? What sort of a night out would that be? (Actually, though, we're not sure we believe this entry. Rennies? We don't think so.)

Who can't leave the house without their supply of Viagra? And what of the troubling character who carries with him at all times the ring of Dr John Dee? That's Dr John Dee, the 16th century hermetic master of Kabbalistic magic. Or at least we presume it is: if the ring turns out to be one of those proprietary copper rheumatism cures, we'll look really stupid.

Clearly, not all members of the tribe are quite so colourful. Your run-of-the-mill identikit A Lister tends to have a London pied-a-terre and a more rural bolt-hole, plays a bit of golf and does a spot of glory-hunting at Stamford Bridge. His or her favourite brand is Apple (or more particularly, iPod); the must-carry object they most want to tell everyone about is their BlackBerry; and their all-time favourite person ever in the entire industry is John Hegarty.

In ten years' time they hope to have stayed loyal to their current employer while moving at least a couple of rungs up the ladder, probably adding the word "global" to their job title. Then they'll want to lie on a beach somewhere. Somewhere warm, that is. Barbados will do.

They typically describe themselves as "hungry" before going on to list their favourite lunchtime restaurants as The Ivy, J Sheekey, Vasco & Piero's Pavilion, Le Caprice, Zuma, Elena's L'Etoile and The Wolseley. Oh yes, and La Colombe d'Or.

They abhor laziness above all other things. Actually, it often makes them rather angry. This tendency is arguably reflected in the fact that many are obsessed with immortality, or at least an achievable approximation, with more than a few hoping for a span of 100 years or more. One wishful thinker plumped for closer to 200. Others, when contemplating a suitable engraving for their headstones, came up with variations on Spike Milligan's "I told you I was ill" epitaph.

In contrast, the least typical A Lister is clearly the "faintly nicotine-stained" Jonathan Burley, who spends more time than is good for him in an equally nicotine-stained caff, pondering an unhealthy obsession with back bacon. We'd like to think that the biopic, when the time comes (as come it must), will be animated by Nick Park.

Tellingly, though, the one thing they all seem to have in common is a bizarre attitude towards advertising. When you ask them for an example of an ad that recently worked on them, they tend to mention money-off signs in local off-licences and restaurants. David Kershaw's response to this question ("Poster advertising 'Much as you can eat buffet for £9' at local Chinese") is surely a classic case in point.

This, we rather tend to believe, is a prime example of the A Lister sense of humour - though, disappointingly, Kershaw refrains from going on to describe himself as "hungry".

Similarly, we're not quite sure what to make of the fact that so many in our elite group cite Marmite as their favourite brand. At first glance, the collective unconscious of this tribe still inhabits a world that is a bit James Bond, with people burbling on about Aston Martins and confessing they keep their passports on them at all times. Then they go and spoil it all by whipping out their jar of Marmite.

Or indeed, a well-known brand of lager that is now affectionately known as "wife beater" in bars the length and breadth of the country.

Very perplexing. And, in fact, there's something of an irresistible opportunity here for amateur psychoanalysts. It works at an individual level, obviously, and at this point we'd like you to indulge us by slipping into a heavy Viennese-German accent while you interrogate one of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's big cheeses. Thus: "So, Herr Brazier, Paul, you say you keep losing your keys. Interesting, don't you think? Perhaps we could explore this in relation to your feelings towards your current role at the agency. Mmm?"

But collectively (you can drop the accent now) we can't help feeling the industry's sense of humour, condensed as it is in these pages, is also revealing - it tends to be fey, whimsical (even sentimental), arch and perhaps shows a group torn between strutting its stuff and a reluctance to take itself seriously.

And we love the way the grumpy bastards stand out. Such as Garry Lace, who clearly has a ladylike fastidiousness when it comes to revealing his age (Born? Answer: Under a lucky star). Or Felix Dennis reaching the outer limits of his attention span by question 15: What makes you angry? Answer: Witless questionnaires.

Talking of grumpiness, it is truly fascinating to see how this year's most fiendish question in the A List (What are the initials of the most loathsome person you have worked with?) was approached. Most people just went for it; or (their eyes presumably narrowing and their voices dropping to a sinister whisper) responded with a scary: "You know who you are."

A perversely masochistic few offered their own initials but we are tickled most by the ones who came over all sniffy. Like the ones who did the Pollyanna routine about loathsome characters being almost non-existent in this wonderful industry of ours. Or a subtle variation on this - the line that bad eggs are not present (almost by definition) in the particular part of the industry inhabited by them (the good guys). Which is sort of sweet.

But best of all were the ones who said: "life's too short" or "I'm over it now". Yeah. Right. We suspect these are the very people who have customised dart-boards and voodoo dolls in their spare rooms.

Apart from that, it seems a benign sort of a world, a world fit for the sorts of people who, when asked where they like eating lunch, reply not with a list of swanky restaurants but with an "anywhere outside in the sunshine" sort of a line. As, indeed, several do.

So we'd like to conclude by pointing out that all human life is here.

But we can't. This proposition is plainly not true. You keep running into irrefutable evidence that these people do not do as ordinary mortals do.

We are travelling here in a rich and strange land.

Take, for example, the frisson of dangerous obsessiveness that can be read into some of the more terse replies on show. We like this one from Nick Emery's entry. Question: What makes you angry? Answer: Stains.

Oh, OK. Righty-ho.

You want something more whimsical but no less mad? We have got that too.

David Fletcher, when asked to give his job title, responds: "PC McGarry (no 452). Lost dog, thick fog, don't know what to do." Eternal children of a certain sort of age will know exactly what he means. And he's in a similar sort of territory to Sue Little. Question: If you weren't you, who would you be? Answer: Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds.

Bless. It's a brilliant answer compared with the ones you get from the boys - who tend to fantasise about being David Bowie or Bono. And we sort of know what you mean, Sue. But still.

Then take Simon Dicketts, the creative big cheese at M&C Saatchi. (No, really, etc). Dicketts apparently feels he needs to take a "very small bottle of Tabasco sauce" with him wherever he goes. Note the "very". Just how small is it, this bottle? Would it, for instance, fit in the kitchen cupboard of a doll's house? Does he ever show it to anyone? Is it specially made just for him? We'll probably never know.

What we will very definitely know, however, are the identities of those crazy dudes we introduced you to at the start of this piece - and we're well aware we've left you dangling since. Ian Priest, the VCCP co-founder, reckons he never leaves home without a supply of Viagra and obviously you guessed that the Hell's Angel lookalike Andy Berlin was the man who likes to flirt with John Dee's ring.

Paul Bainsfair is the man with an irritating Big Bertha. Incidentally, he also reveals his dog is called Taxi, which has to be the best name for a dog - especially if it's one that keeps running off.

The man with the Rennies habit (supposedly) is David Bain. And as for the Glaswegian who always carries a knife - step forward the Bartle Bogle Hegarty creative Rosie Arnold. Don't worry, though. It's only a penknife.

Presumably she uses it to sharpen her pencils.

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