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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Anna Ford: Hardy perennial
Anna Ford
When Anna Ford went to court in defence of celebrities' right to privacy this week, and lost, it was in character for a woman who's taken on all-comers since she was a student. As Chris Jones of the BBC's News Profiles Unit discovers, several times this apparently coolest of Ford models has become overheated.

The rose that bears her name is described by its specialist growers as "always sparkling fresh and bright". Indeed, viewers of BBC One's One O'clock News will testify to a man, or even a woman, that at 57, Anna Ford's bloom shows no sign of fading. But like all roses, she does have thorns.

Jonathan Aitken was the victim of her most celebrated revenge when she threw a glass of wine over him, having had it quickly topped up first, in the belief he had been instrumental in her sacking by TV-am.

Anna Ford reading the BBC's One O'Clock News
In her normal role as BBC newsreader
She is also wise to flattery. When the Daily Mail and OK! Magazine published photographs of her sunbathing on holiday in Majorca last summer, the Mail assigned a female writer to wax admiringly: "The white bikini is one many women half her age would love to wear."

But Anna Ford was not to be seduced by the paper which just three months earlier had carried out a hatchet job on the man sharing her holiday, her then fiancé, the former American astronaut, Colonel David Scott.

Describing him as "the tarnished man from the Moon", it pointed the finger over his business dealings and his efforts to commercially exploit his NASA exploits.

Ms Ford described the Press Complaints Commission as "a weak pussycat" over its refusal to act over the telephoto lens which captured her unawares.

She had certainly developed a tendency to speak her mind by the time she arrived at Manchester University, becoming the first President of its Students' Union and, in the past week, its first woman Chancellor.

Presenting the BBC's Man Alive programme in the 1970s
Presenting the BBC's Man Alive programme in the 1970s
After a failed marriage and a spell as an Open University tutor, Anna Ford was 30 by the time she joined Granada as a researcher in 1974. She was told she was too old to be a newsreader, but four years later, after a spell with BBC's "Man Alive" team, she was occupying that role at ITN.

Fellow newscaster Reggie Bosanquet was inspired to write poetry for her: "I prayed, I vowed, that I'd be good; and many people thought I would; but then I got my just reward; 18 nights with Anna Ford".

In the late 1970s, she was briefly engaged to TV news anchor man, Jon Snow. But it was cartoonist Mark Boxer who became her second husband and with whom she had two daughters, Claire and Kate, before he died of a brain tumour in 1988.

When she was lured back to the BBC after the TV-am debacle, it did not inhibit her forthright views. She declared that the then director general, John Birt, had been "pathetic" in dealing with the Conservatives' complaint over one of her interviews.

A panellist on Have I Got News For You
Branching out on the BBC's Have I Got News For You
But it is the price of celebrity and the safety of her daughters that causes her most concern. She was only feet away from a man who smashed his way into the BBC newsroom at White City, west London, in September 1999.

Last year, a stalker, later jailed, turned up at Ford's home at Brentford, in west London. And she has been plagued by threatening letters from neo-Nazis.

Anna Ford is often characterised as aloof, but behind the required formality of her newsreading role, she says "there is a whole other side of me which sometimes longs to get out". Occasionally it does, as when she joined Paul Merton and Ian Hislop on Have I Got News for You?

And when she appeared on the BBC's Stars Sing the Beatles, with her version of Here, There and Everywhere, reviving memories of her student days when she toured Manchester clubs with her elderly Spanish guitar, earning £5 a night.

Anna appearing on Stars Sing the Beatles
Showbiz runs through her family
Showbiz ran in her family. Her parents were both West End actors before her father became a clergyman and took Anna and her four brothers to live at Eskdale in the Lake District.

Her father always wished he had not declined an offer from Sam Goldwyn to work in Hollywood, while she was once offered a role in Chariots of Fire. But her biggest regret is having turned down repeated invitations to appear on the Morecambe and Wise Show.

Anna Ford confesses that she would still like to be a nightclub singer: "You only have one life and it isn't a rehearsal. You may as well have fun."

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