Judith Simons, pop journalist helped inspire 'Hey Jude' by Beatles
Updated30 March 2018 — 12:12pm,first published at 11:40am
Judith Simons, who has died aged 93, was a rare female pioneer of Fleet Street pop journalism, and one of the inspirations for the title of Paul McCartney's 1968 song Hey Jude; yet in a career of unusual duality, she had also covered the worst of times as a cub reporter at the 1946-48 Hamburg trials of guards and doctors from Ravensbruck concentration camp for women.
She became friends with the Beatles while writing about their UK tours at the height of Beatlemania in the early 1960s, by which time she was already in her late 30s. "I had the time of my life," she recalled. "But it was just as well that I was older than them, otherwise my head might have been turned."
She declined the invitation to join them on their 1965 conquest of America because she did not want to be parted from her future husband for so long.
Tough, independent and drily humorous, Judith Simons was regarded by the Fab Four as a sort of older sister. She chain-smoked (from an elegant cigarette-holder) and Ringo Starr nicknamed her "Judith Christ Superfag", saying that she would shed a cloud of soot if shaken. John Lennon was her favourite, though his wit could be "cruel".
Related through her extended Jewish family to the mother of the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, she also entered the band's inner circle by becoming a confidante of Lennon's beloved Aunt Mimi. Just before the release of Hey Jude, a colleague of the Beatles' publicist Derek Taylor told Judith that the song was named after her.
McCartney later explained it had been written for Lennon's son Julian to comfort him after his parents split up. But on her 90th birthday in 2015, Judith Simons received a congratulatory email from the great singer-songwriter that began: "Dear Judith, or should I say 'Hey Jude' ".
Simons, known as Judy or Jude, was born in Sheffield on February 25, 1925, the only child of a cabinet-maker, Hyman (Hymie) Simons and his wife Sarah (Sonia), née Bloom.
Although her mother, who died young, had wanted her to go to university, Simons instead started work as a clerk in the advertising department of the Sheffield Telegraph. Her uncle, who worked on the Sheffield Star, had told her journalism was "not a job for a girl", which only made her more determined.
In 1946, the Foreign Office was recruiting people to work in Germany for the Control Commission that had been set up by the Allies. The adventure-seeking Judith, who had studied German at school, applied to be a reporter on Die Welt, the new daily newspaper set up by the British.
While in Hamburg she met Roger Moore, then a young second lieutenant in the army.
For decades she did not speak about her role in reporting the Ravensbruck trials, not wanting to recall "those horrible faces in the dock".
After three years in Germany, she became a trainee in the Rotherham Express branch of the South Yorkshire Times alongside a fellow junior reporter, Michael Parkinson, the future broadcaster. She later moved to London to work on teenage magazines such as Marty and Mirabelle before becoming (on the
Express) one of the first women in Fleet Street to cover pop, in "Go! Go! Go! The Column with the Rhythm of Youth".
Her career as a celebrity interviewer continued for three more decades until her retirement at 73. Yet although she ghosted the autobiography of Joe Collins, the theatrical agent and father of Joan and Jackie Collins, Simons always declined to write a memoir of her Beatles days, explaining: "Publishers want blood for their money – and I didn't want to give away Beatles secrets, because they came to rely on me."
Her husband Gerhard (Gary) Boehm died in 2001; Judith had no children of her own but is survived by a stepson.
The Telegraph, London