Brushes With Fame!

Over the years I've encounted in various capacities many well known people, some of the encounters, granted, were fleeting, and some not so. In fact, some of them are quite funny and I hope you will indulge me this month with a few ridiculous anecdotes.

We begin with these novel incidents below...

From receiving a hand written message from Robert Fripp, seated next to Pete Townshend at the Curzon Mayfair cinema, being referred to as 'cute' by Kylie Minogue. Walking up Oxford St. London trying to converse with Mike Stern and slamming into passers-by along the way, Herbie Hancock's indifference...

...being asked by Geri Halliwell if Julia Roberts gives a good BJ! Selling almond croissants to Nigel Kennedy, drinks at Ray Winstone's private suite at the Grosvenor Hotel, selling a Abba Greatest Hits cassette to AC/DC's Brian Johnson, having tea at Kathy Burke's house, forgetting to ask Dave Samuels about his Zappa session, pissing off Style Council's Mike Talbot for playing too many chords...

...being railroaded by Terence Trent Derby whilst carrying an amplifier, being told by Skunk Anansie guitarist that I was playing Sabbath's Paranoid wrong, standing next to Michael Caine and realising how tall he is, exchanging hello with Ian Dury at Swiss Cottage, to chatting with Phil Gould about the golden days of Level 42.

A few of these recollections I have elaborated on merely for mindless amusement. We begin somewhere in Australia...

In 1996 I was visiting Perth Australia, and playing a concert at The Regal Theatre in Subiaco to promote his then new album "The New Standard" was Herbie Hancock. Thinking back now, I consider my assumptions to be utterly naive, as I thought that I'd watch the concert and then give Hancock a tape of my music.

After the concert, I tried to get backstage, but was verbally ejected from the vicinity, and so then decided to give my tape to a backstage hand to pass on to Hancock. Leaving the theatre, I felt I had at least accomplished part of my mission, I then went to a nearby bar for a drink with my girlfriend. After an hour or so, we left the bar and noticed that outside the theatre was a bit of a crowd, we went to investigate and realised that Hancock was about to come out to sign autographs etc... I saw the backstage hand person and asked if she had given my tape to Hancock and she told me that she had, "no problem".

Out comes Hancock and proceeds to sign stuff, I humbly walk up to him and ask if he got my tape, he turns to me and in an emphasised manner in front of the crowd "Tape? What Tape?" I tried to explain that I had given the tape to someone to give to him but I could see he wasn't interested. Feeling stupid, I just turned away and started walking, as I did, Hancock shouts "Hey, wait! What's your name?" I told him, and that was it. You know how it goes sometimes, if you have low expectations,you'll rarely be disappointed, and if you have high expectations, you'll barely be appointed. I guess if I were in that league, which let's face it is premier division, I'd probably react the same, or would I?

Another funny moment I'd like to share with you, is the time I worked at a music store in Australia. One day I was serving customers, and I noticed this very attractive woman with a strong accent josling and laughing with what appeared to be this short guy with long dark curly hair wearing a flat cap, I told my colleague that I had to serve them. As they came closer to the counter, I realised that one of them was Brian Johnson from AC/DC (they were in town on the BallBreaker Tour). Low and behold, he had in his hand, none other than a cassette of Abba's Greatest Hits! As I served him, I think he clocked that I knew who he was, and proceeded to inform me that the cassette was definitely not for him but his auntie back in Blighty.

Now this one is priceless, a few years ago I had the unfortunate experience of having to spend some of my most precious time with Geri Halliwell shooting Top of the Pops at the BBC. At the rehearsal, I was situated left stage, sitting on a chair pretending to play the guitar, while she was practising her routine. Not once did she say hello, or even acknowledge my existence, maybe she was preoccupied with her whole routine which with the support of her choreographer she was trying to get right. The routine was quite simple actually, all she had to do was walk from one side of the stage to the other, however to make it a bit tricky, they had placed small candles on the stage floor, for atmosphere, as we were performing a sensitive ballad. Halliwell kept walking on the candles as opposed to around them and consequently kept getting her toes singed, at one point she actually came up to me while I was sitting on the chair and used me as a kind of leaning structure for her to stand on one leg and lift her other to peel off the candle wax that was sticking to her toes, at last, my existence had been acknowledged!

After the rehearsal some of us went to the TV studio cafe area, I met a few guys I knew from the Stereo MC's who I wished had not been there to see me working under those circumstances. A little later on, Halliwell comes to join me and her entourage, well, I say join loosely, as she spent most of her time, stretching her leg muscles on the floor and performing other acrobatics in preparation for her big gig that day. Finally, she comes up and sits next to me, again no hello, or anything, the only thing she said to me was, "do you know you look like Julia Roberts' boyfriend?"... "does she give a good blow job?"

Later, Just before we were about to go on stage, Halliwell wanted all of us involved to put our hands together and gather in a circle, kind of like a group hug type thing, I don't know what it was really, but it was the kind of thing a band might do before playing to a stadium audience, most certainly ill conceived and inappropriate for a 3 minute mime in front of a rather small television audience. But there you go, a small glimpse into the world of your average pop star.

Once upon a time I sold cheese for a living, well actually I sold more than cheese, but I did sell a good bit of Roquefort to Connie Booth one time. It was in Hampstead in the 90s and we used to get all sorts of celebrities popping in for continental food stuffage, Bob Hoskins, Annie Lennox, Jonathan (if only there were 25 letters in the alphabet) Ross, Michael Palin, you name it. One of our faithful customers was Nigel Kennedy, I'll never forget his blue metallic Jaguar parked outside with Aston Villa graffiti all over it. Kennedy was partial to the odd almond croissant, so one day, as I was serving him, I managed to slip into his hand surreptitiously a copy of some sheet music and a cassette containing a track I wanted him to play on.

The next day, I was off, but apparently he came in looking for me, and was raving about the track to one of my colleagues. When I saw him next, he was all excited and paid me untold pleasantries, and of course I was absolutely honoured to have such an excellent musical technician pay me those kind of comments. Kennedy passed on his agent's details and from that point onwards it was a case of organising a suitable time to record.

Over a period of a year Kennedy's agent called me several times to try and organise a recording date, and for a while I remained patient as I knew how busy he was, and I was awestruck that he wanted to work with me and that an agent was calling me for a change instead of the other way round. It went into the second year and I was starting to wonder if it would happen, then eventually his agent called me and said Nigel would like to invite you to his home recording studio this weekend, here's the details. I was excited of course, and arranged to transfer the audio track from digital video 8 to ADAT, the format he had, and to pay for travel costs, taking time off work etc...

The day before, I got a call informing me that Nigel had to go to the dentist and had to cancel, which at that point was the fourth time he had cancelled, and so I just got fed up and didn't take the calls anymore. It was unfortunate in a way, as I think Kennedy would have been given a great opportunity to crossover from classical into the heavy jazz funk world and showcase his more edgy playing, although whether he would have been able to swing those notes we'll never know. Kennedy did crossover a bit later after that with an album called Kafka, which contains some of his most emotive and inspiring performances I've heard.