Monday, 24 December 2012
Jackie was going out with Robbo, (Colin Robson). I was not seeing anyone in particular but I definitely had a ‘thing’ for Jackie and I was starting to believe she felt something for me. Her parents had a pub just outside Norwich where Colin, friends and I would meet on Sundays for a free roast dinner and to laze around watching movies generally recovering from hangovers. Colin and I had become great friends and my Mum liked Colin a lot as he’d often come to collect me (when I lived at home) for nights out and was always polite, well dressed and funny. After my return from America Robbo and I fell back into our friendship and we’d regularly crash at each other’s homes; Colin having a flat a mile or so away from my rented house. We shared much of the same interests especially music and at Ricks Place would always be dancing, in between the girls, our trademark swaying moves mirroring one another with the ladies bobbing around and in-between us. Alexander O’Neal, Luther Vandross, Soul and R&B songs never failed to get us dancing and we’d pull unsuspecting girls onto the floor and dance almost all night long.
Robbo had gone out with a few of my ex’s and I with a few of his. In fact along with Tim, Paul and his girlfriend Lisa, the two Gary’s, Nigel and Sarah-Jane, Ian, Elisha and Emma (twins), Helen, Jackie, Michelle, plus a host of other women and men; these girls and boys interchanged with one another over a number years and nobody ever took a slight when after a few weeks of splitting, their ex started seeing another of their friends. So behind this setting of nightclubs and football, music and friendship, my little world was blossoming nicely. Through Dave Bennett, who was always out in town with Neil Riley, Robert Rosario and Malcolm Allen, I was introduced to Andy Townsend (Norwich City) and a host of other first team footballers and easily settled into separate circles of friends, whilst (hopefully and successfully?) managing these friendships and acting as introducer when the circles bumped into each other when out on the town.
I couldn’t decide whether Robbo and Jackie were seriously ‘into’ one another or not and did not want to damage my friendship with Robbo at all, but slow dances at the end of the evening started to become a problem, as I’d invariably stand to the side watching them together and feeling a tinge of jealousy, could not bring myself to dance with anyone else. Michelle, a tall elegantly strikingly pretty girl, with a shock of tight curly black hair had finally asked me to dance one night and a one night stand came out of that, a relationship which would have lasted longer had Jackie not been around. Things started to progress when I would snatch a slow dance with Jackie and with her head nestled into my shoulder, I would take in her scent and feel the soft curls of her hair against my cheek. I wanted more of that scent and the sensation of butterflies I experienced as we’d hold hands walking to and from the dance floor and so finally one night in the middle of the dance floor I plucked up courage and told her how wonderful she was, how marvellous she made me feel, how tempted I’d become and how difficult these feeling were to manage. Jackie looked at me; she had fantastic eyes full of sparkle and life and said she felt the same way. My stomach flipped. The music ended and we walked back towards our crowd of friends hand in hand, but my holding her hand meant something far more to me and her than the simple gesture of friendship seen by the others.
Over the following weeks when in town, we’d snatch moments together to kiss frantically, passionately and quickly lest we be spotted. We’d hold hands or hug when meeting in company trying to restrain ourselves, but that hug or kiss to the cheek would linger just a little longer than normal, the parting of lips or hands slowing down to stretch, for just a moment longer, that brief magical touch. Our subterfuge would include little tricks such as one of us making excuses to leave the room/current company, with the other following some minutes later to steal a kiss around a corner. I’d see Jackie walk away from our group towards the back of a club and I’d take a circuitous route that somehow always led to our colliding out of sight of the others. We grasp hands and find a nook or corner and kiss as if our lives depended on it.
My problems really started one Sunday at Jackie’s Pub after another massive lunch with everyone groaning from overeating and slumped on her chairs and couches. I was helping Jackie clear the plates away with Robbo sat in the room and all I could think about were her lips, her hair, her touch, her scent. We walked down the corridor to the kitchen in the living quarters of the pub put the dishes down and dived at each other with abandon. Hearing the door to the lounge closing behind someone we leapt apart just as Robbo entered the kitchen; although he must have either suspected or seen something he never spoke of it but he did take hold of Jackie and kiss her in front of me. Asserting his position in the pack (an anthropologist might say); pissing me off more likely!
So this game played out on a weekly basis and whilst this was happening I was being overcome by a real feeling of guilt about my treatment of Robbo. On one hand I desperately wanted Jackie to leave him but she felt that she could not as she did not want to hurt him. On the other hand I was experiencing such guilt about how I was misleading the guy that I was becoming physically affected by it, unable to hold a conversation with him, avoiding him and her so as to selfishly make me feel slightly better about myself. All sorts of pathetic excuses were used to carry out this deceit, a deceit not only of friendship but also of loyalty and honesty. I was becoming everything I hated to see in another, a liar and a coward, disloyal and dishonest. But I was still experiencing tremendous feelings for Jackie and the whole nasty business needed lancing quickly. I couldn’t know that two scalpels would be used to cut into my despairing heart.
Glenn had moved into my house rented from my brother Richard, to share costs and we got on fine as housemates. I was working at the Double Glazing factory and he was in sales and he was out most days and evenings. My infatuation with Jackie reached breaking point and we agreed that we had best do something about it. She would come to the house one afternoon when I would take the day off and we’d go to bed. We met up nearby and drove to the house in my car leaving hers in a pub car park. Once inside we headed straight upstairs and into each other’s arms only to hear the sound of the front door opening. Glenn was home! I shot downstairs and he was as surprised to see me, as I was to see him. “I’ve got the afternoon off,” he said. I didn’t know how far I could take him into my confidence so told him I was trying to get some sleep upstairs. He looked at me and said “Who is she then?” “Robbo’s girlfriend Jackie,” I blurted it out without thinking but rather than question me he collected his car keys and said “I’ll go out then” and he left.
I shot back upstairs to find Jackie under the quilt and after stripping off I climbed in beside her. We began to make out but the thought of Robbo and deceiving him crept into my thoughts and try as I might I could get the bugger from my mind. I was also tremendously attracted to Jackie and ‘first night nerves’ were getting the better of me. I rolled over onto my back and looked at Jackie and said I was unable to perform simply because of Robbo and our friendship. Jackie was gentle and caring, trying various ways to help me along but to no avail, I was not going to be able to consummate our relationship so to speak. Little JW had retired for the afternoon as well. Jackie totally understood and made no comment other than we should try again another day, which we did and low and behold, Little JW declined again. I told Jackie it wasn’t her it was me; I mean how could it be her? She was gorgeous, with a beautiful body; those wonderful eyes, that perfume. I just could not get over the idea of cheating on Robbo and that was that. Scalpel number one had made the first cut.
Scalpel number two was even harder to deal with. My failed libido was bad enough for my ego but a few weeks later I found out that Jackie’s parents had decided to sell up and they were moving south to Kent. Along with everything else in my life at that time I was seriously upset at her moving away and although I have never told her this, on the day she was moving I jumped in my car and drove to the village to speak to her before she left. I was going to tell her how much she meant to me, how deeply I felt for her and how much I wanted her to stay. I reached the pub and ran inside to find the barman cleaning glasses behind the bar. “Where is Jackie?” I asked him. “They left an hour ago son,” he replied, “You missed her.” I was gutted! I walked out to my car, got in it and sat there for an age. A thought sprang into my mind and I dashed back inside, “Do you have a forwarding address or phone number?” “No, I’m sorry I don’t,” he said, “They didn’t leave one.” Unlike today and the ubiquitous Mobile Phone this was 1989 and no such thing existed.
Scalpel Number two sliced through the last thread and cut me down. I have not seen Jackie since and throughout the first few years after she left, I often wondered where she ended up, what her life was like, whom she had married and whether she ever thought of me. There I go again! Self-indulgent to the end, why would she wonder about a guy who couldn’t get it up when it mattered and who had simply disappeared when she left town, who had made no attempt to contact her as far as she knew? What became of Robbo and Jackie? They finished their relationship not long before Jackie was due to leave and I was way too late in deciding that it was worth my while in going after her.
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Every now and then I say or do something that when viewed from the outside looks a ridiculous thing to have done, stupid even. Examples range from; influencing the Mormon girl in Canada to change from a bible basher who’d never smoked, never drank alcohol nor (and even worse) even had sex; into a nymphomaniac, beer swilling, 20 a day Marlboro smoker, much to the horror of her mother. To smart mouthing senior NCO’s and colleagues in the Army and for my cheek, receiving fines (over £400), ROP’s and the occasional punch or pinch just because I thought I was funny! It took a long time before I realised that I was the only one being punished for what I thought was entertaining them. Only just recently at Sapperfest2012 I met up with Garry Judd who was my dormitory Apprentice L/Cpl at Chepstow. Sitting with John Moss (Wingnut), Garry and I were joined by two other Sappers who I’d never met and over a few beers we all recalled days gone by. One of the others mentioned something that was obviously worthy of a smart mouth retort and I unconsciously made remarks that whilst hilarious to Garry, John and the rest, could have been taken in quite the opposite way, resulting in a slap at the very least. Having recovered his composure Garry said that that was my problem in the Army; I was too quick a wit and a smart mouth and those in authority did not know how to deal with me hence my deplorable record of fines and ROP’s.
So sitting in the dressing room in Ricks Place with hoards of the Fifth Estate milling around outside all at my behest so to speak I was in quite a privileged position. But whilst sipping Champagne and laughing with my friends at how events had unfolded so far, a small niggling thought started pecking its way into my mind, a “Woodpecker of a thought”, if you will. Barely noticeable at first its constant peck, peck, pecking eventually made its self noticed and formulated into the dreaded “Fathers Political Influence Thought”, wherein anyone under its guidance makes decisions based upon a wholly idiotic basis that their fathers political leanings meant more than any rationale as to their future prospects in life! I’m a Labour (Socialist) boy blindly following my Dad’s influence, who was a Union man. He was a Labour Party member until he died in 1979 aged 53 and I felt, (still feel to some extent), it my birth-right to follow his lead, to vote Labour and resist the influences of Capital C Conservatism on my life. I’m not anti-capitalist; my father worked for a multi-national company and I have too; its simply that I have been influenced by my Father and never having had the chance to debate with him I am stuck frozen in time and following his left leaning legacy by default.
Thus events played out as follows, when one of my friends knocked on the door and came in to say that the press wanted to interview me. (Peck, peck, peck). I asked him, “What newspapers are out there?” My friends all quietened down and looked intrigued as he answered, “The Sun, The Express, The Mail, The Star plus the Evening News, EDP (Eastern Daily Press) and The Advertiser (Norwich free newspaper)”. Impressed by such a great turnout with four national and 3 local papers plus their photographers, additional hangers on and a large crowd as well (Peck, peck, peck); “Anyone from the Daily Mirror?” I replied. “No, just those I said mate,” came the response.
In 1988, all four of the national newspapers in attendance that night leaned toward, (in fact were horizontally on favour of) Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government and The Daily Mirror, (who weren’t there), was and has been a continual supporter of the “Left” or Labour Party and I felt it only right and proper that any interview should be given to the newspaper that gave its allegiance to the Labour Party. Dad would be proud!! (Peck, peck, peck) “Go and find the Daily Mirror guy,” I said, “There has to be someone here from the Mirror if the others have come”. He turned and headed off to search the club for the Mirror Journalist but without any luck. “Nah, there’s no one here from the Mirror George” he said returning with a full pint of lager in his fist. I knew he’d only gone to the bar, ordered a beer and asked the barman if anyone from the Mirror was in and then returned. It was then that the Woodpecker thought named “Fathers Political influence” finally pecked its way into my consciousness and dredging up those long held beliefs from the Amygdala region (memory retention centre) of my brain prompted me to say, “Fuck’em, I am not talking to the Tory rags, I’ll only speak to the Mirror” and that was that. I refused to allow anyone from the press to have an interview.
How stupid was that!
After all the hard work we’d all put in to that night, the deepest latent memories and emotions had pecked their way into the present to screw it up. My friends and the management team at Rick’s Place must have thought I was mad but I just couldn’t bring myself to speak to them and it was all down to the subtle indoctrination in my youth. So the press stayed firmly outside the door and I stuck to my beliefs, moreover my father’s beliefs. I think he would have been livid with me had he been alive at the time and would have said something along the lines of. “it’s not selling yourself out, you’re using them to improve your chances of success. How often will you convince the major papers of the day to turn up to a gig and report on it and on the fact you have tricked them into it? Stop being an idiot and talk to them, you need them, they don’t need you!” But he wasn’t there and I didn’t talk to them and I remained a legend in my own lunchtime……………………………
|This shot was taken in Ibiza in 1989 - but you get the general idea|
There was however a gig to do so I asked the boys to move out so the dancers and I could have a final chat and set ourselves for the stage. The DJ came backstage and asked us if we were ready saying that the press were still out there and the photographers had set themselves up in front of the stage. This last comment warmed my heart, pleased that we at least had an audience to perform to as the DJ went out and introduced me as the night’s special guest and we walked onto stage. The guitar intro to ‘Faith’ rang loud across the room as we started dancing around each other, my voice hit the notes and I sang my heart out. For “I’m Your Man’, we performed as if I was after one of the girls and intently focused on following her around the stage then becoming distracted as the other dancer crossed my path, diverting my attention again and again. For ‘Father Figure’, I acted as though I was devoted to one of the dancers with the other acting out a cupid role bringing us together. The song closed with me giving one dancer a long lingering kiss and the other was draped at my feet.
The applause was long and loud and throughout the set the flash bulbs had been going off constantly. As we moved off stage one of the photographers approached us and took close ups and we posed together the rest of the photographers joining in. Instead of going to the dressing room I stood outside with the dancers and reporters came over and asked questions; who was I? And why I had decided to do the gig? I was so wrapped up in the event that I forgot my previous motives for not talking to them and answered their questions. We moved towards the bar and my friends and the audience in general came over many back slapping me and congratulating the girls on their dancing, it felt good! We stood at the bar and continued answering questions and it was only after a few drinks that I realised that the reporters we were actually talking to who’d shown any interest were the local press as the Nationals had left as soon as the gig finished! The photographers were all working for the local papers and not connected to the National press; I suppose they could try and sell the pictures to them if they felt there was a story in them but I had dropped the ball (or a bollock if you want to out it that way), there was no National publicity coming my way!
The night carried on with the club playing R&B tracks and I danced with the girls and my friends between stops at the bar for refreshments. I also sang ‘Kissing a Fool’ at the end of the night to a quickly emptying club. The photographer who’d approached us as soon as we got off stage came over again and asked whether I wanted to give him a one to one interview to which I agreed figuring there was something to rescue from the night. We moved towards the rear of the club away from the dance floor and sat in a corner by a corridor that led to the toilets! I gave the guy a full interview going over my motivation, background and inspirations, plans for the future etc. All the detail I should have been giving to the National Papers. He then told me he was working for the Norwich Advertiser newspaper, a freebie that came through front doors on a Thursday. It consisted of a few pages of local news from that week and columns of free-ads selling everything from car parts through to kitchen white goods and pets! I had hit the big time at last…………..
Once the interview was over Mark Brennan came to speak to me and said that he was due to launch a new club in Reading in January and did I want to help on the opening night. Rather than sing he said that he wanted to me to be “George on a night out, opening a friends club”, I would sit in the VIP area and meet clubbers throughout the night. I said I would do it and we agreed to meet later in the week to discuss the detail. A few days later the Advertiser fell through the letterbox and I was on the front page, a picture of me singing on stage alongside the interview I had given to the reporter/photographer. It had been a success of sorts, if only my Dad had not gotten in the way, it would have been even better……………
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
As Christmas 1988 approached I met two women at Ricks Place who were trying to start up a Model Agency. They had assembled a handful of wannabe models and their agency had been commissioned to produce a Ski Wear show at a club just outside of Norwich, where my brother Richard had met his wife Tracey many moons ago. Fifteen or so "models" paraded across the dance floor wearing various padded ski suits and jackets, gloves and hats and the evening went down well, but more importantly two of the models were also dancers! We agreed to meet up after I had told them about my plan to put on a gig launching myself as a George Michael look-a-like.
I needed a couple of dancers to join me on stage and deliver as professional a show as possible and after an initial meeting we put together a rehearsal plan to develop and then tighten up a routine to go with the songs. I then approached the manageress of Ricks Place and her assistant manager Mark Brennan to ask whether I could use the club one night for the launch party. As Tuesday evenings were quiet they agreed I could hold the launch on that night in the run up to Christmas, they’d get the bar takings but there would be no charge on the door, it was then that I started my ultra sneaky marketing campaign.
Firstly, I contacted the local press and asked whether it was true that George Michael was appearing at Ricks Place in December? "No, we've heard nothing; probably a hoax" was their response. I then went on a Fly Poster campaign, putting up A4 posters around Norwich with the Sony Music record Label on the bottom with “You need Faith? Who is coming to Ricks Place in Norwich?” written above. I then contacted all the major National Newspapers, focusing on the Music & Entertainment desks such as the "Bizarre" column at ‘The Sun’ and asked the journalists whether they had heard that George was to appear in a clandestine gig in Norwich to promote his new single? "Nope, not heard anything" they said but they would look into it. Then back to the local press to say that I had called the nightclub and they were being very non-committal about forthcoming events at the club, especially the Tuesday in question. I told them that I had seen posters around town referring to an event at Ricks Place, (they admitted to having seen these as well) and that I had called the National Papers to ask what they knew and that they were being very cagey. This involved not just myself but also the manageress of the club, Mark Brennan and my dancers so was coming at them daily and from different people. Sure enough within days the phones at Ricks Place started to ring with Local and National papers asking what was happening, to which the stock answer was, “Sorry, we cannot comment on any events other than those already advertised”.
This continued in the lead up to the gig, rehearsals were completed with a couple of dress rehearsals at the club during the day's before and we were pretty sure we had a great show, albeit for only three songs, "Faith, I'm Your Man and Father Figure" On the Tuesday morning, the day of the gig, we called both the local and National press and said that a very large truck was unloading speakers, lights, instruments etc. at Ricks Place, and did they know who was playing there tonight? Every single one of them said that they had heard through the grapevine that George Michael might be appearing and that they had received calls asking whether George was playing in Norwich. I said in reply that “Well if he is, I’m going and would they be coming as well?” The answer was a little non-committal; such as saying they’d send a local journalist if they were free.
I had organised for my friends, all over six foot and well built, to act as my bodyguards and a pal who had a very nice Mercedes, was to be my chauffeur. My costume for the night was unfortunately still based around the Faith Album look; Levi 501’s, my cowboy boots, which helped raise me up from my 5’9” inches closer to 6 feet tall, a white singlet and a very nice Tassel Sleeved Leather Motorbike Jacket, with Rock and Roll Classic embossed across the back and of course, the obligatory RayBan Aviator Sunglasses. The Dancers wore black leggings and tight t-shirts with red sashes around their waists and I applied the usual make-up to my face to complete the look. My beard being more red than black, I’d brush in black mascara to deep the colour and cover over patches where the beard stubbornly failed to grow. It actually worked well and I don’t think my Mum ever noticed I was using her make-up!
I got ready at the Hole in The Wall and at 10pm, there were five of us crammed into the Mercedes and heading for Ricks Place. I say crammed, as it was a squeeze with my bodyguard’s slotted either side of me in the back of the car. The dancers got into a second car and followed us down. From the car to the door of the club it was thirty metres, as the club was just inside a shopping precinct. Mark Brennan walked over to the car and opened the rear door letting out the first minder and then he sat in the car and said, “That’s fucking unbelievable, you’re him mate, that’s fantastic”. I thanked him and he said, “You need to know that the club is absolutely packed full of press, I mean all the press, the major tabloids from London and the local guys as well. The plan definitely worked, they have been driving us mad trying to get a lead on the story, asking us all sorts of questions, they really think George Michael is coming here tonight!” I was really happy and all I needed now was to get inside the club and make it to the dressing room, that was to the right of the stage, which in fact was a little storage room/office.
We agreed on a plan whereby I would walk in surrounded by people so as not to give a clear view of me to anyone. I had to keep the illusion going until I walked on stage. Mark stood back from the car and I climbed out. A few people were queuing at the door, they turned around and couple of girls started shouting my (George’s) name, followed by the men shouting out my name as well with the odd “wanker” thrown in for good measure! We walked passed the people queuing outside and went in through the doors and started up the stairs to the club that was on the first floor. As soon as we were inside the club the cameras started going off; their flash’s illuminating the open plan stairs. There was a turn a third of the way up, so my back was away from the journalists overlooking the stairs as I climbed the first flight but as I turned and walked directly toward the cameras I was greeted by non-stop camera flash’s. My friends surrounding me included Nigel Bradley, Paul Waterfield (I think) and Ian Pearce were really playing their part, moving people aside as we finally entered the nightclub itself. Cries of “George, George, over here mate, George, smile George, Hey George” came from the cameramen and reporters.
Inside all this frantic activity I was in a bubble; the cacophony of noise, shouts and screams, pushing and shoving, swearing reporters and clubbers alike was amazing. I looked across towards the bar and saw groups of people standing with drinks in their hands straining their necks to get a look at who was inside this throng of bodies, moving like a swarm of bees, across the dance floor heading for the stage. Looking ahead, past the backs of my friends and Mark Brennan I could see the door to the dressing room getting closer, my feet barely touching the ground as we surged over the wooden dance floor, across the carpet edging and into the room, the door slamming closed behind us. “Fucking hell” came as a chorus! Voices as one as we took in what we had just been through. A knock at the door and the manageress appeared with a bottle of champagne in a bucket and we shared a glass as we all cracked up over the scam we’d just pulled on the National Press. The gig had yet to start but I thought I had them. Wrong!!!