Friday, 25 January 2013
Mark Brennan agreed to the following if I was to help promote his nightclub. Firstly, all expenses paid. Secondly, I’d need a Two Hundred (£200) fee. Thirdly, Hotel Accommodation overnight on the night of the opening. In return he wanted me to “be George Michael” as soon as I got to Reading, which was fine by me and obviously meant a decent hotel. My outfit for this little caper was black trousers, my trusty Cowboy Boots, white Tuxedo shirt and full length Black Silk Coat, the one that Paul had given me for Christmas 1987 in California. I wanted to take someone with me for company and asked Dave Bennett, but he was busy so I asked him whom he recommended? Glenn was his choice and to be fair he was great fun when almost drunk but a pain once he’d gone over his limit. Dave also said Glenn would make a great manager as he was a salesman and a great talker. Excellent credentials apparently! A continual problem of mine has been to seek affirmation and approval of my ideas from others, especially those I respected. The other problem at that time anyway was that I respected, and sought approval from, the wrong people!
Another objective from this trip was to get myself some National promotion and Dave said he could help as he had a good friend who was a reporter for a Sunday Tabloid Newspaper. The premise was that the reporter and his son (who took the pictures) would follow us to the club. I would chat up a girl who believing I was George might be convinced to come back to the hotel for a little after show party, so to speak. I would then, (subject to her agreement), convince her that we should “sell” our stories to the press along the lines of “George Michael Lookalike makes out!” or “Oo-er!…I thought he was George!” An obvious caveat was the need for the girl to be prepared to “sell” her story and I was unsure how I was going to be able to spot a girl amongst a whole nightclub full of women, who’d be prepared to do such a thing, the whole premise appeared poorly thought out to me.
With Glenn map reading we set off to Reading and looked forward to turning up at the plush hotel Mark would have booked for “George”. The directions led us to a Bed and Breakfast! Glenn went into reception and enquired as to whether there was a room booked under his name? George of course travelled incognito! There was so Glenn said he’d be back in a moment and coming outside to the car said to me, “Its nice mate but it’s not George Michael nice.” I agreed. Glenn went to a payphone and called Mark at the club and said why had he booked us into a B&B for god’s sake? Why didn’t he book us into the Hilton Hotel around the corner from the club?” As my manager he “would have thought that George would be staying in a 5 Star Hotel,” especially if we were to carry off the idea that George was in town. Mark agreed and said we could have dinner and drinks but asked us to watch our expenses. Glenn called Dave Bennett’s press guy and told him about the change of hotel and we drove off after cancelling the room at the B&B. I parked the Scirocco (seriously, George driving a second hand Volkswagen?) around the back of the hotel and we walked inside. I sat in the bar whilst Glenn checked us in and we took our bags upstairs. I checked myself over in the mirror and after making a few “cosmetic” adjustments we went downstairs to the bar and ordered drinks.
The Hotel Manager came over to greet us (good, good); he welcomed us to the Hotel (even better) and asked if we’d be dining there tonight (splendid!!). Glenn said we were and the Manager said he would inform the chef (very good indeed, blag underway!) So we sat in the bar for a couple of hours chatting and laughing away with Glenn enjoying the blag as much as I, with guests coming in and staring at us and girls giggling and waving. The time came to take our table and the Head Waiter led us to our seats, I scanned the room looking at the other guests and smiling as we made eye contact, many people were watching us. The hotel interior was an Atrium design; a high open plan room with steps leading from the Reception to the Bar and onwards to the Restaurant which was reached using two or three more steps down to the lowest level. So anyone sitting in an appropriate place in the Restaurant could see who was in the Bar. We sat side onto the room with the Bar to my right and a large glass window-wall to my left. The Sommelier came over and offered us the wine list at which Glenn said, “Which Champagnes do you have?” The Sommelier opened the list to the page detailing which Champagnes they carried, “The Dom Pom!” said Glenn. The Sommelier went off to fetch the Champagne and I looked at Glenn and said “Why not?” We were into our second bottle within half an hour and eating an Amuse Bouche the Chef had prepared especially, after the Manager told him that “George Michael is dining here tonight!”
The fact that the Chef had brought the dish out to me personally only served to emphasise to our fellow guests that it was George dining with them. I looked across to the Bar area and noticed a stocky man with grey hair dressed in a single breasted suit looking in my direction at first smiling at me, then waving his hand. Realising this was Dave’s journalist mate (confirmed when a younger guy stood up next to him with a Camera in his hand!), I walked over to them and we shook hands as he said in my ear, “Bloody hell mate, you had me fooled!” I offered them drinks and a bite to eat, Roast Beef sandwiches, I recall. Once our meal was finished we sat in the Bar and waited for Mark Brennan who arrived around 9pm to discuss the plan for the evening. He spotted what was our third bottle of ‘Dom’ and said, “You are watching the expenses aren’t you.” Glenn said we were and that he was not to worry, to which Mark said, “Ok, but only that one bottle.” Oooops!
A limousine would arrive at 11pm and take us from the Hotel to the Club where Mark and a large number of bodyguards would meet us. Was he serious? He most certainly was! I would be escorted into the Club and to the VIP area where a corner booth was laid out with champagne and glasses. Clubbers (women) would then queue to be let through to meet “George”; they’d share a glass of bubbles and then leave to allow the next guest through. All I (and Glenn) had to do was smile, chat and drink Champagne. Mark departed but not before glancing at our champagne on ice and said, “Just keep an eye on those expenses, ok?” “Of course we will” came the chorus of voices in reply. Just before 11pm the Hotel Concierge approached our table and said our car had arrived. The journalist and his son left for the club after taking a few pictures of us leaving the Hotel and we climbed into a very nice Mercedes Benz. The Chauffeur got in and looking in the mirror said, “Good evening Sir, I hope you are well this evening?” I was. Very well. “I’ll drive you to the Nightclub, then wait and bring you back to the Hotel unless you wish to something else afterwards. We do have a Casino in Reading,” he said. “Thank you, can I ask your name?” I asked, “Terry Sir” said Terry. Terry then asked, “Would you mind if I asked you a favour Sir? May I have your autograph for my daughter? When I told her I was driving for you this evening she was very excited and I must say that the wife and I do like your music as well,” said Terry. I said I would be delighted and asked his daughters name as he passed me an autograph book to sign, reversing the ‘a’ and ‘e’ in Michael, (turning it into ‘Micheal’). I was figuring I couldn’t be prosecuted for fraud if I spelt the name incorrectly! I signed the name like that every time.
Autograph completed I sat back and the car swept out of the Hotel forecourt and after two hundred metres………………swept into the slip road in front of the Club! I could have walked it! “Was it worth it for that?” I thought. Mark Brennan really wanted to put on a show here and after the change of hotel it looked as though he was leaving nothing to chance but he was being a tight arse about the drinks. Mark appeared at the entrance and Terry opened the door for me to get out. As I stepped out of the car three huge bouncers each of them way over six feet tall and built like bulldozers surrounded me. I was lost behind a wall of neck muscle and steroids. Glenn squeezed his way through to stand next to me and Mark walked forward and shook my hand all against a background noise of shrieks and wails of excitement from the queue of women to my right, with their camera flash bulbs popping. “Welcome George,” said Mark, “it’s a pleasure to have you open our new club here in Reading” Or some such bollocks. “Hurray” went the cheers to our right, as I smiled my corniest George smile and walked forward through the doors and into the club. The foyer was lined with people all eager to see and shout out, “Hi George!” as I walked past. Glenn looked like a startled rabbit and we all shuffled forward as the bouncers called out, “Make room, get out of the way and let us through.”
In fact but for the bouncers and their slow march I’d have been in my seat way before then as the scrum wasn’t that heavy. Once we were into the nightclub the lights flashed (along with the bulbs from our reporter’s camera) and music blasted our ears, I could barely hear anyone speak. I could see ahead between the bouncers and the carpet leading around the side of the dance floor and on towards the rear of the club. As we turned I could make out a corner booth with a rope linked to two poles in front of it, (VIP area my arse) and we headed straight for it. Once behind my safety rope (!), I turned around to face the club and hundreds of faces all straining their eyes towards me, so I smiled and waved my hand and shouted out “Hello”, against the background of the DJ’s voice welcoming me with a “George Michael’s in the room – HO!” to which the crowd replied with a “HO!” right back at him.
The largest of the bouncers, (their number had now increased to five, two to my left and two on my right), leant towards me and said “My name is Ali, I am your personal minder for the whole evening, these other guys will rotate around the club, but I will always be here, if you want anything George, I’m your man.” with a wink and a smile that revealed a number of gold teeth. He was huge, massively built; his suit appeared sprayed on it was so tight. I winked back to show I got the “I’m your man!” joke, thanked him and looked at Glenn. He looked like he was in heaven; surrounded by women, with a bottle of Moet in a bucket and he was free to sample everything. If I weren’t me; then I would have wanted to be him! Mark Brennan appeared and re-iterated the plan that was now becoming as brilliant a plan as I’d ever heard. Meet loads of women, give them Champagne, talk to them, give them a kiss if requested and then meet more women and do exactly the same. I sat down and Mark poured three glasses of Champagne and picked up his and offered a toast. An orderly queue of women had lined up along the back wall of the club to my right in the middle of the walkway between chairs and tables and the dance floor. “Bring them on,” said Glenn, which got a sideways look from Mark but who then invited the first girls through the gap made by the bouncers, and for them to sit down between Glenn and I.
“I love you George!” was to be the phrase of the night flowed closely by “Can I get a kiss?” and “Can I get your autograph?” I had tissues provided to wipe of the layers of lipstick and make-up from my face from all the hugs and kisses and the evening was passing off quite nicely. Once bored of a particular line of questioning, or if the lady in question was not exactly a beauty, (face like; A Bull Dog chewing a wasp; a bag of lamb chops; it had been sat on; it was on inside out; a mother couldn’t love it; etc.), Ali would note a wink or a tap to his heel and he’d escort the lady away, “got to make room for the next girl my lovely, sorry.” Having said that there weren’t very many of those and there were some exceptionally beautiful women sitting beside me that night. One in particular queued up three times. She was tall, blonde, very pretty and very slim, her name was Vicky and she made no bones about the fact that she was “free” if that was what I wanted her to be. “Where are you staying tonight then George? Are you going home or staying in town?” she asked. “Over the road at the Hilton,” I replied, “You’re welcome to join us afterwards for a drink in the bar, if you’d like. Glenn, this is Glenn, will be there as will Mark, Ali and a few other girls and boys?” “Oooo, Oh, Awwwwwwlright” She said it so slowly I thought she’d been having a stroke, of sorts. I also wondered whether she would be up for the story and pictures in the press, but put that to one side as she got up and the next girl sat down.
Sometime towards the later half of the evening a girl who had been through to meet me a number of times tried it again at which her boyfriend took exception and started pacing up and down. I was unaware of this until Glenn told me to look in his direction saying, “That twat is going to get himself hurt if he carries on.” I looked past Ali and could see this wiry little shit all haircut and nonsense, bouncing around what was obviously his girlfriend and gesticulating in my direction, raising his voice calling me a “wanker”, a “twat” and various other choice names. Ali stood in front of me and opening his hand wide apart raised it in front of his chest, arm outstretched. Ali saying, “Calm down mate,” resulted in the idiot charging at me………………I’d never seen a man folded in half before. He was then folded in half again and then again. Any spare arms or legs popping out of the bundle were poked back in and the bundle was then lifted up and carried outside, followed closely by the girlfriend screaming, “Put him down, you’ll hurt him!” Ali had allowed his associates to complete the removal of the disgruntled clubber but turned and said, “Are you happy to stay George?” It was after one in the morning but I wasn’t ready to knock the night on the head just yet.
“That’s not George, look at him, he’s not George Michael,” said a voice to my left. I turned and looked up at a sneering face plastered across a wide head, much like a drunken Prop Forward, her face was mashed up. I ignored the “Orc” to my left and her friend and turned to the latest girl to sit down, Glenn poured the drinks and we chatted away. “Wanker,” said the voice to my left. I looked at Glenn who stood up and spoke into Ali’s ear. Ali turned around and looked at the girls to my left, leant into his colleague on his left and with no noise or fuss the two “ladies” were lifted away and out of the club. The latest two girls had stood up and left during this and I stood up as well and stretched my legs. “I’m going to dance,” I said to Ali. “Ok,” he said, no questions, he just stepped to one side and I was out from behind the wall of muscle. Ali stood to the side of the dance floor as Glenn joined me; glass in hand and Vicky shot across the room and to my side as soon as I made it onto the hardwood. The photographer took a few shots of Vicky and I dancing; deciding that three chats, three glasses of champers and a dance were the pre-requisites for a good shag story!
After we’d danced to a number of songs and wandered back to the seats Mark Brennan walked towards us. I told him that I felt the blag had run its course and we should call it a night here, but that I was interested in having him come back to the hotel for a nightcap along with a few others; he said he’d organise that. With our conversation going on I did not spot the second lunatic who decided to have a go at George Michael. The second tit was quickly squeezed into dust by Ali who then shouted to Mark that he was going to, “Get George the fuck out of here,” to which Mark said, “Out the back way,” pointing towards the corner of the club. It was all very SAS hostage rescue material as I was escorted through a side door and down the side of the building towards the Mercedes. I noticed that Vicky was holding my hand, excellent…………..
In the car Terry looked in the mirror and said, “Where too sir?” I said, “The casino I think.” The engine started, we fastened our seatbelts, and Terry put the car into gear and rolled it forward around ten metres and stopped outside the Casino. Brilliant! An even shorter drive than the one from the hotel and that was pathetic; but this? This was hilarious! “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes this is the Casino,” said Terry. Glenn was crying with laughter and I was losing the plot, “Right, lets get out!” Ali appeared at the door and opened it for me, having walked from the Club to the Casino before Terry could get around to that side of the car, “Thank you!” said Terry stepping in front of Ali and taking the door from him. “I give up,” came a cry from Glenn beside me, “I’ve spilt my fucking champers!” I walked into the Casino only to be told it was members only. “We only want a late drink?” said Glenn who had just stumbled in grasping a now empty, Champagne glass in his hand. “Fuck it! I’m going to the hotel.” I said and I turned and went back to the car just as Terry was getting into his seat. Ali opened the door, this time just as Terry was getting out of the car and was caught in two minds whether to complete the whole, ‘getting out of the car move’ or to stay put, which turned out to be his eventual decision. “Up and down eh Terry?” said Glenn cracking up again and sliding into the foot well.
By the time that Glenn, Vicky and I drove to the Hotel it was near two in the morning as we ambled into the lounge bar after bidding farewell to Terry. Glenn told me he had invited loads of women back to the hotel which received a ‘tut’ from me worried that we’d be mobbed. The Duty Manager wandered over to ask us if we wanted anything? I asked if there was some food available just as the reporter and his son came in and taking seats, ordered food as well. “Champers for me,” said Glenn. “What vintage would you like?” asked the Manager. “The Dom Pom I think, three bottles.” I looked at Glenn and smiled, ‘sod it’ I thought, we may as well get hammered, and it’s not my dollar. The Manager strode off and another five or six girls along with Ali and another bouncer then joined us. “Mark sent me over to keep an eye out for you George,” said Ali. “Good man,” said Glenn who was by now getting very boisterous with a couple of ladies who were giggling and squirming out of his reach. The Duty Manager turned up and said, “We only have two bottles of the Dom Perignon left sir. You drank the rest earlier today.” I looked around at what had become at least twelve people and said, “We’ll have those two and three Moet then please.” I was George Michael to these people (well most of them) and I was pretty sure George wouldn’t flinch in the face of adversity and go for the wine spritzers!
The wine and Club sandwiches arrived and we all dived in with Vicky sitting on my lap apparently determined to get her man. A few more stragglers wandered in followed by Mark Brennan who looked at the table strewn with plates and glasses and rolled his eyes skyward. He poured a glass for himself and sat down next to me. “That was fun and eventful and a little expensive,” he whispered in my ear. “You wanted George you got him you can’t do it half hearted Mark,” I replied. Vicky was nuzzling my neck and making purring sounds in my ear, which were distracting me from my conversation and having the desired affect. The reporter said he was off home and everyone started to drift away. I said to Vicky, “Are you staying?” more out of politeness than anything else and we stood up and wandered towards the lift. I bid goodnight to Ali and his pal and the girls who left with them. Mark signed the bill and left without saying a word and Glenn wandered up and very drunkenly tried pressing the call button. After three failed attempts to even hit the wall, I pressed it and we rode up to our floor.
Our rooms we adjoining so we went into Glenn’s room left him slumped on the bed and walked through the interior door into my room locking it behind us. I went into the bathroom and washed off the make-up and lipstick and cleaned myself up before walking back into the room. Vicky was already in bed as I slid in beside her and she said, “I know you’re not him, you know.” I smiled and said how did you work that out, I was not denying it; it would be futile and rude. “I heard you and Mark talking downstairs and I think George would have a better room than this,” she said smiling. I looked at her and asked her if she was bothered by the lies and subterfuge. “They’re not lies and anyway, it’s been fun. There’s no way I could afford that much Champagne and I like the way you look, you’re cute.” We disappeared into the quilt.
I broached the idea of the story to her and she was happy to go along with the ruse, so I called the reporter in the morning to ask him if we were going for it. “You don’t want to do that do you?” he said. “Why not?” “Because its too late really we needed to run the story today and you’re going home.” All this was bollocks to me and I asked him why he was backing out? He said that there really wasn’t a story there, which was more bollocks. “You got a free night out anyway,” I said as I put the phone down. My initial thoughts of a poorly thought out plan had been proved right.
I saw Mark the following day and asked about the two hundred pounds appearance fee. He looked at me as if I was talking Dutch. “Do you know how much last night cost?” he asked. I said that “no, I did not, but I bet it was a lot.” “Too bloody right it was a lot. I have to account for that to the owners and I can’t afford another two hundred on top.” Glenn piped up and said, “The agreement did not say there was a limit on the expenses that you were paying for?” “And you can just about fuck off Glenn.” said Mark. We eventually agreed to split the fee down the middle and I walked away with £100. Vicky had my number and she came up to Norwich a couple of times but it fizzled out because of the distances involved and because I had an offer from Dave Bennett for the summer of 1989 that I could not refuse, an offer that could never have involved having a steady girlfriend.
Written and Posted by Jonathan Weaver