Sunday, 30 March 2014
GOODBYE Mr PETROVIC, IT SURE WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED.
Meanwhile my work load was beginning to affect my performances at Rudy's and on radio, so I decided it was time that something had to give. Jimmy and myself were rowing over the Marbella Auctions working policies and I was coming very disillusioned with the whole business, so given the choice out of my radio and TV shows, Rudy’s or the auction rooms, it was a no contest, it was time to hang up my gavel, a decision I hoped I wouldn't regret later.
Whilst we are covering this period in Marbella I couldn’t leave out one of Marbella’s most controversial characters of all time, and believe me we’ve had a few over the year, the mayor Jesus Gil who swept into power in 1991 and stayed in office until 2002. Gil also presided for a 16-year tenure as president of the Spanish football club Atlético Madrid. Gil made most of his money in the construction business. He was arrested and spent time in jail in 1967 when one of his buildings in Los Ángeles de San Rafael collapsed, killing 58 people. He was eventually released by order of the dictator Francisco Franco! He turned Marbella into his own private town seemingly doing what and when he liked. Most of Marbella's local police were recruited indirectly by Gil among legionnaires and members of other elite military forces throughout southern Spain and Northern Africa during the 1980s/90s, and some of these officers comprised Gil's own private garde de corps. At first he was welcomed into the office as mayor by the wealthy residents of the town, they saw him as that man who could turn a tired Marbella around knowing it had been going downhill for years. He very quickly and with what seemed like a bottomless pit of cash gave Marbella a sparkling new facelift.
He painted the town in his party colours blue and what and oversaw two huge arches with the name Marbella embedded into them constructed on either side of the town’s main entrances (See photo below). No one seemed to know where the money was coming from but the town was booming, property prices soaring. Jesus continued to run the town almost like his own private party and was so popular that he was voted back into power four times bring his time of mayor to an abrupt end in 2002 when he was finally arrest alongside many of his town hall colleagues for embezzling billions out of the town hall funds. Although Gil died aged 71 a few years ago of a brain haemorrhage many of his ex councillors etc are still serving time in prison including his chief town planner Juan Antonio Roca, the alleged "Mr Big" who ran Marbella from his
Gil saw Petrovic as very much his type of man and it wasn’t long before he embraced him as a very good friend.
Signe were beginning to show in Petrovic's camp that not all was going well, rumours started to spread that he hadn’t actually paid the $4 million for the Marbella Football Club or paid his players salaries. It was also noticeable that Bob was spending very little time on board the Blue Crystal, spending long hours at home incommunicado, his club Long Legs was also suffering from his absence with word that his staff at the club hadn't been paid for weeks. The big question around marbella was; 'Was Petrovc going broke?' One of the sad things I remember about that time was those who hung out with Bob when he was picking up the bills etc now seemed to be turning their backs on him. I could tell by Petrovic demure he was a worried man, he was drinking a lot. I also was beginning to worry as it was coming up to the end of August and the Scandinavians would be returning to the radio leaving me without a time slot for my show. I mentioned this a few times to Bob stressing the importance of him going into to see Pepe if he still wanted the Long Legs radio show, all he would say was; "okay, okay I'll go to see him when I get a moment!" I knew by his tone my persistence was beginning to annoy him. If I was being honest with myself I knew in my heart of hearts this wasn't going to happen and I needed to act fast if I wanted to continue on radio.
What was happening to this fun loving Yugoslavian was very sad. How different it all had been just a short time ago. I remember the excitement the day Petrovic took control of the Marbella Football Club he invited me to accompany him to his first game as the the new owner. When we arrived in Bob’s white convertible Rolls Royce we were given a police escorted to guide us through the enthusiastic crowds making their way into the stadium, which were all waving a cheering their new savior. I sat next to Bob in the executive box as we were greeted by the thousands of Marbella FC fans chanting Petrovic Petrovic, Petrovic. After the first game, which the club won, Bob threw a super party in one of Marbella’s top hotels, during the meal each player was handed an envelope bulging with thousands of dollars as a way of a bonus for winning. Bob promised that there was plenty more where that came from for the correct results. All the players, managers and traynors stood and cheered him. Everybody loved Petrovic.
The Long Legs Radio Show has been broadcast from the OCI’s studios in Marbella throughout July and August from 2 to 4pm weekdays. Petrovic had negotiated a contract for the two months of summer whilst the Scandinavian radio station, who rented that that time slot, took a summer break but now that the summer was coming to an end the station director, Pep Navajos, continued to remind me that I would have to vacate the slot shortly.
(Photo: Pepe Navaja the director of Onda Cero International. I was to become the bane of his life for the next 10 years!)
I kept assuring him that Petrovic was coming in to negotiate a new contract etc. One afternoon as I was leaving the studio to go home Pepe called me into his office to let me know that he had called Petrovic to ask him if he was interested in negotiating a new deal and time spot. Pepe said that Bob informed him that he was NOT interested as he was closing Long Legs in a few weeks. This was devastating news. I knew that Pepe, who started off very unsure of me as a broadcaster, was now warming to me and I also knew from inside info he really didn’t want me to leave the station.
Pepe kept his cards close to his chest at first and told me that perhaps he could offer the 7.15 to 9pm slot. As little as I knew about radio at this stage I knew this to be disastrous time as historically English listeners do not listen to radio in the evenings unless, that is, they were out in their cars. I then asked about the rent;"The same." He replied and without hesitation he added; "That's 6000,000 per month!". I nearly fell off my chair and started to argued that the revenue from evening advertising was considerable less than peak daytime listening so how could he justify such a huge rent? Laying both hands firmly on the table he snapped; “Take it or leave it!” With that he got up to leave.Just as he was about to close the door behind him I heard myself saying; “I’LL TAKE IT!” Those words were totally involuntarily of which I seemed to have very little control over, a knee jerk reaction I think is what it's called! The door flew back open leaving Pepe as surprised looking as I felt. We shook hands and he said that a contract would be drawn up in a day or two.
I remember driving home thinking how the hell am I going to pay that amount, what's more I knew Wendy would go crazy when I tell her what I had just agreed to. She had been going on lately about me getting a proper job as we were hardly paying the household bills and struggling to meet school fees etc By the time I arrived home Wendy had the dinner on the table; "So" she asked; "How did you get on?" She knew I was hoping to convince Petrovic to sign a new radio deal that day and most important to agree to pay me a set salary. I smiled nervously and told her that I had negotiated a new deal. “How much?” she asked excitedly. I sheepishly replied; “600,000pts.” Her eyes lit up “Wow, that's brilliant! he's agreed to pay YOU 600,000pts a month?” I knew now I was in deep trouble, I had no choice but to tell her the truth that in fact it was ME who had to pay THEM. At first Wendy thought I was joking but after convincing her it was a fact all she could say was; “Where the hell are you going to find that kind of money Boland, go back and tell them to forget it and go and get a proper job?”
I think I might have slept in the spare room that night!
Thankfully Rudys was still as busy as ever. Unfortunately no matter how successful those nights were they certainly weren't earning me anything like the amount of money Pepe was asking for to rent the time on radio station. We still hadn’t bought a house and were living in very nice rented home, are three sons were in English schools that cost a bloody fortune so to try to find an extra 600,000pts per month was going to be impossible and I had only days before I was going to sign the contract or I was out!
Lying in bed with only days to go to come up with a sponsor I remembered Roy Peires, a South African friend of mine, who owned one of the most successful timeshare companies in Europe , Club La Costa , who I also knew to be interested in new marketing ideas and hoping a Club La Costa Radio Show might interest him I drove down to his headquarters approx 15 minutes from Marbella and put the idea to him. Thankfully he liked the idea a lot and shook my hand agreeing to sponsor my show for a million pesetas per month approx 6,000€. I was delighted, not only that Club La Costa was going to be my main sponsor but I was also going to make a small profit. Now all I had to do was to work out a way to attract a listenership at that time of the evening and in turn attract some serious advertisers.
When launching a new idea or buisness the first thing I always try to decided on is a name, something I can hook into to continue to develop, this is something I always do whether it be a name for a discotheque or a
The first potential sponsor I approached was Hyper Andalucia owned by the Irish retail group Dunnes Stores who owned two stories at the time on the Costa del Sol, one on the Fuengirola bypass and the other in Las Rampas Fuengirola. I met with the Manager for Dunnes Spain Leo Keohane and explained my idea which I called ‘Let’s Go Shopping With Dunnes, the Trolley Game’ the idea was that every evening we would read out a list of shopping in the fantasy shopping trolley, the object of the game was to guess the total price of the goods, the winner was the person who phoned in with a price closest to the total. The shopping list would be read out at the beginning of the show and the listener who was closest to the amount of shopping in the trolley would win the lot! Thankfully Leo loved the idea and agreed to sponsor that spot.
Next was my idea of a game I called The Hole In One Golf Game. Playing golf on radio might sound crazy but I designed it as a grid game. i.e Make out a grid squire, then write A,B,C,D,E,F across the top and 1,2,3,4,5,6 down the side, I would then place an X in the spot I would allocate as the hole. The player would ring in and say for example D,4 we would then have a sound effect of a golf club swinging and hitting a ball, if it wasn’t the squire that I had marked X there would be a large sound effect of an Ahhhhh! Every time someone missed, the prize money went up by 50€! It didn’t take long, if the X spot wasn’t hit, to build up an attractive amount of cash in the prize fund and became a huge hit with the listeners. It was sponsored by Miraflores Golf.
Another game I remembered using was the well tested Guess Who’s Talking It was simply a mystery voice game that I recorded earlier off the TV or a video etc and play on air. To tell you the truth I can’t remember all the games but I can tell you the show was an instant hit with the listeners all enthusiastically trying to get through on the studio phones to win prizes from the minute the show went on air. The show brought evening listening for English residents into a whole new level. It was a phenomenon.
Petrovic club Long Legs was now closed down and the rumours about his troubles with the football club were now been written about in the press etc. Bob seemed to be spending more time at home and less on Blue Crystal. I felt sorry for Bob his popularity had all but disappeared. Sitting at home staring and his television but not watching it he came across as a very lonely broken man added to the fact that his so called ‘friends’ had all but left him. Why did it all go so terribly wrong for the generous man? Perhaps only he can answer that. I continued to visit him at home trying to show him support etc but he just wasn’t interested. Bob Petrovic’s was simply fizzling out and it wasn’t long before he started to lose everything. This is so typical of Marbella. It seemed every year a new name came into town flashing the cash, the same crowed of vultures would start picking at their bones until they'd picked them clean. the vultures would then disappear and waited for the next vulnerable culprate to arrive in Marbella ladened down with cash so they could get picking again, this lot make me sick! There is a saying here; ‘To make a small fortune in Marbella you need to start with a large one!’ The Petrovic story ended sadly but I for one will be forever grateful to the extraordinary, bigger than life, Yugoslavian for the start he allowed me in radio. If it wasn’t for him I would never have had the opportunity. I haven’t seen Bob for years. I have no idea where he is or where he lives I just hope he’s happy. THANK YOU BOB PETROVIC FOR EVERYTHING.
To be continued......
COMING NEXT THE LATE LATE BREAKFAST SHOW SETTLES INTO ITS NEW TIME SLOT. WE DO OUR FIRST OUTSIDE BROADCAST THAT GOES DESPERATELY WRONG. MY 'BIG RISK TV SHOW' IS GETTING TIRED AND I NEED TO FIND A NEW FORMAT TO KEEP MY TV AUDIENCE FIGURES UP. I HOST MY FIRST CHARITY EVENT AND BARRY AND MYSELF DECIDE TO SPLIT. ALL THAT AND MORE IN THE NEXT CHAPTER OF MY STORY
Thursday, 27 March 2014
AT LAST A CHANCE TO BECOME A TV STAR... SO I THOUGHT!
For as long as I can remember all I ever wanted to do was host a TV show and that eventually happened back on Sunday the 28th November 1993. I can’t remember much of how the opportunity first arose but I do remember Barry Nathan, who I knew as a casual friend, suggesting that he would be able to help me achieve this. He had a friend, Martin Shardlow, a well known UK television producer with many hit shows under his belt including; Only Fools and Horses, Black Adder, The Upper Hand, Are You Being Served to name but a few, who had a villa close to Barry's and saw him regularly. He also told me he was a friend of Jamie Tedesco who ran Coin Film City where the BBC soap Eldorado was being filmed at the time. Within in days of our initial conversation Barry invited me to his home to meet with Martin and Jamie. We spent the good part of the time discussing ideas for the show and by the end of the evening I was given the green light. Martin agreed to direct/produce, Jamie agreed to supply Coin Film City’s facilities etc, Barry said he would raise the finance and was I was to find and invite the guests etc. This show was to be a pilot and be used, we hoped, to sell to a UK TV companies.
The first guest I called was Peter Stringfellow I was desperate to make it up to him after the Mandy Smith fiasco. Peter and his London Club Stringfellows was one of the worlds most famous nightclubs at the time so I was delighted when he agreed to travel over as my guest.
The next meeting was set a few weeks later and was held at Coin Film Studios. Id never been there but more important Martin Shardlow needed to familiarise himself with the studio and the equipment etc. I was meeting some of the planning crew whilst Jamie walked Martin up to what he thought was the sound stage where it was planned the show would be filmed. My excitement was shortly about to turn to disappointment when Martin came in and angrily announced; “There is NO studio, what I’ve just seen is a large warehouse storing props , lights, cameras etc there is NO way we can make a TV show there, end of, this is a total waste of my time!” I just sank back in my chair feeling the blood rushing from my face. Barry Nathan, ever the diplomat, tried to calm the situation by suggesting that surely we could clear the warehouse and turn it into a studio? After much angry discussion behind close doors it was agreed that to turn the corrugated warehouse into a studio would be very expensive, all the walls would have to be covers with thick curtaining, the floors would need to be laid in wood, a stage and set built, camera tracks and lighting gallery constructed etc. Again Barry said he would sort it and raise the extra finance that was needed.
As the day for filming my show was getting closer and as it was my first ever TV show Martin Shardlow was spending much of his valuable time tutoring me to the understand of the workings of a TV talk show. He explained that the show would be filmed ‘as live’ meaning that the show would run from beginning to end without stops even if there was a mistake he would keep filming and remove it in the final edit. There would be 4 cameras but one specifically on me. Red lights on top of the cameras would indicate when they were filming etc. So that was that. I started in earnest preparing my notes on each guest and generally getting both very nervous and at the same time as the big day approached very excited.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived at what was a corrugated warehouse and now the transformation into this stunning studio that was now ready for this evening filming. I had booked a brilliant band The Mix as my musicians, the audience that numbered well over one hundred were now seated and all that was left for me to do was to take my position on stage and welcome my guesst.
Thankfully the show went very well, the studio audience certainly seemed to be enjoying it by responding with laughter when needed and enthusiastic applause as each guest was played onto the set by the band. Everybody involved with the show felt that it was to be my passport into bigger things in UK TV. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, firstly I had no agent at the time, Martin Shardlow, although felt the show was first class he had moved to live full time almost on the Costa and had retired from TV, the BBC had pulled Elderado or maybe I was just not good enough. I had no intention of giving up!!!
Mr PETROVIC: "I'LL BUY YOU A RADIO STATION, I'LL BUY ME A FOOTBALL CLUB, A JET AND A MULTIMILLION DOLLAR YACHT!"
It was the morning of the 1994 Entertainer of the Year Show rehearsals for the junior section had started
Once the rehearsals were finished I left to meet Sheik Ashmawi, my partner in Marbella Auctions (we met weekly for an update on the past weeks auction etc) The first thing he said when I walked into his office was that he heard Bob Petrovic’s daughter had entered this evenings show. To tell you the truth I was amazed that he knew a Yugoslavian refugee. He went on to informed me that Bob Petrovic was in fact a multimillionaire and owned a mega yacht called the Blue Crystal which was moored in Puerto Banus, he also owned a private jet in Malaga airport and a Palace in Nueva Andalucia next to Aloha Golf Club! You could have knocked me down with a feather. After my meeting with Sheik Mohammid my next stop was a lunch meeting in Puerto Banus, after lunch my curiosity got the better of me so I sauntered along the pier that moored the mega yachts and their looking big enough to be a mini liner was the majestic Blue Crystal. Should or shouldn’t stop and enquire if the master was onboard? I pressed the bell that was attached to footbridge that led onto this super yacht. A perfectly turned out crew member came forward and asked could he help, I sheepishly asked if Mr Petrovic was on board, he politely asked me to wait where I was then disappeared through some glass doors, after a minute or two he returned and invited me on board, wow I’d lived in Marbella for about 9 years at this stage and had always admired the pure opulence of these super yachts but had never actually been on board one and here I was about to meet ‘The Gypsy’ (Make a mental note appearances can deceive) I was ushered into the main salon , the inner sanctum, my shoes disappeared into the thick pile white wool carpet.
The night was a great success, to be honest I can’t remember who actually won but I do remember Anna Petrovic was certainly up among the top three. As the Petrovic’s were leaving Bob came back stage inviting on Blue Crystal for lunch the following day.
I arrived on the yacht around 2pm, there was just me, Bob and a crew of about 10. No sooner had we sat for lunch than the Blue Crystal gently eased it's way out of port. Where we were going I had no idea but never mind this was more than cool. After lunch we sat having coffee on the upper deck enjoying the views of the Costa del Sol’s coastline as we cruised in the direction of Gibraltar. Bob started to explain his plans for his future in Marbella, He told me he had just purchased Regines famous discotheque in Puerto Banus , he also had bought the Marbella Football club for he paid the princely sum of $4million! A lot of money for a local football club. All very exciting I told him and if he needed any help etc I would delighted to help where I could. He went on to tell me he was going to call the club Piernas Largas meaning Long Legs, terrible name I thought and told him so but he explained he had this thing about short people and wanted a measured mark on the wall by the door and anyone shorter than a certain height would be barred, wouldn’t get away with that today, mind you I thought at the time he was joking! He said he wanted the American platinum selling group Kool and the Gang for the opening night and asked me if I could book them.
He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled: “How much?”
I hadn’t a clue but with first class air fares for the band that numbered 8, then I was sure they would have at least another 3 or 4 more join them, they would acquire hotel suits, meals, transport etc I told him: “I really don’t see much change from $100,000!”
Again he smiled; “Lets give a new car away to a lucky ticket holder that night.”
So there you have it folks this is Mr Petrovic.
I did book Kool and the Gang and they did cost $100K but what a night what a band. After the show we continued to party on board the Blue Crystal. The next day Bob called to ask me to get myself down to the club as he had a TV crew there who wanted to film an interview with ‘Kool’ and I was to conduct the interview. (Photo: With Arthur 'Kool' Bell aboard the Blue Crystal)
(You will find at the bottom of this chapter a rarely seen video of that amazing night)
I had hardly got back to the house when Bob called and said he wanted me to join him aboard the yacht for dinner that evening as he had some VIP's he wanted me to meet. So a quick shower and change and I was back in Puerto Banus, as I approached the Blue Crystal I noticed a huge crowed had gatherd on the port oppisit Petrovic's yacht
One day whilst Bob and myself were alone I told him that I had an idea that might work well for marketing Long Legs and his football club and that was to negotiate a deal with Onda Cero International Radio (OCI) the then only English radio station in southern Spain, to buy a few hours per day to broadcast the Long Legs Radio Show and promote his football club, Bob thankfully loved the idea. Onda Cero scheduling included afternoons leased by a Scandinavian radio station who went off the air every July and August and all the radio played during that period was non stop music. Bob bought that airtime and gave it to me! Thanks Bob.
OCI's director, Pepe Navajas, who had turned me down so many times was now stuck with me but added a proviso that the radio station had to supply a co-host to drive the radio show and use radio equipment etc and that person was Barry Mitchell.
Petravic’s spending continued to skyrocket. I remember he started to buy famous Yugoslavian footballers to play in his Marbella football team and I even arranged for Peter Reed who had managed Manchester City to fly over on his jet to meet Bob with the possibility of him managing the local club!
One afternoon I was with Bob in a Marbella car showroom, although he was driving a white convertible Rolls Royce at the time, he fancied adding a new Aston Martin to his increasing fleet of top end cars.
Bob telephoned me early one morning, which was very unlike him as he liked to sleep until early afternoon thats because he usually didn't get into bed much before sunrise, this morning he sounded excited and asked me to come to the Blue Crystal as soon a possible. As usual Bob was on his mobile phone when I arrived, as soon as he saw me he hung up and without as much as a ‘hello’ he asked; “You know Peter Stringfellow?” where was this going I thought, if you had read my earlier story about my major fall out with Peter over Mandy Smith’s trip to New York you will understand why I hesitated before asking why. “Call him!” demanded Bob, "Ask him to come over I want him to be my guest and get some advice about Long Legs.”
I called Peter and explained about Bob and how he would like to invite over him as his guest to Marbella etc etc, as I was explaining to Peter, Bob interrupted and asked me to tell him to come now!
“One moment Peter.”
Covering the mouthpiece of the phone with my hand I turned to Bob and asked; “ what do you mean by now?”
Bob was jumping around like a kid with candy;
I uncovered the mouthpiece and repeated what Bob had said; “Now as in NOW!” Peter must have thought that I had lost my marbles since last speaking to me those 5 years ago. I excused myself and took the phone on deck where no one could hear me and explained in depth the whole Petravic story. I could tell Peter was excited when he asked who would look after the travel arrangement etc. Again I asked Peter to hold on and I’ll ask Bob. I went back inside where Bob was waiting and asked him who would arrange Peters travel etc?
Bob looked at me as if I was mad saying; “ You crazy, I’ll send my jet, it will leave within the next hour or two!” His accent seemed to get heaver and his words interspersed with little bits of Yugoslavian, which I assumed were possibly swear words.
Jet, Jet of course I’d forgotten, Bob had a private Jet in Malaga airport. After explaining about the jet etc and Peter agreeing to come, within two hours or so I was in the air being jetted to London to pick up Peter Stringfellow, life with Bob Petrovic was full of surprises and totally surreal!
As soon as picking up Stringfellow we turned around and took off again, not a lot of difference from a taxi I suppose except the meter was probably at 10K by now! Peter and myself had a couple of hours in the air to kiss and makeup for the misunderstanding between us 5 years ago. On arrival at Malaga’s VIP private air terminal we hit a major problem, Peter had forgotten his passport and the Guardia Civil in charge of arrivals didn’t look the friendliest bunch to say the least. I asked Peter to wait and I went through to find Bob to explain the problem to him. Bob never seemed fazed by any problem and smiled at me telling me to wait he’d sort it out. There was no way Peter will get into Spain without a passport! Wrong! After about 5 minutes Bob and Peter came out together beaming from ear to ear. I just stood there mouth open as Bob smiled and gave me a wink. To this day I have no idea how he managed to pull that one off but then he WAS Bob Petrovic!
We all had dinner aboard the Blue Crystal that evening.
It was only then that Bob started to roll out his plans as to why he had invited Peter over, he explained that he wanted to throw a party in Stringfellows London to pick 60 lucky girls who would be flown to Marbella for the summer, put up in
luxury Puerto Banus apartments and all they were required to do was to hang around the popular bars like Sinatra’s etc and convince anyone they could to come to Long Legs. I remember thinking how much is all this going to cost for a minimum of 30 apartments in Puerto Banus to rent at the height of the tourist season added to that the 60 return airfares, food etc, but I had learnt to say nothing, anyway it would have been a waste of time, once Bob Petrovic made up his mind that was it!
Peter loved the idea and suggested that he would ask the Sun newspaper to run the competition for the 60 lucky girls as a joint promotion. As Bob had no passport that allowed him entry into UK at the time he asked me to go in his place. (Photo: The night Peter Stringfellow came aboard, bottom right, with Petrovic , myself and I haven't a clue who the rest were!)
I got a call from an Onda Cero colleague the late Craig James to invite me onto his TV show that went out once a week in English on the Spanish Station 340TV.
The summer of ’94 was truly wild, crazing and if I hadn’t lived it I wouldn’t have believed it! As the season was beginning to come to an end the Petrovic band wagon was beginning to show cracks. To be continued.....
This is a rarely seen video of Kool and the Gang in Petrovic's club Long Legs Marbella
To be continued...
Monday, 24 March 2014
SUN, SAND AND KARAOKE
Since the early days in Marbella I always enjoyed Sundays, still do, at first we used to hang out at Victors Beach, at the time
Mel Williams a long time resident of Marbella and simply know as the ‘Boss’ when it came to music, his Sunday Sessions were always packed with the Marbella ‘faces’ and visiting celebrities. Each Sunday there was always a well known celebrity or two joining Mel on stage, names like Joe Cocker, Phil Lynott (I arranged that) 60’s iconic groups like Marmalade, Brian Pool, The Merseybeats and Freddie and the Dreamers in fact any visiting musical celebrity to Marbella would end up on stage at Mels. I loved this concept and put at the back of my mind in case an opportunity should ever arise for me to duplicate it.
It was one afternoon I was having a coffee with Beaky when I suggested that they should consider putting on Sunday afternoon beach concerts to capitalise on the success Mel was having. Beaky loved the idea and ask me if I could stage manage the event and find a location for the sessions. I remember driving home thinking; here I am from Mandy Smith To Dame Shirley Bassey and now Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, made me smile. The band were not only brilliant musicians but also had outstanding stage presence, I honestly felt they would be a huge success on the Sunday sessions. I was excited, now all I needed to find was a beach that would agree to partner me and the band on Sundays.
Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich on stage at their first sell out Sunday beach session. Looks like they were mobbed by a female fan.
I remembered that there was a very nice beach not far from where I lived at the time and I knew it also to be very quiet, so I drove down to see if they might be interested in my idea of duplicating Mels beach success. Luckily the owner, who also owned a well know restaurant in the old town in Marbella, knew me and had seen the band so he was up for giving it a go. The date was set, posters were designed, the stage built and sound equipment arranged. One little problem I had was to get the boys out of bed as they had been up until 4am playing in their bar! Finally after kicking each one of them out and into the van we arrived at the beach we couldn’t believe our eyes, we were greeted by literally hundreds of people eating, drinking and generally enjoying themselves waiting for these four famous 60's icons to take to the stage.
(Photo: Sunday crowed enjoying the band. In the middle Paul Henry who played Benny in the TV soap Crossroads)
Mike the owner did a terrific job transforming his beach for the Sunday session, adding dozens of tables with sun covers shading them from the heat of the afternoon sun. He had built a large stage which was also shaded from the sun and flags everywhere. The boys were greeted with large cheers as they played each one of their hits as the sand in front of the stage was full of couples dancing and cheering. It was a tremendous success and amazing atmosphere that lasted well into the evening! The Sunday beach shows took off like a rocket. I decided to add another band to the session It was headed up by
The Sunday sessions continued with great success throughout the summer season. The band tired of getting up so early and decided to call it a day. I also felt it had run it’s course. As they say ‘It was fun when it lasted’.
One afternoon I got a call from a gentleman called Jimmy Howson who invited me for a coffee in Estepona Port saying that he had an idea that he felt that I might be interested in. He explained that he was playing a round of golf with a group of friends when he inquired if any of his them knew someone living on the Costa who was in the entertainment business. My name came up and hence the coffee date. He asked if I had ever heard of Karaoke. I told him honestly I hadn't and asked was it some kind of martial arts? He explained that someone would get up and sing to a backing track with the words on a TV screen and that the craze, which started in Japan, was spreading like wildfire throughout UK and the US. I hated the idea and told him so, a load of drunks singing 'My Way.' I thought, do me a favour! How wrong I was! In the end I agreed to give it a go. What I didn’t tell Jimmy was that; .1. I couldn’t sing and .2. I was dyslexic, so singing and reading were out, two important points I felt to host a Karaoke show.
I can’t remember how or why but I ended up persuading a gentleman called Graham to give it a go in his Christopher Columbus Bar in Estepona Port. From the very first night it was packed, it seemed everyone else in Spain had heard of the Karaoke phenomenon but me! So successful was that first night that we agreed with Graham to return every Tuesday. Word started to spread about the arrival of Karaoke in this Estepona bar, which in turn saw people travelling from all over the Costa and Gibraltar, Jimmy was correct this was a phenomena and Laurie Scott popularity certainly helped to pack the bar every Tuesday evening.
One Tuesday morning I got a call that was to make a great change in my life, it was from Laurie Scott to say that he couldn't host the show at the Christopher Columbus that night as he was tied up with the moving the Onda Cero studios into a new building. I was far from happy that he had left it this late to let me know. What was I going to do with approx seven hours to find a replacement! Jimmy’s reaction was to not panic ; "You can do it" He suggested. " Who ME! Are you crazy? I can’t sing, I can't read!" I exclaimed “No way Jose! Not a chance, never, end of!” I told him. I made a few phone calls looking for someone else to host the show but to no avail. Jimmy made a reality check; “It's either you or we call Graham and cancel, but make up your mind.”
I would have loved to have been the lead singer when I was in the band but I had no voice so I took up drumming. Faced with the fact it was now lunch time and the show was scheduled for that evening, myself, Jimmy and Jimmy’s wife Carol started to rehears with all of us trying to find at least one song that I could sing in tune! It took many disastrous attempts until eventually we settled for Sugar Sugar by the Archie's to open the show, it wasn’t great but it was the best I could do.
When we arrived at the venue we explained to Graham that Laurie couldn't make it but I would try and of course we wouldn’t charge him if he didn’t like it. He wasn't very happy to say the least but it was now too late to cancel, the place was already heaving. I spent at least 10 minutes in the toilet panicking, too nervous to come out. Eventually I took to the stage and what ever happened during that evening the crowds loved it, I covered up my tuneless performance by winding up most of the poor unsuspecting singers by dismantling their performances. Whilst a lot of the hopeful 'superstars of the future' weren’t to happy with me the audiences loved it.. Thankfully Graham also loved it and insisted in not only paying the full fee but with a proviso he wanted ME back instead of Laurie every Tuesday! This was a very unexpected turn of events but secretly I was delighted, at last 40 years old and I was accept as a live performer of sorts. As word got out about the success of the Christopher Columbus shows and the mad Irish presenter more venues along the Costa started to book us.
One day whilst driving passed a large stand alone restaurant called Dragon D'Ora that had a small lean-to bar attached called the Roadrunner I decided to call in to see if I could do a deal for Wednesday nights, now the only night we had free during the week. Luckily the owner, a bigger than life Belgian called Rudy was working in the office. I introduced myself and tried to sell him the idea of putting me on, on Wednesdays, he had never heard of Karaoke but said he would give it a go
The first Wednesday was a disaster hardly anyone turned up and I went home with just 6 Euros!! Rudy decided to add a Chinese buffet to Wednesday nights to help boost the turnover, which was supplied by his restaurant next door,. It worked and the nights started to gain popularity. One noticeable difference between Rudy's and other venues I was playing was the clientele they were pulling up in top end Mercs, Range Rovers , Jaguars etc It was because the price for the evening was a lot more expensive, obviously being a dinner show, than other venues , mostly bars I was performing in at the time. Within a few months there were queues waiting to get into the show with tables been booked weeks in advance. I was loving every second of what was happening. The shows were in huge demand and there was hardly a night I wasn't on stage in one venue or an other.
I hardly slept all that week. I had made the decision, because of the size of the venue, to change the total look of my show,
Finally the Wednesday arrived and I made my way towards the now enlarged venue and to tell you the truth I was very nervous, new show, huge venue, would anyone turn up? As my car approached I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; queues of cars parked all the way down the road leading to the show. I remember thinking someone must be having a very large party in one of the large neighbouring houses, not for a moment did I believe it was for my show. As I arrived in the car park I noticed the newly erected a large lit up sign with my photo on it announcing the show and the throngs of people making their way into the venue!! I simply couldn't believe it! I quickly realised that Rudy had actually pulled it off, perhaps a couple of hundred packed into the restaurant for dinner and the bar knee deep with people hoping for the chance to get a table!!. By 10 o'clock I was back stage changed, ready and extremely nervous, all I could think was; 'what if they don't like my show, what if they don't like the new enlarged venue, this will be it, the end !!!.
I had rehearsed all week with the dancers the opening of the show which included my opening number Achy Break Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. The lighting and sound were outstanding. The crowed loved it. The atmosphere was electric. I loved it, it was like a dream come true. Rudy's became THE place to be on a Wednesday night from that day on. Many celebrates began to turn up whilst visiting Marbella to get up on stage and join me, They included Lionel Blare, comedian Faith Brown, Bonnie Langford, Mike McCartney (Paul's younger brother), Peter Stringfellow even Eric Morcambe's widow and many famous footballers and show biz celebs would turn up on a Wednesday at Rudy's.
From left to right: Kenny Lynch, Bonnie Langford, Mike McCartney (Paul's younger brother) Lionel Blair.
The Wednesday’s at Rudy’s continued to sell out every week, I was having a ball but felt I needed more to do than just one show a week. Back in my days in Ireland I used to love attending furniture occasion held at Adams showroom in Blackrock, somehow I always left owning something I didn’t really mean to buy! I realised that’s how these auctions work, you quickly get caught up by the occasion. I always enjoyed the banter from the auctioneer and it must have stayed in the back of my mind as I pulled into the car park in front of a large empty store on the Golden Mile. Although it was empty and there was no sign indicating it was for sale or rent, I started to get excited, was perfect, I would open Marbella’s first furniture auction showroom right here, all I had to do was to find the owner and negotiate a deal.
It didn’t take long for me to find out it was owned by Sheik Mohammed Ashmawi one of Marbella’s wealthiest residents.
I drove immediately to the showroom where I met Jimmy. The first thing that struck us was sheer size of the premises, it was huge we wandered to the very back and to our surprise it was full of brand new furniture, most of it still in corrugated cardboard wrapping. It must have been left over from the original furniture store when Sheik Mohammad bought the premises.
Rudys was still packing them in every Wednesday. I came up with the idea to run a singing competition in two parts and called The Entertainer of the Year Show. Please note this was well befor X Factors or Pop Idol's etc. The entre ages were from 10 to 14 and 15 upwards. During the day of the show I invited the younger participants into Rudy’s to rehearse in the morning. One of the entries was a young girl called Anna Petrovic the daughter of Yugoslavian Bob Petrovic. I immediately thought Bob was a poor refugee as he wore torn jeans (They were in fact very expensive Versace jeans but id never known them at that time) and a leather type cap. He had shoulder length hair and generally looked very scruffy. Little was I to know this man was about to change my life again.
To be continued.......
Thursday, 20 March 2014
IT'S ALL OVER NOW WITH MANDY AND DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY GOES WILD!
The demand for Mandy was still extraordinary, there was hardly a day that we weren’t either flying off somewhere for a TV show or spending the day at some photographic studio for yet another glossy magazine article. Wherever Mandy went the paparazzi turned out in force. Mandy couldn't go to the toilet without her photo appearing in the front of the morning papers! All was putting terrible pressure on her young shoulders and was beginning to really get to her, as I said, I started to notice bad eating habits begin to form , she continued to ask me if I thought she was putting on weight? Unfortunately, if anything, she was losing weight. Mandy wouldn’t except that and kept eating very little. By this time I was getting very worried. Mandy being Mandy handled herself publically brilliant and as soon as she was working you couldn’t tell anything was wrong. We could be having a row in the car on the way to a job but as soon as the cameras rolled she would light up like a Christmas tree. (photo: Mandy making one of her now routeen Europian TV apperances))
We were now spending a lot of time together, she had broken up with Keith, who was left heartbroken. By this time Mandy was beginning to distrust everything and everyone believing they were just using her for what they could get. She was getting more and more difficult to manage!
I secured a very important job for her to fly to Tobago to do a photo shoot for Harpers and Queen, one of the worlds most prestigious magazines, I knew this was really a very big step forward for Mandy's career and meant she was making inroads to being accepted by the establishment. The photographer, again, was the brilliant Andrew Macpherson; remember he was in charge of the Vanity Fair shoot and knew Mandy could be moody. We were accompanied by a crew of approx 10 including makeup, a hairdresser, stylists and a team from the H&P. We stayed at a magnificent five star hotel (the name has slipped my mind) each room was a thatched chalet in the hotels stunning grounds. I remember on our arrival we were gathered in the foyer for our room allocation, when it came to Mandy she was told she was to share a room with one of the makeup girls. To everyone's surprise she refused point blank and insisted that she would be sharing my room, saying that I had promised her mum that I would look after her. I just stood there not knowing which way to look knowing exactly what everyone must be thinking (You the readers can STOP now thinking anything untoward, it was a suit with separate bedrooms!!!!)
The trip was not a very happy time for Mandy, she just wasn’t enjoying it and everyone could tell. We always had to leave very early for location shots on the Island so we could take advantage of the morning light which meant long exhausting days under the hot sun. I remember one day driving back from a glorious location called Pidgin beach when the crew wanted to stop off for a cool drink at a small roadside bar which was swimming with the wonderful sounds of reggae music and a load very colourful Rastafarians, the place was thick with the smoke coming from the reefers that were been freely passed around, everyone one started to drink the local, illegal and highly potent Poteen (like the Irish Potcheen) and insisted I had a glass or two. It tasted like what I imagined rocket fuel tasted like and had the same desired effect!! All I remembered was my legs left the bar before my top half did!!!
Mandy and myself rowed a lot on this trip and I was glad to board the BWI airways flight back to UK in fact I didn’t even know if Mandy was going to sit next to me until she boarded the plane plonked herself down and apologised for her moods. That was Mandy for you. I realised our time together was coming to an end, she just wasn’t enjoying this celebrity life and I was finding it harder to manage her.
It was that very evening that Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s struggling careers made a dramatic turn around, shortly they became one of the biggest selling writers and music producers in Europe!!!
The pressure of work and the constant rows that were now occurring more frequently between Mandy and myself were to finally drive us apart. Managing her was now practically impossible. Mandy was not enjoying the whole fame thing, her health was also suffering, I was beginning to turn down jobs. I believe our eventual split up was as much my fault as hers and we simply drifted apart. Mandy went on to record a couple more songs for PWL before finally stopping. It was such a shame because she was such a talented girl and I believed if she had gone on she would have become hugely successful as an actress.
Our paths were to cross twice again over the coming years. She was to be guest on my TV show in Spain in 1995,
The second occasion was when Mandy and her sister Nicola worked on a magazine I launched in Manchester, that was back in 2005. I haven't really heard or spoke to her since.
As most of you know Mandy married Bill when she was eighteen and divorced him two years later. During her time married to Bill she continued to suffer health problems ending up in hospital at one time.
In conclusion to my Mandy Smith Story: Would Bill Wyman be arrested today for what he had done, absolutely, but I will leave this question up to Mandy as she had told the Mail on Sunday only a few years ago: ‘People aren’t as protective of celebrities nowadays and if this had happened recently I think Bill would have ended up in prison. I can’t think of it as child abuse. If I did I wouldn’t have been able to move on. But I’m reminded of it on a regular basis. 'Things I hear on TV about young girls, different scenarios with older men, rape... But he fell in love with me so I can’t look at it as sordid or wrong. I did sleep with Bill Wyman when I was 14... but now the only man in my life is God'.
Mandy married and divorced footballer Pat Van den Hauwe. In 2001, she was briefly engaged to fashion model Ian Mosby with whom she had a son, beautiful son Max. She is now single and happy. I would never hear a bad word said about her, she is a very special person.
I was now back at home in Marbella and wondering what I was going to do with my life, what would be my next big thing? The time spent on the Mandy Smith circus now felt so unreal. I would lay in bed nights remembering the excitement and amazing times we had, the lows and the highs, but it was now all over and time to move on and get back to reality. Although at times it was very difficult, I don't regret one moment and given the choice I would do it all over again.
Dedicating this part of My Story to the late great Martin Rushent. Many a wild time we had! RIP
I had made great contacts in the media world during my time in London and many lasting friendships which I hoped that I would be able to call on in the future. One of them was with record producer Martin Rushent who owned Genetic Studios. These were residential studios housed in a magnificent thatched mansion in Goring and Streatley, Reading. Martin had produced many hit records for bands like Human League, Dr Feelgood, the Stranglers etc. I had spent some time with Martin just after the Mandy period at his studios messing around which included me co writing a song with Joe Callis, keyboard player with the Human League, called Cruel and recording a cover version of the Troggs Wild Thing.
I explained about Genetic Studios etc. to Dame Shirley who told me she was going back to UK at the end of the week and could possibly come up to the studios the following week.
After leaving Shirley I called Martin Rushent to tell him the news that Dame Shirley Bassey was coming to his studios next week to record Cruel, his first words were; “Have you been drinking?” Thankfully in the end he believed me and the stage was prepared for the great lady’s recording.
As I said Genetic Studios is a residential studio so Dame Shirley and her assistant planned to stay overnight. Around 5pm a chauffeur driven limousine with blacked out windows pulled up outside the thatched mansion and out stepped Dame Shirley
After dinner we made our way to the studios which were housed in a standalone building in the grounds of the mansion. Next to the studios was another residential building that was then being used by Roy Thomas Baker who was currently cutting an album in studio one with the American group East of Eden. Thomas Baker is responsible for some of the greatest hits to come out of UK including the Grammy award winning Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and hits for The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who and T’Pau to name but a few.
As soon as Shirley prepared to record a difficult problem occurred, she explained she never uses headphones and wanted speakers in the sound booth, this would cause a serious problem as the backing track would bleed onto her voice microphone (sorry, this sounds very technical but anyone who knows about studio recording will appreciate this difficulty) Martin sorted it out and in less than four takes the voice track was laid down she was brilliant a true professional. After a few playbacks we all went back to the main house where we joined Roy Thomas Baker and East of Eden who were celebrating the completion of their album by enjoying drinks and a buffet supper. Although it was almost 1:30am Dame Shirley stayed up and joined in the fun
Around 2am Shirley called myself and Martin aside and asked about the B side of the record as she insisted that it should NOT be just a musical version of the A side (this went on a lot in the music industry at the time so the writers could claim all the royalties without having to pen another song) All we had finished was the backing track of Wild Thing and as Dame Shirley was leaving the next morning it was all we could offer her. As ridiculous as it seemed and hard to ever imagine Dame Shirley Bassey does the Troggs!!!! But to our surprise she was game for it. So armed with beers and bottles of wine we made our way back up to the studios. Bassey recorded Wild thing in just two takes!!! You can listen to it and the video below. (Interesting to note, when Bassey’s version of Wild Thing was eventually to make its way onto Youtube some of the comments questioned that in fact was it Shirley Bassey or just a sound-a-like, but I can assure those doubters it IS Dame Shirley Bassey) .
Shirley Bassey has a reputation of being rather hard to handle but all I can say from my experience she was more than cooperative on every suggestion and a lot of fun, in fact we spent a lot of time enjoying a good laugh during her stay at the studios
After returning to London Shirley called to asked me to telephone her management as they needed to talk to me. I called them thinking how excited they must be with my plan to launch Shirley Bassey into a younger market, in fact I had planned that she should come back to the studios to record an album which I had the idea of calling it The Bitch Is Back which would include her recording a cover of that same song by Elton John, Shirley loved the idea. With that in mind I couldn’t of been more shocked when her management tore strips off me for getting Shirley to trivialise her career by recording these 'These silly little songs’ as they described them. They told me that Bassey’s total career was being put at risk and I should forget any work with her in the future and that there was NO chance of these recordings seeing the light of day! They just simply hung up!! I never saw or heard from Dame Shirley again.
To be continued.....
Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
The Mandy Smith Story Part Two.......
To say I wasn’t scared by the threat from one of ‘The firms’ Henchman would be a lie! I was left shaking in my boots wondering that maybe this is much bigger and more dangerous than I thought at first. I went back inside the hotel and thought it best not to mention the threats fearful that the waiting journalist would write about it. I could just see the headlines; ‘Boland gets threatened by the Rolling Stones etc’. I was sure that would make things a lot worse so I just made my excuses that I was tired and made my way to my room. To be honest I was terrified and seriously thought that I would leave UK as soon as possible.
It seemed where ever you looked Mandy’s face was plastered everywhere making headlines in practical every newspaper covering her arrival at Gatwick. Before leaving Holborn studios I received another call from a national newspaper asking to meet me as they wanted to negotiate a fee for a photo session and interview with Mandy. So after the car dropped us back at the Hotel I took a taxi to meet the journalist and again a fee was agreed which also included a move to the Savoy Hotel. This was all incredible, a few days ago I was at home in Marbella now I was in London been wined and dined by journalists and now moving into the Savoy Hotel. You wouldn’t believe it if you had read it in a book, on the other hand you ARE reading it!
Before we moved into the Savoy, Mandy accompanied by her mother attended a police station saying she wasn’t going to lodge a complaint against Wyman. I’m sure a huge sigh of relief came from the Stones camp and their lawyers. Perhaps now the firm would withdraw their threat for me to leave UK? Anyway as much as a coward that I am all this was just to good to be missed . I was staying!
I must say the Savoy was unbelievable, for any of you who haven’t had the opportunity to stay there, please put it on your bucket list of to do’s before you die. Again the conditions for the photo shoot were the same as the first shoot, that there would be no fee if another tabloid got a shot of Mandy before they published their story. One of MY conditions was that Mandy would NOT talk about her time with Wyman. Mandy was incredible during the shoot , she was a natural and the camera loved her. That particular session lasted well into the evening and by the time we got back to the hotel and had something to eat we were all ready for bed. The next morning all the newspapers were delivered to my room and what I saw made me sit up boltlike. There on the front pages of The Daily Express, The Sun, The Mirror was a photo of Keith and Mandy at Stringfellow’s LAST NIGHT!!!
I too needed somewhere to stay and run this crazy show from so I rented the top half of a house at the end of Kings Road. The
I decided very early on that I should explore the possibilities of Mandy making a record. I called John Reeds office in Soho. John was managing some of the biggest recording stars at the time including Elton John. I thought, because Mandy’s name was absolutely everywhere, that at least he would see me. An appointment was made for me to meet Reed, which in itself was exciting. I remember sitting in his outer office waiting to be beckoned in by the great man himself but after an hour an assistant suggested I was wasting my time and that Reed wasn’t going to turn up. He handed me a piece of paper with the name and telephone number of a Pete Waterman scribbled on it. He advised me to call him as he had just started a new record label and perhaps he might be interested in Mandy. I was not a very happy man to say the least. When I got home I decided that I would call the Waterman chap and see if he might be interested in talking to me about Mandy so I called the number. I remember that how impressed that he had a telephone in his car. I introduced myself and mentioned Mandy etc. He told me that he couldn’t believe that I had called as he had just been with Pete Burn’s (lead singer of Dead and Alive) who was enthusing over Mandy saying she looked so like a young Bardot and he should consider a remake of the song Terry by Twinkle as it was about a motor bike accident and Mandy could pose for a photo on a motorbike like the iconic photo of Bardot for the cover.
Mandy was beside herself with excitement when I told her that I had signed a record deal for her. Mandy schedule was still very busy filled mostly with interviews, photo sessions etc so our appointment for the recording with Mike and Mat could only be done over a weekend. I remember sitting outside the recording studio waiting for Mandy to come out feeling like a parent at the dentist who’s kid was inside having a tooth extracted. It felt like hours when Mandy finally came out accompanied by Mike and Mat all smiles saying she was brilliant!
A couple of days later I returned to the studios to hear the finished song. I didn’t like it, not that Mandy could sing she sounded great but I felt the song sounded dated and ask could Mike and Mat not write an original song for her? After some gentle persuasion from myself and Pete they agreed and wrote a wonderful song called: I Just Can’t Wait. (see Video below)
The front cover of Mandy's first single I Just Can't Wait. Photo by Brian Aris
From that moment on Mandy’s career reached a whole new level. It was nonstop record promotions. I launched the record on the then Stringfellow owned massive Hippodrome Club in Leicester Squire (formally the Talk of The Town, coincidently the last time I had been there was to see Bruce Forsyth’s cabaret show, little did I know years later I would be launching Mandy in this very same spot!) Again it was a huge success and as it was Mandy first live performance it seemed the world press turned out to record the event (below you’ll see a cover photo of Mandy on Bravo magazine in the outfit that was designed and made by Vivian Westwood especially for this occasion)
Almost daily we found ourselves at Gatwick Airport at some unearthly hour of the morning taking off for one country or another to appear on their versions of Top Of The Pops (see photo of Mandy on TV in Germany) . It was then that we suffered out first real set back in when Pete Waterman called to deliver the bad news that the BBC announced that they had banned Mandy’s record and the only excuse they gave that they didn’t think the standard was good enough. So I decided to ignore UK and tackle the European market especial the German where the market was even bigger than that UK. I achieved almost the impossible by negotiating with Bravo, the biggest selling music magazine in Europe, to put Mandy on the front cover, it was to be the first time in this famous magazines history to put someone on the cover that hadn’t yet scored a hit record!!
My phone was going crazy, every evening when I returned to my home it would take half an hour just to listen to my messages. One evening there was message from Peter Stringfellow’s office inviting me to join Peter for dinner at his club Stringfellow’s the following evening. I couldn’t believe it, here was the undisputed king of London night life inviting little old me for dinner! In many ways, going back to my years in clubs, Peter Stringfellow was somewhat a hero of mine and to receive this invitation was so surreal for me.
It was my first time in Stringfellow’s and here I was sitting at the owners table having dinner, drinking champion with the big boss man, this was madness! Pete told me he was about to open a new Stringfellow’s in New York and wanted to fly myself and Mandy as his special guests for the opening party, that we would be flown out by Concord and given a suit at the Plaza, I just couldn’t believe what i was hearing nor could wait to call Mandy and tell her the good news. I excused myself from the table and called her immediately. She just shrieked with joy.
Peter and I seemed to have hit it off and we started to meet up quite a lot, most of our conversation was focused on the up and coming trip to America. I remember one particular night we were having dinner in Stringfellow when Peter suggested we
One day I had a call from Vanity Fair one of Americas leading magazines requesting a photo shoot with Mandy which coincidently was to be scheduled the day before we flew to New York for the launch of Peter Stringfellow’s new club . This again was fantastic news and was arranged that it would be shot by Andrew Macpherson at an extraordinary hotel called 11 Cadogan Gardens. This shoot was to stand out in my memory for a number of reasons. It was the Jewish holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement, the Yom Kippur. On this day Jews throughout the world took part in a very strict fast that started the evening before, a fast that didn’t even allow a glass of water, a day when one stayed in synagogue all day. So here I was spending the day interspersed with the visits to the hotel seeing how Mandy was and how the shoot was going. It was felt like a tossup between the Almighty and Mandy Smith! I remember being starving and watching the crew enjoying sandwiches and ice cold Perrier water! Eventually when the fast was over and I got by to my house, no sooner was I in the door than I started to play the days messages. One of them was from Bettina Brown in New York to call her urgently; another message was from Peter Stringfellow saying he was looking forward to seeing us at the airport the next day for our flight to New York. I called Bettina first as it sounded urgent. She thanked me for the shoot and told me that Joe McKenna, the stylist, said that it went very well. Before I had time to thank her she dropped a bombshell saying she was sorry but cancelling using it in Vanity Fair! I just sat down not believing what I was hearing, she went on to tell me that she was informed from Joe that Mandy was flying to New York the following day as guest of Stringfellow and that she believed all the tabloid papers and gossip columns would be full of
As Mandy’s work was increasing and the pressure getting greater I noticed that Mandy was beginning to find it hard to cope, remembering how young she was I didn’t blame her, she was suffering boats of tiredness and I could see an eating disorder developing, it was very worrying, Mandy didn’t know it but I was beginning to feel guilty, all Mandy thought was I was only interested in making money. We hardly had a day off, It was none stop touring and seemed our lives were spent in either photographic, TV studios or airplanes, I hardly got back to Marbella to see Wendy and the kids. That is until one day when I had a call offering a photo session for a magazine called Fitness allowing me to chose anywhere in the sun for the shoot. I immediately chose Marbella.
It was great get back home after months of being away. As soon as the local magazines and newspapers heard we were in town they all wanted photo’s with Mandy (Photo: Spain’s popular Lookout Magazine cover) . The photographer on the Marbella shoot was John Kelly who was once married to the stunning model Vivien Neves, the first British woman to pose nude in a tabloid newspaper when the Sun launched page three glamour pages in 1970. Vivien was tragically struck down with MS at the age of 30. Just before we left the villa for the days photo shoot I got a call from a journalist friend asking if I was in Marbella with Fitness Magazine warning me to be careful as it was published by Northern and Shell who also so published some of UK top shelf sex magazines. I insisted John Kelly signed an agreement that the photographs could ONLY be used in Fitness and nowhere else without my prior consent. He signed the paper and the session went ahead.
It’s true there is a full size bungalow on top of the hotel, 3 bedrooms, fully functional kitchen, a large living room and even a roof garden. Soon after we arrived Noël phoned to invite us join her and her gusts for lunch at the Mirabeau one of Dublin’s most famous restaurants. When we got there it was teaming with press who went crazy once Mandy stepped out of the limo. At the lunch the party included some of the guest who had also flown in for this evenings show were including well known Daily Mail columnist the late Nigel Dempster and the sometime star of the TV soap Dallas and Bond girl in Never Say Never Again Barbara Carreras. (see photo)
During the lunch I began to feel uneasy, there was something about Barbara Carreras I didn’t like, she seemed to keep fighting for centre stage, every time Mandy was mentioned she tried to change the subject,. One thing’s for sure she just didn’t like the fuss been made over Mandy, I felt she was very jealous of her youth and beauty. Mandy was also beginning to feel it so we excused ourselves and left saying we’d see them later at the TV studio. When we got back to the hotel Mandy said she wanted to have a rest whilst I called up the director Paul Cusack (son of the famous actor Cyril Cusack and brother of Sinead married to Jeremy Irons) Paul seemed distant for some reason and when I informed him that I would stay backstage with Mandy until she was called on set he sort of hummed and hawed saying that Mandy wouldn’t actually be called as a guest she would in fact b sitting in the audience. At first I was speechless before I exploded: “WHAT? Are you trying to tell me that you flew Mandy, possible the most famous teenager in the world, over from UK to simply sit in the audience?” He said this was not his decision. “I know whose fucking decision it was!” I yelled down the phone; ”it’s that aging washed out Hollywood nobody influencing Noël" I was preside myself with anger: “You can tell her to stick her show where the sun don’t shine!” I slammed the phone down and started pacing the suit until I calmed down. It didn’t take long before I came up with a plan. I called down to reception to enquire was there many press hanging about, they told me there was dozens waiting for Mandy to come down. I asked for canopies to be prepared for at least thirty, to send them up with a full functional bar and barmen. Next I needed to break the news to Mandy explain why I had cancelled her appearance on the show. Rather than be upset she was delighted. I then told her about the plan explaining that the suit would shortly be full of press and when I call her out of the bedroom she is to look heartbroken. I then called down to reception and gave them the green light to invite the press up the suit. Within 5 minutes the room was heaving with pressmen all enjoying free drinks and canopies, it is faire to say most
Early next day I went down to reception to get all the Sunday papers. My plan had worked exactly as planned for there staring out at me on all the front pages was Mandy Smith. The headlines saying: ‘RTE say Mandy Smith was too HOT to handle’! My decision got Mandy more publicity than any to bit TV show would have got her. Noël and myself have become friends again since.
Mandy's first record 'I Just Can't Wait' written by Stock Aitken and Waterman and recorded at the PWL studios in London (look carefully when Mandy gets out of the car and you will see my cameo role, somewhat like Hitchcock used to do in his moves!)
To be continued.....
Next up Mandy and myself eventually drift apart as her workload gets out of hand . So its back to Marbella and hello Shirley Bassey and singing for my supper on the beach