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...