Sunday, 13 April 2014
JAY LENO EMBARRASSES ME. A LITTLE WHITE LIE FOR PAUL ANKA AND I'M ASKED TO FIND 10 MILLION TO BUILD A CANCER HOSPICE!
It was the summer of 1999, it certainly didn’t feel like a year since I’d last appeared in Las Vegas, but here I was, this time accompanied by my wife Wendy, jetting into McCarron International Airport and yet again as a guest of Caesars Palace Hotel. We were meant to be flying British Airways but because of a delay at Malaga it would have meant we would miss our connecting flight at Heathrow to Vegas, so after I kicked up enough fuss we were kindly put on a flight to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and from there onto the KLM flight to Vegas. I was particular excited by this trip as Debbie had faxed me an advanced list of guests that she had already lined up and yet again she got top marks for the amazing array of celebrities including: Gladys Knight, Huey Lewis, Wayne Newton, Sheena Easton, Lance Burton, Clint Holms and many more.
View of Las Vegas Boulevard from the air. One of the 8th wonders of the world.
As last year, I flew in on a Friday giving me the weekend to go through everything before the 11am (8pm Spanish time) start on Monday of my week long scheduled live broadcast from Vegas to Spain.
One of the first things I planned to do was try and get hold of Paul Anka, who I read was performing in town. I’m a huge fan of Anka’s so this would be a very special moment for me to meet up and interview him, I also planned to invite American talk show icon Jay Leno by telephone link to join my guest list . So all in all exciting times ahead as we were asked to fasten our seat belts, put are seats in the upright position as we approach Vegas. This also is the first time I’ve flown into Vegas by night and I can only describe it as spectacular.
Saturday morning I left Wendy in our 22nd floor suit enjoying her breakfast of muesli topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and kiwi fruit mixed in with honey yogurt accompanied by cinnamon toast and fresh coffee as I joined Caesars Palace’s public relations chief executive Debbie Munch for my breakfast and to go through the schedule and guests that had been booked for my up and coming week of shows. I told her that I heard that Paul Anka was appearing in town, but wasn’t sure which hotel he was appearing at, that I was anxious to interview him and was it possible for her to find out and invite him onto the show. Debbie called through to reception to ask where was he was performing only to find out that he wasn’t in town. I was really disappointed and told her I was sure I had read somewhere that he was appearing in Vegas at the time. Debbie suggested that perhaps he was at Lake Tahoe’s Harrah Hotel, she did say that IF he had been in town he would be staying at the Mirage where the owner Steve Wynn (who also owned Treasure Island and the Bellagio and now owns Wynns) gave Paul Anka his own personal suit.
Not wanting to give up so easily on my pursuit of Paul Anka I decided, after breakfast, to call the Mirage in the off chance that he was in town and this is more or less how my conversation went:
Mirage receptionist: “Good morning this is Michael and you’re through to The Mirage Hotel and Casino resort how can I help you?”
M: “ Hi, could you please put me through to Mr Paul Anka’s suit.”
M.R: “Who shall I say is calling?”
It’s necessary to explain at this point the next part of my conversation and why I used the name Radio Europe rather than Onda Cero. I believed that it was much more convincing to let the celebrity believe he was speaking to a major radio station with the name Radio Europe than Onda Cero. Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to the conversation.
M: “It’s Radio Europe and I have an arranged interview with Mr Anka.” Perhaps a little white lie slipped out there!.
M.R: “One moment sir, putting you through.”
Am I in luck? I thought, IS Paul Anka really in town? I waited for what felt like an age when a very sleepy sounding voice came on the line....
PA: “This is Paul Anka whom am I speaking with?” He whispered.
Shit, I had woken him up.....
M: “Good morning Mr Anka this Maurice Boland from Radio Europe, so nice to speak to you.”
Before I could explain further.....
PA: “What is it you want Mr Boland? I had a very late night last night, I'm trying to sleep at the moment and you have disturbed me!”
This was not going well......
M: I’m so sorry ( white lie number two coming up) but I arranged with your office an interview.” You’ve got to love a trier.
Again before I finished he interrupted.....
PA: “ Mr Boland, I don’t for one second believe that my office arranged this and if they did I certainly know nothing about it!” He was now sounding annoyed: “Now, if you don’t mind I would like to hang up and go back to sleep!”
Shit again, I’ve been stumbled. I needed to do something and something quick as I was losing him. White lie number three coming up....
M: “I’m so sorry but you do know your album Amigos is number one in Europe." (most of you possibly know Paul Anka is not just a multi platinum singer but also and prolific composure and the album Amigos features duets of iconic songs that he has written with Tom Jones She’s A Lady, with Ricky Martin on Diana, My Way, which he wrote for Sinatra but this time duets Julio Iglesias and Celine Dion)
PA: “Really?” I detected a sudden excitement in his voice, had I pressed the right button I wondered.
M: “Yes, It’s a massive hit and I play tracks from it all the time on my radio show.” (Not a lie!)
I heard Paul shout out boastfully to whoever was in the suit with him that Amigos was a massive hit in Europe and that Radio Europe was on the line congratulating him. Anka was now AWAKE and I was about to reel in my catch
PA: “Look Mr Boland.”
M: “Call me Maurice.” I interrupted
PA: “Look Maurice, I’m tied up much of today and this evening, I’m having dinner with Mr Wynn, then early tomorrow morning my private jet will be flying me back to LA, so why not come to my hotel around midnight and I’ll give you an interview.” It worked; his ego got the better of him.
Around midnight I was ushered into Paul Anka’s personal suit at the Mirage by ‘his people’ It was so enormous it looked more like a large villa!
One of the new added parts to my Vegas shows was the Casino Game. I would set a simple quiz question and then invite the listeners to phone into the Marbella studios with the an answer . The first to get it correct would get three slot dollars which I would play on their behalf hoping they might win anything form $10 to $25,000! I would leave the studio and walk the few yards to an arranged slot machine, put the three coins in and pull the leaver. The listener could hear all this going on as I was mic’d up and so was the slot machine. This was a hugely popular part of the Vegas shows.
When I got back to the studio Debbie grabbed me and told me that Martha had heard what was said, she was not happy and about to leave! Without a word I walked straight up to her and said: “Martha you look wonderful and how much younger and stunning you looked in real life” Luckily she bought it and sat down simply saying; “Thank you so much.” That was a close call. Not a word was mentioned about the racist comment, in fact we got on so well that after the show we had lunch in Forum joined by her sister Lois who was one of the Vandellas and we spent most of the afternoon playing the slots!
Another memorable interview and almost as embarrassing, was with Americas TV talk show host Jay Leno, which turned out to be one of the biggest but yet funniest put downs that has ever happened to me. I had just finished interviewing Evil Knievel, who was in Las Vegas to launch a special edition Harley Davidson that had a photo of him embossed on the petrol tank making his historic jump through the fountains at Caesars Palace nearly killing himself when it all went wrong and he slammed into the hotel wall breaking almost every bone in his body. It was during the commercial break that followed that I handed Jeff (my producer) a piece of paper with Jay Leno’s private telephone number asking him to phone to ask Jay if he minded doing a quick link interview with me. I could tell by Jeff's doubting tone that he thought I was winding him up; “ You mean this is really Jay Leno’s private number?” I explained that I had interviewed him in the past and hoped he would remember me. By the time the commercial break was over and I returned live I could hear Jeff in the back ground saying: “Yes Mr Leno,thank you Mr Leno, putting you through now.” As always The show was being broadcast in front of a packed audience, so I was doubly chuffed knowing they would be very impressed that I had one of Americas most famouse celebraties on the line that is until :
Me: “Hi, Jay welcome back on my show and this time from Las Vegas instead of Spain ” Hoping that might just jog his memory of who I am.
Jay: “Hi Maureeece (as I told you in an earlier chapter that’s how the Americans pronounced my name) your very welcome to my country for a change.”
Yep, I thought; 'this sure is credible', here I am in Las Vegas with one of Americas most famous and richest celebrities chatting to me like a long lost friend, but then half way through the interview this happened.....
Jay: “ Can I ask you a question Maureeeece?”
M: “Sure, fire ahead.” I replied expecting him to ask what I was doing in Vegas etc.
I wasn't expecting this....
Jay: “WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?”
You could sense the silent embarrassment spread throughout the audience. It felt like an eternity until Jay burst out laughing saying: “Only Joking!” Jeff and the audience then broke into fits of laughter followed by spontaneous applause. I just sat there hoping that my blushing would subside quickly. What a relief I thought as we proceeded with a fun packed interview.
I had seen advertising hoarding all around Las Vegas announcing that Hulk Hogan and the rest of the famous WWF wrestlers were in town for a televised match at the 17,000 seater MGM Grand Garden Arena . That’s for me , I thought, So I took myself off to the MGM hoping for an interview with the Hulk. I marched up to the entrance stalls and proudly announced that I was from Radio Europe to conduct some interviews with the star wrestlers . A burly security guard certainly didn’t look as impressed as I hoped he might be. “Where’s your letter of approval?” he barked. I never thought of that, so I tried to convince him that I left it back in my hotel. No way Jose would he buy that, pointing at the arenas main entrance gesturing me to leave and meaning for me to leave now, if his expression was anything to go by! So with my tail between my legs I made my way out through the hoards of people making their way in. Once outside and feeling a little dejected and sorry for myself, I decided to wonder around the back to see if perhaps I could blag my way in through another entrance.
Jeff brought in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper for me to read pointing out a half page about; 'the Irish presenter from Spain broadcasting live from Caesars Palace' .
Sadly my time in Las Vegas came all too soon and as I bid Debbie farewell she said that she looks forward to me returning again next year I remember thinking on the plane on the way back to Spain if I did return to Las Vegas how could I top this years show? (I did go back the following year and the only clue I’ll let you in on now is that I felt slightly sea sick every time I broadcast the show! More in a later chapter)
Sadly thee end this trip to Las Vegas came all too soon and as I bid Debbie farewell she said that she looks forward to me returning again next year. I remember thinking on the plane on the way back to Spain how could I top that this years show. (I did go back the following year and the only clue I’ll let you in on now is that I felt slightly sea sick every time I broadcast the show! More in a later chapter)
It didn’t take long before I settled back into my Marbella life presenting my radio show on Onda Cero. One evening after my show , I was about to leave the studio when I answered the phone. It was a woman who introduced herself as Joan Hunt,(see photo) she asked to speak to Maurice Boland? No sooner had I said it was me than she started to explain that she was building a cancer hospice in Arroya del Miel (a small town about 30 minutes from Marbella direction Malaga) and she needed help..
Me: “Okay Joan what is it you need?”
Joan: “I need help to raise 10 million pesetas.”
I was stunned, that is equivalent to 60,000 Euro in today’s money! After catching my breath I asked again; “So what is it you want me to do?”
Joan; “I hear you could help me raise the 10 million.”
Now let me put this into some sort of perspective. Back in 1999 the sort of money you might be expected to raise at a charity event would be tops 1 million pesetas (6,000 Euros) and I mean tops and here I was being asked to find 10 million!!! Joan went on to explain that the builder wouldn’t complete the roof on the hospice unless he got the 10 million that was needed in advance.
M: “When do you need this by?” I asked
Joan: “Within the next 4 weeks!” she replied. I honestly thought it was a wind up at first but it didn’t take long for me to realise that she was being deadly serious. She went on to explain that her husband had died of cancer here in Spain and as she couldn’t find any palliative home care at the time she decided that she would do something about it, so she set about building Spain’s first cancer hospice. There was something very persuasive about this woman's plea for help, something that touched me from the moment she made contact. As I had lost my father to cancer and always wanted to do something in his memory I agreed to see if I could help.
With only 4 weeks to see how much towards the 10 million I could raise, the first thing I did was to sit down and make out a plan of attack. I realised I needed as much help as I could rally, so I got on the phone and rang nearly everyone I knew who could help. I then started phoning around as many golf, tennis and bowls clubs on the coast, that I could get hold of, asking them could they please put on a day of fund raising for the hospice during the coming month. I did the exact same with bars and restaurants and thankfully almost all agreed to help.
Just one more thing to round off my campaign and that was what I called my 'Bob Gildof moment'. I thought if he could do it to help Feed The World then I could do it to help Raise the Roof! I rang my friend the brilliant composer Paul Sedkowsk and asked him could he please compose a song to help raise the roof for the hospice?
“Sure.” He said “When do you need it by as I’m pretty tied up till after Christmas. would that work for you?”
“No Paul, I need it in 3 weeks.” I explained
I knew Paul could do it and left at that. Then I called my favorite female vocalist on the Costa, the incredible Mayte to ask her if she would lay down the vocal track when Paul was ready and she too agreed without hesitation.
Exactly 3 weeks later we recorded Paul Sedkowski’s penned Raise The Roof For Cudeca joined by the children from Stagecoach. Job Done!
(Please watch the video below it truly is amazing)
So all was now set for the start of this marathon uphill battle to raise 10 million within 4 weeks time!
What was to happen next was truly nothing short of a a miracle.
To be continued.......
Coming next on My Story: My wife pleaded with me not to ask Cliff Richard if he was gay! I'm invited to Barbados to broadcast and the man from Club La Costa says yes.