Sunday, 25 May 2014
MY NEW RADIO STATION IS BORN AND I BELIEVE I'VE FOUND WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR.
If you had been reading the last two chapters of My Story you will know I was looking for something new to happen in my life. The fact is I hadn’t a clue what that thing was! I know that doesn’t make much sense, but I just wasn’t happy, I felt that there was too much sameness to much predictability, that was until a Ukrainian called Robert Casper invited me to join him for lunch at the Los Dunes Hotel. When I arrived I was greeted warmly by Robert, who I guess was in his early forties and dressed entirely black, black t-shirt, black jeans, along with someone he introduced as his brother (not a blood brother) Frank Mani and his lawyer (cant remember his name). He immediately struck me as a likeable character who's accent reminded me somewhat of the film character ‘Borrat’. He explained that his company, Majestic, was involved in the construction a large development called Majestic Village in Casares, about 30 minutes from Marbella, and that it will consist of 115 luxury town houses, tropical gardens, swimming pools, a spa and 5 star gymnasium. With that said, he got very excited as he started to unfolded his plans for the future to me, which included launching a TV station featuring life style and property programs. Without catching his breath he announced: “I want YOU Maurice, to head up the TV station for me!” I was speechless, but I knew I had to be honest with him; “Look Robert, this is very nice of you but I don’t think your idea has a chance in hell of working, there are literally hundreds of TV stations on the Sky Platform which 99% are losing money, most of them are spin offs of successful stations, your idea, as exciting as it sounds, I don’t believe will work!”
I remember thinking, that was it, a short lived lunch with the Ukrainian followed by a polite goodbye and I would be gone. I was wrong, what I said didn’t seem to bother Robert or he just chose to ignore my advice. He took another mouthful of his lobster salad washing it down with a glass of cold Chablis, he smiled and said. “Okay Maurice, I like you, I like your radio show programs, I want you to join me, so what do you think WOULD work?” I knew exactly what would work and fired straight back at him; “ A purpose built Talk Radio Station.”
“You know I like that, okay deal you’ve got yourself a radio station, how much do you need, a million, two million , how much?” I remember thinking 'here we go again' I’m so used to Marbella attracting these types which come full of dreams of making a fortune only to fid themselves leaving with nothing. There is a famous saying 'The way to make a small fortune here, is to start with a large one!' It happened to me with Petrovic a few years ago, so I didn’t know if I should take this mans offer seriously, after all I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me and here I am being offered millions to build a radio station by someone who I only met 30 minutes ago! This is what a dreams are made of, but unfortunately are rarely a reality. I felt I had nothing to lose, so I decided, at least, to go along with him and find out more. We agreed to meet the next day in his offices which were housed at the La Colonia Center San Pedro.
Early the next morning I went to meet Robert at Majestics headquarters which where on the second floor of the La Colonia Centro San Pedro.
I needed to take control here; “One moment Robert" I exclaimed " I know very little about the frequency and have only just met this gentleman. I think we should take our time here so I can make a few checks.” The poor man seemed very confused, I'm sure he wasn't expecting an instant response like this and to tell you the truth nor was I.
Robert was getting more and more worked up: “How much, how much do you want?”
The Spanish gentleman looked like he needed air when he exclaimed nervously; “100,000!”
“WHAT!” I yelled “A 100,000? I’m thinking max 5,000 euro”
Then the most extraordinary series of events started to unfold; Robert picked up the phone called his secretary and asked her to bring in a cheque for 100,000 euro made out for cash! Within 10 minutes of his arrival a very surprised but I’m sure equally delighted Spanish gentleman left Roberts office clutching a cheque made out for 100,000 euro and no questions asked!
Robert then turned to me and said “Now That that's done, where are you going to build your studios?” Half joking and still shell shocked by what had just happened, I told him I liked his office suit and felt they would convert into spectacular studios. Robert picked up the phone and asked his PA to inquire if there were any other free offices in the center as he and the staff were leaving because Maurice wants these offices for his new radio station. This was almost all to much to take in. Within a matter of an hour or two Robert had handed over 100,000 euro to a stranger who I knew very little about, informed his staff he was kicking them out of there offices to make room for my new radio station. This was all so crazy but it was something that I was going to have to get used to in the future when dealing with Robert.
I remember driving home that evening hoping that my decision to leave Onda Cero and join Robert to start my own station was a good idea.
Although I had absolutely no former experience of actually managing a radio station I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve. The first thing I needed to find was an expert to help design and engineer the building of the station and for me there was only one man for the job and that was Allan Bowley. So I called him offered him the job and thankfully he agreed to join me. Allan and myself started a series of meetings to talk about designee and what I actually wanted to achieve from the new station, which incidentally I still hadn't come up with a name for.
It was important at this point that the plans to open this new station was kept well under raps until it was almost ready to launch to allow me to achieve maximum marketing impact and as I said I was still very committed to my show on Onda Cero.
No sooner had I started to hatch my plans for the station than I received an invitation to broadcast from the Caribbean Island of St Lucia by Discovery hotels and the St Lucia Tourist Board. I excepted the invite as I felt that the realty was, that it would be a least a couple of months before the new station would be ready. Before I went anywhere I needed to make some important decisions for the station; firstly being the presenters and again I knew exactly who I wanted to join me. From Onda Cero I wanted Mary Harbo Howard Brereton, Barry Mitchell and Craig James. I also wanted Nicola Chalmers to head up the sales team. After a series of secret meetings that I held in my H! Magazine offices, which coincidentally were just four floors above the OCI studios, I remember thinking at the time if the radio manager Pepe Navajas only knew what was going on just a few floors above him he would have had seizure!. An agreement was finally reached that they would ALL leave Onda Cero and join me at the new radio station.
The week before flying out to St Lucia I was called to a meeting at Robert’s lawyer office where he was drawing up the agreement for the new company and needed a name for the radio station. I remembered using the name Radio Europe on my various trips to Las Vegas, Canada, London etc So I thought why not? I’ll call the station Radio Europe. In fact once the lawyers did a search that name was not available so I added ‘Mediterraneo’ making it Radio Europe Mediterraneo. It was only on the way home after signing the contract that I realised that the name abbreviated was REM and I added FM so the jingles would always say REM..FM! There just were a few other presenters from other radio stations that I wanted to poach including Gillie Revill, Roy Silverthorne and Sid Olivera again thankfully all of them also agreed to join me. Robert had already moved out of his offices and handed them over to me. So Alan and I could start the work on the laying out of what goes where etc. As soon as this was done Alan started to order the equipment and I took myself off to St Lucia.
I loved St Lucia I found the Lucians very friendly and welcoming. Wendy and I were put up by the St Lucia Tourist board in there VIP Villa over looking Marigot Bay. The setting was stunning not only did they supply this Villa but we had our own chef, housekeeper and driver, spoiled rotten we were.
The show guests were also all arranged in advance so I really had very little to do but the two hour shows per day. Judith and John Verity who owned the Discovery development were the most wonderful hosts and arranged for Wendy and I to visit the islands finest restaurants every evening and beaches during the day they couldn’t do enough for us. It was a very successful trip and we were sorry to leave the Island. My story about St Lucia doesn’t end exactly there and not in a million years did I realise as we flew back that one day in the future that I would be revisiting St Lucia under very different circumstances. But that’s another story and will come in a much later chapter.
We had hardly arrived home than I was off to see the progress in the new studios. Alan was doing an amazing Job and I hoped all would be ready in a few months around May 2004 for launch REM FM. Robert was as good to his word and gave Alan an opening cheque to buy the very best of radio equipment. No, we didn’t spend millions or anything like it, but we did have one of the most advanced technical studios available.
We signed up new contributors including TV chef Kevin Woodford who wrote column called the Travelling Chef and make up and beauty supremo Armand Breasly to join H! Magazines ever expanding team. We continued to attract some big stories including David Beckham’s visit to Marbella, an exclusive interview with Mr Nice Howard Marks and Max Bygraves (whose daughter Maxine lives in Marbella) We also interviewed Melanie Griffiths and Antonio Banderas at their beach side mansion in Marbella Rebecca Loos gave us an exclusive interview on one of the hottest stories of the time, the fling she had with David Beckham.
I also interviewed Loos for my radio show whilst she was staying as a guest with Max Clifford in Marbella, in fact this interview triggered off an almighty row between myself and Clifford; in the middle of the interview, which was going very well I asked Rebecca about the Beckham affair etc. Max came running over shaking his hands everywhere shouting "Stop, Stop, I never gave permission to talk about Beckhame!" Rebecca looked highly embarrassed and I was furious. "What the hell do you think I'm here to interview Rebecca Loos about then?" I retorted . I could see the danger in Max's face. To be honest it was frightening. So I backed off and left. Photo of the interview before the row.
Shortly before the launch of REM FM Mary, Howard, Barry, Craig and Nicola handed in their notice to Pepe at OCI and left,
Weeks before the launch I ran a series of teaser adds in the press and magazines asking the question: " Where had all the creme gone?" then naming each one of the popular missing presenters but not mentioning where in fact they had gone and absolutely no name of the radio station on the add.
The photo below is of the REM FM studios. It was taken just after we re-branded REM FM., which I'll talk about in a later chapter
It felt like only yesterday when I sat with Robert discussing the possibilities of launching a new radio station and here I was at 8am on a beautiful May morning sitting in the state of the art REM.FM studios waiting for the news to finish so I could make my welcoming speech to a large anticipating audience. All I remember was how nervous I was but thankfully all went well. Alan had done a tremendous job, the studios looked amazing and more important all the broadcast equipment worked like a dream. Almost from that opening day REM FM became an ‘overnight’ success. I say 'overnight' but it has taken me 12 years to get to this point. Each of the presenters were fantastic as was the reaction from the advertisers and that was down to Nicole Chalmers professional expertise.
On the day of the launch I changed the newspaper and magazine ads to an idea I had which was inspired by a Marilyn Monro quote when asked what she wears in bed at night she replied "All I have on is my Chanel No5" (Whats missing from the picture of the advert is the REM FM logo at the bottom of the page. So it reads; It's all I have on .....REM FM)
I first met Max back in the mid 80’s when he was attempting to hold the TV Soap Awards which as far as I remember was a total flop at the time. But I do remember instantly not liking him. We were standing in the foyer of a shabby London hotel when he began to drop a long list of famous names he claimed he represented at the time including the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando to name but a few. It was from that moment on I never believed a word he said and in the years that followed the only so called BIG names I remember him represented were the Z list celebrities including Kerry Katona (who dropped him after she claimed he lied to her) Jade Goodie who he claimed he would never represent until he smelt her money, Antonia de Sancha who was photographed toe sucking MP David Mellor and Rebecca Loos. Hardly a celebrity A list he was claiming to represent. I might be wrong about this but I honestly can't see a comparison with this list and those he claimed to have represented in the past. He did represent Simon Cowell but exactly what he did for him I’m not sure. He was caught lying live on TV to Louis Theroux: He was also caught up in a lying story with the Hamilton’s.
Whilst I was hosting my radio shows I did use Max to get in touch with some of his clients that were making the news for interviews etc but we never were friends as such and certainly never socialised. As much as I disliked him , I felt sure, based on much of the feed back I was getting about him talking behind my back, that he also disliked me.
Not long after launching REM FM I was having a coffee with Max when Robert called me : “Do you know this Maxi Clifford guy?” he asked. I couldn’t believe it, here I was sitting with Max and Robert asks me this. “I’m sitting with him now” I said. “Good” Robert replied, “ I want to meet him, please bring him to my office” I explained to Max about my eccentric millionaire backer telling him he would like to meet him. It wasn’t long before Max and myself were sitting with Robert who explained that he wanted him to look after his companies PR in UK. I was shocked, did Robert not know that Max’s specialty was scandal and sleaze not what one would recommend to be connect with an up market property company. Unfortunately I had to leave Max and Robert together, hoping Robert would make no rash decisions, as I had a radio show to do. As soon as my show was finished I high tailed it over to Roberts office, Max had left but Robert told me he had signed a year long contract for what I believe was £30,000 per month!!! I was furious and told Robert so. This was to become the first of many rows I had with him over Max. I asked what had Max promised to do for this ridicules amount of money? Robert told me Max assured him he would keep any negativity about Majestic out of the press. This I knew to be bullshit, no journalist worth his salt would refuse to print a hot story because Max Clifford asked him. This is a service that Max always says he offers his clients, in fact he claims most of his work is keeping his clients names out of the press, this has turned out to be a winning line for Clifford : 'I will keep you out of the press' Its totally impossible to substantiate this claim.
Shortly after signing the contract with Robert, Max made his first move by persuading Robert that it would be a good idea for his companies image to supply Kerry Katona with a villa to be photographed in for an OK! magazine spread! promising huge exposure. Kerry Katona to be associated with a high end property company? Was Max taking the piss I asked Robert, all Robert would say that he likes and trusts Max. I went crazy. Robert hired a hugely expensive Villa, two chauffeured driven Mercedes, a private chef and maids for Katona and her Bling friends. The whole week must have cost him 50,000 and when OK! came out,there were 4 pages on Kerry Kotana in Marbella. I read every word to see if I could find where Roberts company Majestic benefited and eventually at the very end of the article under the photographer, the hairdresser and makeup, Majestic was mentioned in small print saying they supplied the property. NO ONE would ever have seen it unless they were specifically looking for it. It was a fucking disgrace! For 50,000 Robert could have bought months of full page ads in OK!. Not satisfied with that Clifford riped off Robert again by persuading him to hire an even bigger Villa for the week so Simon Cowell could film a sequence for his X Factor show. Again Robert footed the bill, not only for the hugely expensive villa rent, but for a number of chauffeured cars, chefs, cleaners etc. The promise this time was that Majestic would get nation wide exposure to millions of TV viewers for his company Majestic. If he did I certainly missed it!! Robert seemed to be under some sort of unhealthy influence by Clifford.
One day I was called into Roberts office where Max was sitting with him grinning like a Cheshire cat. I instantly knew whatever was going to be said I wouldn't like it. Robert announced that Max had recommended a UK based famous radio presenter to join REM FM. I had never heard of this famous named presenter whats more I explained to Robert that we had a full compliment of presenters and had no room for anymore. Then Max opened his big mouth. “We,” meaning Robert and himself, “have decided he could co host the breakfast show.” I was furious, how dare this patronising arse licker tell me who should or who shouldn't join my radio station! Robert just started to laugh as Max was taking control.
“Anyway,” I said “We have no budget to pay an extra presenter.”
Max shot back “No worry, Robert has agreed to cover the cost.” Then he handed me a contract to sign.
“I’m not signing this!” I yelled at Max “Firstly I’m not the administrator, that’s Frank, so my signature means nothing and secondly I don’t agree with any of this!” I was at the point of walking out on the whole business. When Robert calmed me down and confirmed he would pay the extra salary and asked me to please sign. I don’t know why but I signed something I was to regret later. It turned out this presenter was brilliant and I was delighted with him as a member of our crew plus I liked him a lot as a person. Unfortunately Max’s interference was to cost me his friendship later. All was coming clear to me, just as I feared, Max was bleeding a fortune from Robert.
Whilst talking about Max I just want to move this story forward to Christmas. The Majestic staff were arranging their annual Christmas Party when again Max interfered persuading Robert to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds more than originally planned on the party by staging it in the ballroom at Marbella’s leading hotel, the Puente Romano, and Flying in comedian Bobby Davro (god knows what he got Robert to pay him for the night, all I can tell you was that Robert had never heard of Bobby Davro, like hr never heard of Kerry Katona or Simon Cowell) he also somehow got Robert to allow him a couple of tables so he could fly in some of HIS clients from UK (not sure if Robert paid for their air fares and accommodation, but knowing how Max had access to Roberts wallet I wouldn't be surprised!) and the most sickening of all that night Max got up on stage and made the most obviouse over the top patronising speech I had ever had the misfortune to hear. All those present, except for Max’s friends, wanted buckets to throw up in. What was amusing was that Robert wasn’t even in the ballroom to hear this, he was sitting in the hotel bar chatting to a friend. The whole episode with Clifford was nothing more than a major rip off. Max also signed up another few clients in Marbella that were angered by Max's unfulfilled promises !
To be continues.....
2004 PHOTO ALBUM . FROM THE LEFT: Kid Creol at the Don Carlos hotel in aid of Variety Club. H! Magazine sponsored Gloria Gaynor in concert at the Villa Padierna Hotel, top photo is me on stage about to announce the iconic super star . Dion Warwick was a member of the audience that night. Handing over the keys of another Variety Club Sunshine coach to a local home for the mentally handicapped. (more photos will be added, so keep checking)
Sunday, 18 May 2014
I still haven't found what I'm looking for! that is until.......
Now that 2003 had finally arrived and the frustrations of 2002, I hoped, could be finally left behind, but unfortunately they hadn't I still felt I needed to find myself and what I was looking for. Why was I still feeling so unsettled, after all everything seemed to be going so well; my radio show, H! Magazine and my charity work. The title of U2’s hit ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ rang so true to the exact way I was felt throughout 2002 and now into 2003. Perhaps I needed something new, a new challenge?
I called a meeting with my editor and business manager to put to them an idea that had been at the back of my mind for some time, that was to launch H! Magazine in UK. Their first reaction was that I had finally lost my marbles! They explained that Richard Desmond the multimillionaire publisher of OK! Magazine had literately spent millions trying to make his magazine profitable and was still struggling, so why, they asked would I think that I could make H! work in UK with a budget of only 2/6p? Never mind that I told them, I believed I had a brilliant plan. We all know the reason these type of magazines are so successful, it is because people love looking at the celebrity pictures and reading gossip etc, but my ingenious idea was to also to include the ordinary readers photo’s. Let me explain: My plan was to lunch H! Magazine in most major city’s in UK, so you would have H! Manchester, H! London, H! Liverpool etc etc and this is how it would work; each magazine would carry the same cover stories, the same celebrity interviews etc etc but the difference would come with the center four pages, they would be unique to the city that it's sold in i.e H! Manchester would cover the glamorous parties, galas and events in Manchester, Liverpool H! would feature their four center pages, Leeds the same etc etc. Get it? Brilliant I thought (still do). I knew Nicola Smith (Mandy’s sister) lived in Manchester, so I rang her and put the idea to her, she was instantly very excited about it and suggested I fly over to talk to her and meet someone she believed would make the perfect editor.
So without delay I flew over to Manchester, where Nicola had booked me into the Midland Hotel and had set up a series of meetings for me. The first being with Donna Morgan, who she recommended as my editor. I instantly liked her and hired her on the spot and within the next 24 hours I had a full team and offices in one of the cities premier addresses. After a day or two setting up the office, accountants, lawyers and opening a bank account I had to fly back to Marbella as I still had my daily radio show, magazine etc, any way I could oversee the launch of the Manchester Magazine from our headquarters in Marbella.
In 2001, Kirsty was the mascot for the 2002 World Cup qualifying match between England and Greece. Commentator John Motson called her "the bravest person on the pitch", as she accompanied David Beckham onto the pitch with her 20 kg oxygen tank
In 2002, Kirsty, along with Beckham, presented the Jubilee Baton to Queen Elizabeth II during the opening ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester (See photo). I was delighted to accept Paul's invitation as it would also be the first time that I was invited over to UK to host a charity gala. It also happened that it was to take place a few days before the H! Manchester launch party, so the timing couldn’t have been better.
Spot the new H! Magazine sign outside our new penthouse offices. overlooking Marbella's mains street
With all this going on I also moved the H! team into a new suite of offices which took over the total top floor of the King Edward building with spectacular views overlooking Marbella’s main street and four floors above the Onda Cero radio studios (you can just make out the sign in green on the building) so very handy work wise.
The Marbella staff worked closely with the Manchester crew and I spent most weekends flying back and fourth between Malaga and Manchester. Thankfully all went comparatively smoothly and by the end of January we were ready to launch H! Manchester.
I flew back into Manchester a few days before publication and planned to travel to Southport for The Kirsty Appeal Gala, but before I left, Nicola , Donna and I were summoned urgently to our Manchester lawyers offices where we were informed of some really bad news, we couldn’t use the name H! Magazine as it was already registered! This was a disaster as the first edition was making it’s way to the printers! So we retreated to the nearest Starbucks where we spent the next few hours debating different name suggestions, finally when we felt all was lost, I came up with the name IN Manchester. Thankfully we all liked it and returned to the lawyers office to see if the new suggested name could be registered. After an agonising few hours we got the green light for IN Manchester. we then had to hightail it over to our graphic designers to design a new masthead so we could continue on schedule and start printing immediately. Thankfully the designers did a brilliant job and we were back on schedule.
I left the next day for Southport to host the star studded Kirsty Appeal
I traveled back to Manchester well satisfied with my performance.
With the magazine now ready and almost everyone on Manchester’s Who’s Who list invited, the launch night was finally
The party was in full swing when I noticed the press clamouring around the entrance with their cameras flashing all over the place. You can imagine my surprise when I was told the David Beckham and Gary Neville had just arrived!
I was even more surprised when David Beckham asked me to shift up so he could join us.The reason why he chose my table to sit at was that he's a friend of Nicola Smith who was sitting next to me. Nicola had been engaged to David's good friend Teddy Sheringham and he hadn't seen her for some time. Nicola whispered in my ear not to ask Becks for his autograph as it was 'low cred’. I must admit I found Becks both charming and extremely modest considering he was by now one of the worlds most famous footballers. We were all having a good laugh when a guest from another table asked him if he minded coming over to his table for a quick photograph with his wife. David politely agreed and said he come over as soon as he finished his drink.
It didn’t take long before I realised that my timing for my UK launch couldn’t have been worse. Although everybody loved the magazine the problem lay with the advertisers, it wasn’t that they didn’t like the magazine but most had already made the annual advertising budget commitment. This turned out to be a disaster and after bankrolling the IN Manchester for 6 months and running up personal loses of over £100,000 plus what H! Marbella was pouring in I sadly decided to shut down the UK operation. I simply paid off the staff and any debts we had and closed up shop. To this day I still think my idea would have been a success if I had a million pounds to bank role it.
Back in Marbella my office was not only handling my radio shows and magazine but was now arranging all my charity work. 2003 saw me stage three major Variety Club events, the first being a fashion show lunch with special guest Zandra Rhodes (See photo of Zandra and I on stage)held at the Puente Romano hotel with an audience of 350 of Marbella high society ladies
My final Charity event was the 4th John Lodge Golf Classic for Cudeca. Again a host of celebrities flew in for the occasion including; footballer Alan Ball, actor Duncan Preston, Goodie Tim Brook Taylor, Frank McLintock, captain of Wales Mike England, Hale and Pace, Jess Conrad, Terry Mancini and Rocky Taylor. Guest Star for the evenings gala was Bernard Manning who ended up getting a standing ovation. Between the auction and the golf we ended up raising a staggering total of 112,000 Euros!!
One of the more outlandish fund raising stunts of 2003 occurred by chance when I was have dinner with a group of friends. We were discussing ways of raising much needed funds for Cudeca the cancer hospice, when one of my friends bet me 600 Euros I wouldn’t turn up unannounced at the next planned fund raising dinner dressed as a woman! “Not in a million years” I said. Somehow this seemed to grab everyone’s imagination and they all pledged 600 Euros to make the bet worth over 3,000 Euros. I now had little choice but to accept what will be a highly embarrassing challenge!
One of many highlights of 2003 was when Cudeca hospice held a luncheon in my honour where I was presented with an honorary patronage for Cudeca. Joan Hunt OBE, founder of the hospice, said it was in recognition for my tireless fundraising since 1999 and had to date raised over 800,000 Euros! In my acceptance speech I made the important point that the money raised could not have happened without the efforts of so many who helped me.
As the year began to draw to a close I still felt something was missing in my life, what it was I had no idea, I just knew that I needed something, a new challenge to lift my spirits. Added to that the recession that had hit all of Europe was really beginning to bite on the Costa. My radio advertising revenue was well down, To thell the truth the way I was feeling I thought perhaps it was time to think about a new life without radio etc that was until one day whilst having a coffee at Dunnes Stores with the MD Leo Keohane when he introduced me to a young Irish jokey who rode regularly at the Hippodromo, Costa del sols only horse racing track. He explained that his boss Robert Gasper, a Ukrainian, who owned the Majestic property development company,was a big fan of mine and he was sure that he would love to meet me. I told him that would be no problem. With that he picked up his mobile phone and called this Robert, he then handed me the phone. Robert asked me to join him at the 5 star Las Dunnes Hotel for lunch. That lunch was about to make a big impact on my life...
To be continued...
PHOTO GALLERY FOR 2003: From the left: Esther Rantzen at Puente Romano lunch. Allan Ball and his wife at the 2003 Raise The Roof Gala. Tim Brook Taylor over for the Cudeca John Lodge Golf Classic. With Olivia Valere at the launch of H! Espana. Kisty Howard watches on as I host the Kirsty Howard Gala at Southport. Robert Powel speaks to me on my radio show whilst over in Marbella to play golf in the John Lodge Golf Classic in aid of Cudeca. Les Dennis has the crowds falling around in fits of laughter at the 2003 Innocents Ball. Bernard Manning shocks another table at the Raise the Roof Gala at the Los Monteros Hotel. Frank Carson and myself at the Varity Clubs dinner at Puente Romano Hotel. That Jacket again, this time at the 2003 Innocents Ball!
Sunday, 11 May 2014
THE YEAR 2002 WAS LOOKING VERY PROMISING SO WHAT WAS MAKING ME SO UNHAPPY?
The year 2002 started off looking promising with another invite to Las Vegas, which I was delighted to accept, H! Magazine was going from strength to strength and would celebrate its second anniversary, my charity work diary was filling up and celebrity guests continued to appear on my radio show. But there was a little voice whispering in my ear every morning saying ‘Is This It Maurice? I was finding it hard to understand with so many positive things going on in my life that I was beginning to get a feeling of discontentment. Was I really getting bored? Did I really believe that I needed to start looking for something new, my next 'Big Thing?' In this case I was sure my inner feelings were giving me the wrong messages, after all I was working in an industry that I had dreamt about all my life, we lived in a magnificent home, we had three wonderful children and I had a very special wife. So what was it that was triggering this feeling off? I had no idea. I remember thinking at the time, if I was in America I would probably book myself into therapy. What was wrong with me? Was it my radio show, did it need reformatting, perhaps it all was becoming to samey? It was still very popular. I had done Las Vegas show two years running, did I really want to do a third? I had agreed to stage another John Lodge Celebrity Golf Tournament and gala night for Cudeca a pattern of sameness was developing and maybe here lies the answer to my question; ‘Is This It?’ Was my life becoming to predictable? I know to most of you who are reading this must be thinking that I should be delighted with my life and looking at it from your perspective you’re correct, but it’s so hard for me to try and explain why I get these feelings but there you have it.
H! Magazine continued to grow in popularity during our first year. We started to expand the contributors to include
H! Magazine was the first English Magazine published in Spain to be sold rather than be given away as a 'freebie' and to go on sale in Harrods London store!
There was also a number of extraordinary stories that we covered during 2002. One that stands out was about air hostess Fiona Weir who was working on a flight from UK to Malaga when she noticed a passenger named as Steven Handy who was obviously drunk when he boarded at Gatwick. She informed the captain and Handy was ordered to sit at the back of the plane and told he would not be sold any alcohol.
Throughout the two-and-a-half hour flight he continually abused the female flight attendants and encouraged other passengers to do the same. He also threw food about and was caught smoking in the toilets. At one point he grabbed Mrs Weir's stomach and asked if she was pregnant. She reported him again to the captain, who radioed ahead and asked Spanish police to meet the plane.
By the time the plane landed at Malaga airport the 232 passengers were 'petrified' by Handy's behavior.
The crew were waiting for the police to come on board when Handy lashed out at Mrs Weir. "I was attacked by Handy with a vodka bottle that he smashed down on to the left hand side of my head. I raised my right arm to protect my face but he continued to stab the bottle into my arm when I turned to protect my head and chest. I curled up into a ball but he repeatedly stabbed me with what was left of the bottle in my back."
She escaped only after kicking open the airplanes door and scrambling down the stairs onto the runway while other passengers held Handy down.
She lay on the runway, her uniform drenched in blood until she was ruched to hospital with intensive wounds to both body and face! Handy was jailed for four years and four months. He received two years and eight months for the attack on Ms Weir and 18 months for the attack on the Spanish policeman. I felt at the time that this was a serious case of GBH and he deserved a much more severe sentence.
I was invited by Club La Costa to sit on the board of their first charity foundation which I named as the Smile Foundation but not after much arguing with the CLC management who understably wanted to call it The Club La Costa Foundation, my argument was SMILE was much more international and had the feel good factor behind it. Thankfully they agreed with me in the end as you can see by the logo above. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. Two of the main charitable projects it supports on the Costa del Sol are the Cruz Dias/ADIMI Hospital and the Cudeca cancer care hospice in Benalmadena.
A €3 million hospital is a long cherished dream and the work of ADIMI, which helps young people with varying levels of disability and their devoted families. The Smile foundation also contributed funds to buy a minibus to be used by the handicapped
At the same time I was working with Variety Club of Great Britain to help raise money for three minibuses, this time for several orphanages on the Costa Del Sol.
Also appearing on the star studded bill were The Kenny Jones Band (Kenny the drummer with the Small Faces and the Who) But for me personally the highlight of the evening was joining Mike Smith (ex lead singer and song writer with the Dave Clark Five) and his band 'Rock Engine' as they played the Dave Clark Five’s greatest hit Glad All Over (Okay, so I only played tambourine!) I oversaw the auction that raised a phenomenal 60,000 Euros!
See the Innocence Ball picture gallery at the bottom of this chapter.
On a sad note, a year later in September 2003, Mike Smith (Photo: Mike on keyboards) was involved in an accident at his home in Sotogrande . He was walking home from his local pub when he fell climbing over his gate, which caused severe injury to his spinal cord.
During 2002 I flew into Las Vegas for what was to be my third or perhaps fourth as one Las Vegas newspaper reported for what was to be my final year of live radio shows from Caesars Palace Hotel.
Buddy Greco was back in town a gave me a mean version of his million seller hit The Lady Is A Tramp live on the show. Buddy has some great memories from the past which thankfully he shared with my listeners many of them related to Ol' Blue Eyes himself, Mr Frank Sinatra. I remember him telling me; “In the later years when we were all a little older, we were regularly invited round for dinner at Frank’s. He would appear dressed in a chef’s hat and apron with pasta sauce all over it. He was a really good cook.” Buddy’s recollection of spaghetti marinara being prepared by Ol’ Blue Eyes was merely an anecdote appetiser.
He went on to tell me; “I get very nostalgic, particularly when I see those Rat Pack tribute shows. I remember what it felt like to walk into a lounge in Las Vegas with Frank, Dean and Sammy and watch the world stop. We were like gods. There wasn’t enough that people could do for us and together we were bad boys. We drank, mainly Jack Daniel’s. That was Sinatra’s choice and if he drank it, so did you. We shared women. Boy, we were bad. There were mornings I woke up and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t in jail.”
The Photos of the 2002 Las Vegas trip were from top left: Film director George Sidney. Me with some of Caesar's Palace staff. Having a bowl of chicken soup with matzo balls (don't ask) only in Vegas would they serve it in a bucket! Bubba Knight, Galdy's brother and a former Pip which he never lets you forget! and finally Rosemarie and Sheena Easton.
But I couldn't mention the 2002 Cudeca gala without sharing this story with you. On the Sunday morning whilst the golfers were taking part in the final rounds John Lodge called me to say Rick Wakeman wanted to play at the evenings gala. As most of you know Rick is probably one of the most respected keyboard players in the music industry who has a string of hits under his belt mainly with his group Yes. John said if I wanted him to play I needed to organise a piano. It was only after agreeing and putting the phone down did I realise it was a Sunday and where the hell would I find a piano on a Sunday on the Costa Del Sol on a Sunday morning???? Then I remembered the the hotel had a grand piano in the cocktail lounge, problem solved, so I thought. I called the hotels manager and asked him to please organize removing the piano from the lounge to the stage in the ballroom. "Impossible." he said and went on to explain. " You can not just move a piano, it's a professional job which you needs a team of experts including a fully trained piano tuner." My first reaction was to ask him where I could find such a team on a Sunday? As you can imagine his reply was that it would be impossible. He then asked "Why do you want a piano at such a late stage?" I explained that Rick Wakeman has agreed to star at the evenings gala. "Rick Wakeman, the RICK WAKEMAN!" he exclaimed excitedly; "Why didn't you tell me who it was for. Give me a short time and I'll be back to you." What I didn't realise was just how famous Wakeman and Yes were in Spain, which accounted for his excitement. Within the hour he had called me back and told me he had arranged a grand piano to be sent from a store in Malaga. He explained that his friend was manager in one of Malaga's largest music stores and when he called him at home and told him he needed a piano for Rick Wakeman he immediately said he would send one with his team and all he wanted was a signed photo of Wakeman by the piano! All I can tell you if you weren't there his classical version of the Beatles Eleanor Rigby interspersed with some very funny comedy. It was one of the most brilliant piano recitals I had ever heard. He got a standing ovation. I will never forget it. Thanks again Rick if your reading this.
As the year final drew to a close that little voice was still banging away in my head asking me if I was happy and for some reason, if the truth be known, I was far from being happy and the worst of it, I didn't know why. I was hoping 2003 would see an end to my discontentment, my hidden frustrations.
To be continued....
Picture Gallery from the 2002 Cudeca Golf and Gala. From the left: John Lodge from the Moody Blues gets ready for a hole in one! Robert Powell and Kenny Lynch have a laugh. John Lodge, Rick Wakeman, me and the late John Colletta who was the manger of Deep Purple. Cudeca's founder Joan Hunt and comedian Jasper Carrot.Ian St John tees off at the Santa Maria golf club for the Cudeca fund raiser. Garath Hunt and Terry Mancini looking very intense as the approach the 18th. Jess Conrad belts out Be Bop a Lula. Notice his smile? He's had so much work done It's permanent?
Picture gallery from the 2002 Innocence Ball. From the left: The legendary DJ, the late Tommy Vance with singer Haifa. The Who's drummer Kenny Jones leads the Small Faces All Childrens Charity Band from the back. The the band on stage with singer Robert Hart and Fleetwood Macs guitarist Billy Burnett. Dave Clark Five's Mike Smith belts out Glad All Over