Friday, 2 May 2014



Just before we left for Canada VIP Magazine had flown over from Ireland to do an ‘At Home’ feature on Wendy and I and it came out almost to the day we arrived back from Canada.
At first I hadn’t a clue what the VIP Magazine looked like but when the team where here I realised its format was almost exactly the same as celebrity magazines like OK! And Hello! One look at it and I said to Wendy. “You know, this type of magazine would work amazingly well in Marbella, I’m sure with so many parties, galas and visiting celebrities we would have enough content to make it work.” This was to become; ‘My Next Big Thing.'

So I set about setting myself two missions over the next 12 months; to take my first journey into publishing by launching my own magazine and of course the second Raise the Roof Gala. Although I had more or less organised much of the event before leaving for Canada and now with less than 8 weeks to go to The John Lodge Celebrity Golf Tournament and Gala night all in aid on Cudeca the cancer hospices building fund there was plenty of work to be done. I had as usual put together a small but active committee to work with me. I know that it sometimes looks like I get all the praise etc but without those unsung heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes things would never get done and the successes would never have been achieved. As well as having Terry Mancini on board to put together the celebrity golfers I also contract a local golf company, Leisure Breaks to manage the tournament. I’d known the MD David Crumplier for some time so trusted he would do a great job. So all that was now left to do was to organise the marketing and start selling ticket sales.

When planning a project, giving it a working title has always been important to me, luckily this time coming up with a title for the magazine was relatively easy enough; all I did was follow the format of exclamation word titles used by magazines OK! and Hello! and simply came up with my own exclamation title: HI!
Now that I had a working title, all I needed to do was to put a team of professionals together to actually run the magazine. I knew John Hollway who was involved in publishing and gave him a call. I briefly explained my idea, after a short chat and confirming he was interested, I asked him if he could come up with a suggestion for an editor. Within a week he arrived up at my home and introduced me to Laura Wood who was a highly qualified journalist and although she never had the role of an editor, she believed she was ready for the challenge. I instantly liked her and felt confident she would be perfect in the job. I was delighted when she accepted my offer to work for me. I remember we sat around my dinning room table for hours enthusiastically discussing and planning ideas for the magazine and before the day was out I had secured an editor, a business manager and I believed we had laid the foundation for a successful monthly magazine. The next import appointment was Artegrafia headed up by the brilliant Benedikt Lantsoght to handle design and layout. I called up my friend and journalist Louise Cook who had been very much part of the Marbella scene and had worked on a number of successful magazines, I asked would she would join us by writing and editing the diary page and thankfully she also agreed. I was then cheeky enough to call the famous royal correspondent the late James Whitaker and ask him would he contribute a monthly London Diary, he also agreed. Next call was to top chefs Guy Moor and Paul Tugwell to ask them would they write and edit the food pages, recipes etc. Once they agreed to come aboard. We were ready to start putting a magazine together.

The Raise the Roof Gala weekend had finally arrived and the celebrities started to fly into Malaga, so most of Friday was spent going back and forwards the airport to pick them up. The celebrities arriving for the weekend included; Moody Blue John Lodge and his wife Kerstin, footballer Allan Ball, Jesus of Nazareth actor Robert Powell and his wife Babs, famous for leading Top of the Pops Pann’s People, Jess Conrad, Ray Clemence, Frank McLincloch, football pundit Ian st John, Jasper Carrot, ex Welch captain Mike English, comedian and Eastender actor Mike Reed, TV detective Gareth Hunt, film stuntman Rocky Taylor, magician Paul Daniels and his assitant wife Debbie Magee and of course the weekend wouldn't be complete without Kenny Lynch and the incomparable Stan Boardman .
I don’t think Marbella had ever seen so many celebrities at one time under the same roof. The weekend fun and games started that evening with a dinner at the Don Carlos (where the celebrities were staying and also the venue for the gala) to see which celebrity the Ordinaries had drawn ( Ordinaries are those who paid to make up teams headed by celebrities) The draw was made by the golf coordinator David Crumpler and celebrity golf coordinator Terry Mancini. The evening was a laugh a minute with Stan Boardman, as usual, giving an hilarious unscheduled show.

The John Lodge Classic Golf Tournament got underway on Saturday morning at the Santa Maria Golf Club and continued through Sunday. The prize giving was on Sunday afternoon and then it was back to the hotel to rest and change to ready themselves for the Black Tie event that was happening that evening.
Every table had been sold and a long waiting list had been put in place. John Lodge had brought over a platinum Disc awarded to him for the Moody Blues multi million selling album Days of Future Passed that spawned many number one hits including the iconic; Knights in White Satin for me to auction. My radio sponsors Ocean Estates owner Alistair MacDonald decided rather than have his staff Christmas Party at their usual venue Silks Beach Restaurant that he would book 10 tables for the staff so they could have their Christmas celebrations at the gala, therefore benefiting the charity.

As you can imagine there wasn’t a table or a seat to be had for love nor money. The highlight of the evening had to be the auction, well, one particular item and that was the Moody Blues platinum disc.
I asked John before the auction how much did he hope it would make and he said about 500 pounds. So I opened the bidding at 100,000 pesetas (around 500) It wasn’t long before it reached 1 million pts!!! There was only two bidders left in the race they were Oceans Estates Alistair MacDonald C and an unknown French woman. As the bidding continued at a pace reaching 2 million pts! Each bid was now met by gasps of excitement and enthusiastic applause. By the time the bidding reached 3 million the place was going berserk with everyone in the ballroom, including the waiters, were on their feet applauding. The final bid was made by Alistair for a staggering 6 million pts that's around 35,000 UK pounds at the time. I believe that was a world record price paid for a platinum disc. The Paul Daniels show was extraordinary and hilarious especially when he brought up some of the Ocean Estates staff and hypnotised them made them to do ridicules things under his command.
What a night what a week end and a huge success with around another 35 million pts raised!!! (200,000 Euros)

Alistair told me afterwords he was determent to buy the platinum disc at any cost, as he planned to launch a Platinum Collection specialising in top end properties starting prices at around a million plus. He also used the disc in marketing The Platinum Collection (see photo) and it hung proudly in Oceans Estates main reception area. See photo album at the bottom of this chapter.

Christmas and New Year had come and gone my radio show on Onda Cero thankfully continued to attract some top celebrity names. Cudeca were of course delighted with the Raise the Roofs results and awarded me honorary life patronage. John Lodge was also very happy and suggest we should make his tournament an annual event. I was delighted to be invited back to La Manga for the Variety Clubs of Great Britain’s annual golfing event this year staring Eric Sykes and the usual celebrity golfers.

As soon as I got back from my trip to La Manga my full concentration was now preparing the launch of HI! Magazine.
(Photo the first ever front cover of HI! Magazine)I had taken offices opposite Puerto Banus and we were well underway for the publishing date set for June 2001. I had negotiated the launch to be held at the 5 star Olivia Valere Club Restaurant that stood majestically on the hill behind Marbella. The best way one could describes the club was as a Moorish Palace. I had book the multi platinum selling group Bony M for the launch. Now all we had to do was for Laura and John to put the magazine together. Well known Marbella photographers covered some of the events and shot the top story photos for the magazine. My initial instinct that we would never be short of content certainly proved true, the following celebrities all featured in the first issue and included Coronation Streets Beverly Callard (featured on the front cover) Mariah Carey who was in town with her then boyfriend Spanish heartthrob Luis Miguel. Actor Joe McGann was also visiting Marbella and renowned opera star Jose Carreras. We were invited into club owner Olivia Valere million dollar home for her interview and also featured the home of top interior designer Sandra Billington. I was also fortunate enough to secure some big name advertisers who were already advertising on my radio show. (help pay the bills!)

There were a quite a few shocking moments that stand out in my memory surrounding the first issue. The first being what happened the day of the launch which still stands out in my memory and haunted me for some time after the event.
It was decided that the magazine would be printed in Murcia about five hours from Marbella; the printers had an excelent proven track record printing various publications on the Costa del Sol. The finished magazines had to be picked up on the day of the launch party having being delivered to Malaga. John drove up to collect them and called me as soon as he had the magazines in his car. You can imagine how excited I was knowing that shortly I would be holding my new baby, HI! Magazine in my hands, my new Big Thing.

Over 150 guests had confirmed that they would becoming to the party that evening. Boney M had arrived and gave a press conference in their hotel. I was amazed at just how many Spanish press turned out to meet them, but then again I shouldn’t have been after all the group scored many hit records in Spain, charting with such iconic songs as; The Rivers of Babylon, Mary’s Boy Child, Rasputin, Daddy Cool and Ma Baker.

I’ll never forget rushing out to greet John's car as he drove up my drive. My excitement was indescribable as he handed me the first copy of HI! Magazine. One look and the blood drained from my face, I felt that I was going to throw up, I HATED IT! It was not the content, it was the printing, colors were bleeding into photographs. The photographs themselves were not sharp the whole magazine had a lackluster look about it! I just stood there feeling that I was about to burst into tears, I began to see my dream of becoming a publisher disappear in front of my eyes. My first reaction was to tell John that I wanted the nights launch party to be cancelled!! I just didn’t want anyone to see the magazine, I felt ashamed of the finished magazine (I was to find out later that the paper was the problem. It was just to light to deal with the heavy colors that boarded every article)
John eventually calmed me down and made me realise that there was no way that the evening launch party could be or should be cancelled and he was correct. Everybody seemed to love the magazine or at least the idea and format. Boney M were fantastic and Olivia Valera's was spectacular.
I made sure that the 2nd Issue of the magazine saw a new heavier paper being used. The height of the magazine was also increased. HI! magazine was to become the first English published magazine in Spain to go on sale at 1.75 Euro. Up to that time all the English Magazines were freebies and are still to this day.

The Independent newspapers article on the launching of HI! Magazine.

Another stressful memory of that first magazine was the day after the launch party. I had an early morning call from a Spanish gentleman calling from Madrid who claimed he was a legal representative from Hola! Magazine the same group of companies that publish their English equivalent Hello! Magazine, he explained that he has been instructed to issue proceeding against me on whats called a passing off law, he told me that the name Hi was and abbreviation of hello and unless I changed it immediately he would proceed with issuing the proceedings against me. Shit! I thought Ive been almost 24 hours into the launch of my first ever magazine and if this is the type of stress publishing brings forget it, I don’t need this! The first thing that sprung to my mind that this was a wind up so I asked him for his number and we would call him back. Once I had his number I got my lawyer to call him. Within a short time I had a call back from my lawyer telling me that the gentleman was in fact genuine and the lawyer for Hola! Magazine. He went on to tell me that he was very serious about issuing proceedings against me and that I should consider changing the name or I could be sued and they had a very good chance og winning a considerable amount. . I told him I would think about it. I did think about it and I thought if a magazine as large as Hola! did go ahead and brought me to court the publicity would be amazing something money couldn’t buy it was as sort of David and Goliath situation. On the other hand if I lost I could lose everything including my home, so I did what I always do in a situation like this I jumped into my swimming pool got onto the floating bed and sort of meditated.

It must of been about 30 minutes when I cam up with what I belived to be an ingeniues idea. I called Bendecket my then designer and told him to remove the I from HI and move the explanation mark next to the H. I told I was getting dressed and would be with him in 20 minutes. When I arrived Artegraficas office the salution to my problem was on Benedict’s desk (see photo) HI was now H! with an explanation mark and although everyone continued to call it HI! thinking the explanation mark was an I upside down if I had been tacken to court I would said; “Your honure the magazine is call H!” problem solved. (see photo on the right of the original HI! title and the new H! title)

No sooner had I launched the magazine than I was jetting into Dublin to broadcast a show from the RDS. I stayed in the Shelbourne hotel and it's surreal when you stay in a hotel rather than with your family in the city you were brought up in, anyone who's done it will know exactly what I mean. As I said the main purpose for my visit was to broadcast from the RDS (Dublin's largest showground made famous by showjumping events and concerts)
My guests included Adele King better known as Twink from her days with the all girl group Maxi, Dick and Twink and Boyzone Keith Duffy and its Keith I'm going to talk about here. At the time Boyzone had broken up and Ronan Keating had carved himself a hugely successful solo career, but rumors were rife that the band were going to get back together again. I wasted no time in putting that to Keith asking him if the rumors were true, were Boyzone going to happen again? My question was met by a wall of silence but I was prepared to wait until Keith answered the question. I could hear Keith thinking (Odd phrase I know) his eyes began to fill with tears and I knew I was about to get something very special from him. Eventually he opened up and told me how fucking annoyed he and his band mates were with Ronan. Seemingly this is what happened; Ronan Keating had agreed with the rest of the band, most of them hadn't worked since the split, that he would come together with them for one final tour as Keith put it, it was to be their pensions. They all flew over to London to signe contracts etc and then hopefully start rehearsing. They met at the bands lawyers office at the appointed hour, Ronan as usual was late in fact he never turned up and finally sent a message that he had changed his mind and there would be NO tour. One can only imagine what was then going through the boys minds. Subsequently and many years later after Keatings career started to falter Boyzone did reform hoping for the same success as Take That but their tour never lived up to their expectations and reach the dizzy heights of the Take That reunion. Keith did find success as an actor in the Coronation Street and now makes regular appearances on reality shows like I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out..and his latest appearance on ITV's Splash show.



From the left: The Newspapers announce the Raise The Roof Gala. John Lodge, Babs Powell. I danced with Babs so my claim to fame was that I danced with one of Pan's People! Paul and Debbie Magee who's magic show that night wowed the crowds.

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