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.

It was only a day or two after I arrived back in Marbella that I got a call from the international portrait photographer Paul Yaffe who invited me over to Southport to host the Kirsty Howard Appeal for St Francis Hospice. Kirsty was born in Manchester with an exceptionally rare condition in which her heart is back to front, causing the misplacement of her internal organs. The condition, a form ofsitus ambiguus, isn’t operable, and requires extensive treatment, including a constant oxygen supply. Kirsty is the only person in the UK, and only the second in the world, diagnosed with this condition. In February 1999, she was given only six weeks to live, but defied the odds and is still alive more than 17 years later.
In 2001, Kirsty was the mascot for the 2002 World Cup qualifying match between England and Greece.[1] 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
Gala.I must admit I was slightly nervous, as I said this was the first time I was going to face an overseas audience that I didn’t know nor did they know me, added to that I had heard that the gala committee weren’t 100% happy that I was invited by Paul Yaffe (Photo: With Kirsty and Paul Yaffe) to host the evening. Their objection was that they felt they had enough famous celebrities in the Southport/Liverpool area to chose from to host the evening, so why go to the expense of flying some unknown from Spain to do the job? Good point I had to admit. No pressure then??? Thankfully the evening was a huge success and the target of twenty thousand ponds that I was set to raise at the auction was well exceeded in the end, I raised £50,000! So everyone was more than happy. The evening ended with an outstanding performance by singer Russel Watson.
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
upon us. The party was held at Manchester’s famous Living Room Restaurant and what a party it was. There must have been half a dozen bands, lots of local celebrities added to that I had flown Laura with my H! magazine team and my sons over from Marbella to also enjoy the party. I must admit Nicola and the girls had done an outstanding job and as I said the place was stuffed with celebrities including most of the cast from TV's longest running soap Coronation Street, many footballers from Manchester Untied and Man City, not that I knew who they were as I dont follow football, but I was about to meet someone I had heard of...

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 must have been half an hour later that David excused himself remembering to go over as promised to be photographed, but he returned shortly saying they must have left. This was not an opportunity to be missed. It so happened I had in my pocket an instamtic camera that I had pick up from my table at the Kirsty Howard Gala a few days earlier. So as not to disappoint Beckhham (sic) I passed it the camera to Laura and said to David: “ Seeing the guy and his wife left lets take a photo anyway?” Laura snapped the instamtic , Becks laughed and bingo here's the photo! in this case I dont think I lost my 'street cred!'

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
Equally as successful was the ladies lunch with special guest star Esther Rantzen (she was one of the best guest speaker I have ever heard, a great raconteur and her stories about her time on That's Life had everyone falling about laughing) . The final Variety Club evening of 2003 was also held again at Puente Romano and stared the magnificent funny Frank Carson and TV's Jeremy Beadle. All three Variety Club events raised enough funds to buy three Sunshine Coaches with one going to Aspandem, the next to the orphanage Casa Abril and the final one to an orphanage in Fungerola. In the middle of all this I also hosted the 3rd Innocence Ball this time staring Les Dennis, Midge Ure, The Gypsy Kings and the beautiful Julia Forsyth (Brucie’s daughter) and her Partner Dominic Grant. A grand total of 70,000 Euro was raised for the orphanage Casa Abril.
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!
A few weeks later and much to my dear wife Wendy’s surprise, who thought I was not coming to this particular fund raising evening, I made my entrance singing Tina Turners Simply The Best supported by TV actress and singer Polly Perkins who starred in the BBC soap Eldorado and went on to play Dot Cottons sister in the Eastenders. Poor Wendy almost died when she realised it was me and said she just wanted to crawl under the table she was so embarrassed. But thankfully the crowds loved it and again a lot of much needed money was raised. Just one thing ladies; “how the hell do you survive wearing those tights I almost died with the heat?” (Photo: Please notice the woman on the left with her head in her hands doesn't know which way to look!)

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.

Not content with losing a shed load of money with IN Manchester, I decided to launch H! Espana! It was not simply a translated version into Spanish, that would have been too easy for me, but a totally different magazin run by an all new Spanish staff and featuring page after page of Spanish celebrities etc. Again I hosted a huge party for the launch at Olivia Valere’s stunning Babylonia. The party launch was a huge success which is more than I can say about the magazine. They say G-D loves a trier!!! Maybe I was trying to hard to find what I was looking for? Photo of the invitation..

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!

No comments:

Post a Comment