Saturday, 28 June 2014
My personal memory of Raymond Nakachian 1932-2014
As I continue my journey into 2007 telling My Story I will now take a short diversion as I go back all the way to 1987 to remember an old friend who died last week:
The funeral service of Raymond Nakachian, who hit the headlines when his five year old daughter Melodie was kidnapped for 11 days in 1987, took place last week in Marbella. I believe his ashes will be now spread at sea off the coast of Estepona where he lived for many years .
Raymond Nakachian, who was born in Lebanon, became known around the world when in 1987 his little girl Melodie was kidnapped as she set off to school out side her fathers million dollar home in Estepona. Her brother had been taking her to Aloha college, Marbella at the time when The gang kidnapped the five year old threatening to kill her if a ransom of €9.5 million was not paid.
I first met Raymond many years ago and his Korean born wife, opera singer, Kimera, famous not only for his claim that she was a princess but for her outlandish eye makeup, (see photo)
The kidnapping of their daughter Melody happened when she set off for school driven by Raymond’s eldest son. It was a meticulously organised professional operation. The car was blocked by two gang members wearing balaclavas and heavily armed. The whole operation was carried out in seconds. The event not only shook the ex pat communities living on the Costa's but throughout Spain and the rest of the world. Melody had disappeared for a total of eleven long days, with a ransom of 13 million dollars on her young head. The terrible nightmare for Raymond and his wife thankfully came to an end when a clue found in Torremolinos led the GEO (Special Operation Force)to an apartment in Cadiz and freed her.
Whilst this was going on I was approached by the Red Cross, with absolutely no relation to the kidnapping, to see if I could raise enough money to buy an ambulance for the San Pedro RC branch as they hadn’t got one and were totally reliant on the only one in Marbella. I came up with the idea to launch a children's painting competition to include all the schools in Marbella and San Pedro. The theme was ambulances , Red Cross etc. The winning painting would be used as a logo on thousands of T-Shirts that would sell at a 1,000 pesetas each to help raise the money needed. I also approached the businesses communities of San Pedro and Marbella asking for and receiving many generous donations.
Moving forward 27 years when I was honoured by the Red Cross with the award of the Bronze Medal for my years of charity work this event was mentioned at the ceremony by the Red Cross president.
(Look carefully at this photo that has never been published, you will see Raymond Nakachian center of the picture, bald head, carrying Melodie as they are surrounded by police, press and cheering crowds followed by the Red Cross Band. I remember thinking surely this five year old had gone through enough and to tell you the truth she looked terrified as she was paraded like some kind of trophy through the milling crowd!)
Here is the winning painting that was placed on billboards throughout San Pedro. I was so proud every time I drove past them.
The last time I met Raymond was when he came to see if I could help him with his plans to try and sell his manuscript of Melodies kidnapping to a film production company. I remember he told me he wanted Vinnie Jones to star in the film as the leader of the kidnapping gang (not sure Vinnie's attempt at a French accident would be very convincing!!) . Unfortunately this project never got off the ground nor did another one of his inventions to cure cancer go anywhere. Raymond in his hayday was rummord to be worth millions made from oil, but he told me that he was now in a bit of financial trouble and was selling of the land that surrounded his mansion. Long had the days of the fabulous luncheon parties gone. But I will remember Raymond as a charismatic generous gentleman who loved his family and was faithful to his friends. R.I.P Raymond Marbella will miss you.
And here is Kimera Nakachain's album
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
I wish the Junta de Andalusia would make up their minds, did thy love me or hate me? I get a present of an 80,000 Euro convertible Mercedes at time we were going broke! I'm told the dream was all over!!!
2006 had ended with yet another hugely successful Cudeca radio telethon banking over 50,000 Euros and considering the deepening recession in Spain I was well pleased.
Robert, my Ukrainian backer, was seen less and less around the Majestic headquarters but when I did see him for some unknown reason he kept on and on about the car I was driving as if it was a matter of life and death. My car after all was a lovely metallic blue Mercedes E320 which I bought from new to celebrate the launch of my H! Magazine, so I just couldn't see what was so important about a car when other financial matters were much more pressing. The idea of buying a new car at the time just wasn't an option.
One day I was leaving the office when I bumped into Robert: “Are you still driving that heap of junk?” He asked
“Yep Robert and I like it!”
“Well, you are my partner and I want my partner to drive a decent car so go buy one!”
I didn’t take much notice until a few days later when I was having dinner with him. “Have you found a car yet?” He asked,
I had in fact seen a stunning fully loaded convertible CLK 350 Mercedes in the window of a car showroom which close by the radio station but when I inquired how much it was it turned out to be over 78,000 Euros. Hoping to stop Robert questioning me every time he saw me about my car I told him the price thinking that would be that, so I thought.
The next morning Roberts PA called and said that Robert had instructed her to call to find out what garage I had seen the car so she could call them to find out who to make the bankers draft out to. I couldn’t believe that Robert was actually going ahead and buying me this car. Within a few hour she called and asked me to come to Roberts office where she had a bankers draft ready for 78,000 Euros in the name of the garage where she said the Mercedes was now waiting for me to pick it up!!!!
That night I kept waking up, getting out of bed and taking the cheque out of my pocket to look at it. I remembering thinking ‘this was all wrong’ this amount of money should be going into the radio bank account as a reserve just in case my worst fears are realised but again the only place this cheque could go was to the bearer and that was On Wheels Cars San Pedro. You would think that anyone getting a present of a brand new luxury sports car that most people only dream about would be over the moon but as I said I was feeling very on easy about this whole episode.
The next day I had a coffee with Theiry, Roberts Swiss accountant, and voiced my fears, yet again, to him about Majestic's financial future and the rumors that were being spread around Marbella. He told me, yet again, that I had nothing to fear and that I should go and buy the car or Robert would not be happy and who knows where that might lead. With that in mind I finished my coffee and set off for the car showroom with ‘That’ cheque burning a hole in my pocket.
The showroom was about a ten minute walk from the radio station. When I got there I simply walked into the office and said “ I’ll take that car” pointing at the gleaming convertible Mercedes in the window and handed the cheque for 78,000 Euros over. It all felt so surreal, meaning that, I had always bought a car on finance NEVER cash and certainly not for the price of a small apartment. The owner, a Belgium, also called Robert took the cheque opened his drawer dropped it in and told me I could pick the car up in a day or two after he has it registered. To tell you the truth although it was a beautiful car I would have been a lot happier without it at that time!
I was invited to Ireland to take part in an RTE (Ireland national television station) documentary titles Sex and Sensibility. The program was an investigation into Ireland's changing attitude towards sex. The pre-publicity read: Despite our renowned ability to procreate, sex was once a taboo topic in this country. For the early part of the 20th century Ireland was the land that sex forgot. But in the 1960s loins began to stir, films grew naughty, music became raunchy and as a result Irish knickers got in a twist.
Sex and Sensibility looks at the lighter side of events that caused uproar in their day: condoms, sex scenes on screen, The Lovers Guide, lesbian nuns and men in drag, Ann Summers, Maurice Boland’s Elizabeths, Barbraellas, Sachs Hotel and much more.
A wide array of well-known commentators add their own personal anecdotes and humour to this tale of a nation hearing about sex for the first time, fumbling in the dark, and finally, getting to try it out for themselves!
By the early 60's showbands and ballrooms started to lose their popularity and beat clubs started to open all over the city where Ireland's answer to the Beatles and Stones played in clubs modeled on The Cavern in Liverpool and Tiles in London.
In 1969 I opened Elizabeths Discotheque which was generally recognised as Ireland's first real night club. The church, still smarting from the beat club era, now believed that Elizabeths was simply a den of iniquity where Dublin's young fashionable set danced provocatively in darken cellars until the wee small hours (the club was in a basement of a Georgian house in one of Dublin’s upmarket areas) on top on that the church knew they would never be welcomed into my club simply to keep an eye on 'things,' it was bad enough trying to keep the Garda out !!! So, you see, in their eyes I was to blame for the changing attitude towards sex in Ireland, something I suppose I might be remembered by in Irish history!!! Better to be remembered for something than not be remembered at all, on the other hand......
This wasn’t my only trip to Ireland that year, the second was for the marriage of our youngest son Daniel to the stunning Joanne Ringwood. It was a super wedding held in the Radisson Stillorgan but it all started off with a bit of a disaster; Daniel had already gone ahead to Dublin when the rest of the family checked in at Malaga, which included myself and Wendy, Justin, Ani baby Alekz and Nick.
Being the parents of the groom one of our responsibilities was to host a dinner on the Friday night (the same night we were flying into Dublin) for the overseas guests and family. So it was imperative that our flight wasn’t delayed, timing was everything as the only flight we could get for that day was via Gatwick to Dublin and to make the connecting flight only allowed us an hour and a half to disembark the incoming flight from Malaga, get our luggage and check in for the Ryan Air flight to Dublin. Thankfully we landed exactly on time, as we were taxing up to the gate the captain announced that there would be a short delay as we had to wait for an empty pod for the plane to park!! We sat on that plane for approx half and hour before we eventually parked up.
We had already planned that Justin would run ahead with our tickets and passports to the Ryan Air check-in desk to explain what had happened. The rest of us waited for the luggage at the arrivals hall. It felt like an age before they arrived, we grabbed every thing and literately ran the 15 minute to the Ryan Air desk. With just under 30 minutes to go and all of us collapsing and gasping for breath but happy we made it.
I felt like slapping her but with no time to lose I high tailed it over to the Ryan Air ticket booking desk to see if their was another flight to Dublin, I explained the urgency of the situation that there was 40 of my guests, eating MY food, drinking MY drink in Findlaters restaurant in Leopardstown and I was the host (as if she cared). Please I begged I need 6 tickets to Dublin on the next flight. Luckily there was a flight leaving in two hours and she had room for us but insisted I paid the full scheduled price with no discount, this really annoyed me as passengers who were on standby for our original flight were given our seats at full price so in short Ryan Air had sold me 6 tickets for the price of 12! No time to argue I reluctantly handed her my credit card and made my way back to the Ryan Air desk slamming down the six new tickets. Maybe it was my imagination but the smirk on that check in girls face said she was delighted to see us suffer and buy 6 more tickets at full price.
Luckily we made it as the guests were about to sit down for dinner. What an expensive day that was!!!! But what a great wedding followed.
Back in Spain and still smarting from the Junta’s dismissal of my broadcasting licence application which was made the more ridicules as the Junta were not only advertising on REM but I was hosting live shows from their headquarters in Marbella!!! It was whilst having lunch with the director I came up with the idea of holding the Costa Del Sol Business Awards. He loved this idea and within weeks we were hitting the press and radio advertising. The response was instant and within 8 weeks the award ceremony was held at Marbella’s El Fuerte hotel, which I was asked to host.
Just after I handed out the final award and about to thank everyone the director stood up and said: "Maurice there is just one more award." Odd I thought as I was sure I had completed my list of awards and hadn't left anyone. I was left speechless, which doesn’t often happen, when he stood forward and awarded me a prize in recognition for my work in promoting Marbella over the years and the various charities I had supported. All this was very weird I remember thinking as only a few months ago the Junta were threatening to close my radio station down. C'est la vie !
As 2007 was drawing to an end and yet another phenomenal Cudeca telethon success in the bag , banking a record breaking 72,000 Euro. Incidentally this figure was a record amount raised by an English radio station then, a record that still stands to today, 2014!!
Behind the scenes at REM FM things were going from bad to worse; firstly Thierry , Majestic's head of finance, had quit, secondly, Robert seemed to have disappeared and wages were slow in being paid. I tried to keep everyone spirits up by keeping most of my worries to myself.
One day whilst I was on air , Vanessa, are receptionist, came into the studio with a registered letter for me to sign for. At first I thought it was a much needed cheque from one of our advertisers. I was keen for Vanessa to open it whilst I took a musical break. The letter was from the Hacienda demanding 150,000 Euros for outstanding social security payments!!!! I couldn't believe what I was reading, I felt I was going to throw up. I just couldn't understand it, surely it was a mistake? After all REM's invoices etc had always been paid by the Majestic accounts offices in the past!
I asked one of my presenters to take over the rest of my show and went to look for Frank. He came immediately around to meet me at the restaurant opposite the station. Without beating about the bush and leaving aside the niceties, I got straight to the point by telling him it was time to be honest with me, that I have had enough of the lies and rumors about Majestic! I demanded to know exactly what was going on and how serious was the financial situation?
After, what felt like an age, he looked me straight in the eye and delivered the words I was dreading to hear. "I'm so sorry Maurice, It's all over, were broke" I felt tears welling up as I slowly stood up and walked out of the restaurant without saying a word to Frank.
To be continued......
Monday, 16 June 2014
A new baby in the family. The authorities trick me out of my radio licence and a TV show in UK at last!
As we entered 2006 the warning signs were now flashing red, the recession was deepening and radio advertising wasn’t getting any better but worse I began to detect serious problems within Roberts Majestic Group of companies of which REM FM was part of. My accountant was advising me to try to completely separate REM from him because if he does go down he will also pull the radio station with it.
Not all real estate companies were in trouble and bucking the trend was the phenomenal success of young Darragh MacAnthonys MRI company. Darragh formed the property group MacAnthony Realty International (MRI) in 2000 selling overseas holiday homes to mainly Irish and British customers. From a head office in Marbella, the company offered properties in countries including the Bahamas, Bulgaria, Cyprus and the Dominican Republic. Darragh speed of expansion was breathtaking; he’s a young man who talks his actions like a bullet leaving a gun. He was living the dream in Marbella, huge corporate offices, a mansion in the hills above Marbella with Ferrari's and Bentley's in his drive. A huge billboard above Marbella's main highway with his bigger than life photograph on it read: Welcome to MacAnthony Territory! It seemed where ever you looked you would see billboards with Darraghs photograph on them advertising his MRI companies. He was, in short, a marketing genius and so rich was he becoming that he flew around the world in private jets accompanied by four burly bodyguards who followed him everywhere to assure his safety. He achieved all this by the age of 29!
I got a call one day from Darraghs PA to ask would I come into the MRI headquarters in Marbella as Darragh has asked to see me, as he was a major advertiser on my radio station I was hoping this wasn’t going to be a meeting cancelling his advertising contract.
“Explain more,” I asked
“I’m setting up a TV station in London on a SKY Channel and I want you to have your own talk show on it, what do you say?”
I didn’t hesitate “ Okay, I’m up for that, tell me more”
Darragh explained that he’s hired a large production company to run the station and his young sister Wendy would be the overall MD. The studios where in Wembley and once he told me the huge budget he was willing to spend to make his TV work it all began to sound to good to be true! Surely after my past experiences I should have read the warning signs, Hadn’t I been through all this with Robert and Majestic TV, who were now losing a fortune. But on the other hand I had nothing to lose and all to gain. My own TV Show in UK with my choice of star guests with an open cheque book. Whether it was too good to be true are not I wanted it and Darragh was offering it so I accepted.
I remember arriving in Varna and switching my phone only to have received a very disgruntled message from one of my staff explaining that he has now missed his mortgage payment, his bank account is empty and he needs his wages NOW! Again I called Thierry and told him that a serious situated was unfolding at the station and unless all the staff got paid within 24 hours I will lose my most valuable presenters (this was a slight exaggeration). Thierry promised that he would do his best, but I now knew , for sure that big trouble lay ahead. Thankfully somehow Thierry managed to see that the salaries were paid and I enjoyed the rest of my time in Varna with my first grandson.
On the way back from Bulgaria we stopped off in London where MacAnthony’s chauffeur driven limousine picked us up at the airport and took us directly to the TV studios in Wembley.
No sooner had we flown back to Spain than I was summoned into a meeting with Theirry, Robert and Frank they wanted to make a small change to the structure of the radio station’s SL company and that Frank would resign as administrator and I would be made REM FM’s administrator, naively I thought that would distant myself and the radio station from the pending collapse of the Majestic Group but far from that it in fact tied me in even closer. This was something I regret that I agreed to, to this day!
PIRATE RADIO STATIONS:
The next series of events I remember as if they happened yesterday. By mid June 2006 I knew that the first envelop had already been opened and as we hadn’t heard back from the Junta I knew that we had fulfilled all that was needed on the financial side, now all that was left was for them to inspect the contents of the second envelope and I was double, no quadrupley sure we had the licence in the bag.
As I was leaving the office late one Friday afternoon out of the corner of my eye I spotted a fax on the machine, I thought to myself I would leave it there until Monday but then for some reason I removed it and saw it was from the Junta de Andalucia and although I couldn’t read it as it was in Spanish I was sure all it must be is an a official recognition that we had past the first test. There was no one except me in the office so I faxed it to my accountant so he could read it to me. When applying for the licence we had to give a bank guarantee for the 30,000 Euro license fee, he explained that the guarantee was in fact not correct that it was whats known as a closed guarantee meaning the bank for some reason made it a 3 month guarantee when the Junta required an open end guarantee. "No panic," he said "You have 3 working days to get the bank to reissue the guarantee and as this is Friday afternoon you will need to call your bank first thing on Monday to make sure they will urgently deal with the matter".
"No Panic!" he said, after all I had three days to deal with this. So first thing on Monday morning I called the bank and explained to the manager what had happened , I also sent him a copy of the fax from the Junta. He said he would get onto it immediately and would have it ready by Tuesday (the next day) afternoon. I then got my the office to call the Junta and explain that we only received the fax after the banks had closed on Friday evening and as they were not opened on Saturday my bank was preparing it now as a matter of urgency and we wanted to know if I should drive up to Seville on Tuesday as soon as I picked up the guarantee. The woman from the Junta explained that we shouldn't worry and that we could send it by a courier service recommended by the Junta on Wednesday morning (the third working day) and as soon as it was sent to fax her the receipt from the courier service that they had picked up the guarantee and that would be recorded as an acknowledgment that the requirement had been carried out. We organised the courier service to meet me at the studio 9am Wednesday which they did and off they went to Seville with the new guarantee. I then sent their receipt and called the Junta to make sure they received it, which they confirmed so that was that so I thought we were still very much in the race.
One week later disaster struck when I received another fax from the Junta informing me that REM FM was now officially eliminated from the licence application system because, wait for this you’ll not believe it, it explained we were in fact one day late as Saturday was counted as a working day for the Junta. I nearly collapsed with shock I just could not believe what I was hearing.
Consequently on December 2013, the Supreme Court sentenced José María del Nido to seven years in prison and five and a half year ban from public office as required by a qualified cooperdor crime of embezzlement of public funds and a continuing offense of trespass, contributing to the exploitation of the coffers of the City of Marbella, for irregular fees charged to the municipality between 1999 and 2003 amounting to over 6 million Euros!!!
Good choice I made there then????
Charity was still very much an important part of my life. I was invited by Mark and Lynn Quinlan to host a charity gala in aid of a foundation they set up called The Water Angels. The Quinlan's lost thier two year old son tragically when he drowned in their swimming pool after wandering out of the house without anyone noticing. The money raised would go to an a awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of swimming pools and young children.
I'd flown back and forth to London throughout the summer attending production meetings in readiness for the launch of my TV show which was scheduled for September. During this time I grew to continually dislike my producer and her insistence in me wearing an earpiece which I was trying to get used to during rehearsals. This was distressing me so much so that I called my friend Gloria Hunniford and asked her advice. She told me to tell them I didn’t want to use one and went on to tell me that Jonathan Ross, Parkinson and Paul O’Grady among many other TV talk show hosts refused to wear earpieces as they claimed it interrupted their line of thought and concentration throughout an interview, how true that was. But I decided not to make to much of a fuss as this was my opportunity to appear on UK TV and I didn’t want to blow it. I also had to use an autocue for my introduction of guests, these were scripted for me in advance and as I am dyslectic and the words the script writers used were not the words I would chose it made my life pretty unpleasant. I hoped things would get better as soon as we started to record the shows. Many well known TV faces were already appearing on the station hosting their own shows including ex Blue Peter host Peter Purvis , John Stapleton, Neil and Christina Hamilton and many other faces I recognised mostly from property and financial TV shows etc.
My studio set design was pretty basic but I’d seen a lot worse on ITV. The animated opening title was excellent (see video at the end of this chapter) My guest list was top class, most had been guests of mine on my radio show including author Fredrick Forsyth and Lord Jeffery Archer, the wonderfully witty Ned Sherrin, Actress Dame Prunella Scales who played Sybil Faulty in the TV’s hit comedy Faulty Towers, TV’s Leslie Granthem, Anita Dobson TV's hit comedy series Birds of a Feather stars Leslie Josephes Linda Robinson and spoon bender Uri Geller to name but a few. Also among my guest were ordinary people who did extraordinary things, like the the solder who’s eyes were gauged out when he came to the recue of a woman outside a pub that was being attacked and became a world class downhill skier, a memory man who could memorise a whole pack of cards after I shuffled them and many other amazing guests. But it came abundantly clear that the station was be run by a pack of amateurs who were more or less clueless when it came to producing late night talk shows! The musicians they gave me were so hopeless they wouldn't have qualified for a school band never mind being studio musicians! All in all the finished product wasn't to bad and was surprisingly extremely well received.
The biggest problem I was having was exhaustion. I would fly into London on a Thursday evening be met at the airport by Darragh’s ever present chauffeur who would take me direct to my hotel (always a 5 star no less) there waiting for me at reception would always be a large brown envelope that would contain my scripts for the next days shows. I would read and curse them because they were nothing like the way I would to introduce my guests but I had to do what I was told!! Worse that b+*** of a producer of mine insisted I wear my glasses whilst reading from the autocue believing it was my short shortsightedness that was the cause of me not reading the words correctly. I tried to explain I hated wearing my glasses on TV and that it was my dyslectic problem that was to blame. Like my earpiece problem she was having none of it and insisted I wear the glasses (see photo)
I must have looked a right sight whilst waiting to board my flight with my mascara starting to run etc!!!
The cost of these shows were very high, different from my radio show, guest demanded high fees plus cars to collect and take them back from the studios. Eventually the station, like Majestic TV and many other independent Television stations, went into liquidation but not before costing Darragh a small fortune. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that he gave me and enjoyed the year I spent on TV.
Other events I attended during 2006 was the official visit by princess Cristina the youngest daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to the Cudeca Hospice where I was delighted not only to have my photograph taken with her (can’t find it at the moment) but also to chat with her.
And finally the year ended on a much happier note with yet another huge successes for the REM FM telethon for Cudeca. But I knew I was in for a horribleness 2007!
To be continued
A short video from my TV show
Different photographs from my TV show:
Sunday, 1 June 2014
A wedding in the family, taking a risk by broadcasting a telethon and the disaster at the race track!
Before I go any further, I would like to answer a question that I have been asked many times, that is; just how do I remember so many facts, dates and people that have been part of My Story so far? So I’ll let you into a little secret; my greatest source of information is my magazine H! I simply go through each year before I write a chapter and see exactly what I’ve been up to in that particular year, otherwise I’m sure I wouldn’t remember half of it. Looking through the years in H! remind me of many happy times in the past but also bring home the sadness of those who have passed away and not with us anymore, also the many businesses who started up with such enthusiasm and featured in the magazine celebrating their launch parties with such hope for the future, only find that the deepening recession caused them to close up shop all too soon.
Chapter 27 only got as far as the first 6 months of 2004. Two more outstanding events stood out during the rest of the year, the first being the marriage of our middle son to the stunning Aneliya Borislavova.(Front cover of H!, well what do you expect?)
More photos of the wedding can be found at the end of this chapter.
During the latter part of the year I made what I thought was a very brave but important decision, I decided to call an end to the annual Cudeca Celebrity Golf Tournament and gala evening in favor of running a radio telethon. My reasons for doing this was the sheer cost of staging the event, although, thanks to Servitour, the celebrities air tickets were sponsored but many insisted in taking their wives and girlfriends which we had to pay for. We also had pay for all the green fees (at a reduced rate) at the Santa Maria Golf. Thankfully the Los Monteros sponsored the rooms, but we had the cost of the Gala dinner but all these costs mounted up and ate heavily into the final net amount raised for Cudeca. I also was taking a great risk by cancelling the Celebrity Golf etc in favor of the telethon simply because if it backed fired and didn’t rise substantial funds advertisers might question the popularity of the radio station and start withdrawing their advertising support. I also faced a barrage of criticism for cancelling the event with my most ardent critics accusing me of putting on the telethon as some type of cheap publicity stunt centered around myself and my new radio station. People closer to me were also questioning my decision based on the fact that a radio telethon had never been attempted on English radio in Spain before. No pressure then???
Press announcement of REM FM's first telethon for December the 15th 2004
I had planned the telethon as an auction format and thankfully our listeners and local businesses had risen to the occasion by offering hundreds of valuable items for us to auction.
I remember the day, the 15th December 2004, as if it were yesterday. I hadn’t slept a wink the night before. The sun hadn't risen yet over the Mediterranean when when we arrived in the studio along with members of the Cudeca staff who there to set up credit card machines so they could immediately receive payment from the successful bidders. The auction got underway at 9pm I hardly opened the mic than bids started to come in fast and furious. We also had many visitors throughout the day including bands and singers who performed live on air and by 8 o'clock that evening I called for the final total hoping it would accede 10,000€ I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the total reading as 55,000€ !!! What’s more 100% of the money raised went direct to Cudeca and NO cost deducted. It was a total victory and after 12 straight hours on air I was a very relieved radio boss. I slept well that night I can assure you.
The next day Joan Hunt telephoned to congratulate me and my staff and to inform us that the 55,000€ raised would represent covering the cost of 36 patients in their home care and day center program. Thankfully I had succeeded in proving my criticas wrong and the REM FM telethon was to go on as an annual event raising hundreds of thousands for Cudeca.
I then called my friend Tony Reading who ran a luxury coach service and asked if he'd like a job
"Airport run?" he asked.
" No" I said "Russia to be precise!"
After explaining what it was all about he volunteered on the spot to drive to Russia with the toys. We kept in touch with him live on various radio shows throughout his trip finding out how he was getting on. Tony eventually made it and made a lot of normally very unhappy children, very happy.
With all the charity requests behind me for 2004 I promised my family that I would not stage anymore charity events for at least three or four months, firstly because I was out nearly every weekend hosting one charity event or another and secondly the Costa, I believed, was becoming charity fatigued. That was until I awoke on the morning of December the 26th and turned on the BBC news which announced that an earthquake off the western coast of northern Sumatra, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggered a powerful wave that swept through the Indian Ocean, wrecking coastal areas in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Maldives, Myanmar, the Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand.
After the immediate impact Joy and Manacare along with REM FM started an appeal for funds to help build one of many of the schools that were totally destroyed by the Tsunami, I was invited to attend many different fund raising events along the Costa to help the fund to achieve Joys wish to build the school and I can remember exactly how long it took but we managed to raise enough to complete and build a brand new school, which REM’s Mary Harbo went out to visit. Joy is an exceptional human being and is still working tirelessly for those children that many were left without parents to rebuild their lives. REM's Mary Harbo flew out to visit the Island and to see for herself the devastation caused by the Tsunami.
Within a relatively short period of time Majestic TV closed down after costing Majestic millions. To make things worse Spain's real estate industry was really suffering with sales slowing up almost to a stand still due to the deepening recession in UK , Ireland and the rest of Europe. For some reason it just didn’t seem to bother Robert but for me the writing was beginning to appear on the wall!
The recession was also beginning to affect REM’s advertising turn over and I needed to start bringing in some much needed revenue to counter our huge costs. I took myself along to meet the marketing department of El Corte Ingles to see if I could persuade them to advertise with us.
(The photo of Mary Harboe with the full shopping trolley on the right is similar to the photo I put before him)
I titled my idea as The Golden Trolley Game which I explained would take place every Friday when Mary would present her enormously popular lunch time radio show live from El Corte Ingles. She would need to be placed in a very prominent and publicly visible area of the store and set up next to her would be the gold painted shopping trolley packed with food items. She would give an on air general description of most of the items in the trolley and invite listeners to call in and make a guess as to the value of the trolley, also shoppers in the store could stop at the stand and give their guess to an El Corte Ingles staff member who was in attendance and would keep a note of the shoppers guess and telephone number until the end of the show. By the end of the program the listener or store shopper closest to the true value of the trolley would win the lot. The marketing manager loved the idea and immediately signed a contract with me! So successful was this promotion that El Corte Ingles continued to renew their contract with REM FM for many years to come.
Frank Manni had taken over the lease on the Hippodrome horse race track (the only one on the Costa) and started to promote race days, as an extended idea he agreed to sign a contract with a company called Seabreeze, headed up by Deep Purples manager the late John Coletta, who wanted to stage a large series of concerts at the race track throughout the summer including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz, Bryan Adams, UB40, Jamiroquai, the London and Hungarian Symphony Orchestras. Frank sent the directors of Seabreeze to meet me at my office to discuss radio promotion etc After a few niceties I felt it important to voice my reservations in fact I felt by putting on this number of high profile musical events in one session would be a disaster as I said the recession was really hurting the man on the street and I just could see one concert after another drawing the size of audiences to pay these superstars . But again I was ignored and the dates for the concerts were set
It’s important to point out here that Frank and Robert had NOTHING to do with the staging or promotion of these concerts, this was solely the responsibility of the Seabreeze company, they just offered the racecourse free in return for the publicity these concerts would bring, little did they know this decision was to turn into a nightmare of mega proportions.
I’m not sure what Elton John cost but I believe it was in the region of 400,000€ plus plus plus and Rod Stewart I was told was 800,000€ plus plus plus. They needed audiences in excess of 14,000 and 18,000 and this just didn’t happen, huge losses began to accrue before the planed Jamiroquai and Bryan Adams concerts were due to take place. Seabreeze decided decided to cut their loses and cancelled the concerts unfortunately thousands had already purchased their tickets and although a promise of a refund was made it wasn’t fulfilled and an outcry started to take hold. The problem was that those who were demanding their money back started to blame Frank, Majestic and eventually REM FM! No matter how much denial we were putting out on air that Majestic and REM had NOTHING to do with the concerts angry ticket holders looking for a refund weren't buying it. I was frantic, this is the last thing I needed right now, I asked Roberts office If I could write up a press release stating the true facts etc only to be told that Max Clifford was handling it. Nothing appeared in the weeks following a mounting public outcry. I eventually decided that I would go ahead with or without permission and put out a press release explaining the facts about Seabreeze etc. Robert told me later that Max claimed that HE put that that press release out!!
Max’s draining of Roberts money continued relentlessly and had talked him into spending a fortune on a UK based charity that was staging an event in Marbella. It so happened that Max was the patron of this charity and again the benefit for Majestic was zero! At last Robert was beginning to realise that this whole Max Clifford PR contract was a total waste of time and more important in was draining enormous amounts of his resources.
On top of all this REM'S revenue continued to be badly affected by the recession H! Magazine was also suffering and I
Now my full time could be concentrated managing REM FM. I believed I needed something really big to prop up the stations dwindling advertising revenue and it came like manna from heaven from one of the coasts biggest real estate agencies, at the time, Andalucian Dream Homes who decided, in partnership with REM, to run a competition with a prize of a luxury brand new apartment worth 250,000€, never before has such a prize of that value been offered on a radio show in Spain and I doubt anywhere else for that matter. All you had to do was call in a register your name in the hope it would be drawn at the end of the competition. The competition was, as you can imagine, instantly popular and allowed me to expand my broadcast aria for the first time into the English communities of the Costa Blanca (I'm particular proud of this advert on the right, which asks the public to spot the difference between the two images of the naked lady only wearing headphones saying all she has on is REM FM, the lower image has all our new broadcasting frequency's highlighted by the magnifying glass) By expanding my broadcasting territory I was hoping to open a brand new stream of advertisers. This was a risk in itself as I also increased are running costs considerably and in hindsight I now wished I hadn't made this decision whilst increasing our listnership considerably as far as increasing our revenue this never happened..
As the recession deepened and my worries about the future of REM FM increased, disaster was about to strike.....
To be continued.....
Chapter 28's photo album:
From the left: Justin and Ani are married. Ani's photo taken from H! Magazine . Ani seems not have a care in the world.
Barry Ivan White a surprise star at the wedding. The new look cover of H! Society Magazine as it was now called