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