Thursday, 10 July 2014

CHAPTER 31






It would be fair to say that Christmas 2007 was not a very happy time for me, the radio station was in deep financial trouble, my partners had all be disappeared leaving me to sort the mess out
, but it was imperative that I keep the spirits of my staff up and keep from them the severity of the situation we were in, why ruin their Christmas at least I still managed to keep paying the wages but it meant that I had a year of no salary again. One of the upsides that in many ways disguised the truth behind our financial situation was the success of yet another Telethon and early in January 2008 I presented yet another cheque to Cudeca this time for 72,000 Euro.

I had no idea what I was going to do as I flew off to London to host a charity night for the WJR. This was a brilliantly organised event which I swore at the time that I would do in Marbella but regretfully never got around to it. It was based on the phenomenally successful BBC TV program Strictly Come Dancing and my part was the host i.e the Bruce Forsyth’s job. There was six couples made up of six professional dancers and six very successful business personalities. The three women and three men had spent the last 4 months getting up every morning at about 4am to go into a London dance studio to learn from the professionals and practice their chosen routines. There was a huge demand for dinner tables made up of flag waving supporters for each of the dancers. Approx 600 attended the gala and raised a phenomenal £200,000!!

I stayed on in London for a few days to try to get some space between me and the radio station knowing a solution had to be found and had to be found quickly. I knew the banks wouldn’t lend without a thorough investigation and presides not having a licence I knew that the financial records left by Roberts accountants wouldn’t stack up. I decided on two courses of action. 1 I would approach a friend of mine, a wealthy business man, to see if he’d be interested in investing and 2 I needed to sell my 2 year old convertible Mercedes to at least make an effort to get some money into the tax office hoping that would allow some breathing space.

It was on New Years Day 2008 that the news broke that a 15 year old Irish girl, Amy Fitzpatrick had gone missing. It was shocking news for the expat communities especially around the Mijas area were the family lived and where she went missing. She had gone to a friend’s house just across the field from where she lived to keep her company on New Year’s Eve whilst she babysat her young brother. Later that evening she left to go home and hasn't been seen since. Her mother Audrey and her partner Dave Mahon made a plea on my radio show for her daughters safe return.

The Mirror reported:
It was reported that a shocking letter predicting Amy Fitzpatrick would go missing was sent to authorities before she disappeared.

The message appealing for help was sent in 2005, nearly three years before the 15-year-old vanished from her home in Spain.

The letter, written by the mum of Amy’s pal, was sent to the Irish embassy in Madrid and claims she wanted to move back to Ireland.

It reads: “It is probable she will disappear. Amie [sic] is scared for her safety.

The letter detailed how unhappy the 15-year-old schoolgirl was living in Spain.

The Sunday World reported:

Bombshell claims have surfaced about the whereabouts of Amy’s mobile phone at the time she disappeared, which could prove vital in the investigation.

The Sunday World can disclose that Debbie Rose and her daughter Ashley - whose house Amy left to walk home from and was never seen again - maintain the 15-year-old had her pink mobile phone with her when she left their Spanish pad on New Year’s Day 2008.

Five months later, Audrey produced the same phone during an interview on RTE’s Late Late Show.

She said she found it in their apartment,” says an insider.

How did that phone simply turn up when the last person to have it was Amy on the night she wet missing? Draw your own conclusions.
.

Another report on the missing Amy read:

Friends and relatives of Amy say the teen was constantly having fights with Mahon.

In one extract in her diary, on January, 19, 2006, Amy writes: “Dave is being a dick as normal, accusing me of taking money. WTF wud I do dat. He has no fuckin rite 2 say I tuk it da stupid, bald, ugly WANKER!

In another entry she says: “I stayed at Lisa’s last night cuz Davey wuz being a d**k as normal.”


(Photo: Mahon with Audrey Fitzpatrick)

The disappearance of Amy has always intrigued me, nothing ever added up, 2 and 2 always came to 5!. Interviewing Audrey and Dave, which I have done on many occasions in the preceding years after Amy's disappearance, always left me feeling uneasy,the I’s weren’t dotted and the T’s were never crossed. Mahon always gave me the creeps, I felt Audrey was hiding something but was to frightened to say anything.

Any Fitzpatrick's aunt Christine Kenny had been a guest on my radio show on a number of occasion quoting from Amy's Diary which, she says, reports about her living in a cardboard box with an arrow pointing to bins where she gets her food.
I smell of dog s**t and I haven’t had a shower in 2 years and I moved into my new house 2 day (sic) and it’s quite small and it’s not been painted.

Even if the entry into the dairy isn't 100% accurate it does allow us to have an insight into this poor young girls state of mind.


After the first interview with Kenny I received a threatening phone call from Mahon more or less telling me that I shouldn't have interviewed her. I told Mahon that it was none of his business who I interviewed, so don't dare call me in a threatening tone again!

The rest I'll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions on the missing Amy Fitzpatrick.....

(Amy Fitzpatrick has never been found and in 2014 Audrey partner Dave Mahon was arrested and charged with the murder of Amy’s brother Dean which occurred in Dublin 2013).




Another highlight of the early part of 2008 was a surprise award that was made to me whilst broadcasting on St Patricks Day live from the Miramar Center sponsored by Guinness.
Tony Bell, president of The Irish Association of Spain made a surprise presentation of a certificate on behalf of the IAS bearing a ‘Seal of Excellence for his service to Irish People'. The papers reported that I was speechless as the crowed watching the show broke into spontaneous applause. Although this award did nothing to relive my financial woes, it certainly helped to lift my spirits even if it was only momentarily.


The Mercedes thankfully sold quickly for around 50K which was no sooner in my hand than it was winging its way over to the tax office! Breathing space I thought.
But the financial pressure was relentless, so I had no choice but to call a meeting with my wealthy friend. I explained the situation to him and of course, as an investor, he would need to know that REM FM hadn’t got or probably would never get a licence to broadcast. Meaning in short we could be shut at any time. Amazingly he agreed to help. Firstly to give Frank the 50,000 Euro he and Robert wanted to sever all ties with the radio station. Secondly to bankrupt the company and start a fresh leaving the depts behind. Maybe I was being naive at the time but I feared this solution would still leave me personally responsible for the huge tax depts as I was the administrator of the company. I also believed a simple name change to disguise my responsibility would be a bad move (little did I know then this was going to be a situation I was going to be forced into in the future!) It was a take it or leave it offer I just felt I couldn’t take the risk and turned the offer down.

I suppose word was out on the street that I was looking for an investor when I was approached by an acquaintance of mine Martin Nathan, Martin also a successful business man with a long association to the coast, in fact one of his children Josh Nathan was one of the stars of the defunct BBC soap Eldorado which was filmed here on the coast. Martin had approached me in the past to see if he could buy into H! Magazine but for some reason that hadn’t worked out. I don’t think he ever told me why he wanted to invest in the magazine and now the radio station but I assumed like a lot of successful business men who were spending most of their time in Marbella he was bored and wanted an interest. He agreed to buy out Robert and Franks 75% interest in REM and pay off the tax dept. This was the deal I needed which still left me with my 25% interest. His agreement was to pay off the depts of the company and oversee the financial administration and I would remain as MD in charge of staff, programming etc. To say I was relived would have been an understatement. I felt safe at last with a partner I believed I could trust.

I remember driving through Marbella’s main street with Martin in the car, he had just finished with the lawyers completing the deal to purchase the radio station, In fact we were driving back to the studio so I could officially welcome Martin into the business and introduce him to the staff . We were chatting away when I asked him what sort a role he would like to take up in the station. He said he wanted to be very much in the back ground. I suggested half jokingly that he should be the Chairman, after all chairman is usually to chair a board of directors as there was only the two of us I thought he wouldn’t have taken me seriously but I was wrong from then on he was going to be ‘The Chairman’ of REM FM!!! as crazy as that sounds but he was after all the man who saved the day and if he wanted to be referred to as Popeye The Sailor Man who was I to argue.

The summer of 2008 was more or less uneventful except more very stylish beach clubs were being opened hoping to follow the trend set by the arrival of the world famous Nikki Beach to Marbella.
(Photo: It's interesting to note; that in this picture beach goers were spending hundreds of Euros on expensive champagne and instead of drinking it they would spray it over each over!!!)
The financial markets were still struggling and property sales had more or less ground to a halt. The Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca were still attracting large numbers of tourists from UK, Ireland, Germany etc. Hotels booking were only slightly down on previous good years, so all in all the Costas was holding up.

Although I could relax a little now that I had got my investor and new partner there was a lot of work to be done to make sure the radio station could now recover financially and new incentives to attract advertisers were being offered. I needed to find something new something fresh to attract new income into the radio station and I found that with an idea I called 50/50 Friday. The thinking behind this was that every Friday morning from 10am to 12pm we would offer 50 vouchers at 50% discount to be used on restaurants, hotels , boutiques, hairdressers etc. This is how it works: we approach a country hotel and ask them if they would like a free weeks advertising on the radio in return for giving us 50, 50% discount vouchers i.e the hotel would give us the vouchers with a value of 200 Euro we would offer it at 100€ and in return for the free weeks advertising we would keep the entire 100€. It was simply a win, win for both the radio station the advertiser and the listener leaving us with a clear profit of around 5,000€ in a few short hours. I remember the first Friday we tried this and sold out all 50 vouchers in the first hour. This we believed was a winner but unfortunately after a couple of months our listeners tired of the idea and we stopped it.



The 2008 WOW Factor photo Presenters Maurice Boland and Hannah Murray with the judges including Tony Cowell and Jason Gardner


Being in the depth of the economic crises I was beginning to worry about the end of the years Cudeca Telethon and needed to come up with something new, something refreshing to keep the interest of our listeners and general public alike. For a while I had been thinking of running a charity talent competition, I had done this successfully over the years going back to Rudys in the early 90’s with Entertainer Of The Year Show, then on Radio with Pop Idol The Challengers and Reach for The Stars, but if I was going to do this I wanted to do it bigger and better than before after all the days of programs like Opportunity Knocks have well gone and been replaced by X Factor, American Idol etc so based on that I came up with the idea of The WOW Factor.

I have always believed that my shows, whether on radio, television or live on stage should be of international standard, with that in mind this is how I wanted the WOW Factor to be. Firstly I needed a venue of international standard, I remembered how impressed I was when I hosted Club La Costa's 10th Anniversary celebrations at the Hotel Torrequebrada’s casino theater, its the closest thing we had to a Las Vegas theater and also had the feel of a large TV theater studio with seating up 500 for dinner. It was perfect and before long I had booked it. I then put a small committee together to help look after ticket sales, table layouts, programs etc etc, added to that the very best of sound and lighting engineers and set designers and choreographers, make up and hair stylists, finally I hired Steve Shappell an expert at musical theater production to direct the show and to help turn the stage into something close to the UK televisions X Factor set. Now I needed judges, I wanted famous names to help me sell all 500 tickets.

I knew I couldn’t get Simon Cowell but I also knew he had a brother Tony Cowell(see photo) also in the entertainment business, a phone call or two a touch of Irish charm and I secured a Cowell!
Next on my hit list I needed a 'mister nasty' because that's what I belive makes the X Factor so successful. The person I felt sure would fit that role would be Jason Gardner the nasty judge from televisions hugely successful show Dancing on Ice, using the name Cowell as leverage I persuaded Jason to come. I needed a local judge and that was the stunning Laura Kryer who along with her husband ran a very successful music production company. in fact it was her husband Paul Sedkowski who recorded the WOW Factor jingles, stabs etc. and finally my good friend and the WOW Factor sponsor Bassem Hadar, the man I turned down in favor of Nathan to invest into REM FM, who filled the role as chairman of the judging panel . It was now time to start running a series of ads on the radio announcing various audition venues and before long the whole Costa was into a WOW Factor mood, it seemed everyone was talking about the WOW Factor. After months of auditions meeting hundreds of singers on the way, it all came down to the final 10 who made it to the live show at the Torrequebrada Casino Theatre.


Martin Woods was in charge of all the video production and like the X Factor in UK I wanted each contestant filmed in a 30 second segment to be shown on the giant screen on the stage prior to them coming out. When Martin first brought the videos for me to see I rejected one after another saying I needed tears and sad stories I wanted to be as close to the original X Factor as possible, Martin went away and as usual did a superbly professional job on each of the finalist’s videos, tears and all!!!
I chose REM’s Hannah Murray to co-host the show with me , a young girl that I gave a job as an assistant to Mary Harbo on the radio on occasions allowing her to read the weather forecast, eventually she started to fill in for Mary whilst she was on holidays. So impressed was I by Hannah that I gave her, her own show.(Photo: Hanna and myself having a laugh on stage)

This is part of a report written by Michele Eusdon for her newspaper the Euro Weekly News: As the lights dimmed in the auditorium and before the show got properly under way, the song ‘Somebody’s Lost Princess’ was performed by the two girls, Georgia and Hollie aged 15 and 16, who wrote the song paying special tribute to the still-missing teenager Amy Fitzpatrick. Amy’s mother, Audrey, told The Euro Weekly News: “It was an amazing start to the night, for these two kids to do this was so heart-warming and touching for us. It was very emotional as when they sang, behind them on a huge screen photos of Amy were being shown". The Euro Weekly News went on to report: There aren’t enough words I can say to thank them and to thank Maurice Boland for arranging this; it just boosts us and helps us feel a little bit more confident in the search for Amy, knowing there are people like that out there helping us.

The ten finalists individually sung their chosen songs in front of a large TV screen that, before each one, showed a brief video of them talking about how they too had been touched by tragedy in their lives (in the same vein as the X Factor). After the initial round, the panel of judges retired to the jury room to pick the best five to go through to the second round. During the second half, a very special performance took place when all ten finalists and the 15 runners-up, all dressed in white, performed a medley of songs from the hit musical ‘Mamma Mia’.


Before the final five were announced, Hannah Murray, surprised Maurice by displaying photographs of him from when he was young (See photo), in a sneaky attempt at a practical joke. One which bounced right back at her as Maurice knew her plans all along and as she was stood on the stage he told her to look behind her as photos of her younger self were being shown on the big screen. Maurice laughs: “She thought she was setting me up but she had no idea I had been in touch with her parents two weeks before to get these photos of her. She nearly collapsed on stage!”



The next days press reported: “The evening was without doubt a stunning success. The calibre of the finalists would match any COPYCAT television production. The professionalism of the whole event was of the highest possible standard. However, the greatest thrill was to see over 800 expatriates supporting an event which is to raise money to save the cancer care hospice.
Mr Maurice Boland – I simply do not know how he does it, but on behalf of everyone who has benefited from the monies he has raised over the years, thank God he does. Without doubt, he is the man with the WOW factor! Thank you, Maurice
.”

The Sur newspaper reported: The Wow Factor! Yes, ‘WOW’ was the word on everybody’s lips after the final of the competition which took place last Sunday evening at the Sala Fortuna in the Hotel Torrequebrada. The spectacular show was hosted by Maurice Boland, Cuudeca's Honorary Patron, and Hannah Murray of REM.fm and was produced by Steve Shappelle.



Again the Telethon was a great success and added to the WOW Factor money REM’s charity contribution to Cudeca 2008 was approx 90,000€ !!!!

When the year started I honestly didn’t think we’d see 2009 and now it looks like we are about to make it....

To be continued.....


Jade one of the 2008 WOW Factor finalists The final two Geneva and Natasha head to head to decide the winner


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