The Crowning Glory of a Glittering Career
There can be few things more pathetic than a tired old has-been uploading his yellowing newspaper clippings to the internet...........
So lets get started!
I'm always looking for new things to write about because, frankly, a lot of our work is repetitive and one finds oneself posting and writing the same thing again and again - "Great gig at X venue" "Really looking forward to our gig at Y Concert Hall" "Wonderful catering at Z restaurant, next to X Venue" and so on - usually accompanied by a picture of some bored looking people at soundcheck.
I suppose I could bang on about the highlights of the UOGB's career and while there have been many (and they've been exciting) they are fairly meaningless and sound a bit pompous when you write about them (....and then the audience gave us a standing ovation, the bouquets landed at our feet, the mayors wife told me I sung like an angel blah blah).
I notice that the best received blogs on this website (in terms of hits) tend to concern themselves with the many indignities and humiliations of my own career, for example:
- My Journey into the Jaws of Hell - Food poisoning (thats the polite phrase) strikes a speeding ukulele player on the motorway.
- A Warning for Talent Show Contestants - A lonely weirdo with a pink ukulele and a bad blazer gets put through the grinder on national TV.
- The Hubris and the Humiliation - Locked out of my hotel room in my underpants.
If I've learned anything about the business of show its that when it comes to stories, the lows are, in retrospect far more interesting than the highs.
I'm quite fond of the Buddhist analogy of the Lotus Flower which grows in the filth and degredation of muddy water and then blooms into a beautiful flower.
(what on earth is he on about? has he been drinking again?)
So digging deep in the archives, let us travel back to 1999, when yours truly was a struggling ukulele player, and whilst I was in the Ukes, the band were much less busy than we are today, with far fewer gigs - maybe one a month. Apart from running my own band (the Ukulele Kings) and working as a landscape gardener, I also was on the books of several agencies as an ‘extra’.
This meant that I could be called up at any time to appear in a butter commercial, a pop video, as part of a football crowd or even as a hand model. The work was varied and in general, just well paid enough to warrant doing it - plus it kept my hand in when it came to show business.
So, one bright and breezy summers day in 1999, the call came through from my agent: would I be prepared to go to the Kensington Odeon, where the forthcoming premiere of the Antonio Banderas epic, The Thirteenth Warrior was to take place and ‘help out’? It would be half an hours work, the fee was a modest £50, and so I though ‘why not?'
It turned out that Antonio wasn’t even going to turn up (it was a low budget film) so a PR agency had been engaged to drum up publicity, which meant inviting the usual crowd of B and C list celebrities to attend the premiere………
It also involved hiring an extra to dress up as a Viking and hang around outside the theatre, someone big or tall........................
I digested this news without comment when I arrived at the theatre in the stifling evening heat, I was introduced to the PR who showed me the steel horned helmet, leather jerkin, fleece, scratchy undershirt, and double headed axe, that I would have to wear.
My brief, she explained, was simple, all I had to do was stand outside the theatre and whenever a celebrity would arrive, I would approach them, shout ‘WAAAAAH’ and generally act like a dog on heat and pose for pictures.
I remember putting on all the clobber and with a sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach (I was already sweating) and walking outside in front of the theatre.
I wish I could tell you that, as I checked myself in the mirror, I looked into my own eyes and said "this is what you want to do with your life, you must follow your dreams, you are a star" but no...........
At 42 years old, while my contemporaries were starting families, moving on in their careers, earning kudos, huge salaries. I was shortly to appear in one of the cheapest, british tabloids under the headline "LOOK AT HIS CHOPPER" (on page 7) dressed as a Viking.
A few steel barriers had been erected outside the theatre, with several ‘old school’ Fleet Street photographers behind them. One of them, when I emerged, looked me up and down deadpan, and murmured out of the corner of his mouth, “Whatever they’re paying you:- its not enough” to the hysterical laughter of his colleagues.
I must have greeted about 15 celebs with my ‘WAAAAAH’s during the half hour I spent outside the theatre, I kept trying to keep a few shreds of sophistication and dignity, but it really wasn't that sort of a 'vibe'.
One of the celebrities, boxer Chris Eubank, threatened to punch my lights out when I approached him ready to yell "WAAAAAH" in my now somewhat hoarse voice, and in retrospect, a picture of THAT would have been really humiliating. In the end, the snap above with Emma B appeared in the Daily Star.
Was it Humiliating? - Yes
Did I learn anything? - No
Did I get paid? - Yes
Would I do it again.........
Although it might be construed as a complete waste of time, I noticed this 2004 picture of me singing with the Ukes the other day:
I guess I'm still doing the 'WAAAAAH's all these years later.........