For a few years in the early 2000s I had a program on a small radio station that has long since been disbanded. Although the pay was much too low to actually live on, those were the best days of my life.
As part of this, I found I was invited to a whole host of events. I went backstage at TV shows, to music festivals, film premieres and industry parties. All I had to do was phone up the number on the press release and ask. It was often clear that the relevant PR company had never heard of the radio station but that never seemed to stop them from saying yes. The peak of the madness was the summer of 2005, me and a colleague drove to London for something almost every weekend and being young and carefree I thought it was just brilliant.
As it was a long cross-country drive, we would stay in a cheap B&B somewhere in the capital (or on one occasion, slept in the car in a layby) and I would always pack my red inflatable hat. The idea was that it would make me stand out, without having to do anything, so the PR people would spot me, and we would get the best of the free stuff.
One of the strangest evenings must have been my attendance at the press night of the new musical ‘Patti Boulaye’s Sun Dance’ at the Hackney Empire, described in the notes as ‘a new musical featuring a cast of 36 dancers, singers and musicians who celebrate the colours and music of Africa in a display of ceremonial dances, rituals and initiation ceremonies’. To be clear, I had no reason to be there. I was not a theatre reviewer and it was much too far away to expect any of my listeners to book a ticket. I seem to remember being offered an interview to speak to Patti afterwards but am less clear about if that transpired.
The evening started with us going down the red carpet. My colleague was dressed as John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever and I had my infamous red hat (I was so confident back then) and on reaching the entrance being told we were supposed to enter through a side door, meaning we had to go back down the red carpet the other way again, giving the photographers a second chance to ignore us. Thinking back, it seems a complete mystery why we decided to treat everything as a fancy-dress party.
I have no real recollection of the show itself but do know that once the performance was finished, we went to the after-show party, held in an upstairs room above the theatre. Various celebrities were there, people from daytime TV, Big Brother contestants and people (like us) who were there mainly for the food and drink.
The other significant thing about that trip was that once we got back to the hotel, I spent the whole night locked in a toilet. The handle fell off and despite my knocking, nobody came to my aid. After a while I gave up and slept on the floor until a cleaner found me in the morning. My colleague never did believe that was what happened.
I should use this opportunity to apologise to Patti Boulaye and her team for abusing their hospitality and everyone involved will be happy to learn that I lost the red hat in a strong gust of wind several years ago.