When I was a nipper growing up in Lincoln, Mum took me to get Trevor Francis’s autograph. He was doing a Gillette Razor promo in ASDA. I thought I was king of the first years when I got into school.
It didn’t last, of course; Steve told everyone it was a fake that I’d done at home. He said the proof was the fact that the autograph was signed: “love, Trevor” and that Trevor would never have signed an autograph that way. But Trevor Francis was a nice guy and he just did what I asked, although he checked with Mum first.
I tried to explain to all the kids at school that it was real and that I’d asked him to write “love, Trevor” but that just made things worse. Everyone called me Trevorlover for the whole next term, even Fat Alice. I didn’t really mind though; getting the same signature that adorned the contract of football’s first million pound player was the nearest I got to living the high life and maybe it was that simple autograph which spurred me on to seek out the world of the glitterrati down here in London.
It seems like living the celebrity lifestyle is an almost daily occurrence for yours truly. I dunno, maybe it’s me or something. Maybe it’s simply the fact that I’m a Citizen Journalist, which means I’m more tuned into The News, but I’ve done more star spotting this year than Patrick Moore.
Like the time I bumped into Barry McGuigan acting suspiciously in the gents of The Imperial, or the time former Mr Jordan, Pete Andre, and myself chewed the fat about his latest fragrance while in Vegas.
This latest meeting was totally out of the blue and totally rock ‘n’ roll. The other night I’d agreed to meet up with Dan after another one of his mammoth gym sessions. He said he wanted to “talk strategy” following the merger announcement, and that “the cream always rises to the top.” He said he needed “someone close, someone he could trust”.
We’d planned to meet in the Yorkshire Grey, a pub quite near the BBC at Portland Place which is a famed hangout of some of the UK’s top-line celebrities. I think that’s why Dan likes it so much. He claims he once saw Anna Wing, Eastenders’ Lou Beale, in there. He thought it was a ghost and got a racing heart, apparently, but it turns out she was still up and about. Also, he says he saw none other than Les Dennis and Phil Jupitus arguing over a burger order during one lunch hour!
My money would be on Jupitus coming out on top, unless it was when Dennis was going through that rough patch. For a while there he was a man on the edge!
For me, Les Dennis never really recovered after the unfortunate passing of his comic soulmate Dustin Gee. That was when Russ Abott lost his mojo, as well. Everyone remembers “See you Jimmy”, but no one remembers anything after. It was, in many respects, both Dennis and Abott’s ‘Jumping the shark’ moment. Perhaps Gee was the glue that held it all together? I guess we’ll never know.
You know how they say that everyone who was old enough remembers where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had died? I don’t know if it’s true, but I know this: I remember where I was when I heard that Dustin Gee had died, no word of a lie. I was in a hardware store in Lincoln, buying some string for Mum. Clear as a bell, I can see it now. There I was in the store, and the radio was playing… “The actor and comedian Dustin Gee has died of a heart attack…”
…I’d already lost two grandparents by this stage, in 1986, but I think Gee’s passing was the first time I really contemplated the reality of mortality. When Gee went I knew that, one day, long into the future, I’d have to go too. It was quite a lot to take in.
Dustin Gee, I think anyone would agree, was the Barker to Dennis’s Corbett. He was the real comic talent; his Vera Duckworth was faultless, whereas Dennis’s Mavis Riley was just a catchphrase. Sure, that always got the biggest laugh, but that’s testament to Gee’s class as a performer, his generosity.
It’s sad, isn’t it, that we often lose first the more treasured one of any celebrity pair. There’s Gee and Dennis, Morecambe and Wise, Barker and Corbett, Lennon and McCartney, Charles and Diana, Rod Hull and Emu (actually, I’m not sure about that last one) – this list goes on and on.
Wikipedia offers scant insight into Gee’s personal life, although it makes no mention of him leaving behind a wife and kids. It does say that a lifelong heart condition was fatally aggravated by his use of poppers, though. Now, far be it from me to start drawing any conclusions from that but it does need to be borne in mind that poppers are used by the gay community to help in their lovemaking.
If you were the Daily Mail’s Jan Moir, you might want to draw some comparisons between Gee’s untimely departure as a result of his irregular habits and the passing of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately in a Bulgarian three-way. She’s a nasty piece of work, that woman.
Anyway, there I was sitting by the faux log fire in the Yorkshire Grey, supping my pint of Man-in-a-Box when there was a sudden commotion at the door. Looking up I saw a couple of chaps in pin-stripped suits and, wait for it, legendary former Radio One disc jockey Bruno Brookes!
He still had star quality, I could see that, even though he was carrying a fair bit of surplus timber. Bruno was always the cool kid on the BBC Radio One block. So much cooler than David ‘the kid’ Jensen, and on a different planet altogether from the furry cornflake. When I was a kid, I used to think Kid Jensen had never actually been a kid himself. I think he was born middle aged, wasn’t he? Maybe they called him ‘the kid’ as an ironic joke, like Curly Watts in Coronation Street or Little John in Sherwood Forest. Apparently he was Canadian, not American. Hoe aboat that?
I remember Dad taking us to the Radio 1 Road Show at Cleethorpes in the 80s to see Bruno Brookes. Little did I know then that they had a caravan there together. Not Bruno and Dad, JESUS! Although, maybe that would have been better, I probably would have got backstage passes and stuff. But then, in those days, Radio 1 DJs weren’t gay. And neither, I suppose, was Dad.
Back in the boozer, Bruno and his mates were talking in a manner that suggested they’d spent a good portion of the afternoon sampling a substantial wine menu. He was well and truly refreshed when he walked into the pub, readers; pissed up good and proper.
I always wondered what happened to Bruno Brookes, he’d been a hero when he played Killing in the Name of, even though some people said he’d never even heard of Rage Against The Machine and had no idea the song had those words in it. I preferred to think he knew just what he was doing, and that he was sticking it to the authorities. Here was s man, much like myself, who wouldn’t kowtow to the men in grey!!!
He was sacked, of course, and then pretty much disappeared into obscurity. But now here he was, in the Yorkshire Grey, fucked out of his mind. He came over and sat in the snug nearby, joined by one of his cronies, while the other stood at the bar. He started shouting “…and if I see Powell again, I’ll fucking kill him.” Bruno was in a rage. He wasn’t raging against the machine though, from what I could make out he was raging about fellow former BBC Radio 1 Jock Peter Powell and his ex, Anthea Turner.
“We had something, me and Anthea. Something special! Something most people can only ever dream about. She was my everything; my world boys, my fucking world. The mountains and the oceans. My whole fucking universe, infinite and expanding!!! Her earlobes were beautiful fucking galaxies. You looked in to her eyes and it was like gas giants going super-fucking-nova!! Supernova, I’m not kidding, boys. Her thighs went forever, like the milky fucking way!!! Her arse was like the twin moons of planet fucking ecstasy!! Her cunt… Her cunt was like dark fucking matter, shit… It just sucked you in!! It could absorb time, I’m telling you, boys. It could bend you out of shape and back again. It wasn’t a part of her body, it was a journey, a lifetime. Her tits!! She had these really, really nice tits. So squeezy. I just used to fucking squeeze them and squeeze them, you know? Squeezy, squeezy, squeezy, hour after hour. Squeezy, squeezy, squeezy. Jesus!! When we were at it, it was like I was in another dimension, everywhere and nowhere. When I spunked up in Anthea, it was like the dawn of fucking TIME!! I’ve seen God, let me tell you boys, I’ve seen God and it’s in Anthea’s fucking knickers!!”
I’d never had him down as a poet. It was very beautiful in its way. “Fucking Powell. I’ll fucking kill him,” he said.
At this point, the third member of their party staggered over spilling beer from the three pints he was holding together. “Mind out, mind how she goes,” shouted Brookes, “Here mate, sorry about all this,” he said again, addressing none other than yours truly. It took a while to sink in but Bruno Brookes was apologizing to me, for interrupting my early evening drink. “No worries,” I said, “not at all.” I was unfazed. Cool as a cucumber. Don’t forget, I’ve met Trevor Francis.
Then he came over (Bruno, not Trevor – Trevor wasn’t there) and sat down next to me, putting his arm around my shoulders, he stank like an Irish navvy. “Can you keep a secret?” he asked. I nodded solemnly, and then he stood bolt upright and whipped down his trousers, pointing to a chubby thigh.
It took me a moment to deal with it all but I soon made out the unmistakable shape of a pirate tattoo. “Matching tattoos,” he slurred, “only she’s got a lady pirate on the opposite leg, so when we were,” and here he put his hands on his hips and started thrusting his crotch in my face, “at it,” he said “they were at it too!”
Then all three of them started capering about doing pirate impressions shouting “shiver me timbers,” and “arrrrgh Jim lad”. I looked up just in time to see the back of Dan’s head leaving the pub. I stood up to follow him but Brookes planted his hand on my shoulder and said: “We got ‘em together while we were doing the Road Show down in Plymouth,” he said. “Me and Anth. Oh Anth, why did you do it to me? WHY. WHYYYYYYY?”
He sobbed for a moment or two, then stood motionless for a second. He didn’t say anything else, just kind of stood there staring at me, his eyes filling up with tears. He snorted loudly, wiping his sleeve across his face, bent down to pull up his trousers and fell into the table, wiping out the assembled drinks. “Oh, fuck mate, really fucking sorry about that,” he said. “Let me get you a replacement. One for the Pope and his assistant,” he shouted at the barmaid.
He sent his mate to the bar and sat me down. I introduced myself and then he started telling me about his latest business venture. It turns out that Bruno is getting back into radio readers! There you go, a scoop. You heard it hear first, on the pages of Newsdesk. Spread the word: It won’t be BBC, and it won’t be Capital, Virgin or even Magic. Because the rebel without a job has gone corporate!!!!!
Bruno’s latest venture is in-bank radio. I have to say it’s a bold move. I congratulated him on his nerve: “Most businesses are working hard to strategically improve their customer experience and determine a strong differentiator in the market place,” I said. “I think you might be onto something.”
“Cheers Barry old son,” he said “The thing is, the internet has fucked things up for everyone; the high street’s dying on its arse. As a consequence any business with a presence on the high street needs to pull its fucking finger out to win customers and drive sales away from the web.”
Bruno’s got a point readers; think about it: Banks aren’t exactly a destination of choice; people visit them out of pure necessity. Consumers are naturally feeling wary as a result of the economic turmoil, and therefore need guidance and reassurance about financial products and services currently on offer, and what’s best for them.
Unfortunately, my inquisitive nature got the better of me. “But Bruno,” I said, “Surely these days everyone does their banking on the internet too. Having in-bank radio won’t make people want to come into the banks. Except possibly the homeless.”
He didn’t like this line of questioning, he didn’t like it one bit. The first swing narrowly missed my chin, the second caught me square on the nose, sending me flying back into my chair. Thankfully, my judo training kicked in and I was able to fall like a cat, unharmed, except for the bloodied nose.
I tell you what, it’s a bloody good job Brookes’ mates scuttled him out of the boozer, quick sharp. I was ready to mete out some retribution Newsdesk stylee. Instead I ran to the door and shouted: “No wonder she fucking left you, Brookes, you fat prick.” I shouldn’t have done it, but my blood was up.
Woe betide Bruno Brookes if our paths ever cross again.
Anyway, the next day I had a go at Dan for leaving me there. I thought I’d gone a bit far, but I was angry and my nose hurt. To my surprise, instead of bollocking me, he welled up and briefly fought back some tears. He put his hand on my arm and said:
“I’m sorry Barry, I just couldn’t face talking to Bruno. It was such a shock to see him... It's been so long, I didn't think he went there any more. And, when he’s like that, he’s just… well, he scares me. He hurts the people that care the most.” And then he scarpered to the toilets.
Peace (except for Bruno Brookes)