In which I meet a had-been and would-be-again pop star, and am embarrassed by my footwear.
A number of years ago, when I worked for a media organisation which shall remain nameless. Because we were journalists we occasionally got invites to the openings of new places, the best tickets usually went to the senior people, but sometimes the treats trickled down.
On one occasion the entire news team were invited to the opening of a new Go-Karting track, to which a number of media and ‘celebs’ had been invited. It was on a week night, and directly after work, as a result we all turned up in our work gear, which in my case included a pair of pretty shiny black brogues.
I knew – somehow – that we would be given protective overalls to wear, but for some reason I’d somehow overlooked or forgotten about the issue of footwear. As a result I found myself in a changing room pulling on a boiler suit and worrying about my shoes.
The man next to me was also getting changed, and zipping up his grey boiler suit. I suppose I assumed that he was a journalist too, but couldn’t be sure, so I said to him: “What do you do then, mate?” “Oh,” he replied, “I used to be a pop star.” “Really?” I said, looking at him in the hope that I might perhaps recognise him. “Were you in a band then?” “Yes,” he said, “I was in a band called Take That.” “Oh… yes, I’ve heard of them…” I replied rather weakly. This was a fairly momentous error on my part, Take That had been huge shortly beforehand. The conversation ended shortly afterwards, and we said goodbye. He smiled broadly, I grinned sheepishly, and he went off to the track wearing, I noticed, a pair of trainers. I meanwhile tied the laces of my brogues and headed off awkwardly to find my colleagues.
The mystery singer turned out to be Howard Donald, the Take That heart-throb who had until recently sported a head full of dreadlocks. I told myself it was his new hair cut that had flummoxed me. I told the rest of the team about it, noticing that they too had all thought to bring trainers with them. In our team photograph I alone stood wearing the boiler suit and shiny shoes. But we wrote up the story – which was published the following day in the Daily Record, of all places, with the headline ‘Howard is Top of the Crops’ and giving a blow by blow account of our changing room conversation.
Jesse Stone, the now largely forgotten (ironically) Blues musician who some think of as the founder of rock and roll prophesied the nature of my little encounter with Howard when he said: “Fame is a fickle thing… as soon as you relax for five minutes, they’re gone, you know, and they’re following somebody else.”