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Thread: Confessions of a celebrity booker

  1. #1
    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    Dec 2006

    Default Confessions of a celebrity booker

    Sir Paul McCartney was always somebody I'd admired hugely - until, that is, I had the misfortune to meet the great man.
    As a TV celebrity booker I'd been delighted with my coup: I'd secured Sir Paul and his then new wife Heather Mills - fresh off the plane from their honeymoon - to be celebrity guests at an awards ceremony.
    After the main event, which honoured a children's charity, the country's most famous newlyweds had agreed to meet the press.
    One of them asked Heather if presenting an award to a child made her feel broody. It was an innocent question - but its effect on Sir Paul was explosive.

    Sir Paul McCartney 'stormed out of the room in an almightly rage' while Heather 'seemed sweet-natured and genuinely embarrassed'

    He stormed out of the room in an almighty rage. Effing and blinding as he elbowed past a posse of dumb-struck minders, he ranted that it was all a 'stitch up' and blamed me - the hapless lackey who had booked him - for orchestrating it.
    Poor Heather seemed sweet-natured and genuinely embarrassed. She glanced over and, seeing me slack-jawed with horror, mouthed a silent 'sorry'.
    In that instant, my admiration for the great musician dissipated and I saw him as a spoilt star with a terrible temper.
    The job I did for 15 years exposed me to the true nature of celebrity: many of the stars I booked for TV shows were shallow, vain and temperamental, with a vastly inflated opinion of themselves and their - often inconsiderable - talents.
    So I felt a pang of sympathy last month for the bookers tasked with securing a glittering all-star line-up for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing.
    The show's veteran co-presenter Bruce Forsyth, dismissive of the parade of C-listers who have been enlisted for recent shows, has demanded bigger celebrities.
    Catherine Zeta-Jones: 'What Catherine lacked in vocal ability, she made up for with visual appeal'

    They will struggle to snare any real stars - and if they do, they'll need saintly forbearance to deal with the clash of their egos.
    Some time after the McCartney debacle, I met the genial comedian Billy Connolly at a party and told him all about Sir Paul's tantrum.
    'Paul has an ego bigger than God's. He thinks other stars should ask for his autograph,' remarked Connolly drily - and he could have been speaking about so many of the celebrities I met.
    For I can assure you that Sir Paul's wasn't the only giant ego I encountered. I worked with Anne Diamond in her heyday on the BBC One show Good Morning With Anne And Nick: her self-importance definitely out-stripped her abilities.
    She never wasted her breath by being pleasant to the little people. On the contrary, when I arrived to brief her on her day's guests she didn't waste time with niceties - I cannot even remember her uttering a cursory 'good morning' - but fixed me with a laser-like stare while quizzing me on the guests.
    Clearly Nick Owen, Diamond's co-host, was recruited for his ability to handle her imperiousness. I honestly don't think he was over-endowed with talent himself.
    It has since been said that Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan's bombastic Radio Norwich DJ, was based on poor old Nick, who would, I suspect, have languished on a local radio graveyard shift like his alter ego had he not teamed up with Anne.
    But he was a likeable, jokey, Jack-the-lad type who famously kept a pair of knickers sent to him by a fan pinned to his office notice board.
    He and Anne tried unsuccessfully to replicate the cosy husband-and-wife informality of Richard and Judy, their ITV rivals - but they never attained their success.

    Part of my job was to meet that day's special guest at 7am at Euston Station, London, and escort them to Pebble Mill Studios, Birmingham, where the show was filmed.
    Clearly the editor, Anne's then husband Mike Hollingsworth, didn't trust the celebrities to make it to the studios unaided - with some justification, it appeared, when Sir Richard Branson was due to appear.
    Branson, whom I liked immensely, nearly missed the train because he had been queuing up to buy himself a standard-class ticket.
    When I told him I already had a first-class ticket for him, he dashed off to get a refund - proving how he grew to be as rich as Croesus.
    In my year on the show I met a veritable galaxy of stars, but some glittered far less brightly than they imagined.
    Dannii Minogue was a fledgling celebrity of 22 when she appeared on the show, but she still possessed all the aloofness and grandeur you'd expect from a Hollywood grande dame.
    Her manager nit-picked over her contract as if she were signing for a major film rather than having a cosy chat on daytime TV. She was reserved, unsmiling and taciturn.
    I suspect she also had a chip on her shoulder roughly the size of her infinitely more successful sister Kylie.
    After my stint on breakfast TV, I took my bulging contacts book to a job in prime-time entertainment.

    Raquel Welch stipulated that we hire special, flattering lights for her

    In 1994 I was enlisted to find a celebrity audience for ITV's An Audience With Jimmy Tarbuck.
    Soon after, ITV gave him his own chat show. Booking guests for it proved to be a thankless task.
    Jimmy would visit our office twice a week, hot off the golf course in multi- coloured Pringle sweater and tartan trousers, and grill the booking team about which big stars we had snagged.
    I recall a rare and frankly appalling singing performance by a young Catherine Zeta- Jones, who was promoting a single in her short-lived quest to become a pop star after leaving The Darling Buds Of May.
    At the time, she was flashing a diamond engagement ring from a little known actor called Angus MacFadyen. She later married the double Oscar winner Michael Douglas.
    What Catherine lacked in vocal ability, she made up for with visual appeal: a breathtaking natural beauty, she chose to perform in a skin-tight rubber cat-suit.
    The budget for guest fees on Jimmy's show was so embarrassingly small that it was little wonder we were never able to entice the big stars onto it.
    Indeed, sometimes we had to call in favours from the host's famous friends. On one such occasion, an obliging Ronnie Corbett agreed to appear, but he was so appalled by the paltry fee he insisted we throw in a case of champagne as well.

    'It is no exaggeration to say that Ant and Dec are treated like royalty'

    The biggest star we landed was veteran actress Raquel Welch. She stipulated that we hire special, flattering studio lights for her, which she insisted on for every TV appearance.
    This lighting was miraculous and immediately transformed her from a well-preserved woman in late middle age to a peachy skinned teenager.
    However, Jimmy sat in the unforgiving glare of the harsh studio lights: the effect was Miley Cyrus meets Shrek.
    Jimmy, although the consummate pro, was not immune from nerves and when he was attacked by them he got what he called 'rubber teeth' and would stumble over his words.
    The rubber teeth were bouncing like a Space Hopper when he interviewed the glamorous Raquel, who he addressed throughout as 'Rackle'.
    Booking guests for Jeremy Clarkson's BBC2 talk show Clarkson in 2000 was another challenge.
    Back then Jeremy didn't enjoy the vast popularity he has today. And agents feared, justifiably, that he would give their clients a rough ride. I'd barely have time to utter the words 'Jeremy Clarkson' before they slammed the phone down.
    To compound my difficulties, Jeremy refused to have guests on his show who were plugging their own projects - and as he had only a tenuous grasp on popular culture he'd never heard of most of the names I put forward.
    Instead, he favoured cerebral personalities and would come up with unhelpful suggestions, like asking me to book a famous vegetarian, so he could provoke their anger by grilling bacon in front of them.
    In desperation, one day I turned to the show's producer for help. I knew she had Jeremy's ear and would, I hoped, understand my predicament and persuade him to be more flexible about the guests.

    But she refused, point blank, to intervene. A while later, I discovered why: a colleague sidled over to me and discreetly placed a copy of a red-top tabloid on my desk.
    It featured a large colour photo of Jeremy and the aforementioned producer, snuggled up together in a parked car, apparently kissing.
    So I was forced to pursue another route. Money seemed the only lure left, so I offered the actor Martin Clunes several thousand pounds - a preposterously large fee at the time for a relatively obscure BBC 2 show - to appear.
    Clunes was a big name following the success of Men Behaving Badly and his agent correctly deduced she had me over a barrel.

    The actor arrived at the TV studios looking a bit sheepish. His first words to me: 'So sorry about the fee, but you know I do have a little daughter to buy shoes for.'
    In contrast, Jerry Springer was delightful to work with and I jumped at the chance to be senior booker when ITV gave him his own Saturday night celebrity chat show, called Springer.
    Jerry was friendly, upbeat and cheerful. When we heard how much he was being paid, we knew why.
    Of course, the fact that he was American helped me inestimably. He had no idea of the calibre of any of the British celebrities I was booking - he'd never even heard of most of them - so I was able to persuade him all of them were top rate.
    Jerry's only stipulation was that a pretty girl be booked on every show so he could ask her out for dinner afterwards.
    I was never sure if he was joking. My sojourn with Springer was a rare joy, but afterwards, with the explosion of reality TV shows in the mid-Nineties, my job changed radically. The currency of celebrity plummeted.

    A parade of sleazy nonentities - from Rebecca Loos to Paul Burrell - achieved their 15 minutes of fame and thereby hijacked the status of star. And it was this catalogue of the infamous and unworthy who peopled the new breed of reality TV shows.
    I was the sole booker on the first series of Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. In 2004 Gordon's star was ascending and his ITV bosses were excited at having signed him up for this new prime-time reality series.
    But when I met Gordon to discuss the guests he hoped to lure into his kitchen, I was stunned by the unfeasibly starry cast- list he presented me with.
    He expected no lesser personalities than David and Victoria Beckham and Madonna; in reality, I knew he'd get a pageant of former soap stars and reality TV rejects. So rather than face his wrath, I bowed out.
    The ultimate reality show is, of course, I'm A Celebrity. . . Get Me Out Of Here! and I joined the booking team on series five.
    Securing the ten castaways for the Australian Bush was a gargantuan task: literally hundreds of celebrities were approached over many months.
    And I cannot pretend that the show's presenters Ant and Dec were remotely involved in the process.

    On the contrary, they remained distanced from the whole business and were unique in being the only hosts I never met until the names of all the participants had been put forward.
    It is no exaggeration to say that Ant and Dec are treated like royalty. They rarely came in for meetings, but when they did we bookers were kept well away while the producers handled them with kid gloves.
    This aloofness continued in Australia, where we stayed at the Versace Hotel with the celebrities, while they checked into luxury apartments many miles away.
    Meanwhile, the jungle internees are paid on a sliding scale according to their fame. A-listers get huge fees while the agents of nonentities offer the services of their clients for practically nothing.

    But what is a celebrity these days? I suspect Bruce Forsyth is hoping for a pageant of true showbiz stars in the new Strictly line-up. The truth is, he'll get the usual lame procession of wannabes and has-beens.
    And as for me: when I started booking series two of Celebrity Love Island and heard people such as Bianca Gascoigne, Kate Lawler and Calum Best touted as possible big-name contenders for the show, I fell out of love with my job.
    So I have returned to writing, where I began my career, and am putting the finishing touches to a book about the weird and wonderful world of celebrity booking.
    The title? What else but I'm A Celebrity Booker . . . Get Me Out of Here!

    Read more: Confessions of a celebrity booker: Sir Paul's diva tantrum, Catherine Zeta-Jones' awful singing, Raquel's 'special' lighting and a surprisingly charmless Ant and Dec | Mail Online

  2. #2
    Elite Member heart_leigh's Avatar
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    Nov 2005


    I think I need glasses. I misread the thread title as Confessions of a celebrity hooker.
    Rock the fuck on!

  3. #3
    Elite Member Brookie's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    In the "D"


    ^ Ha! Me too. Still a good read.
    Life is short. Break the Rules. Forgive Quickly. Kiss Slowly. Love Truly.
    Laugh Uncontrollably. And never regret ANYTHING that makes you smile.

    - Mark Twain

  4. #4
    Elite Member mtlebay's Avatar
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    Oct 2005


    Ooohh... sounds juicy. Will bookmark this for a later read.
    Go Habs Go!!

  5. #5
    Silver Member Speranza's Avatar
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    Mar 2007


    very good read. Seems honest. Not surprised about Mc Cartney, he does act like a diva

  6. #6
    Elite Member NoNoRehab's Avatar
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    Apr 2007


    I swear I read this same article like three years ago. I wonder if the Daily Mail recycled it on a slows news day?
    "Don't trust nobody, and 'nobody' meaning Jay Leno in particular." -Chris Rock

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