In my opinion, what you can and should be reasonably willing to do to snag an autograph of your favourite celebrity includes:
1) doing high-speed car chases
2) climbing hotel walls
3) hiding in a bush
4) pretending that you are about to faint on the floor and then asking for a glass of water and then disappearing behind a wall
5) lying to security guys
6) seducing security guys
7) being security guys
As for myself, I already ticked all the above boxes except for one (guess which one), and my point is: it’s OK to pay for a live show, for a CD, for official merchandising as well as for fake merchandising (since both of them are probably coming from the same factory in China), but you should never pay to meet your heroes.
Those who pay for a meet and greet cheat life.
I had this in mind that afternoon of December 2006 while I was riding my moped to Via del Corso, in Rome – where, at a large music store, the band I had adored as a kid was holding a meet and greet for fans.
Take That had just got back together after exactly 10 years since they’d split in 1996, and now they were touring internationally to promote Beautiful World, their first album after the reunion.
This was one of the events where you buy the new album and you are given a limited-edition plastic wristband you’ll need to bring on the following day to be admitted to the meet and greet with the band.
With your wristband, you can see the guys for about 10 seconds and get your copy signed.
Without your wristband, you are out.
I hadn’t bought the new album, thus I didn’t have any wristband on me.
I was also quite sceptical about the reunion.
The 90s were over. They weren’t kids anymore, I wasn’t a kid anymore either.
Neither Mark, Gary or Howard had succeeded as musicians on their own, while Robbie Williams had been biting the hand that was paying his bills, and though – like some sort of a merciless life metaphor – he was the only one having a really successful solo career.
But he had also become a drug-addicted.
The rest of the band had spent the past 10 years struggling between either depression and alcoholism, or both. Robbie wasn’t in, and Jason will have soon left.
The dream was over, and this reunion didn’t make any sense to me.
But when that morning I woke up, I felt so powerfully strong that my place, my people and all of me belonged there.
I had no choice.
But without the plastic wristband, my chance to make it was less than zero.
I had to come up with a plan, but I had no time for it.
To my greatest shock, the moment I finally walked into the music store I unintentionally turned into somebody else.
With a bored, uncaring and snobbish attitude that literally came from nowhere, I went straight to the security guy.
Showing off an unlikely newly-invented Middle-Class accent, I brandished my press card and – pretending that I didn’t give a shit about it all – I asked whether the press officer was already upstairs with the guys.
What press officer, for Christ’s sake? I didn’t know anybody there.
I barely spoke any English at the time.
I decided I was going to be a wealthy journalist doing some offbeat reporting about this mass hysteria.
This wasn’t completely untrue: I certainly am a journalist.
As for the rest, I was unemployed, broke and scared as hell, and my brain had just downgraded to the conditions of a teenage monkey.
Before the man could reply, I quickly ask if he didn’t think that this was ridiculous, did he? I mean, all this mess for what? For who? I mean, who do they think they are? The Beatles? The Rolling Stones?
Without even looking at my press card, which – as far as everybody’s concerned – might have perfectly been a disguised gym subscription, he let me in.
I couldn’t believe what I’d just done.
And I couldn’t believe that, three minutes later, I was kissing Mark Owen on the cheek while getting my CD cover signed by all the four Take That.
I was carrying around an old copy of Everything Changes, a Take That album that was released in 1993, and they looked at it suspiciously, as if Robbie Williams might have jumped out of the cover to punch them in the face.
Even though he must be at least 0.43 ft shorter than me, Mark Owen has always been my favourite, so when it came to his turn, I whispered the following into his ears: “❤❤❤❤Oh Marky, I loved you so much when I was young ❤❤❤❤!!!”.
He smiled and mumbled something in return, but I’ve never really understood if it was “Oh, I am alone now” or “Oh, I am old now”.
Try to repeat these two sentences and you’ll get a bit confused. Repeat them with both his Oldham accent and guttural sounds and you’ll get completely lost.
But before you could even wake yourself up from the dream, the gorillas slapped you awake.
And then they physically forced you out without ceremony.
It’s there that you realised that the whole process had lasted just a few seconds, but that you hold another place where this moment will last forever.
In your heart.