In my humble opinion, what you can and should be reasonably willing to do to snag an autograph of your favourite celebrity includes:
1) doing Sherlock Holmes investigations
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 me, I already ticked all these 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 if you can really tell the difference from fake merchandising as both are likely to come from the same factory in China – but you should never pay to meet your heroes.
Those who pay for a meet and greet disrespect life.
I had this in mind that afternoon of December 2006 as I was riding my moped through Via del Corso, in Rome – where – at a large music store – the band I had loved as a kid was holding a meet and greet for fans.
Take That were getting together again after 10 years since they’d split in 1996, and they were now touring internationally to promote Beautiful World, their first album since the reunion.
It was one of these events where you buy the new album and you are given a limited-edition plastic wristband you’ll bring with you on the following day to be admitted to the meet and greet with the band.
With your wristband, you can see the boys for about 10 seconds and get your copy signed.
Without the wristband, you are out.
I hadn’t bought the new album and didn’t have any wristbands on me.
I was also sceptical about the reunion.
The 1990s were over. They weren’t kids anymore and we the fans weren’t kids anymore either. Neither Mark Owen, Gary Barlow nor Howard Donald had succeeded as musicians.
Robbie Williams was still angry and kept biting the hand that once fed him – and still, like some sort of a merciless life metaphor – he was the only one having a successful solo career.
But he had also become a drug addict.
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 Orange was about to quit.
The dream was over, and the reunion didn’t make any sense to me.
But when I woke up that morning, I felt so powerfully strong that my place, my people and all of me belonged there.
I had no choice.
And without the plastic wristband, I had zero chance to make it.
I needed to come up with a plan with no time for one.
But when you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose, and so, the moment I walked into the music store I turned into somebody else.
I decided I was going to be a wealthy journalist doing some mass hysteria reporting.
And it wasn’t completely untrue: I certainly am a journalist.
As for the rest, I was unemployed, broke and afraid of getting arrested.
With a bored, uncaring and snobbish attitude that literally came from nowhere, I went straight to the security guy.
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.
Meanwhile, hundreds of women were screaming their heads off around me. There was a hell of a mess and everybody had their plastic wristbands on them.
Before the security guy could get back to me, I quickly asked if he didn’t think it was all so silly, didn’t he? I mean, all this mayhem for what? For who? Who did Take That think they were? The Beatles? The Rolling Stones?
Without even looking at my press card, which might have perfectly been a gym subscription as far as I’m concerned, 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 the four Take That.
I was carrying around an old copy of Everything Changes, a Take That album 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 his turn came, 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 never quite 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 wake yourself up from that beautiful dream, the gorillas slapped you awake.
And then they physically forced you out without ceremony.
It’s there that you realise that the whole process had lasted just a few seconds, but that you are keeping another place, a place just for yourself, where this frame will last forever.
In your heart.
★ If you liked this story, you’ll also love Dedicated to my fellow 1990s Take That screaming fans which was discussed in the New Zealander podcast I’m with the boyband by “boybandologists” Amy and Zoe [episode 39 ‘MMMBOP‘ of 24th January 2020]. Click here to hear the clip!
Video by Gaia Matteini © sourced from YouTube. All rights reserved to the author.
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