I wrote an article recently for Pro Mobile that was a light-hearted look at my career as a Stadium Announcer and highlighted how things don't always go to plan. The article prompted a number of personal messages and a request from the editor to write something similar. During these unprecedented times it's important that we remember to smile and laugh as much as possible, and I hope that is the case when I share just a few of my of my stories with you.
In this article, I'll look at my time as a DJ on the French Riviera. I've been lucky enough to play at some of the most luxurious venues across the Cote D’Azur – but it's not all sunshine and champagne, as you'll soon find out. Before we begin it's important to point out that this article includes references to a number of celebrities, so for those of you curious enough to read on there will be a dust pan and brush available at the end to help you sweep up all the names… CLANG!
GAUCHE OU DROITE?
The first thing to remember when living and working in France is whether it's left or right! I'm not talking about driving, but La Bise, or as we would call it The Kiss! I was in my office preparing the music for that evening’s event when I heard a car pull up outside. It was Louis the pool man. Over the years I had got to know Louis really well. We had progressed from a distant wave to a handshake, and it was now evident that we were ready to move things up to the faire la bise.
The problem is that you never really know how to approach The Kiss, as it varies depending on where in France you are and who the person is. Even after spending over 20 years there, I still haven't a clue! The previous night had seen me arrive home late from another event and, truth be told, I wasn't at my best when Louis burst in to say hello. He was excited to see me, as was I to see him. We went in for The Kiss; he went left, I went right, we kissed... smack bang on the lips! We looked at each other for a few moments, my laptop blasted out James Blunt’s ‘You're Beautiful’, and a vivid memory of the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles came flooding back: “Those aren't pillows!”
I had recently moved to France, it was a few days before the Monaco Grand Prix and I was busy preparing things ahead of a string of parties. I ventured to the local village and found a delightful pizzeria in the town square. At that time, my French wasn't great but it was good enough to order a large beer and a pizza. The owner asked me where I lived and what I did. In my best broken French I informed him that I had recently moved to the area and was working at the Grand Prix and my clients included some of the Formula One teams – at least that's what I thought I'd said. Before I could tell him anything about being a DJ, the owner interrupted me with a loud shout and started calling to his friends and others in the restaurant to come and say hello to me. Suddenly, I had people shaking my hand, slapping my back and buying me drinks, lots of drinks. I had no idea what was going on but went along with things until my pizza arrived. I attempted to pay but the owner waved me away. What was going on…this was bizarre! I thanked everyone and left the restaurant.
I subsequently visited this pizzeria on a regular basis and each time I walked through the doors the owner would make a huge fuss and buy me many drinks. This went on for a couple of weeks until one day I walked in and there was no fuss, nothing – it stopped over night! I sat down at the bar and found out that Formula One racing legend, Kimi Räikkönen, had moved into the village at almost the same time as I did, causing great excitement with the locals who frequented the bar. In some strange misunderstanding it appeared the owner and the regulars thought I was the famous racing driver. Maybe I was…maybe I could keep the charade going and get a few more free beers? Alas, my plan was scuppered when I noticed that sat opposite me in the bar was former Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen. It was like looking in a mirror, ahem!
Father & Son
It's not the first time I landed myself in a tricky situation thanks to a Formula One Champion. I'm not a huge fan of the sport so I wouldn't recognise any of the drivers, with the possible exception of Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton. It was 2017 and I found myself on a small tender – along with a female DJ from Australia – that would take us from Cap-d'Ail marina into Monaco harbour, where we would board a yacht and set things up for the party later that evening (we were both booked to perform a DJ set). A few minutes into the journey, we diverted to another port to pick up one more passenger, a young man who boarded and said hello. He was a very well-dressed, well-groomed chap and had a look of a movie star about him.
The tender bobbed up and down on the ocean and I clung on for dear life whilst the young man sat on the bow looking very cool – maybe he was a movie star? We eventually pulled up to the yacht and upon boarding I was greeted by an elderly gentleman, who I assumed was the captain or a senior member of staff. I asked him if he knew who “that fella” was, as I pointed to the well-dressed young man. He replied, “Yes, I know who he is. That's Nico Rosberg, the current Formula One World Champion. He's my son. This is my yacht. My name is Keke Rosberg.” #awkward
Midsummer Night Sweet Dreams
The venue was a stunning villa in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin situated close to Monaco. Upon arrival, I was informed that I would be required to DJ from the balcony overlooking the pool area where the guests would gather. The theme of the party was Midsummer, with the music style being upbeat and stylish but mainly as background throughout the event. I set myself up on the balcony that protruded from one of the many bedrooms the villa had to offer. The night was going well, the guests were having a great time and the client was happy.
About an hour before I was due to finish my set I was aware of some movement in the bedroom behind me. I turned to investigate and was greeted by an elderly couple who politely informed me that they were the parents of the host and this was their bedroom; they were tired and wanted to go to bed, but I wasn't to worry and should carry on with my job. So, there I am on the balcony playing music for the guests below whilst behind me the two octogenarians were stripping off and getting ready for bed. The old man was quickly fast asleep, but the old lady was taking her time: face cream, chocolates in bed, and some late-night TV to relax her.
Every time I turned around she would shout out “don't mind us darling, we're fine.” Once my set had ended I quickly and quietly dismantled my laptop and controller. By this time, both occupants were asleep and the lights turned off, meaning I had to navigate myself and my equipment through their bedroom without waking them. The last thing to remove was my deckstand. I tiptoed through the dark bedroom and just as I was about to close the door I caught the deckstand on the doorframe – KLANG! The last thing I remember was looking over at the bed as the old lady sat upright, turned on her bedside lamp and shouted, “Don't mind us, darling, we're fine!”
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!
I had just left a venue after loading my vehicle in the sweltering night heat. I was sweating from head to toe and my clothing was sticking to me in places I'd rather it wasn't, so I found a suitable place to pull up and change into the shorts and t-shirt that I always packed in my van. There I was in the early hours of the morning, in one of the most luxurious parts of town, taking my sweat-drenched clothes off in a dark, quiet lay-by when a vehicle approached.
By this time I was naked, with nothing more than a small towel to hide my dignity. I quickly tried to dry myself and whip my fresh boxer shorts on, but – have you ever tried to do that? – my pants started to roll up and no matter how hard I pulled they were lodged just above the knees and slightly lower than the area they were designed to cover. I started to panic and was just about to remove the offending item when a car pulled into the lay-by, headlights on full beam, catching me directly in their light with everything I had on full show.
I cupped my hands over the obvious area and looked over as the car pulled up alongside me. If standing naked in a lay-by wasn't embarrassing enough, I turned out the car is question was in fact a police vehicle. The window wound down and a stern looking officer stared at me in silence. As quick as a flash, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: “I'm British.” The officer turned to his colleague, they laughed, and then drove off. I didn't wave goodbye!
What's That Coming Over The Hill?
I had finished an event at a château situated on the other side of the Gorge De Verdon in the South of France. The drive there was in the day and allowed me to enjoy the breath-taking views of the gorge and all it has to offer. It is one of my favourite places in the world and I never tire of visiting. The sun was shining, the views were magnificent and the two-hour drive to the château was one of the most enjoyable imaginable. The return journey, though, is a different matter. I left the château in the very early hours.
It was dark, lonely and very creepy, as many old châteaus are, so I was already a little on edge. I loaded my van and headed back home, taking the exact same route as before. Total darkness had replaced the breathtaking views, dense fog had dropped in, and the trees seemed to be closing in as I slowly navigated the narrow, winding roads. I had created a USB collection of uplifting music to keep me awake and thought that might help take my mind off the drive home, which now resembled a scene from a horror movie. The first track was from Iron Maiden. Great, that will keep me awake, I thought, until I realised it was their 1992 hit ‘Fear of The Dark’. I quickly skipped to the next track and as the opening chords of The Automatic – ‘Monster’ kicked in, I turned the corner slowly and, in the middle of the dark road, was met by a large wild boar.
I'd often heard the boar in our garden at night but never seen one in the flesh. I'm not sure if you know what a wild boar looks like, so let me try and explain. If you imagine a cross between a giant pig and a sabre-toothed tiger, then you are in the right area. They can grow to be bigger than a small car and can weigh over a tonne. As my headlights illuminated the animal, it slowly raised its tusk-laden head and stared at me through the fog until I got close enough to see the colour of its eyes. It stared at me before running into the woods with several smaller boar following. The rest of the journey back was done at a few mph faster. When I finally arrived home the first things I did were to pour myself a stiff drink and change my underwear.
From Russia With Love
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the greatest spectacles on earth and everyone should experience it at least once in their lives. I was asked to DJ on a yacht in Monaco harbour as part of the Grand Prix party weekend and was hugely excited. This was my first yacht party and I couldn't wait. The client, a Russian billionaire, had requested a DJ to play some current dance tracks until 11pm when he and his guests would depart and head off to party at the hottest club in town – Jimmyz. So, my first yacht party would be pretty straight forward…well, not exactly.
I had played to myself for two hours, as the guests had remained on the other levels. It wasn't until 10pm when a large gentleman approached me and spoke in a strong, gravely Russian accent: “This is my party. You change the music now. You play something for my bitches to dance to, yes?” I was going to remind him of the 'magic word' but thought better of it, especially when I noticed something protruding from his waistline.
I've no idea if he was pleased to see me, but he certainly had a gun in his pocket. I smiled politely and quickly changed the music from upbeat dance to down-tempo R'n'B and classic booty shakers, which the four women immediately reacted to by dancing provocatively for the client and his five male guests, who followed him to the top deck of his yacht. The client looked over, smiled, and gave me a nod.
For the next hour I scrambled my way through a set I wasn't prepared for, managing to pull on my knowledge of music to get me out of a very tight scrape. At 11pm exactly the client came over, shook my hand and left along with his friends and the four ladies. The captain also thanked me and asked me how I managed to get a job as the DJ for some Russian mafia members…what?! He informed me that he only found out a few minutes before they came on-board and had neglected to tell me. I quickly removed my gear from the yacht, returned home, poured myself a large drink and, once again, changed my underwear!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 106, Pages 40-45.