Sympathy For The Devil
A beautiful Friday morning. The April sun is shining brightly over Hyde Park, my favourite oasis of water and grass just close enough to my Kensington flat. If you were looking for me now you’d have trouble spotting me. Everyone in the park is out for their morning run, more than usual for this time of day. It’s the last Friday before the London Marathon on Sunday. Clearly everyone wants to cram as much training in as possible. They’re all dolled up in their trendy fitness gear with their ears dangling narrow bits of string down to their waist, a tiny white or black box pummelling hardcore rhythm in to their brains to distract from the pain of running on concrete. I’m one of them. I join the swarm and head east. My legs switch to autopilot. My brain starts making notes on the music I recently downloaded, picking out anything I may be able to use later. I watch everything work by itself. Now I can talk to you properly.
My name is Dan Shears. Well, that’s my ‘fame name’ if you like. My Hyde. I’m six-foot-four inches tall, athletic build. I have what I call a James Bond type haircut, short and neat, but with a hint of mess and a blonde tinge. If you met me in public I’d be wearing contacts, but in the sanctity of home and work I’d be wearing silver wire rimmed glasses. I’m a radio DJ for one of the UK’s biggest commercial radio stations based here in London, Siren Radio. I work the drive-time shift between three and seven in the afternoon – the second most coveted slot for any DJ behind the flagship breakfast show. I’ve had the highest RAJAR figures for that time slot for the last two consecutive quarters. I’ve been doing the job for ten months. I have a reputation as being ‘irreverent’, a bit of a rebel, a trouble maker - a ladies man. At first The Management were worried my attitude would be “detrimental to their programming policy”, but the RAJAR figures, a couple of lesser industry awards plus a coveted National Broadcasting Award nomination soon shut them up.
I also do a bit of TV work too. Started with doing some voice over work on ads for some terrible dance compilations, then went on to voicing a cable networks weekly chart rundown which gets repeated another five times during the week. I’ve been an occasional guest on a couple of comedy panel quiz shows. I’ve recently been approached to do a pilot for my own evening quiz show, though I’m not holding out much hope of that!
I’ve been splashed all over tabloid pages and a few of those gossip websites with some flattering and less-than-flattering headlines above the intrusive and often grainy pictures. I have to admit, after last night I’m surprised I didn’t see myself on a few of those sites earlier. Maybe Sandra and/or Monique are still haggling for a good price.
I have 2,387 ‘friends’ on Facebook (judging by my email that figure will go up by around thirty by the end of lunch), 1999 followers on Twitter, stopped using MySpace ’cos, well, everyone else has. My Shears Cuts podcast is constantly in the top ten downloads on iTunes. The recently created www.danshears.co.uk gets almost as many hits as the Siren Radio website. My name made it in to the top thirty name searches on Google for last year – number thirty. Just four places behind Graham Sterling, my Dad and the founder of the once renowned Sterling Hotels.
I’m pretty sure Dad was born with a head for business. He started by buying, renovating and reopening an old hotel in Bournemouth, our hometown from the day I was born. By the time he was twenty one, it was the middle of the seventies and The Sterling Grand was winning awards for its rooms, its food, and its service. The hotel was like an extension of Dad’s psyche – everything was pristine, well organised. If anything bad happened there was the kind of fallout you’d expect to see at a small nuclear bomb testing ground. He also had a reputation as a rebel, almost a badass. But unlike me he commanded respect. People feared him. That respect and fear got him four more hotels across the British Isles, and a whole ton of awards, and made him a very rich man. He had to keep up the fear until his mid forties, when his managing assistant Elizabeth Dunbar and a sudden heart attack told him to slow things down. At forty-seven he sold the business for what at the time was a record amount. He remarried, making his assistant his second wife. Then he retired, and moved his new family and expertise to Spain where they opened a popular boutique hotel on the coast. Dad’s done well for himself. What’s that catchphrase, about the apple falling far from the tree?
I accidentally bump in to a slow walking pedestrian, clearly unaware that he is slowing the training masses that seem to care as little as he does. I manage to manoeuvre past him, catching a glimpse of the tabloid rag that’s seeming to sap all of his brain power. There’s a large grainy picture of two well-known glamour models flanking a tall, trendy male celebrity. All three are clearly hammered. The headline reads Shears To Cut Down? They never seem to run out of puns. No wonder Dad wanted me to change my name. No wonder he left the country!
At Hyde Park Corner the lush greenery is replaced by the heaving rush hour traffic between Knightsbridge and Leicester Square. I would usually cross the road and run a little more through Green Park but I’m running low on time. I could take the bus but I can’t face the constant stop-start journey, so I jog down to the Hyde Park Corner tube station. It’s close to 9am. Rush hour is always a pain for anyone trying to get to work. The Piccadilly Line at this time feels like an experiment being done by yet another celebrity chef to show us how poorly battery chickens are treated by trying to cram as many commuters as possible on to a narrow steel tube, all the time asking “how do you like it then eh? Well??”
I jostle for position in the tube, ending up being forced against the opposite door. I’m a fairly tall bloke. If you saw me stood there with nothing else around, just a plain white background, you’d be looking at a tall hunchback wearing a five kilogram weight on the right side of his head. No chance of making any notes for the show. I catch a lyric in one of the new tunes which immediately makes me laugh:
Makin’ a move on the K and the Dizzle
Be cookin’ ma breakfast she make ma sausage sizzle
Funk-Daddy’s latest assault on the chart called Reach Round sounds destined to be a sure-fire number one smash then! I feel a parody song coming on. I should stop smiling; I’m getting some dodgy looks. One disgruntled co-commuter looks up from her trashy tabloid and stares at me. She looks back at the page, back at me, shakes her head and back at the paper. I’m sure I hear her tutting her apparent disapproval above the creak and moans of the train as she turns the page. It must be bad. I pray these pictures haven’t made it to the European papers yet.