In Da Club
18:19 – Talk about cutting it fine! I honestly thought when we left the flat that, yes, it was going to be close. But when Karim realised that he’d left his camera and chequered cravat at mine (the latter apparently much more important) we had to double back and start the whole process again. This also meant that I got the chance to play the role of ‘Understanding Neighbour’ and help ‘Misery Mike’ pick what he could find of his belongings up off the road. He’s moving out, like I and the entire neighbourhood hadn’t figured that out already!
Anyway we’re finally here, and already the club is heaving. I dread to think what this place will be like around eight when the place, as Emma put it earlier, ‘kicks off’. There’s a small chance I’ll never find out as the tree-trunk of a bodyguard (who makes even Brad look like a Hobbit) is insisting its invitation only. As I keep frequently getting reminded, I don’t have an invitation.
“I called ahead earlier today” Brad starts in a very firm tone. “I spoke to Justin in advertising and he said he would add another plus one to my invite!”
“Justin?” the giant checks.
“Yes, that’s him!”
“Oh you mean little Justin Davis, the events co-ordinator.”
“Exactly, Justin Davis.”
“Yeah he was fired two weeks ago. Apparently he got caught watching porn on the work computers. I escorted him out myself.”
Neither one of us had anything left, certainly Karim knew better than to throw one of his tantrums.
“Yo Dan the man, what you doing here?” It takes me a while to recognise the voice. “I thought you weren’t gonna bother coming to this!”
I never for one second in my life thought I’d be relieved to see this man.
“Yo Marcus, you know this guy?” the bouncer asks.
Marcus stares at me. The last time this happened we were at the opening of a new restaurant and he claimed he had no idea who I was and had me escorted off the premises by two armed policemen. “Yeah man, this is Dan Shears!”
The bouncers head spins back to me. “This true? You Dan Shears?”
“Yep, that’s me!” I catch a glimpse of Karim and Brad nodding furiously in agreement.
“Oh man I wish you’d said. Love your show man!” Apparently my celebrity status still carries some weight. If only I’d known, I should’ve just done the classic ‘don’t you know who I am?’ routine. “Hey your job safe? Read that shit in the paper.”
“Yeah I’m still here” I say, trying not to glance in to the club and look too eager. Can’t afford to be rude here. “It was all a load of bullshit!”
“Man I’m sorry, didn’t recognise you there. You look a lot shorter in the papers!”
Maybe I should hire Karim as an official photographer? Eventually, after posing for a couple of pictures on his mobile, taken very professionally by Karim, the bouncer not only lets us in, but escorts us through to the main room, and with every step the music gets louder and louder. Most people barely pay us any attention at first, although I am well aware of the surprised looks on a few people’s faces. “What’s he doing here?” I bet they’re saying to each other. “I can’t believe he even has the nerve to show his face.” To be honest I’m surprised I do either. The amount of make-up that Karim covered me in to try to hide the massive bruise that is my face probably makes me look like I’ve been ‘Tangoed’ with all the neon lights around. Still, that wouldn’t be the reason they’re thinking that.
Brad has turned on the charm big time, schmoozing with who I assume are the ‘right people’. I forgot the reason he was even here – he is a model after all. There’s magazine editors and marketing ‘experts’ coming out of the walls, and Brad is using those chiselled good looks and big blue eyes to woo the pants off them. It’s impressive to watch him work the room, and just as funny to watch Karim’s reaction to his husband blatantly flirting with a photographer.
“No points for guessing why you changed your mind then?” Marcus is already halfway to getting completely off his face. That’s the price you pay when you invite him to somewhere with a free bar. “So have you seen anyone you know?”
I somehow manage to hear the question but I don’t have the mental capacity to answer – all my efforts are concentrated on finding her now. It’s made slightly difficult by all the strobe lights around me. I’m just grateful I’m not epileptic! And then there’s another concern:
“Thanks everyone, we’re the Four-nicators and this is a song from our EP, it’s called ‘Take A Wrong Turn’, which as you’ve probably seen is available to buy for a small price from right here tonight.” The crowd cheers, I take a massive nervous gulp. “This song is called ‘Cut The Power, Kill The DJ’”. The crowd goes mental as the drummer counts in four beats and the all too familiar guitarist and lead singer strikes up a big E chord.
“They’re fucking awesome aren’t they?” Marcus shouts in to my ear. “I think I met the lead singer once.”
He did, when Ryan and his band came in to do the live set - ungrateful little shit! So, guess it makes sense that Suzy would want some kind of family connection here at her big party, but why did it have to be her brother? I guess the band are okay, but they’re way too loud for my liking. Christ, I knew Bournemouth has a reputation as an old-people’s town but I never thought it was contagious! And then it happens – someone finds that remote control and hits the slow button again. Even though this had happened before, and it was scary then, I’m petrified now. This time it means something. This time I know what I could lose.
* * *
Brad is here for an important meeting. Apparently Vantage had approached him ages ago to be one of their lead models in their publicity campaign but things hadn’t quite worked out because of ‘other commitments’. I guess the wedding fell in that bracket. So he’ s here to find out exactly what was expected of him and not, as I kept on thinking, to get me back in Suzy’s good books. Brad makes a bee-line for Suzy and her sharply dressed entourage and naturally I follow stealthily in his wake, but somehow manage to lose him in the crowd – no mean feat given he’s the equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a dwarves only disco. I try the more direct approach of heading there under my own steam but either keep missing them or keep getting blocked off by fans of the show who seem relieved to see I’m not dead, or fans of Suzy who by all accounts wish the exact opposite. One dude even tries to pick a fight with me, saying that Suzy’s going home with him tonight and he’s there to protect her no matter what. I’m guessing what with the crazed look in his eyes and the fact that two security men soon appeared to remove him from the club it’s a small fantasy on his part, and for probably half the population in here – including myself.
I take a break from stalking Suzy and head over to the bar to try and calm my nerves. Ironically that’s when I finally catch her eye – she’s on one of the balconies above. Everyone around her is deep in conversation but she seems less chatty. To be honest she looks exhausted. Sure she hides it well, and I bet no one else could spot it, but I can. She forces a smile and raises her champagne glass to me, but rather than being my usual cool self and returning the raise, or even signalling back with something as simple as a wave, I point to her asking her not to move, and pounce forward towards the stairs. This sudden burst of energy causes a slight commotion – a few people move out the way, a couple more fall over, and there’s several glasses smashing on the floor as I push forward with all my strength through the crowd, to the warm arms of the waiting bodyguards. I panic – I don’t want to get thrown out. I can’t get thrown out, I’m too close. I’m bordering on doing my own dramatic reinterpretation of one Karim’s child-like tantrums when Marcus steps in. He’s shouting but I can’t hear much over the music and general confusion. “You have to help me!” he shouts down my left ear. “Please!”
* * *
Marcus has been called a lot of things over the years; ‘Idiot’, ‘arrogant’, ‘talent-less twat’ – and those are just from the listeners! But no one can say that he isn’t a good father, not even his ex-wife. Turns out one of his brood was out at a friend’s birthday party and had fallen down a flight of stairs. No one knows how bad it is but an ambulance had been called, and one panicked father needed a big favour. At first I thought he wanted me to help him get across the other side of London to be with his kid, but that wouldn’t have made much sense unless he wanted me to carry him on his back – which I’ve done once before and never again! But this I can handle. He’d been booked to DJ the event and now of course he can’t. I told Marcus not to worry and get to his kid. He thanked me with way more gratitude than I’ve ever seen from him, handed me an envelope with an invoice in that he said had to go to Suzy which got quickly stuffed in my jacket pocket, and left. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move so fast.
It’s getting close to eight o’clock. I’ve been left a set list of what to play after the grand speeches which are pencilled in for no more than five minutes, but Marcus did say that someone would give me more information closer to the time. Any closer than this and I’ve got a horrible feeling I’m going to be opting for the Justified Ancients of Moo-Moo game!
“I heard what happened. Is Marcus ok?”
It’s still loud because I’m stood by the speakers, but it’s a lot easier to hear her now her brother’s band has finally stopped. I turn to face her and, not for the first time, have my breath taken away. She looks amazing; glamorous, classy. This perfect long black dress fits her like a glove. Her hair flows like a waterfall over her shoulders. Her eyes are like bright headlights, and I’m stood here like a dumb-ass rabbit caught in their glare and not doing a damn thing! “He’s a bit panicked” I shout back, suddenly realising that I’m not too far behind him. Stood beside her is a mop of long, sweaty hair propped up by a Van Halen t-shirt and holding a beer bottle, staring at me with such intensity I’m wondering if he’s trying to use the Force to strangle me. “I asked him to let me know as soon as he knows something!”
She nods with a half smile before handing over a couple of sheets of A4, but keeping an envelope back. “This is what we need for the next couple of hours. Nothing too fancy, just show them a good time. We’ll do the speeches in a few minutes from over there by the ice sculptures.”
I just stand there and nod. She’s mesmerising. She’s stood right in front of me and clearly waiting for me to say something. Now would be the ideal moment to lay it all on the line, were it not for her brother Ryan who I don’t think has blinked since I first noticed him. And to be honest even if he wasn’t here this probably isn’t the best time for me to lay it all out there. This is her big night, the start of something she’s been working on since way before the two of us even met. The last thing I want is for her to get all flustered or, God forbid, angry before she has to perform her duty as head honcho. Okay it’s a copout, but it’s done with the best intentions. “Right, um Marcus said to give you this.” I reach in to my jacket and hand her the envelope. “Nothing important, it can wait ’til everything is finished here”.
“Right” she smiles back. “Well thanks for helping out. You really saved me!” She pats me on the shoulder and turns round. Finally Ryan’s evil stare stops and he turns his head.
“Um, good luck, with the speeches.”
“Oh thanks. Took a leaf out of your book and wrote everything down.” She waves another envelope in front of her.
“Well, don’t get those two confused!”
“I’ll try not to!” She smiles and starts down the stairs. I don’t want her to go.
“You look amazing!” I shout this obvious statement at the top of my voice, attracting a little more attention than I intended. Suddenly Ryan is back, staring at me over her shoulder like some evil demonic parrot. To be honest though I’m not sure whether him being there or not would have made any difference to her less-than-bothered response.
“Thanks. Nice jacket by the way!”
She floats down a couple of stairs and back in to the crowd. Ryan pauses for a couple of seconds and stares at me again, this time adding in a hand gesture pointing to his eyes and then back to me. I’m guessing that either means that he’s watching me, or he wants to give me his eyes when he dies as part of his organ donor pledge. He turns back to catch up with his sister, and I follow their every step until she’s swallowed up by the heaving crowd. I hope that wasn’t my only shot.