09:29: Only my second official day as station controller and there isn’t a fan big enough to blow away all the shit heading my way. I’ve been doing the job in an intermediary capacity pretty much since David left. As it turns out I’m pretty good at this business malarkey – guess that first class business degree came in handy after all! I tried running the station and doing the drive-time show together, but there was no chance. I had to quit. To be honest it was time. I wasn’t enjoying it any more and when I saw the money Siren were offering me to run the station full time, well the word ‘no’ vanished from my brain.
Emma will tell you it was all her idea. It was what she was trying to tell me when I rang her from Bournemouth a few weeks ago, but I was too distracted to take any notice. Yep, she thought I’d be perfect. So I guess I can blame her! “It’s nine-thirty” she says, peering her head round the glass door. “We’re late, let’s go!”
“Emma what the fuck is this shit?” I ask, waving over my new Head of Production to my big mahogany desk.
She leans over my left shoulder, moving the ‘no smoking’ paperweight, and stares at the computer screen. “Looks like Harry’s plans for increasing the audience figures.”
“Right, and look at the money he’s budgeted for doing that.”
“It’s less than last year! This man hasn’t got a fucking clue!”
Harry Foster-Smythe is the head-honcho of Siren Media; kind of a poor mans Rupert Murdoch, but with less understanding of the radio industry than that of a small kitten with a brain clot. Seriously, the man couldn’t direct a runaway train off a collapsed railway bridge. How he got so fucking rich is beyond me!
“Look this has to wait. Big meeting, remember?”
We rush out of my office and toward the lifts, passing an excitable Mikey on the way who, for some reason, is dressed as Batman today. “Fathers for justice?” I ask.
He looks a little confused. “N’ah, ran out of clothes. It was either this or Big Bird!”
The man’s a total nut job. Funny, but pretty close to insane! That’s why I couldn’t let him do drive by himself, despite all of his fans signing an online petition. You can have too much of a good thing. So as a compromise I teamed him up with underground TV presenter Diane Singer. This is their third week together and so far so good, although I think I’ve seen Diane stocking up on headache tablets!
In the lift we catch a few seconds of the new Breakfast Show. “Ooh don’t forget” Emma says. “Meeting with Marcus at twelve!”
I’d almost forgotten. That’ll be a sad one. The first day I started filling in as temporary controller one of the first things I had to do was take Marcus’ resignation letter. Apparently he’d been thinking of leaving for a while, but after finding his kid in hospital with two broken ribs and a fractured hip, and his ex-wife announcing that she was moving away from London and taking the kids with her, he just had to follow. I’ve been using my contacts to help find him a job down in Brighton and he’s landed a daytime shift on one of the local stations. It should tide him over while he looks for something ‘more grown-up’ as he put it. I’ll actually be a little sad to see him go. Anyway with him gone I brought in fellow National Broadcasting Award Winners Chris Furst, Michael Parker-Jones and Sarah Giggins, and already ‘Breakfast with Chris, Domehead & Sares’ is climbing up the ratings. In just a few weeks I’ve been able to give this place a much needed boost of adrenaline. Yeah, I’m proud of myself.
* * *
Twenty minutes later we’re walking down Poland Street, just off a packed Oxford Street heading deep in to Soho territory. “Oh yeah, and you’ve got an interview with someone for the Journalist job at one-thirty.”
“Another one?” I ask with frustration. “I thought we were going to hire that Mary Howard chick, she was really good.”
“Yeah she found another job, on TV apparently.”
We’re nearly at our destination so we start getting our game faces on. We’re here to brain-storm some ideas with one of our increasingly successful clients. It’s a bit of a weird thing for the station controller to come to one of these things. Usually someone from sales handles it, but the company’s boss has demanded that I be there. I’m trying not to let myself be nervous, but I’ve not seen her in five weeks. We’ve talked – well, ‘Tweeted’ a little, exchanged obscure YouTube clips on Facebook and sent a few texts back and forth - all very friendly. But this is our first proper meeting since she left for Amsterdam. Okay, I’m nervous!
We walk through the trendy, brightly lit entrance hall of the Vantage Modelling Agency Inc. offices and head straight for reception. Behind the tall desk is an array of models head shots; some up-and-coming, some well known. It’s hard not to see one of them - Brad Burt’s stunning blue eyes are almost magnetic in their effect.
“Oh hi!” The person whom we have to assume is the receptionist greets us. Wow, maybe when the models aren’t modelling they double up behind reception? Bloody efficient if you ask me. “She’s expecting you. Please go on through.”
We head down a narrow corridor, flanked on either side by more portraits and magazine covers. I spot the familiar faces of Sandra and Monique, and of course Suzy. There’s a brilliant one of her stood on some exotic beach in a small red bikini, hair down past her shoulders, waves crashing on the rocks behind her while she strikes one of her trademark poses. She taught me that one!
We get to an office guarded on two sides by thick Perspex glass. Inside I can see three figures; one of them looks to be pacing back and forth with almost as many uncontrollable nerves as me. She looks startled when she sees us through the glass. It takes a couple of seconds for her to signal for us to come in.
“Dan, Emma” she says. “Thanks for coming.”
We both get cursory hugs from our client before she introduces her colleagues. Carol Childes sits in a power-suit, mid-forties I’d say, with a short black bob highlighting a stern jaw-line. She’s a PR guru apparently, and you don’t need to be told she’s a real ball-breaker. And then there’s sales expert Roger Moore (I kid you not!) – sharply dressed in an expensive grey suit and black loafers, with a shiny bald head and goatee that looks like it’s trimmed daily by a precision laser. Compared to them Emma and me look like a right bunch of scruff-mongers. Even my retro guitar themed t-shirt and favourite brown jacket don’t help.
We settle in to a couple of comfy leather armchairs, get through a few standard pleasantries, and struggle with the choice between still or sparkling water. I want to ask if there’s any chance of a coffee, but I think I’ll make do with my early morning mocha I downed earlier. Finally we get down to business; Suzy wants to run her own version of a talent competition for models, giving them a shot at a contract. Not exactly an original premise she admits, but everyone agrees it’ll boost publicity. That’s where we come in.
“Would you guys be able to come up with some kind of campaign for the radio?”
We start throwing ideas around; obvious things like website content, and maybe bringing them in to the studio to do challenges. It’s all a bit obvious, and if I’m honest I don’t really need to be here. After half an hour a full strategy is drawn up and we agree to meet again at the end of the week with a firm plan. Everyone stands up and starts saying their goodbyes. I catch a glimpse of Suzy stood away from the group. For a second I think she’s staring at me.
Me and Emma head for the door, and Suzy offers to show us out. We say another goodbye to Carol and Roger, and start our return to the reception.
“Suzy have you got any loo’s here?” Emma asks. “That waters gone right through me so quick I’m gonna piss like a racehorse!”
“Probably not something we needed to know Ems!” I say with mock embarrassment.
Suzy just smiles. “Back down there, past my office. It’s on the left.”
While Emma goes off to relieve herself I stand opposite our client, unsure of what to say. The corridor is so narrow we’re almost touching. Someone has to say something!
“So how are you Dan?” she asks, looking more like a nervous school girl than that high-flying business woman.
“Good” I nod. “Good. And you look…”
“Great, actually. Amazing, as always!”
Wow, I’ve actually lost the ability to talk. I must have something else. “So, how’s Ryan doing?” Yeah, keep it safe. Family’s safe. “Heard his bands new album the other day. Sounds brilliant.”
“Yeah, he said he’d sent you a copy. Thanks for helping him with that by the way!”
“Ah didn’t really do much.” I say, trying to be modest. Truth be told I called every contact I’d built up over the last few years telling them about the Four-nicators. Took a while but someone finally bit, offered them a fairly decent record deal.
“Still, thanks. It was really nice of you!”
Silence again. Oh fuck it, let’s go for broke. “So I thought we’d get to see Rupert today. Off on some big meeting is he?”
I can’t help but notice she’s playing with her hands. “Oh I’m sure he is somewhere!” She forces a smile before holding her hand up. No ring. There’s no fucking ring! “We ended things a while ago.”
I try so hard not to smile. “What happened?”
“Well he was…”
“A workaholic? A control freak? A bad fuck?” My list could go on!
“A complete prick!”
We both let out our own little snigger. “He was half-Dutch right?” I check.
“What was the other half?”
We both start full on laughing. Lets be honest, she’s just broken off her engagement so this could’ve quite easily gone the other way. She stops herself suddenly, probably very aware now that she’s being closely watched by her receptionist, not to mention Carol and Roger. “It’s good to see you again Dan!”
“We should get going!” Emma’s back. Perfect timing! She’s clearly oblivious to what she’s interrupted. Yeah, a couple of old friends laughing, big deal.
“Look we need to go” I say, both Suzy and me following Emma’s rushed lead back to the front door. “But we could meet up sometime if you’re free?”
“Sure I’d like that” she smiles. “I’ll text you or something.”
Back out on Portland Street Emma turns heels and rushes off, leaving me standing in front of the door. “Come on, we’ve got a production meeting in ten minutes” she shouts back, not caring that she’s blocking a white van trying to make it out of another buildings delivery entrance. I start walking after her, peering back in to the Vantage building. I can’t see her, she’s gone again.
Stupid bloody production meetings!