The Life of Brian

Brian Belo Big Brother

Big Brother winner Brian Belo. An easy target if ever there was one. The man has a voracious appetite for self-deprecation and mortification and I knew that I could present pretty much anything to his people and would get a positive response. And why shouldn’t I. Like a prizefighter who’s taken a pasting and is looking to get his career back on track, the next fight needs to be an easy one. Something to build the confidence. As with Dyer and Winstone, I had got ahead of myself thinking Peter Andre was stagnating. I needed to ease my way back into the game, so after a few weeks off I targeted Brian.

He is the archetypal Z-lister, but his comic value is unrivalled. If you’re unfamiliar with Brian this example from The Weakest Link may illuminate the kind of character I was targeting. He was given the question ‘In prisoner of war camps during WW2, what ‘T’ was a kind of underground passage that was frequently dug as a means of escape?’ His answer? ‘Herbal tea’.

So after some brainstorming with a colleague of mine I sent this:

Dear Vickie

I am writing to enquire about the availability of Mr Brian Belo for a feature show I am hoping to put together. The title of the proposed show would be ‘Belo Par’ and would see Brian working with a former golf pro in an attempt to earn a European ProTour playing card. I’m currently in discussions with Nick Faldo’s agent, which would be amazing, but they are being tricky. I have two alternatives lined up in the form of Darren Clarke and a standby PGA Pro who has had moderate international success. I am trying to secure interest from all parties before I begin to pitch this properly to interested production companies. I believe Brian’s infectious nature and camera presence would make him ideal for a show that would have the public rooting for him.

Does Brian have any golfing experience? What is his schedule like for the rest of the year?

I would be grateful for any assistance you could give me with this.

After sending the email I watched a few more videos of Brian’s antics and slowly an awful feeling of shame descended on me. It was like bullying an intellectually disabled man-child. The online equivalent of telling a Down syndrome boy swear words and laughing as he shouts them out on the bus (sort of). Then a serendipitous twist of fate changed everything.

I came down the stairs for the eastbound Circle line train at Liverpool Street station and there he was on the platform, chatting to a young brunette, who looked like a glamour model of some sort. I couldn’t believe it. I positioned myself within ear shot and tuned into their conversation. What I heard surprised me. What had happened to the guy from Big Brother who didn’t know what the universe was? The man who froze when asked which came first, WW1 or WW2? The man who had done this child-like recitation of Shakespeare?

Here was this tall, upright, evidently erudite and eloquent young man, talking with sense and confidence. It was all a f**king ruse. He was playing a character. He had fooled us all. I later found out he had actually been the ‘brains’ behind the original concept for The Only Way is Essex. I concede, this is perhaps not a legitimate source of pride, but it demonstrated the man was switched on, savvy and ambitious. He was definitely not this dimwit he portrayed for the cameras. I passed happily down the platform, my guilt slipping away. This man, this Brian, was far more than I had given him credit for. Initially I sent my email to Brian’s old management and got no reply. Only recently I resent it to his new management, a more professional outfit who got back to me with this response:

Thanks – this sounds like great fun. No Brian doesn’t have any golf experience but I’m guessing that’s the point? By all means feel free to put Brian’s name to the project. He is relatively free the back end of this year- doing some post production but it’s fairly flexible.

Best of luck with getting the project off the ground.

Vickie White

I’ve decided i’m going to try and take this one as far as I can. If possible I will expose him for the smart, charming, polite and excellent conversationalist he is. The British public deserve to know who Brian Belo really is.

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Aussie Raised, Cypriot Flavoured Pop Star

‘Baby girl, I said tonight is your lucky night, Peter Andre along wid Bubbler Ranx ‘pon de mic.’

Thus, with unrivalled eloquence, was launched the career of one of the finest pop sensations this country, nay the world, has ever seen. The 90s were great for reggae fusion. Shaggy, Inner Circle, Shaka Demus and Pliers, Pato Banton all championed the cause of dropping the letter ‘h’ where written and placing it unnecessarily before every word beginning with a vowel (‘there’s someting in her heyes like a spell, getting me ‘ipnotised’). Peter was right in amongst them. With his oiled, chiselled torso, laquered hair and oversized American sports apparel he was a sight to behold but he never reached those Mysterious Girl heights again. For years he languished in obscurity, while apparently Bubbler Ranx found work in Sainsbury’s in Lewisham, where his assistant section manager had a nightmare of a time keeping him off the Tannoy.

An appearance in the Jungle liberated Andre from the doldrums of a faltering career. A few years with Jordan were to follow, and like Scottie Pippen he played second fiddle for much of it. A ‘Junior’ and a slightly disconcerting looking ‘Princess’ later and the man was on the up. Now was the time to strike. I wanted to ride that wave, and what better way to do it than appeal to his forever giving charitable nature. He’s a busy guy though so this was a complete shot in the dark:

Dear Mr Howard,

 
I’m hoping for some information on the availability in the coming months of Mr Peter Andre. I’m pitching a selection of ideas for shows, all within an overarching ‘nursery rhyme’ season, and i’m optimistic that Channel 4 will eventually go with it.
 
The show I have in mind for Mr Andre is to be titled Peter Piper. Running for an intended six shows, the premise is that Peter will learn the bagpipes over the course of six intensive weeks, with the aim of a final charity performance with the Scots Dragoon Guards. I believe it could be a really fun experience with a great finish. Peter’s natural warmth and doggedness would shine through with such a task. 
 
I look forward to hearing from you soon

Come on, the man had his arm around a bloated bag of wind for almost four years of marriage. He’d be awesome at the bagpipes. Alas, I am yet to hear back, but I will chase it up.

Mayo For Sam, Mayo For Salad

After digging up the email to Tinie Tempah’s agent from 2011, I got a rush of green and red to the head and thought I’d have to do something for the 2013 campaign. I have another song idea in the pipeline but to get the wheels lubed I decided to pitch this idea to Hellman’s:

Dear Hellman’s,

My name is X and I am a PR and marketing assistant with the Mayo GAA, based here in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland.

You might not know but our senior football team have recently won the Connacht Championship and now find themselves in the semi-finals of the All Ireland Championship. In two weeks they will be playing in the 80,000 seater Croke Park stadium in Dublin.

Myself and Aiden McLoughlin (PR manager) have been considering the idea of a joint campaign with yourselves, with a tagline something like ‘Which is the best Mayo in Ireland?’. The plan then would be to maybe get some double sided flags branded with a Mayo crest on one side and the Hellman’s logo on the other. We would distribute these around the county before the match and they’d be all over the stands in Croke Park. We are firm favourites to reach the final, and so such a campaign could potentially run into the last week of September.

Please feel free to get in touch if this sounds like an idea you might like to pursue and we can discuss in more detail.

 

Can you imagine if a crate load of Hellman’s/Mayo flags turn up at MacHale Park? There’ll be some head scratching that day. Maigh Eo abú.

Tinie, Get Your Togs On

I was going through some of my old emails and found this last night. I had completely forgotten about it as it was sent over a year before my ‘first’ one to Dean Gaffney. At the time, the Mayo gaelic football team were competing in the 2011 All Ireland Championships and I had a notion of getting a famous star to come up with a song for them. This is quite a common thing in the GAA. Any year that a team looks like going on a bit of a run in the Championship, an accompanying song surfaces. I had a vision of a World in Motion (England, World Cup 1990) type set up and Tinie Tempah was the man I had pegged for the star role. I had just found out he had played a bit of gaelic as a youngster and hoped his ties to the game might seal the deal:

Dear Mr Asika,
 
I read today that Tinie Tempah used to play Gaelic football when he was at his former school, St. Paul’s. I was greatly excited to read that such a well known star had taken part in one of Ireland’s finest traditions. I sincerely hope he enjoyed his time ‘togging out’.
 
I am writing, presently, in an unofficial capacity, to enquire about his potential interest in recording a song with the Mayo Gaelic Football Team as part of their drive to win the All Ireland Football Championship in 2011. We would hope to do this in July this year. Have just remembered we’re actually playing London this year so maybe we could get Tinie out to Ruislip for a few promo shots and maybe a kick around? I’ll get back to you about that.
 
Perhaps you are a football fan and are well aware of how awry team songs can go, ‘World in Motion’, ‘3 Lions’, and debatably ‘Vindaloo’, all being notable exceptions, of course. Please don’t let the reputation of the team song put you off. 
 
Fortunately, Mayo GAA has a great track record of songs. In 1989, for example, renowned Irish singer Doc Carroll recorded his song Up Mayo, which was a resounding success, and was barely off Midwest Radio that summer. A few well intended efforts (1996 worthy of a mention) followed with, admittedly, middling success, which is why I think Tinie is the man for the job. The man to bring Sam back to Knock. The man to inspire a county. The man to bring the Red and Green back to life.
 
Now, I’ve spoken with James Horan (team manager) and he says he’s up for it if the lads make it to the Connacht final (shouldn’t be a problem). He assures me Aidan O’Shea is a fierce rapper (a la John Barnes) and we were thinking of giving him a star turn if all goes to plan. I believe he has actually penned a few verses, which I could probably get sent over to you if that might be a dealbreaker (let me know). 
 
Right so, well i’m just throwing the idea out there and would be incredibly grateful if you could let me know either way because Eddie Chacon of ‘Charles and Eddie’ (Would I Lie to You?) fame has expressed some interest and we don’t want to keep him waiting.

Never heard back from Tinie’s team. Mayo got to the semis that year, the final the year after and have their semi-final in two weeks this season. Bet he’s bloody kicking himself now.

Blackwood in the Backwoods Part 2

So Richard’s agent had shown some provisional interest in my show idea. Ordinarily I would have had a little laugh at that and moved on to the next patsy, but I started to think I’d try and push this idea as far as I could. A person has to have some sort of ambition, has to challenge themselves. However, this now meant getting in touch with Ray Mears as I’d told Blackwood’s agent he’d be involved.

Ray Mears isn’t the kind of guy you take the piss out of. Some city slicker behind a lap top is gonna wind up a man who can catch wild boars with a shoe lace and a doc leaf? Right! It would be like trying to poke fun at Mick Dundee; absolutely impossible. Outdoorsmen, even the wacky NWO survivalist types in the States, are off limits to me because I have too much respect for the highly useful, and cool, skill set they have. Plus at this stage I was developing notions of putting together a proper pitch and seeing if anyone in the industry liked the idea of Blackwood in the Backwoods, so I wanted to keep things straight from here on in. After finding Ray’s agent I sent this over:

Dear Jackie,

I hope this finds you well. I am looking for some information on the possible availability and interest of Mr Ray Mears for a show I am hoping to put together. 

I am currently in contact with Lee Morgan, agent for Richard Blackwood, for a show called Blackwood in the Backwoods. The idea is that Richard will be given a crash course in bushcraft skills and then the show will follow him in his attempts to last a month living in the wilderness, in probably Alaska or Canada. I’m emailing you because I would love Mr Mears to be the one giving Richard the skills he needs to complete this adventure. We are very flexible with any potential schedule and at this point would probably only require his participation over a weekend. If a week-long bushcraft course was possible that would be incredible. However if that was not possible we could supplement any knowledge with courses elsewhere, and just use the couple of days with Mr Mears in the actual show. Do you think that would be something Ray would be interested in or available for?

 

And I heard back fairly soon from Jackie (the same Jackie Gill who represents Anneka Rice and had allegedly been giving me grief about her rider) with this:

Dear X,

Ray doesn’t really do private courses – he sometimes will donate a day out for a charity auction but these go for anything from £15,000 – £50,000.

We could perhaps organise a course with his Bushcraft School ie Woodlore and should you want Ray involved we could work out a price for him to come and meet Richard.

All best wishes Jackie.

£50,000? I’m sorry, call me old fashioned, but if i’m paying that sort of money for a man to take me out to some secluded forest, then at the very least i’m gonna be needing something sucked or rubbed. In fairness though she seemed really nice, and I told her as much in my follow up email and said i’d be in touch at some point once I had a few more details.

People were now telling me to go for it and pitch this idea to some TV production companies. So I put together an email summarising the show and saying Ray and Richard had both expressed interest. Whether through a lack of time or real belief that anyone would put such a show together I didn’t pursue this relentlessly. I emailed it to a production company, the only one I could find who took unsolicited ideas, but I heard nothing back. That really would have been just a bonus though. I had already struck gold with Ray and Richard’s agents and that was enough for me. I had just gotten my first two Celebriteasing successes within a few hours of each other. Things were looking up and only one question remained. Who would be next?

 

Blackwood in the Backwoods Part 1

Believe it or not, this guy was actually a big name a few years back. Optimistically referred to as Britain’s answer to Eddie Murphy (i’m not sure what the question was), Rich was genuine comedy gold when I was in my teens. He even had his own show on Channel 4, with big names like LL Cool J and Will Smith making an appearance. I still remember one of his gigs from around 2000 where he told a hilarious story about a friend of his stealing a piece of cheese from Buckingham Palace.

Richard Blackwood with Mel B

Could Richard spice up his life in the backwoods?

Unfortunately his career stuttered slightly and the VIP nights at Charlie Chan’s in Chingford, throwing fivers at girls while Michael Greco egged him on, were soon to be no more. Once he’d fallen into the satirical claws of Brass Eye’s ‘Nonce Sense‘ campaign, his career was on its knees. A self-administered 18 litre coffee enema on Celebrity Detox Camp and a part in a critically panned Bollywood film were to follow. By the time I emailed him, however, he had risen like a phoenix from the ashes of obscurity and played in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He was also starring as Donkey in the on-stage production of Shrek.

It was with a genuinely heavy heart that I decided I would email his agent. I actually like Richard Blackwood and find him pretty funny. But it’s a cut throat world and after Dean Gaffney had thwarted me, I was determined to get the remaining member of China White’s Dream Team. This is the email I sent:

Dear Mr Morgan, 
 

I’m hoping for some information on the availability of Mr Richard Blackwood. I’m pitching an idea for a show to a variety of production companies and believe I will have a far greater chance of success if Mr Blackwood has already expressed his willingness to be involved.

The show is titled Blackwood in the Backwoods. It sees Richard initially doing a private one-week bushcraft course with renowned outdoorsman Ray Mears (a family friend who has agreed to come on board). Following his successful completion of the course, he will then be transported to and dropped off in the unforgiving wilderness of a yet to be agreed upon forested location (likely to be somewhere in Alaska or Canada). He will be armed with basic initial provisions, some rudimentary equipment, and a video camera for a to-camera diary. After a month living in the wild we will have a specialised team to help him reintegrate properly again with the wider society. 
 
I have been a big fan of Richard ever since seeing some of his early stand-up back in the 90s, and later when he was on Celebrity Detox I was impressed with his ability to really knuckle down and take on board the full experience. I’ve actually had this in mind from as early as 2005, but other shows and commitments have forced it on to the back burner. Now with Richard’s profile raised again with the success of Shrek, I think this would be a great next step, tying in neatly with Ray Mears’ popularity.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.

I had really stepped it up here. Casually dropped in that Ray Mears was a family friend. Suggested that I was established and had been pushing ideas for shows since 2005. Who was I?It was at this point I began to question the morality of Celebriteasing. If I was a celebrity and had been offered the chance to learn skills from Ray Mears and then live in the wild for a month fending for myself, and get paid for it, I would be genuinely excited. Was this wrong? ‘You’re playing with people’s lives here’, someone had remarked to me. Then I got a reply and suddenly I was done with all that poncey moralising.


Hi X,

Thank you for the email,  which all sounds great, it depends on when and how much time you need?, the producers of Shrek are quite strict, as is his contract.

Please feel free to give me a call if you want this further

Regards, Lee

‘The producers of Shrek are quite strict’. What the f**k? Isn’t there an actors union or something to deal with that? Poor guy. Now I really did feel bad. I had these images of Richard hurrying out of his wet bed realising he is late for rehearsal, enduring a petrifying journey on the bus as he realises he isn’t going to make it in for 9.30am and one of the ‘producers’ will be waiting for him just inside the door.

I mailed back saying I was heading to Belgium on business and would have to call him when I got back. Now it was time to try and get Ray Mears on board.

Danny Dyer: Diamond Geezer

danny-dyer

On the back of my failure with Dean Gaffney’s agent, I decided to try my luck at a proper actor, who’d been in films and everything. The career of Danny Dyer, Canning Town’s most famous export, had been slightly on the wane and I thought he might be ripe for the picking. He had come under fire for an apparently ghost written column in Zoo, where he told someone searching for love advice to ‘cut his ex’s face’ and so I guessed he might be up for something different.

Could the show I had in mind for him be his salvation? That would be up to his agent.

Dear Ms Thompson,

I’m hoping for some information on the availability in the coming months of Mr Danny Dyer. I’m pitching an idea for a show to a variety of production companies and believe I will have a far greater chance of success if Mr Dyer has already expressed his willingness to be involved.

The show is to be titled Diamond Geezer. Running for an intended eight shows, the premise is that Danny will head to Botswana to work at a diamond mine, mucking in with the full variety of jobs these facilities have. I have a contact at the famous Jwaneng mine who will be able to arrange work and visas. While the subject matter is undoubtedly engaging, I am pitching the show on the weight of Danny’s personality. I really believe his approachable yet gritty style of presenting, as showcased in Deadliest Men, would be perfect for a show dealing with an issue as serious as that of the conditions in African diamond mines.

Would TV’s most famous Cockney survive in Botswana? Would he try and learn a bit of Setswana? Does that language make much use of the ‘h’ sound and if so how would Danny be understood? These were all questions I pondered as I waited for a reply. Later that day the reply came.

Danny_Dyer_has_been_dubbing_old_James_Bond_clips_and_the_results_are_just_as_Dyer_as_you_d_expect

Diamonds are forever?

Hi

Thanks for getting in touch however this is not something Danny wants to do at the moment he is concentrating on theatre and film. Thanks for thinking of him.

Regards Becky

Crushed. Two knock backs on the trot. This must be what it’s like to get to judge’s houses on X-Factor and be rejected. Yet I had no Louis Walsh to offer me a consolatory hug. I decided to get straight back on the bike.

Cockneys. I needed Cockneys. I needed a Diamond Geezer. Go on, think of another Diamond Geezer. No, not Eric Bristow, the other one. Ha, yes! Ray Winstone. I sent exactly the same email, but just changed the name and deleted the reference to Deadliest Men. A day later his agent Lucy Doyle got back to me.

Hello

Thank you for your email. Ray is not available but thanks for thinking of him.

best wishes

Lucy

How much more of this could I take? These were bloody good ideas dammit. What was going wrong? I took a few days out to reflect and once I had calmed down I’d realised what had gone wrong. Dean Gaffney had been the butt of many a joke for years and they’d obviously smelled a rat. Like the kid bullied at school who, when you try to reach out to them, rejects you because their trust is gone. That’s why he knocked it back. Danny and Ray were obviously too big and I’d been too ambitious even considering them. I’d save that gem for Jeff Brazier, he’ll lap it up. But for now, I had to find a celebrity who was itching for work and a concept that would snare them.