Graham Reid | | 5 min read
That day in the early Nineties did not begin on a high note. An associate at Partridge & Storey, the music PR company I worked at in London, had to cancel going on the trip with me and forgot to hand over the envelope containing the cash funds for the taxi driver who collected me.
But I picked up radio station Kiss FM journalist Lisa I’Anson on the way to Heathrow, running late; lengthy queues at passport and security due to an earlier IRA bomb scare; and a late arrival in Paris.
Then it was straight to the theatre for the concert soundcheck where Lisa was to interview singer Angelique Kidjo. Lisa and I plopped ourselves on the auditorium floor for a breather.
As soon as I sat I fell downwards, landing with a loud thump.
I was sprawled on my buttocks with my legs in the air and had banged my head. I was literally stunned for a few seconds. Confused, wondering where was I?
Thee trap doors underneath the stage lip – a cue pit - had not been locked and as I leant against the wall underneath the stage it opened and engulfed me. Lisa related in shock afterwards that it was as if it was magic -- when she turned her head to talk to me I had simply vanished. When I regained my senses and composure I realised I had, fortunately, not broken any bones, so I cautiously managed to stand up.
I was asked if I was I all right; did I need a doctor? The theatre manager anxiously inquired how I was faring. I began to laugh – one either cries or laughs when in shock – and kept saying “I’m all right, I’m all right” without really knowing whether I actually was all right although my head hurt and my body shook.
I left Lisa to conduct her interview with Angelique Kidjo and joined record company colleagues in a café across the road for a calming brandy, returning to the venue to collect Lisa. It was early peak time in Paris and a few days before Christmas, so road traffic was intense.
A taxi pulled in, the driver looked at us and a spout of verbal abuse emanated from his mouth. Lisa spoke French and she understood what he expressed. She is African and he had made a racist remark.
Thankfully another taxi stopped to let out a passenger and we dived in. Straight to the Holiday Inn in Place de la Republique. On registering, I was asked, “How would you like to settle Madame?”
I replied, “Island Records are covering this bill” to be told that there was no such arrangement.
So out came my one and only personal credit card.
I walked into my my room to find only two headboards standing up -- without the requisite beds!
Naturally my initial thoughts were “I think I have a little concussion and am seeing things”. Or maybe not seeing things?
I called reception to have an incredulous woman on the other end of the line. “Madame, would you like to come down to reception?”. I insisted she came to the room herself and upon entering it, she embarrassingly exclaimed the obvious: “Madame, there are no beds in here!’"
They had given me the wrong key and so after being given another (for a room avec bed) I had only about 40 minutes to have a bite to eat and get ready for the concert and after-show party in the evening.
As I was feeling rather shaky I decided to sip a cognac whilst having a little soak in the bath, and ate my sandwich. Then downstairs to the lobby to meet meet Lisa and other colleagues.
After the Kidjo concert, Lisa announced that she was not feeling very well and wanted to return to the hotel. I accompanied her to the downstairs foyer to ensure she hailed a taxi in the street.
I went back upstairs to the auditorium where the after-show party was beginning to take hold. Hoards of guests pushing and shoving- - I kept out of the way, not really wanting to be even lightly jolted. Numerous individuals kept inquiring how I was after my accident, but the fact I was present and standing up they all assumed I was fine.
Feeling a tad dejected I decided to get some fresh air in the foyer downstairs.
The record company UK executive, who had previously asked if I would like to join him and a few others for dinner after the party, came downstairs.
He relayed a message from a musician who wanted to see me. Back up the stairs to see this musician.
On returning to the lobby shortly after L learned the bus and colleagues had gone. A French associate told me where my group had gone for dinner and wrote down the address for me and said it would be easy to get a taxi. It was now 11.30pm.
Outside, feeling aggrieved and alone, I tried to hail a taxi whilst walking in the rain for 10 minutes. A car filled with men pulled in to the pavement calling out to me.
This was in the La Pigalle area of Paris, not the most conducive of areas to be stranded in. Eventually I got a taxi with a great sense of relief to be no longer a street-walker and headed towards the hotel.
By this time, I had decided not to even attempt finding the restaurant.
As I walked into the Holiday Inn I concluded that I required another cognac in the bar instead of going straight to my room. I set myself up on a bar stool, ordered my drink and spent some minutes enjoying the feeling of being safe and secure.
My equilibrium however, was soon disturbed by an unwelcome intruder. A Frenchman plonked himself on a bar stool right next to me. The interrogation began: “Do you speak French, I speak a little English. What are you doing in Paris? Have you eaten? Would you like to eat in my room, I’ll order anything you want?” .
“Non, non, non’” was my emphatic response as I fled.
Once in my room, I got into bed and the events of the day churned over and over in my thoughts, getting all twisted into a jangle. Sleep eluded me and the night was long and restless with sporadic awakenings.
Lisa was solicitous, insisted I needed someone with me on my journey back to London, so I changed my original earlier flight to the one she had booked.
After a windy, whooshy landing it was such a relief being on the ground and back in familiar territory. Soon I was in the comforting work office -- my associates understood what a trauma I had been through and provided just the sort of cosseting that my spirit required. My boss kindly drove me all the way to my South-East London home later on in the day.
The next few days were not comfortable ones – I had such a sore body and could hardly move, my doctor said I had suffered intense internal bruising. What miffed me the most was the fact I then had to forgo the annual Island Records Christmas Party – one of the events of the year!
It had been a standard PR trip which had turned into one of the most bizarre episodes of my life. One which - still to this day - can have myself and friends in hysterical giggles: My disappearance as if by magic . . . and disappeared beds!
After moving to New Zealand, Gaylene Martin began handling publicity for a number of local artists. Partridge & Storey (the company of Rob Partridge and Neil Storey, formerly of Island Records as was Martin) eventually became known as Coalition PR. Martin worked there as a senior publicist from 1991 to 2003 for labels like Blood and Fire, Trojan, Blue Note and others on the Island roster. The company also obtained an account from Island Records and she continued to work with such Island artists as Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits and years later Cat Stevens by then known as Yusef Islam.
Before that at Island she had beenhead of press for the Mango and Antilles imprints within Island and liaised with artists, agents, promoters and managers.
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