Full disclosure, The Fixer Diaries ‘part deux’, has been slightly delayed due to the good folks of California changing the laws on Marijuana. Let’s just say, we’ve been a bit distracted over here, sampling the world’s No.1, happy plant.
With legalization, cannabis companies are competing hard to bring us ‘top shelf’ buds and products. In my terpene haze - it’s all about the terpenes apparently - I couldn’t help musing over (and giggling), about the best Mary Jane I’ve ever had.
Keith Richard’s Grass…
Back in the pre-Napster days, record label ‘jollies’ were lavish, fun, regular events, held in the hippest places on the planet.
Whether Milan, Malaysia or Ibiza, I’d hang out with the band, be treated to an exclusive performance and enjoy dinner with label Execs at a fancy restaurant. If the fit was right - or it was a sure-fire hit – said band would be invited to appear on whichever show I happened to be working on.
As Music Booker at the BBC, I was one of about a dozen other bookers working across the major networks, on prime-time TV shows. Collectively, we could pretty much make or break an artist; we witnessed the birth of bands like Coldplay, Muse and Kasabian.
I remember being in the wings, on stage with Chris Martin at The V Festival in Staffordshire. Giddy with excitement about to introduce Muse, “Coz they let us support them on tour and we get paid to do this!” Bless him.
The ‘usual suspects’- they all know who they are – we’d bump into each other at all sort of events. Music showcases, backstage at festivals or random parties like Virgin’s birthday bash for 16-year-old Billie Piper (where several of us cringed at Billie throwing up). Bless her.
It was too much fun.
One average afternoon at the BBC, I was flicking through promo CD’s of ‘unknowns’. “Dido? Britney Spears…hmm, maybe I should give these a listen”, suddenly my phone rang.
“Do you want to go to Miami to meet Simon Fuller’s pop band S Club 7?”
Simon Fuller was well known at the time for discovering The Spice Girls, and boy do I remember the first time they hit the scene…save that for another day.
A big supporter of new talent, Simon had recently been fired by Posh, Scary, Ginger, Baby and Sporty, and this was his new venture.
I was at a bit of a career crossroads myself, having been offered a magazine editor’s position at The Mirror Group, and on the fence about whether to accept it.
“I’ll free up my schedule, count me in!”
Now, I’d been on some indulgent jollies, but this one was up there in terms of no expense spared. A total of 30 media types from TV, radio and press, on a four-day, all expenses trip, courtesy of Mr Fuller and Universal Records.
Upon arrival at the hotel in Fort Lauderdale we were each presented with a key to a luxury suite, invited to freshen up, then meet downstairs for the record label’s meet and greet.
Held in the grounds of the hotel, a pathway of Tiki Torches led to a stunning, open-air banquet, where management and label execs welcomed everyone with a glass of bubbly.
We ate, drank and mingled with the likes of Fuller, label heads and Nicki Chapman.
Back then Nicki was a powerful publicist working alongside both, Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell (later she’d give it all up to become a successful TV personality). If you don’t know her, look her up, an inspiring woman and lovely lady to boot.
Nicki gave us the lowdown on the schedule for the coming days, “Oh and we’ve dinner reservations tonight in South Beach, and Foxy’s in town with The Stones so she’s going to join us!”
Foxy had been in music promotions then jumped ship to go on tour as liaison for The Rolling Stones. Passing through Florida on their ‘No Security’ tour, this was a rare day off for her.
I remember all eyes were on us as our convoy of Lincoln Town Cars cruised along Collins Avenue. Dinner was at some trendy sushi place with black and white checkered tables and bright, neon lights.
We were all excited to see Foxy, I mean how cool, one of our gang was rockin’ n’ rollin’ it with Jagger & Co?! As she sat down across from me she pulled something from her bag.
“I’ve got Keith’s grass here, I need to get rid of it, do any of you guys want it?”
With Keith’s “we are not worried about petty morals” past, it was probably best to dispose of anything incriminating ahead of their next flight.
Without a hint of hesitation, we collectively yelled “Hell Yeh!”
As Foxy handed me the herb - wrapped in newspaper of all things - I couldn’t help announcing to the table, “Anyone for Keith’s Keefer?!” From then on, the weed was simply known as ‘Keith’.
After dinner, our limo driver let it slip that he was at our disposal, “So we can stay out as late as we want and you’ll still be waiting for us?”
Yup, you guessed it…
Half of the group U-turned and headed back towards the disco lights of South Beach, bar hopping from one crazy experience to the next:
Supermodels shooting high fashion on Ocean Drive, under a huge cube of light suspended from a crane. We then rubbed shoulders with Wyclef Jean in a Marrakesh style bar (he loved the ‘Keith’). And we pranked AJ from Backstreet Boys – who happened to be sat next to us at another spot - into taking a group photo (Michelle from Polydor, I know you still have the photo proof).
Buzzing from all-of-the-above, we were on a roll and somehow ended up in a pumping nightclub. Weaving through the crowd I led the group towards a roped off area, the aroma of ‘Keith’ never far from our side.
“Sorry, this is for VIP’s only”.
Quick as whip, I said, “but we are VIP’s”, and with a twinkle in my eye I followed up with the “Don’t ya know Simon Fuller?” line…worth a shot.
Out the corner of my eye I saw a tall, handsome black guy sitting at a corner table, call the security guard over. He whispered something in security guy’s ear then, Voila!
“I guess you guys are VIPs, come on in”
We were ushered over to join our new friends; a basketball player (guessing from The Clippers), a handsome male model and their two agents. Either our cool looks or the mention of Simon Fuller - to this day, I still don’t - but we ended up partying in true VIP, Miami…ahem style.
In the wee-small-hours we made our way back to the hotel, gathering in my room…of course. The remainder of ‘Keith’ was laid out on the floor – still in newspaper - in the middle of the room. We vowed to finish it off before the sun came up.
And boy, did we laugh our asses off.
With a full day of events ahead - including meeting the band – we hit the pool to ease our aching heads. The other bookers, who’d gone home early, joined as we floated in the morning sun, reveling in the previous night’s shenanigans.
“Man, did you see the fat lines that guy chopped right there on the table?!”
Later that morning thirty of us piled onto a coach and headed to Coco Beach to meet and play volleyball with Hannah, Paul, Rachel, Bradley, Tina, Jo and John.
Nice kids, heavily media trained of course, but genuinely engaging and down to earth. I spent my time mostly chatting to the boys; Paul, Bradley and John (no doubt choreographed), forewarning them of my ‘tender’ state, as we chomped on BBQ.
“Wow that sounds like some night, wish we’d been there!”, beamed Bradley.
Not surprisingly, S Club 7 were a huge hit, selling over 10 million albums worldwide and cementing Fuller’s reputation as the most successful music manager of all time.
Just two years later the S Club boys would be caught sharing a joint and forced to put out a public statement apologizing for their “drug shame”. Crazy how times have changed huh..
Still it was a magical trip and one I’ll never forget, thanks indirectly to a God of Rock.
“Right whose turn is it to roll a Keith?!”