Saturday, October 15, 2016

Chuck Berry, godfather of Desert Trip, turning 90 without fanfare

Chuck Berry, godfather of Desert Trip, turning 90 without fanfare


Hail Hail Rock n Roll
Thirty years ago I was GM at Legends in Old Burlington Street, Mayfair and organised the London opening night party for 'Hail Hail Rock n Roll' the Taylor Hackford film documentary made to commemorate Chuck Berry's 60th birthday.

By and Large, 'stars' don't get involved much in organising parties, instead someone from their management company does the tedium of planning how the big night will go, who'll be invited and what they're gonna be fed and watered with.

 Legends club, Mayfair
So here I sorted the spread for four hundred glamorous people and hangers on. When you do catering professionally all this kind of stuff is pretty pedestrian really, your job is to make sure a load of people have a great time enjoying themselves without being distracted by the delivery of the event. Your job is about managing your clients' expectations while translating their ideas into a workable smoothly delivered event. You get to have to deal with lots of ego and bollocks as every client is fragile and precious and special in their own different way. To be fair, some people just say 'we've got a party for X and there's going to be x number of people and we've got x amount of quids can you do something nice?' They are the BEST clients and always get the BEST deal and have the BEST time AND they usually go out of their way to say so to you and the staff who made it all happen...

This event organiser was particularly picky about every last detail of a reality which was they wanted four hundred people to be meticulously attentively looked after when the reality was the club's limit on number was 420 and 400 fans of Chuck Berry would be hanging out in a huddle waiting for the great man himself, little bothered with the elegance of the finger food and champagne flutes... Chuck's fussy food demands and fear of offending his taste seemed high on the agenda of his management company's events organiser. Basically, I knew we'd deliver a great time, the party would go down a treat with everyone and Mr Berry would likely enjoy himself but the organiser's unfounded fears made the whole thing a right pain in the arse.

So. On the night of the party I, being God of the club, got an invite to the film premier. I went with a mate who'd also got an invite and we arrived at the cinema to a red carpet and the press pack flashing us walking in and sat in the same row as Chuck, three seats along with my mate Richard Watt to my left, him next to Mick Hucknall who, another whole story aside Watty and I were at art school with, and him sitting next to Chuck Berry.

A couple of hours later we arrived at my club for the big fabulous wonderful carefully crafted and planned party laid out in honour of the great man and Chuck Berry turned round just after we squeezed into the throng through reception and said 'Hey Mark, is there a good Indian takeaway nearby? Can we get one delivered?' Actually, I think he called the curry a 'carry out' and I was completely confused initially because: 'can we get an Indian carry out and have it delivered?' surely was the last thing on earth i'd ever expect to hear coming from the mouth of any American abroad in the UK let alone in a swanky West End nightclub when there was a couple of grands' worth of canapes and champagne on tap ... You know; I heard the words but the synapses just couldn't process what was coming into the ears.

Curry for fifteen was duly ordered and one of the doormen went and got it, Chuck and his closest entourage ate in private in the mezzanine...

What a man. :)

shot from 1987 editorial for the club. photo J Mark Dodds  Ricardo Ostaccini is the bartender

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