Most of us have an anecdote about a time we’ve worked with a celeb. They’re often quite an ‘experience’ Here’s a crowd-sourced fun blog post sharing the experiences of over 30 comms pros.
by Darren Caveney
I’ve met a few celebrities in my 25 years in comms (when I say celebrity I’m not talking A listers) It’s not always been fun, to be honest. Bernard Ingham springs to mind…
Most others have been lovely, though. Frank Skinner, Julie Walters and the late, great Cyrille Regis, all made Freeman of the Borough whilst I was working at Sandwell Council, were a delight.
But not everyone has had the best of days meeting D, E and F listers.
So here goes with the ones I’m able to publish. You should have seen the ones which slid into my DMs which were NOT for publication!
Back in 2003/4 ish (very early in my comms career) I was organising the first event I’d been given responsibility to do on my own – an opening for an affordable housing development (I worked for a housing association) in Hillingdon. We had all the dignitaries turning out, but the CEO was clear he didn’t want the mayor – he wanted someone special to make a big impact for the community. The only two local "celebs" I could find with Hillingdon connections were Claire from Steps and Audley Harrison MBE (Olympic Boxer). Claire wasn’t available… The big day came, the local mayor, councillors and MP turned up to stand in a car park to take the obligatory "curtain pulling photo".. He turns up in the most enormous hummer – his driver was amazing as this was a poky little cul-de-sac and he parked it like it was a smart car. Awesome. Out steps the big man – and he is absolutely huge! He works the crowd beautifully. He greets the dignitaries but then spends loads of time with the residents – real pro, and really down to earth. The moment comes for the unveiling of the plaque. He peers beneath the curtain, then cracks up laughing. Doubles over. Almost rolling on the floor. Everyone wonders what is going on. He then says "I got a promotion from the queen!". Throws back the curtain… and there in solid brass is the inscription: "Was opened by Audley Harrison OBE".
I’d got the wrong honour. Thankfully he thought it was hilarious. I slunk to the back and cringed…
A story by Ross Wigham
I played in a journalists vs ex pros football game at Craven Cottage. Fulham, as now, where then in the premier league and it was all very exciting as I’d watched NUfC play there a few days earlier….
Some decent names still going then and some of them took it much more seriously than others. Anyway, it was all really exciting as we got special kits sponsored by Carlsberg and use of the proper changing rooms and players lounge.
We also got to share the changing room with the players who offered up some eye watering anecdotes which I won’t share here for legal reasons! So, on with the game and we nervously trooped out onto the manicured turf ready to take on our heroes of yesterday.
This was a big deal even though most of them were in their late 40s or 50s by then. I was in my very early 20s and unlike many of them hadn’t been out the night before so fancied my chances to get amongst the goals.
It ended up being quite a tight game and not the walkover you would imagine even though many of the ex-pros were just having a laugh. Anyway about half way through the second half a perfect pass gets played through the middle and I’m off onto it like a young Alan Shearer…
Bearing down on goal at full sprint I just have to beat the keeper and I’m already planning how I’m going to celebrate the imminent goal. The classic Shearer, maybe the robot or a knee slide across the damp turf?
But then, disaster…I felt two feet smashing into the back of me in probably the worst fouls you’ve seen since Harold Schumacher… Phil Neal (who at the time was the player with the most honours in British football) had absolutely cleaned me out just inside the box…. PENALTY
Wow a penalty – at a premier league ground. Just need to smash it home and then into the bar to celebrate. I just need to score this then dine out forever on the tale of scoring at a professional ground against an all-time England legend. My grandchildren are going to hear about this.
I placed the ball on the spot, ignored the sledging from Neal and looked up to face the goalkeeper…. It’s all time record cap (at the time) Peter Shilton. He must be ancient now there’s no way he’s stopping this…start the car lads..
Quick two-step run up and blasted as hard as I can to the top corner…lovely penalty. Shilton dives theatrically to his right……… and makes an incredible save. (Shame he couldn’t bloody do that against Germany in 1990)
They thought it was all over…. and it was. The goal that never was. Premier league I hardly knew you.
And here I am with the two main protagonists who were both lovely and really generous with us all.
I once interviewed Brian Blessed on a carousel on Preston Flag Market about his campaign against electric cat collars – very random and filled with shouts of "Gordon’s Alive!" at frequent intervals to passers by! Ha ha.
I’ve met @mattgoss & @RealKiefer (not at the same time). Both lovely. Matt phoned my sister cause she was going through chemo for breast cancer at the time
Sir Patrick Stewart. Such a lovely man.
Work related, probably most interesting was working with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost after persuading them to turn the Christmas lights on, gratis, in little old Letchworth! Either that or being at the drinks where Brian McFadden met Kerry Katona. I mean, come on!
I once got to move very drunk people in Soho out the way so a camera crew could film Dr Hilary talking about binge drinking for a Christmas campaign … Loved wearing my stylish press officer high vis while everyone else was all glammed up for a night out
Paula Yates, early 90s, promoting her novel Village People (I’ve still got my signed copy, obviously). She was very sweet and flirted outrageously with our Marketing Director.
I’ve got a few but a couple I love…One involves writing a speech for a very, very VIP and being so paranoid about it I did it on a Saturday night after a bottle of red wine, feeling invincible. The other is smuggling a naked man out of a building
I went to a work lunch with Giovanni Pernice from Strictly and he ate a lemon whole – like it was an apple. Did a photoshoot with three members of S Club 7, many years ago. interviewed and filmed Jason Manford and even further back met Phil Tufnell when he was filming The One Show.
Not work related but once on a city break in Amsterdam in the early ’00s I visited Anne Frank’s house. It’s pretty cramped in there with lots of visitors so I stopped to let a couple through a doorway. Did a double-take and realised it was Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.
I sold a bottle of wine to Brad Pitt in a former life. My husband turned down a drink from Dani and Kylie Minogue and MORTIFYINGLY told them I could sing as they told him they were singers. He didn’t have a clue who they were. But best was David Bowie opening a door for me
I was editor of my uni newspaper & Blur were coming down to the union to watch Dubstar. I had an interview lined up & asked my photographer to get a pic. On processing the film he very proudly showed me … Blur’s security guard, Damon Albarn just in the background
Interviewed actor Robert Lindsay as a journo on his local paper in Ilkeston. Was in touch line at a footie match. He then invited me for drink at half time and offered me a whiskey.
In my first job at a cancer charity we did a campaign to promote eating frozen veg. Gary Lineker fronted it and I had to ask him to hug someone dressed as a carrot. The pic ended up on Have I got news for you a few years later. I also have other tales that are purely for a DM!!
Stephen Fry. It’s Twitter so had to be Stephen Fry. I interviewed him just as Cell Mates, a play he was in with Rik Mayall, was about to begin its West End run.
Famously he walked out of the production after only a few shows, and holed up in Belgium. He blamed stage fright, later his bi-polar. I’ve always hoped it wasn’t my interview technique.
Actually he was, charming, funny and we had a grand chat.
When I was head of press and pr for an ambulance service they also utilised my nursing skills and we covered the Brit awards every year….. where shall I start…..
I bumped into Robert Downey Junior in the lift of a swanky hotel, as I was carrying a load of boxes up to a press launch in the penthouse. I dropped a box and RDJ didn’t r offer to help… He did have a nice smile though…
OK not technically me but it’s a good one – my husband was at a urinal a few years ago when Pavarotti came and stood next to him. He must of looked shocked as Pav turned to him and said: “Yes. Pavarotti – he pisses too.”
Soooo many! On my first day as a runner I was told (in not such polite terms) to ‘go away’ by a very famous comedian after I asked him if he’d mind doing a quick PTC in support of a fundraising campaign
Had Jeremy Paxman at Broadmoor Hospital once for a piece on Victorian painters. He disappeared at one point and it turned out he’d been taking a pee in the bushes… lots of CCTV at Broadmoor… Flushed face
In a previous life, Chris Evans filming virtual colonoscopy to highlight dangers of bowel cancer! Got a kiss and a hug afterwards. Plus, Diana, Princess of Wales, opening a refuge for runaways the week after announcing retirement from public life. Made for interesting crowd control!
HRCH NHS Trust
During the first coronavirus lockdown this year I ‘met’ boxers Nigel and Conor Benn over a work video call…I was still in my pyjamas and hadn’t even put a brush through my hair!
We did a media tour for Noel Edmonds at the University of Salford and all I remember from it was his shiny purple leather boots
I worked with Keith Harris and Orville for a campaign and Keith left me a voicemail and half way through said “wait, someone here wants to speak to you” and Orville then left me a message. It was one of the most joyous moments of my young PR life
Media conf with Nelson Mandela at a jail in Glasgow with assembled Scottish pack. One chance to ask a question of a man, whose presence filled room. So I did. He asked me to repeat. So I did.
He asked me to speak up a bit because I was so softly spoken, he said, I "spoke like a lady"
I shot a wedding in Sheffield and Willie Thorne photobombed the bride and groom shot, I was on kids tv with a group from school interviewing Jason Connery (Robin of Sherwood days) and I was in season 2 of it’s not easy being green with Dick / James Strawbridge – do they count?
Not sure it’s a fave but Nikki Grahame, 5th in Big Brother Series 7, launching a wildlife recording initiative at London Zoo supported by Woolworths….a surreal combo! We, the scientists, didn’t choose her….The Getty archive has a picture of a ladybird on Nikki’s nose
I once drove Morrissey to a flower shop in Sheffield to pick up the gladioli he waved about on stage, for the Smiths’ first gig outside of Manchester….
I produced a corporate sports quiz with celebs on each table. After the meet & greet I was shut away in a little production room. Out of nowhere Kris Akabusi appears with the event photographer. Kris made him take a photo of us which he later signed with the message "Keep Smiling!"
Celeb might be a push but I bumped into Dominic Cummings in a chip shop on Christmas Eve and then in the amusements – he ended up in some of our photos. All I’m going to say about that is he used the 10p sliders not the 2p ones.
I once made coffee for the guy who played Dr Legg in Eastenders when he came to my grandmother’s flat. He was a friend of hers.
On the more positive side…John Craven was absolutely lovely plus ordered a very nice bottle of Rose when we went filming, and Dallas Campbell is a truly nice kind guy, who genuinely loved sharing his passion for science with all when we did a school bumblebee project with him.
I once accidentally insulted the golfer Sam Torrance when I made a joke about him missing the cut at Slaley Open when he was stood behind me
Hosted an early morning visit from Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson. No 10 requested breakfast for press conference after the tour. Alan J was the only person to eat anything. Stuffed a croissant in his mouth in front of the snappers. Evening Standard headline? "Mr Pastry"
I once danced on stage dressed as a bear with the Cheeky girls
I was about 12, sat with cousins under a bridge by the river Shannon in their tiny Irish town when Mick Hucknall appeared out of nowhere. He was on his own and I remember him telling us that he had a helicopter landing pad at Old Trafford!
Escorting Peter Kay from his car to join Bolton’s Christmas Lights Switch on and him taking the p out of me communicating that on a walkie talkie
I once worked with Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen and took him on a tour of kitchen showrooms across the country. One of the most ‘glamorous’ aspects of my job was fetching him sushi – he said to me “I don’t want that kind of sushi that tastes like the skin between old ladies’ thighs.”
I interviewed Michael Foot and he was lovely. NOTHING like the media portrayed him. And the interview was a walk with both of our dogs Dizzie and George across Hampstead Heath, husband and photographer in tow. Surreal and very lovely morning. There is a photograph somewhere!
Stevie at Rent Plus
My auntie works for the Beeb (actual auntie beeb!) and once asked if I’d like to be inside the Pudsey costume for Children In Need night when the cameras went around the country and came to Glasgow. I was 19 😂 and jumped at it. They needed two people as it’s *hot* inside that suit! My friend came with me and we took turns. It was about the time Boyzone were becoming huge and they were performing. I thought I was a bit too cool to be a boyband fan of their music but turns out I was quite partial to handsome Irish men 🤷♀️ And he smelled *amazing* You could tell where he’d been as his aftershave was so strong it lingered in the corridor. Just intense memories of inhaling deeply in empty corridors 😂 Then we were on the floor for the final part of the broadcast and I was *IRL* next to Ronan as we were all doing some sort of weird line dance or something. One of us (likely not the person in a band making a living out of being able to follow routines TBH) went the wrong way and he stood on my foot and apologised so sweetly I was sure it was only the giant teddy bear costume stopping him from actually kissing me. Le sigh. That’s made me smile so much
I was working on a campaign for a well-known brewer and specifically an ale brand. They were running a national darts competition at a very ‘grass roots’ level but went big on the celebrity endorsement and the hype around it. Part of this was to have Phil ‘the power’ Taylor fronting the campaign. If you’re not a darts fan then his website perfectly understates his achievements…
The greatest player ever to throw a dart
16 x World Darts Champion
6 x Premier League Winner
6 x Grand Slam Winner
4 x World Cup of Darts Champion
16 x World Matchplay Winner
11 x Grand Prix Winner
I had to travel to Phil’s training facility in Stoke to art direct a photoshoot. The facility was a shrine to his achievements. It was also the back room of his brothers pub. It was far from Phil’s first rodeo. The mission was to keep the sponsors logo on show and no shadows on the board. All went to plan in spite of some over familiar greetings from the Stoke locals!
Vanessa Feltz – one of the rudest people I’ve ever met. Fundraising dinner for a national charity at the Daniel Galvin Windows restaurant on Park Lane – she was refusing to leave the bar to go to the dinner so I was dispatched to round her up. "I’M TALKING!!!!" was the response. I wanted to ask her why she was even bothering to be there as clearly she didn’t want to be, but of course I didn’t – I did give her a very hard Paddington stare though!
Thanks to everyone who shared their memories.
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Image via Tullio Saba