number of website names: 2 (namely Balliosi's Place and JustBall.Net)
Number of photo cameras used: 8
Number of video cameras used: 2
Number of times we saw Michael perform (as far): 304
Number of website visits to date: 1,837,315
And this is where we would like to thank you all. Nearly two million visitors, countless photos shared, memories made. We would not be here, we would not have done all this, if it was not for all the great friends we have made through Michael and through this website. To all those lovely friends, the fans, who keep sharing their photos, their stories, who share the love for Michael and take the time to say hello to us when our paths cross in the UK: Thank you for all the love and support over those two decades.
You are amazing!
First Look: www.balliosi.co.uk
First Photo and last photo taken
Funnily the first one was taken by Kerstin und the last by Julia. Somehow we kind of switched places here and Julia is now the chief photographer. Luckily we have vastly improved equipment - and skills.
As you can tell we were basically having some fun. Then we quickly found out there were people actually looking at the page, seeking real information. Journalists among them. So we decided we needed to up our game a little.
Justy was born - and she was a lot more professional (looking) than her previous incarnation.
Absolute Michael Highlights
This is a tough one as there were so many moments; we just had a brilliant time meeting him. So in no particular order:
- Woman in White. The musical that just wouldn't happen for us... Read later on about they hows and the whys. Although this show was doomed for us it still holds a very special memory: We did not see the show that night (spoiler alert: travel nightmare), Julia did not get to take a photo before, but at the leaving stage door Mr. Ball suddenly turned around to us and called out: "I'm loving the website, really loving it!". We didn't know he even knew about the website, let alone that we were the ones doing it, let alone he ever looked at it. We did have filmic evidence of this momentous occasion but sadly, we just found out that the video has disappeared from the site. Lost in cyber space...
- That moment we were alone at the Hairspray stage door in Grape Street and he walked down smiling at us, getting something out of his shopping bag, saying "Here, smell this." Offering us a sniff of his newly bought scented candle. We weren't expecting that. It smelt really nice!
- The other time he walked down that very road, being really early and we were as well and all three at the same time shouting "You are early!"
- The one time we found Katherine's (his little sister) wedding photos for sale on eBay (apparently from someone living near), bought them and handing them over to him at the Menier Chocolate Factory, so they go back to the family.
- And that one and only day, we were alone with him at the stage door of the Adelphi and got a private mini photo shoot. We asked him to pose and he kindly obliged. So I give you "Sweeney, Mean and Moody"
Ultimate Travel Nightmare
We have a clear winner here: Almost since day one we said we wanted to go to London by train at least once. So two years ago, when he was in Chess, we decided that was the moment. Julia started her journey from Potsdam, crossed almost the whole width of Germany and I joined her in Essen. Big hugs, big smiles, all was well. However, the joy of travelling by train together lasted the whole of 20 glorious minutes. All of a sudden it got dark outside, we stopped at a station and stood and stood and stood some more, eventually it started to rain, it poured and we stood. What felt like an eternity later, when we already started to worry about our connecting train, the announcement finally came: landslide onto the rail tracks. And if you believe the myth about efficient Germany we can assure you that this is just a successful image campaign. They had waited so long with the decision to ground the train that all hopes of catching a taxi with other passengers heading in our direction was gone. They waited for the landslide to happen and eventually it did. There was no staff to be seen (and you need them to stamp your ticket, so you can proof you were there if you want money back or need to change your booking). Three hours later we were back in Essen, were told off by the guy at the travel centre, who was quite rude when telling us, it was not his job to change our train bookings. Alright, not that any other person was available. We needed to get to Brussels to get the Eurostar. Sadly it was already clear we would not make it in time. The Deutsche Bahn (German main train company) was not helpful at all, did not offer hotel vouchers or anything. When we finally got to Brussels (lots of queues, stamps, running and many hours later), the train station was almost deserted but by pure luck there was this one guy who could book us on the first train in the morning. So off we went to a nearby hotel, passing drug dealers, being hungry and just fed up. Instead of arriving in London in the early evening, have dinner, meet friends we were stuck in Brussels in a scary neighbourhood and paid for a hotel in London that we didn't use. A very early start the next morning, massive queues and an unexpected upgrade to first class later, we finally arrived. At least we didn't miss a show, but rest assured, we will never take the train again! Chess made up for it though. One of the best things we ever saw him in.
Musical of Doom
Sorry to all people who love it, but the musical of doom has to be "Woman in White" for us. Some of you may remember: With short notice Michael took over from Michael Crawford, who fell ill. So instead of being able to plan a bit in advance, we needed to check flight prices, hotel and everything in panic mode. And we could get there for two nights only. So leaving on a Tuesday morning, one bunny was there in time, while the other flew from a different airport than usual, with a different airline (Easyjet) than usual and the plane suffered a malfunction, we were offloaded again and told to hang about and wait for two hours, and another hour and another hour. Finally, when Kerstin could not switch to the other airport anymore as it was too late, they finally announced the repair could not be done today, but they could offer different options. One was flying to Nottingham (of course how you get from there to London is not their problem!). One person asked, if that was far from London and the guy said, no, just about an hour north of London. Eeerrm, we have been to Nottingham and knew it's rather three hours! And whilst Julia at least got to London okay, now there were two problems: 1) she could not get into the hotel, as she did not have the credit card it was booked on (yes, that was Kerstin's) and 2) she could not get the tickets, as those were also booked on Kerstin's credit card. Then, when she went to the stage door to at least take a photo for Kerstin, she was told not to. Michael had just done a TV show before where they showed how the make-up was done for the part, so he was already in Count Fosco gear and not to be photographed. BUT when Kerstin FINALLY got into the city (via Luton) by 9.30pm and just in time for the stage door, he told us he loved the website, so all was forgotten.:-D
And then he happened to go to Broadway with Woman in White (the show we saw once, seated behind a pillar, so "seeing" is relative) just before he did Patience there and we needed to make a decision what to see. Seeing we could see more Woman in White in those days than Patience (as it was opera and they did not do a daily performance), we decided on Woman in White. You know, give it another chance. It was our first trip to the US, too.
The day before we got to New York, he was back on stage after being ill for some time. We got there, stayed up until 10pm, conquered the jet lag only to learn the next day that he was off again. So the whole week we've been to New York we did not see him once. And then the show was cancelled just as we were there. It just was not meant to happen. Then everybody raved about Patience, the one show he was in we never saw in our time as fans. So clearly we had made the wrong decision.
Then there was this moment.....
In 2007, we had known him for a long time, we thought, and we'd seen it all (yeah, we know now... Sweeney Todd..Michael Ball as a serial killer. And he was outstanding!). Anyways, it was our first trip to see Hairspray. Admittedly we were unsure what to expect. The plot when you read it, seemed a bit weird - a finale in a giant can of hairspray? But we knew to trust his judgement, so we booked quite a few shows. And in true bunny style (that's what we call each other, it's a translation from the German term of endearment), we were on the tube, running rather late, when the silly train stopped. And stood. Major delay. When we finally got to the correct stop we were so unprepared that we had no idea where to go. A rookie mistake. Nowadays we try to stake out theatres and their vicinity well in advance. Back then naturally we ran into the wrong direction, realising the mistake and had to run all the way back. We got to our seats juuuust in time and seriously frazzled. Those seats were in the upper circle. And suddenly there was his voice but where was he? We searched the stage, we looked at each other puzzled. Nowhere, but it was definitely him talking. And THEN it hit us: he was the lady at the ironing board. We couldn't believe it. Total transformation. We were amongst those theatregoers who couldn't believe he was in it. At least for a couple of moments.
That night we fell in love with Edna Turnblad, that big lady with her huge heart and the best mother a girl could wish for. We cannot wait to see her again and we are happy Corona brought just a delay, but we will see her again. Sadly not on this birthday, but surely on the next birthday.
You can't stop the beat!