When we all drove up to London after an unforgettable stay at lovely Angela and Darren's beautiful house (Darren, we need that custard cream recipe of yours! Honestly, we could have bathed in that stuff...especially together with the chocolate souffle…ooooh swoooooon....!), we thought we'd be way too early for stage door-ing. It was only 3:20 pm and we thought we'd be among the first fans there, as he usually didn't get anywhere near a venue before 5! Well, what can we say? A proper and rather long queue had formed! And it ended in quite a huddle at the entrance to the Apollo car park. Apparently the first people had arrived there at 12:30 and were now positioned behind barriers at said entrance. So we searched our spot at the very end of the long line of Ballettes and started relaxing. It will be ages, we thought.
So we didn't even bother unpacking our equipment but spent the time meeting friends, meeting members of the MBFC forum (Hi Violeta, we hope you got back to Spain okay!) and chatting quite happily with Angela about when we will be back to visit her again. All was quiet until a little squeal pierced the happy chit chat, we spun round to see what caused it and saw nothing but a tacky green car and a group of fans gathering together behind us. This was odd: a) it was only four-ish and b) Michael surely wouldn't turn up in a tacky green car, would he? Seconds of uncertainty as to whether to grab our bags and get out cameras passed…and then the little green car just drove away and behind it stood a big silver Mercedes, rear window open. Stunned for a split second we watched Michael happily chatting to the few fans at the end and signing programmes, as he does. Luckily we came to our senses quite quickly, grabbed our bags and started to take photos/ film the scene. Phew! His car passed the queue ever so slowly, taking time for everyone in this neat line-up. When he was close to us, Angela managed a little conversation that surely left him and her beaming with joy. We were very happy she could tell him her great news face to face and his reaction was priceless. One happy bunny of honour she was.
Michael also told fans he was fine but had a massive hay fever attack the day before and literally couldn't breath. After that we selflessly concluded that a summer tour, with all its lovely weather and its dry and sunny stage doors, may not be the best plan for the future. Michael's health has to come first. Alas – it was nice to enjoy sunbathing while waiting though….for once not huddled up against storm / pouring rain / freezing cold…
He smiled and waved at us, thumbs up, as he went past (always so nice to get a nod of recognition and a smile!). Bunny Julia managed to thank him for including Show must go on in the shows and he just laughed went “Awww” ( Bunny Julia comment: He keeps doing that whenever I talk to him…! I probably should start talking business and not just gush and thank him for things whenever he stops for a minute! LOL ) and said it was “a pleasure”. It sure is for us, Michael!
He then proceeded to sign programmes, photos and t-shirts and even let people kiss him when they asked. This must have been quite a sight for Andrew, who sat next to him teehee.
The only draw-back at this stage door was that his car was forced to drive in far away from those barriers, as people just walked along and kept filling up the gap between barriers (and those fans having waited there for three hours already) and the precious car. Finally someone opened the barriers and we hope most people got their reward for having waited so long to see him.
Once he was on the parking place of the Apollo we could all watch Michael get out of his car all relaxed, grab his bag from the boot and wave at us all once more before he went in for the sound check.
The exchange of hellos and latest photos and Michael moments took us all a little longer than usual, as simply everyone seemed to have come to London. We met lovely Vera (bubblegoose on the MBFC forum) who joined our little group on the quest for food in Hammersmith. Not an easy task, we can tell you. We finally ended up in The George pub. Nice enough place but not very organised. Our food took almost an hour until we got it (or rather Angela went to collect it, as the staff kept forgetting to deliver it to the tables!). But hey, we were in no hurry.
Once we got changed (yes, in the car, but what can you do? Glamour and Bunnies rarely go hand in hand…) and headed back to the Apollo we met up with Pat, Linda and Pam again. They were kind enough to point Maria Friedman out to us, she stood right at the bar, talking to friends and we would never have seen her through the crowd. This lady surly has her priorities sorted! After all she gave her performances in Woman in White a miss for Michael. A lady to our taste.
We knew tonight would be special as no doubt Michael's family and friends would be in and he'd be on a high as usual when this is the case. So it was no surprise that he was already in party mood BEFORE he stepped onto the stage properly.
His silhouette appeared behind the big curtain (it seemed to have right dimensions for the Apollo, no problems like at Portsmouth) and sang “Don't stop me Now's” “ Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time! ” he had a fit of giggles that we could not only hear but see clearly…shaking shoulders all over the place. Very cute, and it surely got us all into the right mood. You could tell he was happy to be back home, as he told us he was about three times. Bless him!
His introduction to ‘What Love is For' was extra sweet, for it didn't only get the usual Cathy dedication, but he said: “My girl's in tonight!”, with a beaming smile. We all went “Awwww”. Well, at least in our row we did. ;-)
Luckily Michael was aware of Maria Friedman's presence in the audience, for he quickly changed Missy's introduction from his co-star in Woman in White to “ One of my co-stars from Woman in White ”. But on a little more serious note he acknowledged the joy it brought to have worked with Maria again and seemed really happy to have her in the audience.
Another note about Missy: she was rather naughty that night. Probably jealous of Ms Friedman and her co-star status. Missy refused to run up his left arm, so he had to break off mid-song, " I just said..", grabbing the naughty rat and placing it into his left hand and then continue his song. Amazing how seamless he could switch from operatic baritone to everyday speech!
The concert was over far too soon. It was such a special night. The audience was ever so welcoming and he was so touched by that. It was a pure joy to watch him enjoying himself so much. You know what he's like, when the audience is extra enthusiastic, so is he.
With tears of emotion in those deep blue eyes he left the stage.
Back at the stage door we all knew we were in for a long wait. Friends, family and colleagues in usually means you shouldn't be dependent on catching the last bus / train home. The crowd got thinner eventually as the time passed. But when we saw Maria leave (on her way to her car she chatted with a few fans she knew from Passion and gushed about how wonderful Michael was. We really like her!), we knew it wouldn't be long. And sure enough at 00:30 we saw him leave. Or rather we saw the crowd jamming, flash lights going off and heard the usual excited screams. Some of our friends and we lined up on the other side of the street again, as we had when he went in. We wanted to say our good nights to him and were in prime position to do so. Thank you ever so much to those people who did not get enough of him directly at the barriers and decided to run over to our side ( Do we sound a little bitter and twisted? Well, we were.). Furthermore, once his car pulled onto the street we were pushed to the side, as people ran and squeezed between us and the car. His manager, who walked beside the car to give Michael some space looked a bit scared, to be honest. As this was getting really dangerous Michael's driver sped up and Michael was gone within seconds. We were annoyed, but you get used to scenes like that after a few years of active fan-dom. So we rather heard him say his good nights than saw him, but there you go. The thing is: when people behave and are relaxed about it, he takes far more time as he doesn't feel the need to escape. And when he takes time, everyone will get their moment, but some don't seem to realise that...sadly.
Still, rest assured, we had a wonderful evening nevertheless. Surely a night to remember and when we say we didn't get to our hotel north of London until 5 am, you get an idea just how excited we were. Driving through nightly London is quite an adventure but also stunningly beautiful with all the lit buildings and sights…you lose track of time a bit…
The nice concierge at our hotel looked at us in quite a shock when we told him we wanted to check in for this night only. “Night? You mean morning!”, he laughed, as it was bright daylight by the time. We had to admit this was true and he offered us to delay our check-out by two hours free of charge, which was really sweet of him and meant we'd be sufficiently rested before we headed off to Ipswich the next day.
Only two more concerts to go…this sad reality started to sink in before we fell asleep on those VERY comfy beds that night, sorry, morning.