Confessions of a Box Office Manager: Hollywood comes knocking
Our West End mole has a nasty encounter with a celebrity
What's your worst celebrity encounter? I've had a few horrors over the years doing this job, many of which I've told you about here, but I think I've just reached the nadir, and I want to get it off my chest.
I was on the phone to the production office when he swept in, with his mini-entourage; all male, all suited and booted. It was a real Hollywood moment.
I recognise him immediately of course and smile, raising my hand to acknowledge that he's there and that I'd be winding up this call as quickly as I could. Unfortunately the production assistant I'm talking to has an ongoing case of verbal diarrhoea and never uses one word when she can use ten.
Gazing at him though, it's true, it's the eyes that draw you in: a deep cornflower blue with just a hint of vermillion stripe in the surrounding whites (that'll be the much documented debauchery I expect). On top of that there's the deep – but not too deep – suntan, and the aroma of an unfamiliar, expensive-smelling cologne that I'm pretty sure wasn't on special offer at Boots.
His accent is a bizarre hybrid of Californian drawl, cut glass English vowels and a hint of a twang I don't recognise. I'm going to Google him later to check where he's actually from.
The clerk whose lunch break I'm covering is much more of a film buff than I am and will be kicking himself that he's missed out on this close encounter of the Hollywood kind. Actually, maybe he won't once I've finished telling him what happened.
Sadly, this man is pig ignorant. I don't care how many Hollywood blockbusters (none of which I've actually seen, and I certainly won't be rushing to watch them after this) you've been in, mate, being nice costs nothing.
The first unpleasant surprise was that instead of waiting patiently and observing the fact that I was doing my level best to get off the phone, the movie star elects to stand immediately in front of me, staring pointedly and clicking his fingers at me as though I'm some sort of serf.
I feel myself reddening but I refuse to be intimidated in my own box office. His henchmen stare dully ahead, with the look of people who'd really rather be anywhere else than here. They see this sort of behaviour on a regular basis, I guess.
"OK, OK Maxine, look I'm going to have to go as I've got somebody waiting here" I stammer. He continues to stare at me as though trying to extract a confession, then, just as I'm on the verge of hanging up, he grabs a pen from my side of the desk, lifts it above his head, and lets it drop. Myself and the minders all involuntarily flinch, and the pen rolls onto the floor. We all gaze at it.
I cut the lovely Maxine off mid-sentence and face the beast.
"Right yes, I am aware you were waiting but that was a work-related call. Anyway, apologies. How can I help?"
"PEN! PEN! PEN!" He also claps on each "pen" which is especially lovely isn't it. I decide to play dumb, since that is how I'm being treated.
"Oh I'm sorry? You want to borrow a pen? Why don't I just grab that one you threw on the floor?"
Another blank stare. I reach down and grab the dropped biro with as much dignity as I can muster, which isn't very much, and hand it to him. He immediately hurls it back onto the counter.
What he does next is even more weird...he turns to the minder on his right, clicks his fingers and holds out his hand, palm upwards. The minder produces a gift card from his inside jacket pocket and lays it carefully into the hallowed palm. The movie star gazes several times in quick succession between the card in his hand and the minder, whose face suddenly goes a funny colour.
"Jeez, sorry sir" he gasps, grabbing back the card with one hand while rummaging in his opposite inner pocket with the other. He produces a tube of antibacterial hand gel and gives his employer a healthy squirt of it. Only on his hands, unfortunately. That achieved, the star retrieves the pen, writes the card (amazingly, he licks the envelope himself rather than getting one of his minions to do it for him) and slides it across the counter; he then pockets the pen but I can't be bothered to argue, quite frankly. I've got other pens.
I gaze at the envelope and he's written the star of our show's name on it. Oh...so they're friends are they. Disappointing.
He then turns to the minder on the opposite side and clicks his fingers at HIM, prompting him to produce as if by magic a Fortnum & Mason bottle bag which gets unceremoniously dumped on top of the card.
"Make sure this gets to him, will you?" At this point I feel like telling him to take it to stage door himself but I want to see what's in that bag.
Without another word, he turns on his heel and leads his party to the door. He stops just inside and lights up a cigarette ...and that's my cue. I stand up, suddenly disproportionately furious, and bellow "SMOKING IS NOT ALLOWED IN HERE!" I feel a bit of a prat actually as he doesn't even turn round, he just flaps his hand dismissively while one of his staff opens the door for him.
Once the coast is clear and I feel less like punching a wall, I take a peek into the bag. The bottle of champagne in there retails at a jaw dropping £575 (I know this as I checked on the Fortnums website, don't judge me). Seems a bit tactless since the star of our current show is famously a recovering alcoholic; maybe they aren't such good chums after all.
Then my colleague bursts back in from lunch, breathless and beaming from ear to ear.
"You'll never guess who I've just seen...."
I name my most recent visitor and he looks crestfallen.
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Oh, have I got stuff to tell you! Can you pop this bottle and card round to stage door for me and I'll get the kettle on for when you get back?"
He heads out bearing a bottle of booze worth more than he earns in a week, headed for somebody who can't even drink it. Celebrity is baffling sometimes. I reflect that if I'd had any of this star's films in DVD I'd be heading home to make a bonfire out of them this evening. I idly Google his name on my computer but instead of finding out his nationality I put in the search words "temperamental" and "difficult". I find some great stories. What a charmer. But, hey, nobody died.