Coales' Notes: Going round in dress circles

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
MONDAY: This morning the Pipeline Radio people were pressing me to accept a ticket to the Sunset Boulevard premiere. They saw 'Andrew Lloyd Webber: has he pulled it off again?' as the number one issue for Thursday's phone-in.

I said in the office, it was an incredible bore, not my sort of thing at all, and I was strongly inclined to get out of it. Di was shocked. How could I possibly turn it down, I must be mad, people would kill for a ticket. Rory added: 'This is what being a radio personality means, Gordon. This is the world you now move in.' I said I supposed so. I arranged to pick the ticket up from Pipeline on the way to the theatre, and went back to the flat to change. When I arrived at Pipeline, the woman at reception said: 'Oh, but we biked it round to you two hours ago.' I smelt a reprieve. I said, Oh well, never mind, understandable mistake. However, she insisted I ring my office. Unfortunately I got through to Di, who said: 'Thank God. Now look. I've got the ticket here. I'm looking at it now.' I said sadly there was little I could do, it was only 45 minutes to curtain-up, we might as well just forget it. She said firmly: 'No Gordon. Now what I'm going to do is put the ticket on another bike. Wait outside the theatre. Be conspicuous.'

I took a cab to the Strand. I've never seen anything like it. The melee. The whole road was packed with first-nighters, cameramen, police, general gawpers. I tried to make myself conspicuous. It was clearly impossible. But just to be able to say I'd done everything, I made my way to the entrance. I told the usher there had been an mix-up, but perhaps they had a list. He said: 'Admission by ticket only, all right sir?' There was something in his tone I didn't care for. I said actually I was Gordon Coales from London Pipeline Radio. He said: 'Yes, I'm sure you are sir, but it's ticket-only, so if you could just move back . . .' And then someone well-known went through, and the cameras started going mad.

After that, I decided I could well and truly call it a day. I retreated with some difficulty to the other side of the road. A voice beside me murmured: 'Need a ticket then?' I said apparently you did, yes, if you wanted to get in anyway. He said: 'One ticket, pounds 100.' I laughed, but I happened to notice he was carrying a crash-helmet, and I stupidly asked, did the name Gordon Coales mean anything to him. He stared at me, and said: 'Oh. Right. Sorry Mr Coales. Honest error.' He thrust the ticket into my hand and vanished. So I was left with little choice.

My seat was in the dress circle, which seemed to be packed with celebrities. The man sitting next to me was someone I thought I vaguely recognised. He was looking about him very irritably. After a bit he turned to me and said in a whisper: 'I'll tell you one thing, I don't know what I'm doing here.' I said I felt exactly the same way myself.

He whispered on: 'Well quite, I mean, if they've put Shirley, Shirley Bassey, down there in the stalls, then what are we doing - shunted up here with . . .' He looked about him again, and mouthed: 'Bruce Forsyth, for heaven's sake? We're on the bloody B list. I mean, I am a household name - and of course you're a household name too,' he added.

This was a pleasant surprise. I said it was very kind of him to say so, had he heard the programme? He replied: 'Look I'm most awfully sorry, I've got a memory like an absolute sieve, remind me.' I said it was probably my voice he recognised. I was Gordon Coales, from the London Pipeline arts phone-in. His mouth fell open. He said: 'Oh for Christ's sake. I'm stuck up here with Bruce Forsyth and a chap who does a phone-in on local radio. It's the Z list]' Then he started making wild hand signals to an acquaintance the other side of the theatre and the lights went down.

It was all right, I suppose, not really my sort of thing of course. But this is the world I now move in.