My Greatest Mistake: Bernard Doherty, PR for the Brit awards and The Rolling Stones

It was at the Brit awards in 1998. Jarvis Cocker, enjoying his rock'n'roll lifestyle to the full, had just got up from his table and dashed on to the stage, where Michael Jackson was hovering in the air like a modern Messiah, surrounded by children, and made his infamous arse-wiggling, two-fingered salute. We had done all the PR for the event and so had about 20 television stations backstage and photographers in the pit and on a special platform in front of the stage - and yet none of them got a shot of Jarvis, as they were all looking at the ceiling, where Jackson was on a cherry-picker surrounded by dry ice. That was their mistake; mine came later.

In the scuffle on the stage, Cocker had knocked over a couple of children while fleeing Jackson's security, and they had very minor injuries. Jackson's people had called the police and complained of assault. Cocker, understandably, was heading for the limo stand behind Earls Court to make a quiet escape. But I thought it would be best if he stayed. I could see the headlines - "Cocker does a runner" - so I told him that he would look more guilty if he ran away.

That was my big mistake. Back in his dressing-room, all hell broke loose. It was the definition of a media frenzy, and not in a good way. Then the police turned up. They were quite nice until some of Cocker's legal team, who had also been enjoying the champagne, arrived. There was a lot of abrasive, drunken behaviour. The police stopped being quite so nice and carted Cocker off to the local nick, handcuffing him and dragging him through the assembled press. They kept him overnight, and the next day he had to give an enormous press conference, which, obviously, made all the papers. Fortunately, the police didn't charge him.

It probably did Cocker's career some good for a few months, but then it became a millstone around his neck. Pulp were great already - they didn't need any help - and it would have been much better for everyone if he had made his quiet getaway as he wanted to. I should have let him go.

Comments