selected from shoot diaries spanning three decades
First the Spice Girls, then this6th August 2002
At 0600 Dublin flood-warning. Within minutes of setting up near the docks, we have reached the liquid equivalent of terminal velocity: Peak Wet.
Camera Fergal O’Hanlon enjoys being out in the deluge, but my sky blue Paul Smith shower-proof coat is made for London fog not monsoon. Worse, my hair wax is washed out and into my left eye, which stings like a bastard and then gets sore and I think baggy. Can’t look down the eyepiece and afraid of using the monitor in case of electrocution.
Things begin to look and dry up in the afternoon when we go inside to where the Prawns are practicing their dance steps for the video, under the tutelage of Priscilla, the self same choreographer we met with the Spice Ladies. She is more fondly remembered as the person who discovered Jimmy Scary, nee Gulzar, allegedly when he was wearing a leopard-skin thong and some Givenchy Gentleman, gyrating in a cage over a bar in Amsterdam, only to have Melanie uncage him and ask if he Wanna be her Lover. Serena and I approach with some trepidation in case she hadn’t liked the film, but relations are friendly.
In no time Fergal and I are dancing about like crew off Network Seven as the prawns try to show interest. The new song is something about them leaving a girl, and the dance action involves them learning how to flip a microphone stand down and up again, which is clearly not as easy as it looks. Things go awry when the one called Kian keeps taking mobile calls. Nikki vanishes into Dublin in search of KFC and Brian mopes about looking even more that usually like someone off a tractor. Tour Manager Anto is very worried about losing Nikki, but Fergal comes to the rescue with his local knowledge of chicken restaurants and the popster is located.
In the lull I get talking to Priscilla’s assistant, who turns out to be the daughter of Shakin’ Stevens, a source of much enjoyment by the crew, though not to the remaining Prawns, who have either never heard of Shaky, or don’t want to be associated with mere Pop acts.
Then, during a wideshot from the corner of the rehearsal room, all hell lets loose. Kian takes a call concerning the words of a song due to be recorded tomorrow. They’re being changed. It might shift the subtle meaning of the thing. The boys go into a huddle in a side room. Anto won’t let us in, and says he believes that when boy bands start thinking words and music are down to them, it’s the beginning of the end. Serena reminds me of Louis Walsh’s dictum, relayed to us in London: the first sign of self-determination in haircuts or the instigation of romantic relationships without asking permission, and he starts looking for fresh meat. He’d seen it all with Boyzone and now it seemed The Prawns were living on borrowed time. We’ve got a film to finish, and preferably one in which the band are together until at act three at least. More importantly, we must make a plane to make back to London.
Fergal and Paul pack the kit. Serena gets Priscilla signed up and we move to the door as the boys emerge. It’s time for farewells– but is it au revoir, or have a nice life ?