Berry & Green

Creative. Strategic. Communications.

Portakabin Blues

Apart from the miserable 6 months spent working on the Michael Flatley account, my most depressing experience in showbiz PR was spent largely in a Portakabin outside Witanhurst House in Highgate as part of the two-man team responsible for the BBC's flagship Saturday night entertainment extravaganza, Fame Academy, a programme so lacking in personality, sparkle or newsworthiness that at one stage it was seriously suggested that we set fire to something purely to inspire the headline, Flame Academy.

Sadly, the insurance policy on Grade-II listed Witanhurst House didn't stretch to covering deliberate arson and so I was back to the publicity drawing board for me and my co-conspirator, a brilliant, super-smart Scotsman by the name of Michael Park whose resting face resembled that of the World's Angriest Pixie.

The series publicity had begun well with a launch event attended by all of the usual suspects and wall-to-wall coverage.  Young musicians, the brightest hopes for future rock and pop legend status, were to be locked away in the mansion, taught the finer details of the music business by deities such as David and Carrie Grant, and gradually whittled down to one winner, the cream of British young musical talent, before whom the Charts would quake and bow down.

Unfortunately, the opening programme was a catastrophe and viewers shunned it as one might shun an egg and spoon race devoid of either eggs or spoons.  Both the Production team and the PR team knew that it was going to be a long, desperate autumn.

Hope briefly reared its head with the arrival in the Academy of one Mariah Carey, in the UK for a series of promo duties.  Clearly some strings had been pulled at a very high level and as a result, La Carey and her considerable entourage found themselves in a draughty room in a huge, rambling building in north London, waiting to meet half a dozen wide-eyed wannabes.  Mariah was standing for about two minutes when one Carey-flunky shouted, "Mariah needs a chair!"  Immediately, a second Carey-flunky (the one responsible for seating procurement) ran the 5 yards to the nearest chair and placed it under the Carey derriere.

Michael Park and I looked at each other, the same thought occurring simultaneously in our tabloid-tuned heads - Mariah Chairy!  Surely the Daily Star would go for that one?  We were saved.  At least for another week.............