When it finally happens, I’m looking forward to seeing Sir Elton in his farewell show at the O2 Arena. It was scheduled long ago but the pandemic intervened.
When I was 20, I was lucky enough to be in a National Youth Theatre production. It was a play called The Apprentices and the story was like a slice of life in a northern industrial factory. On the first night, Elton John was in the audience. After the show we all went to the pub over the road and, along with others, he bought me a pint. What I didn’t know was that he and his team had arranged for us all to go back to the theatre and they had arranged a surprise party on the stage. Having not known the rockstar life, I wasn’t expecting the enormous crates of lager piled high. He and his then manager were very down to earth and chatty. He was already a star but had no pretensions.
He became a Patron of the Youth Theatre and was a big hit. They were making a documentary one day, and he bowled up in full glittery baseball kit and huge platform shoes, which at the time were all the rage. In a gymnasium in a North London school, he joined in a game of five-a-side football and somehow dodged the various players who attempted to take out his knees.
A few weeks later he did two concerts to raise money for the company, and somehow I got the job of being a bouncer – which meant I just stood at the side of the audience and watched the show. During a break in rehearsals, he was going up the stairs as I was going down. He stopped me and said, “Hello John”. I didn’t care that he got my name wrong, but it was good that he had presumably remembered me from the play. We didn’t speak again, but we were all invited to the after-show party with the rest of his band.
Since then, I’ve followed the ups and downs of his life and career from a great distance but always thought he was someone who cared. We’ve all heard about the hissy fits and the extravagant rock-star lifestyle, but what came over to me was the opposite – intelligence, warmth and laughter. You hear so much about the selfishness and egomania of some performers, it’s nice to know that some people are just good at what they do, and they manage to keep a sense of proportion about it all. Top people know what they can do and therefore don’t spend any time letting you know that – they leave that to others.
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