Public holidays seem, for some reason, to throw up the often bizarre bookings.
This Christmas/New Year was no different. On the 28th December I was booked to do cabaret at a Sports Club in Birmingham. They were paying a good fee and asked that I expanded my act to fill two full cabaret spots (not something I usually do). I stressed about this gig for about 6 weeks beforehand. I had to drag out several old routines that I hadn't done for a while simply to fill the time.
As I have said before, quite often your worst fears are never realised and a booking that you dread turns out to be near perfect. So it was at this one. The audience were the shop floor workers from a local company on their Staff Christmas Party. I couldn't have asked for a better audience; they applauded in all the right places; they laughed in all the right places; they joined in when told to and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. All that worrying for nothing.
Now, New Year's Eve was a completely different kettle of fish! Booked into a different sports hall in a different area of Birmingham for an equally exorbitant fee (thanks to the Agent!), the Agent asked me to call the organiser beforehand and confirm everything, especially as the contract said onstage at 9pm New Year's Eve. Two days beforehand I called and spoke to the guy in charge. After having arranged all the basics like PA system, changing room, fee in used fivers etc he casually dropped into the conversation that they were expecting SIXTY children to be in the audience!! I said I was a blue, adult act not suitable for children. Oh, never mind, he says, the parents have been told it is adult. I said I was not prepared to tone my act down, was he sure he wanted me to do the booking. He was insistent.
New Year's Eve dawned and I arrived at the venue about 45 mins before I needed to. I chatted to the DJ and made sure he had the equipment for my act, gave him a running order for the CD's and asked him to make an announcement that my act was not suitable for children and any parents should remove children now if they didn't want them to be in the room while I was onstage.
In the preamble leading up to my going onstage the DJ, as instructed, made the announcement about the adult nature of my act. Not a single child was removed. When I walked onstage for my first segment there were about a dozen kids under 10 to my left. The rest were scattered about the audience.
Part way through my routine I paused to do some live patter. I thought do I tone it down or ramp it up? I reasoned that they had had ample warning and, if the truth be known, I was annoyed at the irresponsibility of the parents letting their progeny stay in the room. Suffice to say I was an awful lot bluer than my normal act.
One 8 year old sitting beside the stage piped up and said 'Why do you swear so much?' My answer was 'Because it is what I am paid for so shut your f**king mouth!!' I went to a table of about 4 teenage boys of about 12/13 and asked the audience to bet on how long it would take for me to make one of the teenage boys blush. It took about 5 seconds! As I walked away one of them called out something so I turned back and said 'You can f**k off. Come back when you hit puberty!' One 6 yr old called out that he knew I was a transvestite. I told him he was very clever to know that word but how did he know that word. Was there something about his Father he wanted to share with the room?
As I came offstage the DJ's partner was in my dressing room waiting to present a prize to someone. I told her I would be surprised if they got less than 10 complaints. She agreed that if they did complain it was their own fault because they had been warned often enough about the content.
The postscript to this night is that when I spoke to the Agent afterwards and asked if he had received any complaints from the venue he said he had spoken to the organiser who thought I was brilliant. It just shows, you can never tell how things are going until they are done.
Happy New Year xxx