SOMEBODY SOMEDAY (2001)
- Extract 1
A TROUBLED GIBBON
In Berlin, after
a gig, I find myself getting a little too close for comfort
to Robbie's private life ...
Front row girls
'Welcome to the world of water,' says Rob, with a smile. To
the left of the little corridor from the door there's a group
of armchairs around a low coffee table. A sideboard laden with
Evian, Coke and other soft drinks stands against the wall. Rob
seems thoroughly relaxed tonight. But he didn't enjoy the gig,
he says, didn't think it was as good as Hamburg.
He and David are already engaged in a fast Uno two-hander, throwing
down the Action, Reverse and Skip cards in their well-worn routine.
'I thank you,' says Rob as he wins a round. Eventually David
is out and Josie and Marv join in. Josie's laughing because
some fan outside was hassling Franksy for an idea of where Robb-ieeeee
was going next. 'Oh ple-e-e-ease,' she begged, 'can you give
us a tip?' 'Don't wipe your arse with a broken bottle,' was
Franksy's growled reply.
Rob, ever bright and restless, hurries
the game along, calling out your name if you're more than a
second behind the hand. 'David!' 'Mark!' 'Marv!' But he's patient
as well. There's a wanting-to-be-kind, Better Man side of him,
but he's still the Prince. 'Open that window for me, would you,
David?' he asks. At other times he breaks off to sing snatches
of his own songs. Then he suddenly looks round at you and smiles,
for no discernable reason.
A little later we're joshing around. I'm telling David and Josie
that they remind me, as they stand on the edge of the stage
night after night, dancing along to Rob's songs, of characters
in Winnie the Pooh. Big bald David, in his loose Nelson Mandela
style shirt, comparatively tiny Josie boogying along beside
him - what are they? Pooh and Piglet, something like that (though
I don't say that now).
'And me?' asks Rob.
'No, you're more Jungle Book.'
'What am I? A troubled gibbon.' He laughs loudly.
It's two in the morning but there are still some fans in the
downstairs bar. Drinking tea at a table by the door are Marlene
and Haydee, from Rostok on the Black Sea. Marlene, with a ginger
mop and almond eyes, is a student. Her friend in black, with
long dark hair and a big, strangely mobile mouth, has finished
school and is waiting to go to university. They were both in
the front row at the gig, Haydee standing out from the crowd
with her Draculine good looks. Face to face, they are not just
dumb beauties; they both have good English and are bright and
articulate. They were only young when the wall came down, they
tell me, so don't remember much about the old East Germany.
But it wasn't so bad in the old days, Haydee insists. Everyone
had a job.
Suddenly Jonah has appeared. He raises
his eyebrows at me (I'd said I was going to bed) and starts
offering drinks all round. But the girls are driving back to
Rostok tonight, so they're only having tea. 'Keep that chair
for me,' says Jonah.
When he sits down the conversation becomes altogether more stilted.
'How many men have you got in your cellar?' he asks Haydee.
She giggles and looks rapidly between her friend and me. Is
this supposed to be a joke, a chat-up line, or what?
After a few minutes of this Jonah's mobile rings. He gets up
and steps outside. An earnest conversation is going on, clearly
about the girls. He comes back in and sits down, a broad, slightly
nervous smile under his moustache. 'D'you like cards?' he asks
them. There's a card game going on upstairs and they want one
more player. But only one. Would Haydee perhaps be interested?
Haydee giggles fetchingly. No, no, she's quite happy down here
with her friend, she says. Jonah's concerned that she's not
quite getting his drift. The person he works for would like
to play Uno with her. Haydee laughs. 'Oh no, I don't think I
want to play Uno. It's a kids' game, isn't it?'she says.
'You don't have to play Uno,' says Jonah. 'Are they stupid?'
he mutters under his breath, as his mobile rings again. This
time the conversation round the corner is both more hushed and
more earnest. The girls fully understand what's on offer. They
wouldn't mind going up to meet Robbie, but Haydee doesn't want
to go alone with Jonah.
He reappears, still on the phone. He's telling whoever's on
the other end that he will be back shortly. 'Accompanied,' he
A minute later and Marv appears. He's altogether more direct.
'You know who we work for, don't you?' he says. This person
would be very happy to see Haydee in his room.
'This person,' adds Jonah, 'is someone whose gig you've recently
been to see.' He nods meaningfully.
'Oh,' says Haydee with a laugh. 'Michael Jackson!'
The two security men exchange exasperated looks, then Jonah
turns his biggest smile back on Haydee. Look, why doesn't she
just come up and see who they're talking about. They can both
go, and then one can stay and play cards and the other can come
with them. Him and his colleague.
The girls are not going to be split up and even together they're
not going anywhere with Marv and Jonah. 'We'd go up with you,'
they say. And foolishly, liking and feeling concerned for them,
We go up in the lift, an awkward
fivesome. Along the corridor, Jonah knocks on Rob's door. A
muffled 'come in' and Jonah ushers us through. Rob is there,
alone, at the end of the short corridor into the main suite.
He sees us, a crowd of people he hasn't asked for, and is suddenly
'I'm sorry,' he mutters, 'too many people.'
But he doesn't scream at us, he's polite as ever.
'Good night,' he adds.
We back out and troop down to the bar. When the girls have left,
over another vodka Jonah is philosophical. It was a fuck-up,
basically. But you learn in these situations to pick yourself
up, dust yourself down and carry on for another day.
A little later Marv appears. It's OK, he says. He's been talking
to Rob about it and the boss thought it was quite funny.