The American Dream
Max Bell joins Frankie Goes To Hollywood for a week on high excitement on the road in the USA. Photos by A.J.Barratt.
Monday 5 November
Today begins our great adventure. Arrived at Heathrow for the morning flight on Pan Am 107 —
Three of us going. Me, AJ and Frankie’s PR Regine Moylet, a Dublin girl in the press hot seat.
Ooze off 107 and cab it to the Hotel Marriott. Unpacked and raided the hotel mini bar immediately, aiming to live up to Frankie’s first rule; always have fun at other people’s expense.
Phone up the Frankies at their hotel, the plush Georgetown. They’ve just arrived from Toronto, Canada.
Ped, Mark and Nash take turns yelling obscenities down the phone at us so we cab over to their gaff for some more personal abuse. Find Holly in the restaurant wolfing down a steak and chips.
“Hullo children,” Johnson coos. “I haven’t eaten for three days.”
Up to the sixth floor where Mark is on the phone to Liverpool. “Sound, Ma! I’m in America! Listen, tonight I’m doing a live phone interview with Richard Skinner for the Old Grey Whistle Test, so switch the telly on.”
Mark gets passed round the family. “Have to go dad, this is costing three quid a minute.” Everyone in the party is in a state of high, almost hysterical, excitement. “A year ago I hadn’t even been to London,” Mark tells me. “Honest!”
Ped is moaning about Washington’s Ontario Theatre where the band play tomorrow. Apparently it’s too small to allow Frankie to use all their PA.
“I only enjoy it when it’s loud,” says Ped. “Tell No. 1 that the lads are the heaviest band in the world.”
We leave Mark speaking to Skinner but come back to find him in a temper. “He didn’t ask me anything he said he would. He says someone at Island had told him they didn’t think we’d crack America and what did I think to that? Prat.”
Nasher, the Red Muso, is already living up to his role as the arch prankster. Nasher is the originator of Frankie’s catch phrases. The two essential sayings for this tour are both taken from Frankie drivers.
First one is “Let’s get these Pineapples to Hawaii!!!” which means let’s get this show on the road without further ado.
The second comes from a Canadian driver who turned to the band before taking them to a gig and said “You’re f***ing history, mate!” —
The “history” phrase is now used to mean, you’re a thing of the past. Later on we will get refused admission to a New York club called Limelight and Nasher will tell the proprietor as we leave that “You’re f***ing history!”
The banter is nonstop. Ped rushes around the hotel screaming “Have you got a problem with your box?” and calling everyone in sight a ‘plank’ or a ‘quilt’.
If you really want to talk like Frankie you answer a boring statement, “Naah, not in that colour!” to which the correct reply is “Yeah, sometimes, yeah!”
If you want to embarrass a fan you sneak up behind them and shout “Show us yer skimpies!” Got that?
Meet the crew
The band have all adopted pseudonyms. To call up Paul Rutherford’s room you ask for Chicken Hawk or Mr. C. Hawk; Holly is Mr Universe; Nasher is Johnny Blade; Ped is Dark Horse and Mark is Mo Hawk.
The two backing musicians, keyboards player Peter Oxendale and brother Gerard (Jed) O’Toole, are called Kway Lood and Mondo Bondage —
As well as the band there are three managers on tour. Three! First and foremost is Tony Pope (“strictly no interviews —
Tony’s rise to fame is extraordinary. He started life as an Island Records driver, which is how he met Frankie. They liked him so much they asked him to manage them.
Tony’s nickname is Tosh, he’s about five eight and 170 pounds. The American managers are Ron Weisner, who used to manage Michael Jackson (but doesn’t anymore) and young Bennet Freed, commonly known as Gordon.
Gordon reckons he’s the youngest manager in America. He’s the son of Alan Freed, the DJ who invented rock and roll. Phew!
Bennet used to manage Wham and Nick Rhodes, and he and Weisner look after Madonna.
The crew is nine strong and led by the indispensible tour manager Ian Jeffrey, undoubtedly the most important person on the tour after the band. Ian’s job is to get Frankie from A to B without stopping off at C to Z. No mean feat.
Ian rarely raises his voice but when he does, boy, watch out!
Pig in Japan
Now we’ve met the entire entourage we go out for a Japanese meal to the, er, Japanese Inn where the lads completely disgrace themselves and Paul has to wag his finger and tut-tut at them. The other diners are horrified but fascinated, particularly one woman who can’t take her eyes off them.
“Psss, psss, that’s Frankie Goes To Hollywood,” she tells her husband who looks well cheesed off.
“Sorry, luv!” Mark yells across the room. “Are we spoiling your scran?”
“Yes, you are actually,” the woman lies. And adds: “I’m from Guildford.”
After far too many jugs of Sake, the lads find the mention of Guildford staggeringly funny. The Japan Inn manager is delighted to see the back of them, especially as they pay in dollar bills.
Frankie goes home to bed.
Tuesday 6 November
Today is American Presidential Election Day. Boring. Today is also Frankie’s first ever American gig.
They’ve just played six nights in Canada, where they have No.1 hits. America is an unknown quantity but the buzz is starting. By the time we get to New York that buzz is a roar and by the time Frankie goes to Hollywood, it’s a bang!
The Beatles also played their first ever American gig in Washington —
Frankie are playing in an 1100 capacity theatre, but first they have a day of interviews.
An Island America girl tells them they’re doing a fashion spread for Esquire magazine and has to take their measurements. Ped says “If we don’t like the clothes forget it.” Mark says, “I hate her!”
At four pm Frankie do an in-store record-signing and fan-kissing session at the Record and Tape Ltd. store. Two thousand kids are plastered around the block and the cops have cordoned off the entire street.
The cops are wearing Frankie badges and the shop has hired a squad of musclemen from Gold’s Gym in New York to hold ‘em back.
First, though, a publicity stunt. Frankie drive to the in-store in a convoy of army jeeps, flanked by military policemen (actors). The whole event is filmed by MTV (which Mark calls Mindless TV) and another lot who are filming for the BBC and Entertainment USA, the regular nightly dose of show biz Americans need to bolster their celluloid fantasies.
The stunt is done in very poor grace because the open top jeeps are freezing.
We drive ahead in one car with the Beeb crew and Ron Weisner yelling abuse at the MTV crew.
He tells our poor driver: “Ignore them, I’m paying you for C’rissakes,” while in the MTV van Regine is telling her driver: “Ignore them I’m paying you”, in a much quieter voice of course.
At the in-store, Frankie records sprout legs and scamper out to the cash-till. Two young black girls are swooning over their autographs, scribbled over their copy of No. 1 with Ped in his nappies.
Cassandra and Claudia, both 15, got two kisses each. “They were perfect English gentlemen.”
Back at the Georgetown, Jed is first to the bar, closely followed by Kway (aka Ox and The Invisible Man). Kway is a rock and roll veteran, having been in the original Glitter Band. He’s from Hull and reckons he’s a close friend of Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter.
At seven the band start getting changed because there’s no dressing room at the Ontario. It’s a comical sight watching them help each other pull their riding boots on.
Meet Holly at the lift. He’s all in white with two ostrich feathers on his shoulder. The lads tell him he looks like Long John Silver. Holly is pissed off and goes back to his room to make some minor adjustments.
His room is called the Queen’s Suite. Ha, ha.
“Mmm, what to wear…” Holly muses. “Shall I try braces with these pants? Nooh! Too daywear.”
At nine we pile into the van and drive a mile or so to the Ontario. There’s no back door so the band are rushed through the crowd to a small room by the toilets. The support band Fourteen Carat Soul are long finished and people are getting restless.
The audience is mostly teenage —
Paul and Holly are a revelation as frontmen and vocalists, while the lads provide the instrumental power and heterosexual appeal — loads of it. Mark is regularly mobbed by stage invading girls, one of whom pins him to the floor for a snag throughout the entire bass solo on ‘Two Tribes’.
For some reason Holly talks to the crowd in a camp American accent in between songs while Paul waves an American flag and rips up a Reagan rubber mask.
Funnily enough in the entire week we spent in the USA I never found one person who admitted voting for Ray-Gun.
Afterwards at the hotel the band are having a mini-inquest. Nash and Jed’s guitar synthesizers had packed up and so had Ped’s drum sequencers, but Mark is gatting most stick.
“You were out of your box before we went on, Mark!” Nasher tells him. The Psychedelic Furs (who were at the gig) were clocking you.
“We carried you, la.”
Mark just laughs and swigs down a bottle of champagne.
“Don’t do that in England,” Ped adds. “Call yourself a lad!”
Tony Pope smooths over the cracks. “Whatever you’ve got to say, say it now and then shuddup, ‘specially you Mark ‘cos you’re bladdered.”
The band change and go to a local club, Cagney’s.
Ped and Nash go exploring while Mark gets the zeds in Poor boy is tired and emotional so Paul takes him home.
Later Paul and Holly are dancing to Prince and drinking the Rutherford cocktail, a B52 Shooter made with Advocaat.
Back at the hotel a fan asks Ped if Frankie mean it, if they’re politically motivated and so on. You’d think that after a statement like ‘Two Tribes’ people would be satisified but they never are.
“It’s not political —
Someone turns on the TV. Ronnie won.
Let’s go to bed.
Next week… Frankie Goes To Hollywood… Fear of Flying… Peter Powell’s five o’clock shadow… Saturday Night Live… Mark O’Toole and Paul Rutherford’s bedtime secrets…Continue »