As many of you know I am a great supporter of the charity, did once have a set of cut down golf clubs, have worked very closely with key members of Bucks Fizz and Brother Beyond and know all the words to Manhattan Transfer’s Chanson D’amour, in French, and I know him so well by Paige and Dickson (in English).
But enough about me. Yes I, your self-appointed showbiz correspondent and food taster to the stars, has once more been shunning the damp patches of south London in lieu of living the vida loca in London’s glittering Mayfair!
So it’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve got my DJ on already; this does seem strange. My corset is tightened, thank heavens for the maid, and my shoes are polished. All set. My chaperone and I black cab it hot foot to your actual Park Lane. Our driver dropped us off a little way away (playaway!) in order that we could once more adjust some tight fitting items and so those needin’ smokin' facilities could be accommodated - timewise.
I must say that it wasn’t a straightforward 200 yds hop. Firstly we were accosted by a well dressed large woman with her shopping bags at the bus stop. She’d fallen asleep, so the story went, and had her train fare stolen – and could we furnish her with 12 English pounds by way of compensation. With the answer ‘how about no?’ she asked whether we’d meet her half way. My chaperone settled on a pound and we walked on. Narrowly missing the next gang of rent a beggar, I was just about to be presented with an award at the Sikh of the year ceremony when we realised we were only at the Grosvenor, and that we had to trot on further as we were Dorchester bound. And no that isn’t some seedy Dorset S&M club.
So finally we arrive, albeit a pound lighter, at the Dorchester Ballroom where a young lass in a tight dress welcomed me to my night with the stars, all in aid of Ronnie Corbett’s 80th birthday and a good old excuse to raise some money for Children’s charity. Smashy and Nicey were not there but an evening of showbiz Gold ATV style was ahead and anticipated. With excitement, trepidation (it should wipe off) and a hunger to meet the octogenarian himself I made my way up the steps and into the first part of the evening – the ‘reception’.
Now to the kiss and tell section*
Well no sooner had I finished my first glass of fine wine, courtesy of one of London’s leading talent agents (no, no job offers yet) my well connected chaperone whisked me over in a ‘can I thrust by – I’m a diabetic’ stylee to meet Mr Rob Brydon. Luckily he was ready for a change of scene what with him chatting to a Judith Chalmers stylee orange person, and so welcomed our merciful yet jolly interruption. What a chatty man, and how polite and friendly he was. I try and do my A list research, and so had listened to his recent dessert island discs. This enabled me to know about the new family and the circumstances pertaining to his previous marital breakdown. Not that I made it the main topic of discourse but a baseline understanding of an individual’s predicament makes for well lubricated social intercourse (I find).
All the while my young and excited heart was hoping above hope that the evening would include a Rob Brydon doing Ronnie / Ronnie doing Ronnie double act. I die disappointed, but swiftly on.
Obviously I can’t divulge, due to the 37 page (double sided) security clause my chaperone made me sign, the intimate detail of our honest one on two discussions, but I can say that his eyebrows are his own, and his is a very funny and talented man who made my chaperone and I giggle profusely - what a great start.
The master of ceremonies – who I did see rolling his eyes on being ignored by everyone, was doing his utmost to shimmy us through, a not unwide opening, to the grand ballroom itself to take our seats and for the evening’s raz a ma taz to commence and how. So we just stayed where we were, my chaperone went to check his shares and I slowly sauntered in past the artwork up for grabs in the silent auction, thinking everyone else was inside, apprehensively looking for my hosts’ table.
But no I was the first in. Our table was luckily the first one I came to and as I ummed and ahhed as to which seat to take I was greeted by Victor who informed me that he was going to be our waiter this evening and asked quietly if I could be so kind as to point out our host on his arrival - he would be most grateful. There was no obvious seating plan so I continued to hover not wanting to firm up my choice in case a social faux pas was committed. I did consider the various angles between all of the chairs and the stage and had a few options in mind should the time for decision appear soon. No one else came though so I presumed I was at the wrong table and would soon be joined by extras from Holby and get myself into inappropriate banter with one of Jordan’s bridesmaids. But no, the appointeds arrived and we worked out a very convivial boy girl, boy girl seating scenario, which found me next to two very glamorous and very well credentialed TV execs - both ladies, both of the opposite sex and both lovely.
Early celebrity rubbing (like brass rubbing but less expensive) includes my backing on to Vanessa Feltz’s table. Now hers was very different to ours and included a lot of ladies with short skirts and hospital strength blusher, as well as Johnny Culshaw and someone who I think might have been in Emmerdale. I only see Vanessa from behind; she never turns round, not even once! And I can confirm she does have lovely locks in a very nice condition. Which is strange as I’d always thought her hair looked dry on the telly!
My Chaperone at one point called me outside to the smokers’ pavement to have a word with Tony Hatch, but I missed my chance by a fag’s breath. Back inside Tony introduces the evening in his capacity as Chair (of the evening) and reminds us all of Clive Anderson which simply confuses us – some guests had already had more than one wine.
After Tony had made his introductions we were enthralled with the Omnipresence of Mr Rob Brydon whose task it was to set us on the golden L.E. path of a true celebration of Mr Ronnie Corbett in his 80th year. He did enthral us with his magnificent impression of Ronnie, which had the house down as expected. I had hoped he’d have done a spot of Tom Jones too, but you can’t, as I have learnt over the years, have everything.
Next up there was a girl singer who no one knew and wasn’t terribly good so we squeezed in a good amount of chatting amongst ourselves. The chat was then disturbed by some quite complicated instructions, which completely went over my head, about having to write your name on a £20 note and if your note was chosen you’d win the table decoration on your table. (Tony Hatch’s wife made them I think). Luckily I didn’t win, as I’d only tenners in my wallet and that would have been embarrassing if one of my tenners had been pulled out of the envelope housing everyone else’s 20’s! Think of the shame!
Time for a gentleman’s break – never you mind ladies, all very salubrious and high end, although they could have done with some spot mopping. On my way out none other than HM Mr R Corbett himself was coming in so I held the door for him and said I hoped he was enjoying the evening. He was very polite and did what looked like a little dance – I don’t think he can help himself – it’s in the genes (tartan).
Dinner is served - very nice, and although sober, I have absolutely no recollection of what I had for my starter. The meaties were served cod on stuff avec something. For mains the meaties had a lovely looking beef wellington avec legumes du campagne seasonál. I had a sort of basket made out of the pastry they do samosas with, resting on a large pool of a very tasty mauve sauce, the basket was filled with a battered tofu or quorn steak, which we all thought tasted like chicken so we left that, and a selection of tempura’d veggies - very nice. (Mrs Hatch apparently chose the menus). Pud - well it was a lovely bit of something moose but cake like with a nice crisp brulee sheet across the top with some raspberry sorbet and fruits du jour. Coffee was then served but I missed out on the sweet meats as I was busy hob-nobbing.
Next on the menu was the auction. There were a plethora of goodies on offer from signed books, to golf bags, to villa holidays (flights not included) to dinner with Lord Lucan – you know the drill. Unfortunately one of our table accidentally bid on appearing in OK magazine and so six hundred pounds later (lighter) our table hosts had their snap taken with Ronnie himself – soon to appear in a Forbuoys near you – no doubt! All very exciting and all proceeds to charity.
The key point of the auction was that it was led by a hyperactive Bobby Davro, who was mostly only able to pretend to be Harry Hill. Harry himself was in the audience so I’m not quite sure how that would have gone down or whether they perhaps had some sort of deal. Anyway there were two points to Bobby’s patter – one high – holding his wine glass up he announced – ‘ladies and gentleman, I haven’t had a drink for 37 days!’ mutterings of approval and old school support, ‘Not consecutive days of course!’ brought the house down. The low was when he said ‘I’d like to thank all the waiting staff who’ve done a great job, considering they were all gripping to the axles of lorries in Dover 3 hours ago!’ Now mixed reception here. Our table all looked very dour whilst the independent radio execs and their ‘dates’ at the next table all pissed themselves with laughter and clapped themselves raw!
Then ladies and gentlemen a hush ascended on the crowd as Tony moisturised us into anticipation of our ‘surprise celebrity guest’ and then from the shadows at the back of the room rushed Tarby. Up to the stage – he’d hot-footed it from a family occasion - car waiting - engine running. He said a lovely few words about Ron and then straight back out again to the Merc no doubt on double yellows – standing ovation, lights up. You’re back in the room.
Next they showed us a film of disabled children so we were all crying in the aisles and the locks on our wallets were further loosened. Sandi Toksvig then shares about Ron’s great charity work and links this to the variety club etc etc etc. Very funny –talks about them working together last Christmas at the Festival Hall – which I saw, and how she is the only person in the business who looks up to him – she is TINY.
For some reason John Culshaw then gets up and does a) lots of impressions of W G Bush and b) a not as good impression of Ronnie as Rob Brydon had done. But he’s amusing in a mass media sort of way – which I am told is popular these days and even more important than what I think – it is all raising a lot of money for the charity.
More wine, more chat and then, drum roll, the show stopping begins. Mr Ronnie Corbett himself gets up on stage and the fun really starts.
Ron does a couple of very funny routines – all running round the stage - very active and fan fucking tastic. His little act culminates with him asking his wife Anne up on stage. He talks about how they met – both working with Danny to start with, and then they go into this pretendingly not rehearsed song and dance routine. Anne is really up for it and steals the show completely. Lots of - as the music segues into the next song...’do you remember this one?’ Absolutely brilliant. Then as they are all bowing and thanking the band Tony Hatch comes back on stage and as Anne is kissing the band says that Anne is doing the old Danny La Rue routine – you couldn’t pay for this gold. He signs off by thanking all the wives - which has us all in hysterics re the golf club stylee nature of the evening. Lights up, hats on. It must be time to go.
But no, my fearless chaperone has international cabaret introductions still up his sleeve. He pushes me forward to Sandi who I greet and grab and have my photo taken with – my photographer is short sighted and not to be re employed. We then head for the big game - Ronnie Corbett (Mr) is in our sights. I of course hold back re the nerves and public school upbringing, but my chaperone - used to celebrity chit chat and with relevant provenance and appropriate credentials - forges our way forward with a 'hello Mr Corbett’ and then there I am, chatting to the great (little man) himself. Whilst maintaining the chat I reach for my programme, turn to my chaperone and intone ‘pen’ and before you are able to say ‘will this be on ITV4?’ Ron had signed my programme cum menu and I am one step closer to dying happy. How fucktastically amazing, Mr Ronnie Corbett OBE shaking my hand and talking about Jackanory.
*extracts from this blog have previously appeared in Now, Closer and Hot magazines and may have been exaggerated in order to make the author appear more popular.