Now you may not know the chap in question, so I'll fill you in with a few details.
Alan ran, amongst many other pretty impressive organisations, a property lunch club in London, called Placemakers. The venue was a hotel in Park Lane, and every month, there would be about two hundred and fifty people in property and building attending the monthly Placemakers lunch. We would all meet in a special bar beforehand, and imbibe gin and tonics, or a bottle of white, and meet friends and guests with increasing volume, both in the noise, and also the size of the bar-bill, because of the generous measures of Gordons.
I was introduced to Placemakers when networking came out of the closet, and people were thereon expected to go out and seek contacts to do business, rather than sit meekly in the office and wait for the phone to ring. My first lunch was about 1991, and I really was a rookie then, as there were old boys who'd fought in the war, and sounded like it too sometimes...
Alan had had a long and distinguished career, and his 'secret' escapades included getting Makarios out of Cyprus in the early fifties, and he often told that story to many open-mouthed friends, as it really was James Bond stuff! In the later '90s he often used to get his secretary to ring me up, and invite me to sit on top table with his distinguished guests, and when I'd got used to the importance of some of these people, there was a good time to be had, especially as we met in a private room, where the chosen few were introduced the speaker of the day. Steve Norris was there once, and we had a good friendly chat, because he does understand building and development, as opposed to most politicians.
Now, Bailey, as he preferred to be called, would always have a fund of jokes for when he wrapped up the lunches at around 2.45pm. They were nearly all politically incorrect, sometimes downright rude, but always very, very funny. In the big lunch room, there was a large oak lectern with a microphone, and Alan would rise, make his way to the spot, and with a Piccadilly cigarette curling smoke to the ceiling, he would lean characteristically on one elbow, with his head bowed over his notes, and commence his jokes of the day. It was always a moment well-worth waiting for, and with smoke billowing everywhere, he would remain totally unapologetic about anything which might be said in the next few minutes!
in 2001, I was invited by another chum, who ran a similar successful breakfast operation, known as Movers and Shakers, to give the traditional vote of thanks to the speaker, at the club's Annual Dinner, which was held about this time of year. Now, I'm not a compulsive public speaker, and prefer small meetings, and this was going to be in front of about three-hundred and fifty well-oiled guests, and I'd better get it right. I was going to be thanking Max Clifford, and this was when he was in the public eye because of the Hamiltons, so we all knew him!
So I meticulously planned the short speech, and considered wearing two pairs of underpants for the occasion. But, I also had a wild moment of madness while driving to London, and came up with a tremendous plan which would bring the house down.
I was going to do an Alan Bailey!
I rolled up a small tube of cardboard, to look just like one of his fags, and practised leaning on the dashboard of the car, and decided that this would make the evening end with the biggest bang it had ever done! I'd got the growly but educated voice off pretty well also! The cardboard tube went into the breast pocket of the DJ, and I was ready for fame and probably fortune as well!
Naaah, I blew it.
When I was announced, I whimpered my way to the big oak lectern, unfolded the speech, nearly panicked, but kept cool, did the business exactly as scripted, got one laugh, at least got some applause, shook Max's hand and went back to my seat.
And still to this day, I wish I'd had the nerve...