Wednesday, 27 November 2013

I wish I'd been Alan Bailey...


About this time of year, for the last dozen or so years, I just wish I'd been Alan Bailey.

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...




9 comments:

A K Haart said...

"And still to this day, I wish I'd had the nerve..."

I know what you mean. I once gave a short talk on laboratory IT systems to a hall full of people who knew at least as much as I did.

I was going to amuse them with a few jokes but once at the lectern I somehow ended up sticking to the script.

Thud said...

I'm sure you did fine as you have a talent for storytelling.

Scrobs... said...

Script is best really, except if you're a politician, in which case you can blather on for ages, because nobody takes any notice...

I'll try and connect you to another similar post, where the circumstances were entirely different!

Scrobs... said...

That's kind of you Thud, but I reckon you've dealt with bigger audiences!

rvi said...

Interesting life you lead!

Back in the day, I used to have to do a fair bit of public speaking for one reason or another. Came with the territory of my then employment. (No, I was not a teacher or lecturer!)

I started out using much-honed scripts but soon realised that, although I got the salient parts across to the audience, the words and presentation invariably sounded flat and wooden; and lines that were hilarious the night before actually went down like a lead balloon in the light of day.

So I stopped using pre-written stuff and ad-libbed my way through a serious of carefully thought out and arranged bullet points which I discreetly pinned to the inside of my jacket for easy access and ready prompting if I dried up or forgot the next bit. Using that method you can practise the speech on yourself a few times, mentally noting any bright ideas that spring up as you do so.

If you do not look like you are actually reading (a la Obama) your audience will warm to you and the odd one-liner will pop into your head too to make the listeners at least smile (and perhaps stay awake!).

It was all quite fun at the time, aided and abetted by a slightly warped sense of humour, but I am really very happy not to have to do it any more!

lilith said...

Scrobs, I couldn't have done it, with or without a script. In spite of a compulsory public speaking "extra" at school I simply can't do it. I remember in my early thirties having to present a case history to my student colleagues in our third year. "This will be alright, I know these guys, I am utterly relaxed with them and there's only 18 in the room". Stood up, got hotter and hotter, sped through my notes, stammered and sat down again. Ghastly.

Scrobs... said...

Reevers, reading speeches always seems like cheating to me, and watching some of them occasionally (not very often), on TV with politicians etc, it's clear to me that insincerity is much easier to spot when it is spoken from a script.

Like most things in life, I suppose practice makes perfect, but the one I did enjoy was at YD's wedding...

Scrobs... said...

Lils, I'd have listened to every word you said, and asked questions afterwards!

Fo further reading, here's some more on the big man,,,

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/oct/18/guardianobituaries

Anonymous said...

Great story! I think teaching is a bit the same: the whole worlds a stage.

said Pips