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The Blog from Oi Polloi presents: by Alex Jackson •

For those of you that don’t already know, I’m not just the co-editor of Proper Magazine or a ‘little fashion princess’ as someone recently described me, no, I’m also a fully paid up media twat. This means that I am incredibly privileged to have the kind of job where I occasionally find myself thinking ‘I can’t actually believe I just did a shit in Roger Taylor’s toilet’. But before you start to thoroughly despise me please take comfort in the fact that…

A. Prior to my amazing life in showbiz I had no end of dead end jobs. From factory floor to building sites, I’ve had more than my fair share of employment’s shitty stick.

and B. As a freelancer I’m only employed from programme to programme and when there’s nothing being made or it’s Christmas time I’m suddenly wondering how to feed my two kids whilst sat in the glamorous VIP section of Stockport job centre.

For some reason the past 12 months seem to have been particularly ‘celeb heavy’ for me and what is the point in spending time with all these celebs if you can’t show off about it to your mates eh? So without further ado, here are ten of the best familiar faces I got to sit down and have a right old chat with recently…

Michael Palin – On the last day of August 2013 TV legend Sir David Frost sadly hopped onto God’s Concorde with a one way ticket to heaven. This meant ITV had just two weeks to put together a fitting obituary to the great man and his legacy. Luckily for me I got to go out and do the interviews for this show which meant meeting one of my comedy heroes, and friend of Frosty, the ultimate nice bloke Michael Palin.

He was everything I wanted him to be and more, charming, patient, fascinating and of course hilarious. After our chat I enquired about the large nosed statue in his front room I’d spied earlier and he went straight into an unseen Python sketch that it had been made for. It involved a crap sculptor who kicks off if anyone dares to mention that his works of art don’t quite resemble the original model.

Andrew Lloyd Webber – As part of the Frost tribute I also got a trip out into the country to interview another friend of the great man, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Now I wouldn’t say he had a big house but he has a church in his garden that looks like a garden shed by comparison to the main place. The decor was pretty amazing too, imagine if Dracula and Prince Charles shared a place together and you get the gist.

Shaun Ryder – Earlier in the year I worked on a documentary about the closing down of Granada TV Studios with Peter Kay (he’s still got it). As a big fan of Tony Wilson and the Mondays I demanded we get Shaun on the show (well, I asked my ace producer and she said yes). So nearly 25 years after getting Bummed by Shaun, I was finally sat down with him to talk about the old days. With a glint in his eye Shaun told me how he used to deliver mail and telegrams to Granada back when he was a kid and that Tony used to have a little tray in his car specifically for skinning up on (we didn’t use that bit). He was a little sketchy on the later 80s/entire 90s era for fairly obvious reasons. In fact at one point I had to convince him that one of Black Grape’s songs mentions the 70s show Wheeltappers & Shunters as he’d forgotten.

He was proper brilliant though and before he left he signed my mate Nat’s copy of his autobiography. As I walked him out of the building I said I wish I’d had a copy of his book to sign for my missus (who grew up near him) but we’d read it as an eBook. No sooner had I said this than SWR popped open the boot of his Range Rover and pulled out a copy which he duly signed for me main squeeze and handed to me. There’s a pun here somewhere about ‘wrote for luck’ isn’t there? Maybe not.

Katy Perry – More recently I’ve been working on a documentary on the band Queen and having popped round to both Brian and Roger’s for a brew (and a poo) I didn’t think it could get any more A list. But it did. Approximately three months ago I found myself sat approximately three feet away from one of the most famous women in the world. Having not eaten any lunch, drank a particularly strong coffee and eavesdropped on Jonathan Ross chatting to her in the corridor, I became struck by an unusual attack of nerves. Luckily, as with all the best A listers, she kept me waiting well over an hour. Once I’d eaten about 5 flapjacks, the caffeine paranoia buzz had worn off, resulting in a charming little chat with the ultimate California girl, who was I have to say super nice, dead chatty and a genuine fan of Queen too. She even signed a couple of CDs for my daughter and her mate, I bet Lady Ga-Ga or Miley Cyrus couldn’t be arsed to do that.

Andrew Weatherall – For the spring/summer issue of Proper Magazine I decided to interview one of my musical heroes, Lord Sabre of Paradise himself Andrew Weatherall. I avoided doing it face-to-face as he’s one of the few people I reckon I’d have been a bit starstruck by in the flesh. He may not be mega famous but for me he’s up there in my personal deities list alongside Lee Scratch Perry, Caroline Aherne, Alexei Sayle and Morrissey. I taped the resulting phone conversation and it’s basically twenty minutes of laughter and anecdotes about dressing like a German submarine captain and getting dumped whilst listening to New Order. It couldn’t have gone any better and I felt like we were proper mates after putting the phone down, even though I’m sure he’s that sound and that funny with everyone who interviews him. See Issue 13 of Proper Mag for the full spiel.

Michael Sheen – Back to the David Frost tribute and we were lucky enough to get hold of Michael Sheen for a sit-down on camera. What set this interview apart from the others was the way he answered the questions, hard to explain it in words but he seemed to express his answers facially almost as much as he did verbally. He exuded a particular presence that was impressive to say the least. He’s without a doubt one of the finest actors of his generation and someone who we will look back on in years to come in the same way we do his fellow countrymen Burton & Hopkins.

Al Murray – As part of the Queen doc we interviewed Al Murray. Al has performed on stage with the group no less than three times, a fact we both laughed about as we sat opposite one another on bar stools in a closed basement bar somewhere in the West End. Despite having to stop filming several times to punch a noisy barman, it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. He even sang Don’t Stop Me Now to me in German, how often does that happen to you when you’re at work? I think Al’s underrated to be honest, he’s a bit like that posh kid at school who you write off as being a bit dull but then when you end up going round his house two years later you realise he’s the coolest kid in the class and proper sound.

Melvin Bragg – As part of the Frost thing I also came face to face with the man who got pissed with Francis Bacon and has interviewed pretty much everyone of cultural worth in the latter half of the 20th century. No pressure there then. Luckily Mr Bragg was a wonderful mix of Yorkshire charm and down-to-earthness. A particular high point was when I asked him, “How do you think David would want to be remembered?” to which he replied, “He’s dead, he can’t think any more.” A beguiling and intriguing man, a merging of Byron and Bennett who I’m glad to report was wearing a cord jacket. He’s one of us lads.

Tony Iommi – Back on the Queen gig I got to have a chat with Sabbath’s axe man in a country hotel just past a place called Shirley in the Midlands. I mention the location because I used to live there and the Chinese restaurant there is called the Shirley Temple, a name which never fails to make me LOL. Tony was ace, he didn’t really have to do or say anything, he just exudes aceness. I even joked about spiking him with acid; you can’t do that with Esther Rantzen.

Tony Benn – Since we’re talking Tonys and seeing as the great man recently left this mortal coil, I should finish with Tony Benn who I interviewed a few years back but is still worth mentioning. I’ll never forget waiting outside the interview location in Islington to be greeted by the sprightly octogenarian as he hopped out of a taxi, twatted his pipe against a lamp post and introduced himself to me before we went indoors for a brew. He had about five sugars in his tea which he stirred with one of his biros and we had a pre-interview chat about the death threat letters he received on a regular basis. Some of these letters included their address to which he would write a reply saying ‘just letting you know some lunatic is using your name and address to send really badly written letters to me’.

He also mentioned how he bumped into Tony Blair just after he’d become PM and saying, “Well done Tony, I didn’t want you to get in but well done anyway,” to which Bambi replied, “My entire ethos is inspired by a speech you did when you stood up and spoke for Cherie at a local election she was involved in.” As Mr Benn meticulously kept transcripts of all his speeches, after this encounter with Blair he went home and read through his speech. He reliably informed me its main themes were anti-war, anti-privatisation, saving the NHS and pretty much the polar opposite of anything remotely New Labour. So what did Mr Benn do? He only went and printed off a copy and duly sent it over to the newly crowned PM and, funnily enough, never heard from him again.

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