“Have I got time for a quick pee, I’m busting”?
These were the first words spoken to me, by way of introduction, by a vivacious 20 year old Amy Winehouse as she sat perched on the edge of the set backstage, waiting for her cue to go on stage and perform.
It was 2004 at London’s Battersea Park Marquee, the event being organised by the Sir Steve Redgrave Charitable Trust, a 'send-off' party to wish the GB Olympic team success at the upcoming Athens Olympic games.
Over a thousand VIP guests were attending the event to be entertained by Amy, ‘Mike and the Mechanics’ and ‘Gabrielle’.
I was part of the event security, responsible for the backstage area.
As she grabbed my hand I led her through the throngs of people in the Marquee and out into the entrance reception area where the public ‘ladies’ room was.
No-one gave us a second glance. Although she was a recent recipient of the Ivor Novello award, she was still a long way from being the globally famous artist that she was to become.
We made it back to the stage just in time to hear her name being introduced.
This was the first time I had ever heard her voice and although I am generally unmoved by most ‘contemporary’ music, I found her utterly spellbinding, her unique sound absolutely belying her young age and manner.
The crowd too were, seemingly, equally impressed with her voice.
That is, until she spoke.
“This next track”, she drawled “is for my ex, who I loved to bits. He loved me too. Until I went out and fucked his best mate and fucked it all up!”
There was a palpable squirm amongst the many ‘luminaries’, unsure whether to laugh or cringe at this feisty young girl.
“Keep going Amy, you’re amazing! You’re a star!”
her manager Simon Fuller was calling encouragingly from behind the curtain, presumably because he felt she needed to be so encouraged.
“This next song” she explained, a further number in “is called ‘Fuck me pumps’”.
Cue more quizzical, exchanged looks of aghast throughout the audience!
When she finished her set, the applause was muted and restrained, merely polite; certainly not commensurate with the fantastic performance that it merited.
As I escorted her from the stage, she was clearly dejected. I turned to her and said,
“Don’t worry babe, you were awesome; they’re just philistines!”
“Well, you know what?” she replied, quick as a flash “I’m a fucking philistine, too”.
I never understood whether she was being just defiant, self-deprecating or she didn’t fully understand the meaning of the word. Perhaps it was a combination of all three.
At the end of the night, as she was preparing to leave, a security colleague, (somewhat unprofessionally, I thought), asked for her autograph which she willingly provided.
As they exchanged banter, he began to show her images on his mobile ‘phone of his new baby daughter.
Her entire demeanour immediately changed.
She became a completely different person from the, seemingly, coolly detached, rebellious, pugnacious character she presented to the world that night, a character that was to become synonymous with her name.
She cooed, 'awwd' and murmured adoringly, in the way that ALL women of all ages instinctively, and universally, do when looking at babies; asking questions of the infant, her name, age, whether it was my colleagues first child.
She added that she would love a baby herself one day.
Turning to me she asked, with cheeky ambiguity:
“I suppose YOU want one”? holding her pen aloft.
Feigning exaggerated indifference, I responded that I didn’t have any paper.
With that, she turned and pulled off the laminated sign adhered to her dressing room door emblazoned with the legend: “The Amy Winehouse Band” and scrawled across it:.
She gave me a quick hug and was gone.
Before I worked fully in Journalism, I spent many years in the security industry.
I have worked within many ‘Celebrity’ environments, television, concerts, events and personal security.
Even before I did so, I resented the artificiality, sycophancy and banality that the ‘Fame’ culture exudes.
As I watched Amy go on to rule the music world, which she unquestionably did, I could never associate the increasingly troubled and tormented woman with the fresh faced, zesty and spirited girl, barely out of her teens, that I met eleven years ago.
Wherever she is, I hope those demons failed to follow her......
Amongst all of the autographs, photos, keepsakes and other paraphernalia that I was given from whichever event or occasion I worked in, I resolutely failed to keep any of them, either giving them away or simply disposing of them.
Except this one.
I can honestly and truthfully say I have no idea why I kept it.
Only that I shall forever be glad that I did.
Spud. All my love. Amy x