How I met John and Michael (proper report) - long/boring - you've been warned.
For those who don't know : I was in London a week ago and was TERRIBLY LUCKY to attend two charity events :
25th June John Cleese screened LoB at the Electric House Cinema for the NSPCC Charity
26th June Michael Palin gave a talk for Medical Foundation at the IndigO2.
And this is my story.
So, it was my last day in St Petes before I flew to London and in the evening I just accidentally stumbled upon the information about John Cleese screening LoB for charity (NSPCC) in the cinema on Portobello Rd in London on 25th June ! Single ticket 150 quid, two tix "just" 250 quid ! I immediately texted my friend who was going to be with me in London and we decided that it's a chance of a lifetime and that we are going.
I squeezed my piggy-bank dry and next morning flew to the UK with 125 quid ready to give for charity. Given the fact that I have just spent 170 quid for the opportunity to be at the aftershow party and meet dear Mr Palin, I must say that UK charity organizations now have a good investor in me...
Well, do I mind ? Of course I don't.
Anyway, I arrived in London, met up with my friend and we phoned John's charity and was asked to phone again tomorrow - and they told us they dropped the price down to 25 quid ! I couldn't believed it ! I still can't believe we were so lucky. It was 22nd June.
Next day I went to Sheffield (just for a day trip, to see the city and be like in real Yorkshire) and phoned the charity again from there, asking a lot of questions and probably disturbing lovely lady who was unfortunate to be the organizer. She reassured me that we got two tickets and said her goodbyes pretty quickly. Pouring sweat (from the effort of speaking English on the phone - I always feel a bit uneasy, besides I can't hear very well
coz I'm a bit deaf (and old) - but also because it was dreadfully hot in Sheffield that day - well, it was about +28 C, but for my northern body it is really hot ... seems I got carried away a bit as usual speaking about the weather...) - I fell out of the phone box and made my way into the fountain on Millenium square (beautiful !)...
On 25th June me and my friend put on our best clothes (I know I did , thanks God I had some smart casual stuff with me because of Michael's charity - I didn't like to turn up in my usual jeans+t-shirt) and went to Portobello Rd and was led inside the cinema (which is a small and very lovely venue) and there... there was John standing at the bar greeting a line of people who was passing by. When my turn came, I shook the hand he gave me and said something stupid to the effect of "Mr Cleese it's so great to meet you"... and then I just stared in his eyes realising he's got the most beautiful eyes in the world. His hand was rough and strong and dry and very pleasant (handshakes mean a lot to me, I love shaking hands and always try to remember how people's hands feel). And then I had to move away so other people in line can get near John.
Then, after some time we approached him again and I said (staring into those beautiful eyes) : "Mr Cleese, I'm sorry, I come from Russia..." and then I paused and heard this familiar voice saying "oh *I'm* sorry you come from Russia..." meaning that he's sorry for me, and I realised the fact that he's actually speaking to me... but I had to get what I wanted and said with a forced laugh that it is not the point and would he terribly mind to sign me an autograph. He didn't mind terribly, but I felt he wasn't very happy about that, but I couldn't resist !
And then we moved away again and kept looking at him from a distance and not disturbing him anymore. I must say, he does look gorgeous. Not "gorgeous for the man of his age", but gorgeous, period. One of the most handsome men I've ever seen in my life, indeed. I was surprised by that, honestly. I always knew John was terribly handsome (not many people share that opinion !), but seeing the evidence of it was kind of... pleasantly surprising !
Then he went on stage and talked a bit about LoB, how it came about etc, all those stories we know and love.
Then we got to watch LoB itself, which was nice and then he was back on stage for a short Q&A session. People asked some philosophical questions which I kind of lost because I still could'n believe I'm watching the real John in the flesh, talking into the microphone just a couple of meters away from me... And then there was an auction for 2 places at the dinner with JC held after the event, which ended at 140 quid. I kind of toyed with the idea to bid, but in the end I did not, because I didn't feel like it. For me it was enough to get what I got. I love John with all my heart and I would really love to have a dinner with him, but probably not with other 10 people around (it was dinner for 13 persons altogether). I still think I've done the right thing of not doing it.
We went out of the cinema, feeling completely and totally like in a dream. I still can't comprehend the fact that I've met and spoken to John Cleese.
Weird thing is, I wasn't nervous or scared ! Not at all ! Maybe because it was totally unexpected thing to happen. I wasn't able to say any interesting or clever things to John, but I wans't expecting myself to, because in the situations like that it's not what I usually do. But still, I was able not to make a total fool of myself. But at one point I so wanted to hug him... but I stopped because I didn't know where to begin:))) He's indeed very tall !
Next day. Next day was Michael. For whom, as you know, I made this trip. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be there at all. I came to the O2 complex about an hour before the talk, walked around, got a ticket from the box-office for my friend and we went inside and got into separate queues, because I was at the VIP balcony and she was at the back of the balcony. I hanged around in bar, with all those smartly dressed people whom I didn't know and then went to my seat - Pythong songs were playing on the PA.
Michael's wife was sitting vith friends just the next row from me and then Michael came on stage, introduced by Sanjeev Bhaskar (who played King Arthur in Spamalot). First half of the show he showed pix from his travels and told stories about it. I've heard almost all of them before, but still it was a great pleasure to see him talking, performing, telling jokes, making people laugh (the venue was full !).
Then there was a short break and he was back, speaking about comedy, Python, reading from books (he read from Graham's book and from Bert Fegg's book and it was intercoursingly funny ! He's SUCH a good reader and performer... but we all know that). At the end he asked again to make donations to Medical Foundation (for which he's an official Patron, I've found !) and then he read one of my fave pieces from Bert Fegg's called "The Collapce Of The Roman Imperialism" to the roars of laughter - then bowed, waved and was gone.
I usually feel very sad at such moments when my fave performers leave the stage, but this time I felt terribly excited because I was seeing him afterwards. Again, I wasn't scared, which surprised me (on a sidenote - about 7 years ago I got to meet my other great hero and I was almost fainting before the meeting, and can't remember much of that meeting), so I made my way after Mrs Palin (who, I must say, looks terrific ! What a lovely, beautiful lady ! She and Michael look like in total harmony together) to the bar and after a couple of minutes Mr Palin himself appeared, greeted by camera flashes (there were at least two professional photographers - I wonder where all the pics are , because I never found any !!) and he started to move around, shaking hands, saying hello to people he knew and being introduced to people he didn't know. I made my way a bit closer and he suddenly noticed me, streched out his hand and said "How are you ?" (later I was laughing, because due to my excitement and slight deafness I clearly heard "Who are you?" and I though it was very funny thing to say ! Now it becomes a catchphrase among my friends when they speak to me LOL:) But it didn't matter then !). So I shook his hand (which is warm and soft and very gentle) and said "Mr Palin, there is no one to introduce me..." and he said "Oh, you can introduce yourself then !" and I did and said that I've come especially to see him and how wonderful he was on stage and all that stupid stuff which slips off your tongue in the situations like this ! He said I should have come to see something else and when I enquired what sort of something else, he paused for a moment and suggested Eddie Izzard. People around us started to laugh, for the reason I didn't quite get.
And then he moved away meeting other people and I was left standing there almost crying because I wanted to tell him more than that. But I'm not the person who loses easily without a fight.
When the auction started (some weird stuff was auctioned, like holidays somewhere for two, belly-dancing lessons and someone's handwritten poems...) people formed a semi-sircle around the gentlemen who was supervising the bidding. I saw Michael standing away from this circle, near the piano, alone. No one seemed to be interested in him anymore ! This is your chance, Arthur Pewty, I said to myself and bravely made my way there and stood beside him. I stood beside him till the end of the party, not wanting to go away. It's such a great place to be, near Michael Palin:))
I didn't want to disturb him, but I remembered I brought a prezzie for him and though this is the time to give it. So, I touched his elbow and said "Mr Palin, sir..." (how I laughed afterwards at the way I said it ! It was such a weird thing to call him "sir"... like a teacher.. well, he in a way IS my teacher after all !:) and gave him the Russian DVD of Himalaya, and he seemed very pleased with that and turned to somebody he knew to show them what he's just got and I touched his elbow again and asked can I give him a Big Russian Hug. He said "of course" (I noticed he says "oh, alright" a lot - to anything ! With very unique voice expression - "oooh alriiiight !"). And he opened his arms and I was there in a split second and it was warm and gentle. Very gentle. And then he said "oh !" and I thought what's the matter and suddenly I realised he spilt some wine from his glass onto my back. That's the bloody Russian hugs for you...
Then I asked one lovely Brit to take a pic of me and Michael and my DVD, and then the party ended and he took Helen by the hand and they made their way to the exit, saying "goodbye, thank you !" to me and waved. I blew him a kiss and waved back. And then he was gone. This time for good.
He's very gentle. He's got a very soft glance, like velvet. He's still got the most handsome profile I've ever seen. Beautiful, talented, distinguished man.
I made my way out of the venue, into the tube and back to Victoria where my hotel was, I danced at midninght on Gloucester street singing along with Morrissey who played in my iPod, the song which goes like : "Now my heart is full... and I just can't explain... so I won't even try to.." - bacause that was how I felt. My heart really was full.
Shit. This report got a lot more personal than I wanted it to be, but I hope you don't mind. I can't write it any other way.
Sorry for this being long, unfocused, boring and in very bad English. I leave you with two pics.