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Authors: Claudia Carroll

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BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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We drive past security and, although there’s loads of
Charlene pulls up right in front of the main entrance, in a space clearly labelled ‘Reserved for the Director General’.

‘What are you doing?’ I say. ‘Actively
to get clamped?’

‘Don’t be like that, you’re still a bit weak and you need minding. Oh and besides, I’m in my favourite suede Manolos and there might be puddles. Like them, sweetie? On a cost-per-wear basis they practically paid for themselves, but I still can’t walk in them.’

I’m just not up to arguing with her, so we park, hop out and head, or in Charlene’s case, hobble, towards TV reception.

‘Morning, ladies! Are you here for the
Breakfast Club
?’ asks a smiling, friendly receptionist. ‘If you want to pop up to the make-up room, I’ll tell Lisa, the stage manager, to find you there. It’s just upstairs, first on your right.’

And still no sign of Jack Hamilton, which is driving Charlene nuts, but helping me and my nerves considerably.

My phone beep-beeps as a text comes through. Marc with a C, wishing me luck, bless him.


‘Ugh, butterflies?’ says Charlene, clinging to the banister rail as she limps upstairs. ‘Butterflies in my tummy are always a tell-tale symptom that I’m afraid of losing a guy and, let me tell you, Jack’s phone being off isn’t exactly inspiring confidence right now.’

I’m actually beginning to breathe normally now. This mightn’t be too bad. This, I might just be able to pull off . . .

We head into the make-up room, where a guy with orange fake-tan-gone-wrong and lime-green trousers that really shouldn’t be seen either in daylight or outside of a dance floor bounds over to us.

‘Oh my Gowwd, you must be Cassandra!’ he says, waving a make-up brush with intent. ‘I know I must sound like one of those losers that meet William Shatner at a Trekkie convention, but I am just sooooo thrilled to meet you!’

We all shake hands, he sits me down and immediately starts pampering me, which makes me feel even more relaxed, although I do wince slightly when Charlene refers to herself as my agent. It makes me feel a bit high-maintenance and I-go-nowhere-without-my-entourage-in-the-manner-of-Liza-Minnelli-ish, whereas all I really want to do is slip out of here, slink home, go straight back to bed and stay there, with my head well under the duvet, for the rest of the day.

‘I just
your column,’ says orange-fake-tan guy,
lashing foundation on me, ‘you’re the main reason I buy
magazine these days. Well, apart from all those fabulous dish-the-dirt photos they have of celebrities walking the streets without make-up, looking like total crap. I get through my day so much better knowing that I’m marginally cuter than Matt Damon when he’s caught off guard.’

‘Oh, emm . . . thanks, that’s good to hear.’

‘First time on TV?’

‘Yup. And to say I’m nervous would be a major understatement.’

‘Walk in the park, baby. Oh, I am going to have you looking so
. Wish everyone I had in my chair had your cheekbones, it would make my job so easy. Hey, Joanie!’ he says, calling over to Joan Davis, a well-known newsreader I instantly recognize, who’s sitting in the chair opposite me having her hair blow-dried. ‘Honey, you won’t believe who I have sitting here! Only Cassandra, you know,
Cassandra from

‘Oh wow! I’m such a big fan,’ she says, waving at me and shouting over the dryer.

‘Thanks so much,’ I say, hardly able to believe that an actual celebrity has heard of me.

‘Are you here for the
Breakfast Club?

‘If I manage not to pass out or throw up first, yes.’

‘You’ll be absolutely brilliant. Best of luck.’

‘Thanks. I hope you don’t mind my asking, but you’re leaving here to go over to the BBC soon, aren’t you?’

She immediately gasps. ‘Oh my God, can you see that in my aura?’

‘Emm, no,’ I mumble, a bit embarrassed. ‘I read it in the

‘Now, if you happen to see anything about me and my ex,’ says fake-tan man, still all bright and bubbly, ‘you will tell me, won’t you? No pressure, but we’ve just broken up and you know how there’s always, always,
a contest with any recent ex called “Who’s the happiest and who looks the best”, versus “Who’s put on two stone and who’s going to die alone and miserable”.’ He’s laughing but there’s something forced about it. ‘Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fine about the break-up, absolutely tip top; I mean, it was very much a mutual decision, no question, but I just wondered . . .’

OK, I’m not actually sure whether he’s protesting too much or if all his high-octane, in-your-face babbling sets me off, but before I know where I am, I get a flash.

It’s him, fake-tan man, but, no, he’s not a bit fine at all. Far from it. I can see him lying in an unmade bed alone, cradling himself, rocking from side to side, with an almost empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s on the bedside table and an overflowing ashtray stuffed with butts. He looks hollow, baggy-eyed, thin and frail and the feeling
absolute desolation I’m picking up from him is almost overwhelming
. . .

‘Are you OK, love?’ he asks. ‘You’ve gone very quiet. Nerves, huh?’

Please let me see something good ahead for this guy, I’m thinking as he lashes the mascara on to me, still yapping away. Something, anything positive, please, please, please.

‘Emm, yeah. Nerves. That’s all.’

Shit, come on, Cassie, you must be able to pick up something.

Meanwhile, Charlene is punching impatiently at buttons on her mobile phone. ‘Ugh, Jack, for the love of God, will you
turn your bloody phone on? Call yourself a producer and your phone’s switched off?’

‘Are you trying to call Jack Hamilton?’ asks fake-tan guy in surprise. ‘ ’Cos, honey, you’re wasting your time till we’re off the air.’

‘Well, do you think someone could take me to him?’ says Charlene, effortlessly switching on her best little-girl-lost voice. ‘Or maybe just let him know that his girlfriend is here? Please?’

No kidding, she uses the GF word without even batting an eyelid.

‘Sure, I can do that for you, not a problem,’ says a bright, bubbly girl who’s just bounced into the make-up
wearing a headset, combat jeans and a vest. She looks so young, you’d wonder if she’s even left school and she introduces herself as Lisa, the stage manager. ‘You must be Cassandra. Lovely to meet you,’ she adds, warmly shaking hands.

‘And you.’

‘It’s great to have you on. Nothing to worry about, you’ll be fab.’

She waves over at Charlene, who’s now gone on to another call, making an appointment for her personal eyebrow-waxing lady to call out to her house later. Charlene completely blanks her, but then politeness towards strangers isn’t exactly her strong point.

‘I try not to talk to the little people,’ she once let slip, ‘because before you know where you are, they’re calling you by your first name and taking all sorts of liberties. That’s how the French revolution started, you know.’ She was pissed, but we haven’t forgotten and regularly slag her about it. Jo nicknamed her Marie Antoinette after this and every now and then throws the odd French word in her direction to annoy her and makes loads of gags about letting people eat cake. It never fails to get a rise out of her.

‘OK, our future TV star is good to go, hot to trot,’ says fake-tan man, whipping the make-up gown off theatrically.

He’s done an amazing job on me; it’s done my
the world of good and I really can’t thank him enough.

‘All down to good raw materials,’ he says, cheerily waving us off. ‘Now, the very best of luck and remember you’ve absolutely nothing to be nervous about!’

Lisa is just leading Charlene and me out of the door when suddenly, miracle of miracles, a flash comes.

‘On a beach,’ I tell him with absolute certainty, ‘it’s all going to happen for you on a beach.’

‘What did you say?’ says fake-tan man, all ears.

‘Your next relationship will start on a beach. There’s a party and everyone’s wearing Hawaiian shirts and drinking cocktails. He’s foreign, I think, olive skin, dark eyes, very athletic. It’s going to happen soon too, within . . . about six weeks. I can see it. Trust me, your days of drinking home alone are numbered.’

Oh shit, did I just say that aloud? I wouldn’t want him to think I’d seen, well, what I saw.

‘Oh my
, you’re just amazing,’ he says, bounding over to me and hugging me tight, really, genuinely touched. ‘I’m getting straight on to that internet to book the cheapest foreign holiday I can find. Eeeeek!’

‘Gotta move, people,’ says Lisa, tapping her wristwatch.

‘I’ll let you know when it happens!’ fake-tan man calls after us as we trundle downstairs, absolutely delighted with himself. ‘I’ll write to you care of the magazine!’

Amazingly, I’m actually feeling all right by the time we get to the studio door. Cooler, calmer. No nausea, which is always a plus. And still no sign of Jack Hamilton which is an A plus plus.

This is fine, this is . . . do-able.

‘Just be yourself and you’ll be grand,’ Lisa says, squeezing my arm encouragingly and holding open the studio door for me.

I take a deep, calming breath and am about to step through when suddenly Charlene snaps her phone shut and seems to notice Lisa’s presence for the first time.

‘Oh, hi there,’ she says, smiling angelically. ‘So do you think maybe
you could take me up to wherever my boyfriend is? Please? I suffer from an incredibly low patience threshold.’

‘First of all I need to get Cassandra settled,’ Lisa replies curtly. ‘Secondly, you need to switch your mobile off.’

‘Oh, don’t be cross. I absolutely
to make that call, it was a dire emergency. Do you think these eyebrows just wax themselves?’

‘And lastly, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to wait here. Apparently some idiot went and parked in the Director General’s space and now I have to pop outside to troubleshoot.’

It’s pitch dark when we go into studio and Lisa whispers to me to watch out for the cables strewn all over the floor. A sound man with headphones strapped
him comes at me from nowhere and clips a tiny microphone to my shirt, silently giving me the thumbs up as if to say, ‘Good luck.’

‘They’re just wrapping up the last item, then we go to a quick commercial break, then you’re on,’ hisses Lisa, gently steering me over to a monitor so I can see what’s happening.

Now, you mightn’t believe it, but I have occasionally been out of bed in time to see the
Breakfast Club
. Well, it’s kind of hard to avoid, as it goes out six days a week. Anyway, I’m able to recognize the two presenters immediately. One’s called Mary and the other is Maura and they operate kind of like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Good cop/bad cop, that type of thing.

Mary is comfortably settling into middle age, warm, welcoming and with an almost motherly manner, whereas Maura is younger, sharper, brittle and caustic, with a bone-dry sense of humour, usually at the poor hapless guest’s expense. You wouldn’t think it, but the combination of two such polar-opposite personality types actually works and the
Breakfast Club
is one of Channel Seven’s biggest audience-pullers.

‘So anyone watching who fancies giving their home a nice bit of an upgrade, just remember, it needn’t cost the earth,’ says Mary, beaming into the camera. ‘And what do you call this lovely piece we have here?’ she asks a tall, lanky guy with his hair in a ponytail, who I can only
is an interior designer. He’s proudly swaggering around what looks like the Tardis from
Doctor Who
in the middle of the studio floor, but it turns out to be one of those stand-alone shower cubicle thingies, perched precariously on a granite-stone dais.

‘I call it
,’ says the designer, shoving his glasses up his nose and managing to look both affected and a complete eejit at the same time. ‘I’m trying to combine both yin and yang in terms of structure. I set out to create a concept where showering can become a uniquely spiritual experience.’

‘Mmm,’ says Maura, unimpressed, as she pokes her nose inside it. ‘It’s-raining-Zen-type vibe. That what you’re trying to get at?’

‘Lovely, lovely,’ says Mary a bit unenthusiastically. ‘Mind you, I have to confess I’m more of an Ikea woman myself. Have either of you seen this month’s catalogue? The outdoor lighting is only to die for. And don’t get me started on the sofas. Only beautiful. With machine-washable covers and all.’ Then, at a wind-it-up-quick hand signal from the floor manager, she turns to beam beatifically at the camera. ‘Well, thank you so much for coming along, and the best of luck with your . . . ehh . . . what did you call it again? Oh sorry, yes, with

‘Stay with us,’ says Maura, looking bored and making no attempt to conceal it. ‘We have a real live psychic in
with us this morning, which should be . . . emm . . . illuminating. Back after the break.’

Before I know where I am, Lisa has ushered me on to the set, which is like a big, colourful living room, and plonked me down on a bright, canary-yellow, oversized comfy sofa. Mary and Maura are sitting opposite me, but only Mary introduces herself, shaking me warmly by the hand and wishing me luck. She’s just lovely close up, looks a dead ringer for Maeve Binchy.

Maura just fiddles with her radio mike and completely blanks me.

‘No hard questions now,’ I whisper, attempting to make light of the situation.

‘Ah, relax, sure you’ll be fine,’ says Mary, patting my knee affectionately. ‘It’s only a bit of an aul’ chat, that’s all.’

‘We’re going to have to talk to Jack about the calibre of guests we’re getting,’ snaps Maura as a make-up girl hastily dusts powder on her nose. ‘That last guy could have bored for Ireland at Olympic level. I was this close to wrapping it up by saying, “OK, time to check out of this yawn-fest.” Frankly, it’s just not good enough.’

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
12.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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