Late tonight, I was sitting in the small ‘VIP’ room British Airways thoughtfully introduced at Los Angeles’ LAX airport to keep egocrazed celebrities away from the pr ying eyes of other, total ly uninterested first- class passengers. The only other occupant was a tall, striking, elegant African-looking man working on his laptop. I mumbled a tired ‘Hello’ and sat in another corner of the room.
And there we sat in silence for a few minutes before I asked him where I could get a coffee. He told me, I returned with a cup, and we struck up a conversation. ‘So what do you do?’ I asked. ‘I’m in the music business.’ ‘Oh really? What part?’ ‘I write songs.’ ‘Anything I’d know?’ ‘Maybe,’ he smiled. ‘Who have you written for?’ ‘A few people…’ ‘Like who?’ ‘Jennifer Lopez, David Guetta, Usher, Tinchy Stryder, Cheryl Cole… and I’m working on something for Justin Bieber.’
I laughed. ‘ Blimey! You should perform your own stuff and cut out the middle man!’ He smiled again. ‘I do, actually.’ ‘Ever had much success?’ ‘A bit.’ ‘With what?’ ‘A song called Break Your Heart did quite well.’ ‘How well?’ ‘It got to No. 1 in Britain… and America.’ I sat upright. ‘REALLY?’ ‘And then another one called Dynamite did pretty good too.’
‘As in, “I told you twice, we gon’ light it up, like it’s dynamite”?’ He laughed loudly. ‘That’s the one!’
It was one of the biggest hit singles worldwide in the past two years. I even work out to the damn thing in the gym. ‘So you’re… Taio Cruz?’ ‘I am. Actually, we’ve met before.’ ‘We have?’ ‘Yes — I appeared on America’s Got Talent.’ ‘Not as a contestant?’ ‘No! I sang Dynamite.’ We Googled the clip, and there I was giving him a standing ovation after what had been a quite stunning live performance. My only defence is that he looks rather different in his stage gear.
We spoke for an hour or so. Taio, 28, born in London to a Nigerian father and a Brazilian mother, told me he woke up in the middle of the night with the lyrics to Dynamite in his head, raced downstairs in his underpants and wrote it there and then.
He’s a musical genius, and a thoroughly nice chap. Just hope I recognise him next time. The 12th anniversary of 9/11, and I was invited down to the offices of Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald to do a deal on its trading floor for charity: Princes William and Harry did the same at Cantor’s UK HQ.
Cantor lost 658 employees that horrendous day, but thanks to its extraordinary boss Howard Lutnick, has rebuilt to twice its old size. I mingled with an eclectic variety of luminaries, including actress Julianne Moore, tennis legend Billie Jean King and sex guru Dr Ruth Westheimer. The pint-sized doctor had the best sales pitch of us all. ‘Do me the best deal, and you’ll have great sex FOREVER!’ she bellowed at the testosteronefuelled traders. My secret obsession is PG Tips tea. I have it imported to America in vast amounts, and drink five or six cups a day. It makes one small corner of a foreign field feel forever like home. Today, I interviewed music superstar Sheryl Crow, and when I saw Ricky Gervais was my guest tonight, but when I went to shake his hand in the CNN make-up room, rather than holding up his right arm, he held his left awkwardly across his body. ‘You okay?’ I asked. ‘ No! I’m in bloody agony!’ ‘What’s the problem?’ ‘ Frozen shoulder. It’s like tendinitis. I’ve been to so many specialists. I’ve had X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, steroid injections — nothing’s worked. They call it frozen shoulder, or, which is really rubbing salt in the wound, 50-Year- Old Shoulder. The doctors all just say to me, “We don’t know why it happens, but we know it gets better by itself.” I could have an operation to speed it up, but I’m not big on hospitals.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘I always think I’m going to die.’ Mr Gervais is, of course, one of the world’s most famous atheists, so this would be a fairly final step in his life. ‘Do you fear death?’
‘ To me it’s the end of something glorious, but I’m not depressed about it. I don’t want to die any more than anyone else. There’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite: we have nothing to die for!’