Mick! Over here!

Don­ald Clarke re­hearses a few in­tel­li­gent ques­tions for the band, and hits Le­ices­ter Square for the pre­miere of Martin Scors­ese’s Rolling Stones movie. But at a mi­cro-man­aged red-car­pet event, you’ve more chance of get­ting blood out of a stone than talkin

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

THE IR­ISH TIMES does not do red car­pets. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of this news­pa­per will not be found el­bow­ing aside the mike-han­dlers from FabGos­sip.com in pur­suit of a quote from that id­iot out of Hol­lyoaks. If Har­ri­son Ford wants to get into The Ticket, then he will just have to in­vite us to his cabin cruiser.

Yet, here I am in Le­ices­ter Square sur­rounded by dozens of jour­nal­ists at the pre­miere of Shine A Light, Martin Scors­ese’s record of a re­cent Rolling Stones gig. Look, the op­por­tu­nity to get within spit­ting dis­tance of a Stone doesn’t come along that of­ten.

It is cer­tainly true that the ex­pe­ri­ence is closer to a wildlife shoot – “The Leather­skinned Jag­ger Mon­key makes his way cau­tiously to the wa­ter­ing-hole” – than it is to a for­mal in­ter­view, but th­ese are, per­haps, the best cir­cum­stances un­der which to mon­i­tor an en­dan­gered species.

Even be­fore I get to the bar­ri­cades, I have gath­ered some im­pres­sions of the dis­pas­sion red-car­pet journos bring to their work. The Ital­ian hacks ahead of me in the queue at the ho­tel re­cep­tion have made a point of deck­ing them­selves out in Stones re­galia. This one wears a brooch fash­ioned in the shape of Mick’s mouth. An­other has the band’s name plas­tered across his T-shirt.

Where is the cyn­i­cal en­nui I have come to ex­pect from my col­leagues? (“You in­ter­view­ing that jerk Brent Sparklestar?” one of us might say. “Yeah, he’s got no more brains than his cretinous, tal­ent­less shrew of a wife,” an­other might re­ply.)

The wave of en­thu­si­asm is all the more baf­fling when you con­sider how red-car­pet jour­nal­ists are han­dled at such an event. You are asked to ar­rive at a par­tic­u­lar time to be placed into a re­served “pen”. Yes, you read that right. The gen­tle­man from The Ir­ish Times has been placed into the same sort of ap­pa­ra­tus they use to re­strain pigs and sheep. You never saw Maeve Binchy in a pen.

Any­way, it can’t be de­nied that 20th Cen­tury Fox have put on a good show. Spot­lights strafe the low clouds, satel­lite dishes sit wait­ing to beam the event through­out the world and a mas­sive red car­pet works its way along the east­ern stretch of Le­ices­ter Square. On the other side of the rug, Stones fa­nat­ics – many are decked out in stupid hats; one is odd enough to bran­dish a Jag­ger solo album – ner­vously pro­tect the ter­ri­tory they staked out hours ear­lier.

On this side of the car­pet, a wild hub­bub per­sists. The shoul­der-shrug­ging dis­dain that char­ac­terises for­mal jour­nal­ism is of no use down here among the pigs and the sheep. The only way to suc­ceed is to bounce wildly from foot to foot and scream the name of the ar­riv­ing stars like a five-year-old hopped up on Fanta and Skit­tles.

The lack of dig­nity is quite star­tling. Look at them, bel­low­ing at botoxed nonen­ti­ties and then pre­tend­ing to be in­ter­ested in their inane prat­tle. You’d never catch me do­ing that. I would rather . . . Je­sus! It’s Anita Pal­len­berg. “ANITA! ANITA! OVER HERE!” I shout at Mick and Keith’s for­mer squeeze.

By the time the words are out of my mouth, Pal­len­berg, now sad­dled with the face of an el­derly house-cat, has al­ready been swept into the cin­ema.

Scors­ese’s film is mostly taken up with footage of a con­tem­po­rary Stones gig in Man­hat­tan, but the di­rec­tor does also man­age to squeeze in some ar­chive ma­te­rial of the band in their chaotic early years. The con­trast be­tween the spi­ralling chaos of their 1960s tours – am­bu­lance men fer­ry­ing damply hys­ter­i­cal girls from the au­di­to­rium; po­lice­men scowl­ing at the band as they might at es­caped go­ril­las; drunks lurch­ing across the stage – and the mil­i­tary or­der that char­ac­terises the cur­rent op­er­a­tion is re­mark­able.

Back then, more hys­ter­i­cal me­dia com­men­ta­tors sug­gested that the Stones and their clones might have killed off show­busi­ness. A brief glance at the spot­lights in Le­ices­ter Square con­firms how mis­guided those spec­u­la­tions were.

I would like to ask Mick Jag­ger about that. Hell, I will ask Mick Jag­ger about that. But not yet.

“Any­body else got a ques­tion for Charles Dance?” the PR com­man­dant plain­tively asks our pen. Sheep stare at the clouds, pigs sud­denly be­gin fid­dling con­spic­u­ously with their tele­phones and the tall ac­tor is led hope­fully to­wards an­other set of bounc­ing ma­ni­acs.

Then, sud­denly, the band is on the car­pet. Keith Richards, tac­i­turn in the 1960s and 1970s, has, it seems, been smil­ing and cack­ling for the past 10 years. Wear­ing a hat at a jaunty an­gle, he some­how man­ages to gig­gle his way past our en­clo­sure and on to­wards that Scot­tish wo­man from the BBC. Char­lie Watts, the peren­ni­ally like­able and tac­i­turn drum­mer, has, as al­ways, as lit­tle to do with the press as he can man­age.

Lit­tle Mick Jag­ger, ac­com­pa­nied by his gi­gan­tic girl­friend, L’Wren Scott, is slowly mak­ing his way to­wards our cor­ner of the red car­pet. His face is heav­ily creased and his eyes are slightly rheumy, but, at 64, he still seems ef­fort­lessly lively and en­gaged.

“Talk a lit­tle bit about the way the busi­ness has changed since you first started out,” I in­tend to say. “Do you miss the sense of ur­gen-

cy you en­joyed in the early days?” When he even­tu­ally stands be­fore us, it quickly be­comes clear that I have as much chance of read­ing out the Get­tys­burg Ad­dress as ask­ing such a com­plex ques­tion.

“What’s it like work­ing with Christina Aguil­era?” some­body shouts.

“What you do­ing af­ter the film?” an­other hack blurts.

And then, leav­ing me opened mouthed and silent, he skips play­fully down the red car­pet and van­ishes from view. It seems as if I do not have the stamina (or the lungs) to at­tract the at­ten­tion of the stars that mat­ter.

But, wait a mo­ment. Is that Tom Stop­pard? It is Tom Stop­pard. The dis­tin­guished play­wright, au­thor of Rosen­crantz & Guilden­stern Are Dead and Trav­es­ties, is mak­ing his way en­tirely un­mo­lested to­wards the en­trance. “TOM! TOM!” I scream. Stop­pard stops, looks over his shoul­der to check that Tom Cruise is not be­hind him and makes his way to­wards my tape recorder. While the lady from FabGos­sip.com looks on be­wil­dered, we chat about his last play, Rock’n’Roll, and about that piece’s treat­ment of the Syd Bar­rett myth.

Then, af­ter jok­ing that I am, surely, too young to ap­pre­ci­ate the Stones, he swivels on his heel. Well, that’ll do nicely. I came to the red car­pet and in­ter­viewed Sir Tom Stop­pard. I’m from The Ir­ish Times, you know.

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