Andy Richardson: Obscurity knocks as the fixer goes off his trolley
On high days and holidays I sit on a stage beside people who are far more interesting and glamorous than I. One night it might be beside an actor, another a comedian; one night a singer, another a rock star. I am their bag man, their tea boy, their faux Parkinson, their fixer. I get things done, say as little as possible, smile politely and make sure they look good.
And when the evening’s done, when the applause has been harvested, the bills paid, the books signed and the selfies posed for, I return home satisfied that not a single punter among the 437 audience has used the words ‘Who the hell was that guy?’ Anonymity is my best friend. I am more under the radar than an American Intelligence Service drone. Nobody knows me and nobody cares, which is just the way I like it.
My duties fall under the handy term: ‘unglamorous and boring’. I make sure people are where they need to be when they need to be there, that they know what they need to do before they need to do it and that there are enough people watching to make it all worthwhile.
Whether it’s buying an expensive projector or tucking a microphone cord in someone’s back pocket, whether it’s remembering to put two sugars in a cup of tea or making sure an AAA pass is issued, it all gets done.
A number of artists have written books. They sell them after their shows. Actually, the word ‘artists’ isn’t strictly true. From comedians to politicians, from footballers to rock’n’rollers, these days it seems you’re not worth your salt if you’ve not written 90,000 words and have inside covers that feature a beaming, day-glow smile.
Performers enjoy the support of anonymous fixers. They know that if the duties they undertake were not complete, the whole house of cards would fall in. So bagmen can crack on with the dull work of planning routes, organising hotels, welcoming people to the stage and printing posters providing they keep well away from the spotlight. And I hate the spotlight. Win-win.
On one tour, a household name visited Bridgnorth. Lucky Bridgnorth. He performed an intimate show at Theatre On The Steps and I volunteered to move five boxes of books from his parked car at the top of the steps to the Theatre down below. I hadn’t accounted for the steps. The damned steps. I asked the star of the show if I could borrow his trolley and then I broke it. Snap. Too many bloomin’ steps. Trolley v/s steps. Steps win. The trolley lay exhausted and wounded in the back of a Range Rover. Life in a care home beckoned. Poor trolley.
I fixed the problem, of course, giving the performer a tough-as-nails trolley that my brother-in-law had in turn given me to move a washing machine from one side of Bridgnorth to another. Long story. It involved a house move. Your imagination will fill in any blanks.
I assumed that was the end of it; that the trolley and the household name lived happily ever after and hundred of books had been dutifully conveyed into theatres across the British Isles. Thousands of satisfied readers had unknowingly been the beneficiary of my brother-in-law’s largesse with inanimate mechanical stuff.
I saw the performer on Sunday. He’d had a problem.
“Where’s the trolley?” I asked.
“Where in Kent?”
“Deal. You mean it’s at the Astor Theatre?”
“Yes. The Astor Theatre.”
Apparently, he’d taken a shine to the trolley in the Astor Theatre and swiped their trolley. Don’t worry, there are no trade secrets. The Astor knows who the thief is – after all, his new Kentish trolley is emblazoned with their logo. If ever anybody needed a real life villain, he’d be at the back of the queue. Men don’t come much sweeter – or more honest.
“I swopped it,” he continued. “I put yours in Kent and I took theirs because it was better.”
“But weren’t you back there for a second time, a few months ago?”
“So you unloaded into the theatre using their trolley, that you’d nicked two years before?”
“Only one problem,” the performer continued. “It’s now broke.”
“The trolley, from Deal.”
Mine, meanwhile, is happily wheeling props on and off the stage with a hundred years left in it.
I’ve just bought my friend another trolley. It’s yellow, fat and strong – all the things people need in a trolley, and, if we’re being honest, in a really big banana. And while I was at it, I bought another friend a similar trolley because she need one too. I’m on a roll. So if any of Weekend’s readers needs a new trolley, my new name is Trolley McTrolleyFace and I’ll happily get another and post one to you Monday. Can’t say fairer.
Obscurity knocks. I must be off my, umm, trolley.
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