He’s always been on my list. Ever since I saw his performance at the Secret Policeman’s Ball. That mix of bird’s nest (screw you hairdressers) hair, eyeliner, stovepipe pants and effeminate sexual energy (screw you and you and you) was mesmerising.
Here’s what Russell Brand and I have in common. We were both born in the 70’s. We’re both brunettes. We both loved Katy Perry when we were younger. And we both love our Mums.
Oh. My. God. We are practically cousins.
When I read his booky wook and discovered he was a bulimic teen it blew my messy mind. We’re nearly BFFs.
Last year he created this clip on The Trews (true news) about Uma Thurman and the beauty industry, mentioning helpful eating disorder sites at the end. I was all over it. I wrote a letter and emailed it to him politely suggesting he could mention FABIK next time he talked about the subject, oh, and would he like to be interviewed for the site too?
When I heard he was coming to New Zealand I wet my pants.
Obviously I would see him perform but I could interview him for Fucking Awesome Bulimics I Know in person. Oh it would be perfect. Just him and me. We would discuss bodies. Vices. Life. The Universe. And we would laugh and flirt and he would ask his PR people for extra time as it would be the best interview he had ever done.
Never mind he gave up all interviews for his World Trews Down Under tour. Never mind he gave up all social media two months before he came out.
No-one was spared the Russell chat. I gave my letter to the International Comedy Festival director, and his New Zealand promoter, pushing and cajoling and being annoying – had they passed on the letter? They had. I heard nothing. All I managed to find out was what hotel he was staying in but there was no way I was going to hang around it like a groupie. Pfft. That’s not what nearly BFFs do.
My friend, Fi, who was coming with me to his show, had a great idea. Darts! We’d make a dart out of the letter and throw it onto the stage. However our seats were right up in the gods, way beyond either of our dart throwing abilities, so I marched right up to the front row where two friendly looking guys were sitting. I asked if they would throw a dart for me.
They looked at me like I was a crazy fan.
I was a crazy fan.
Once I mentioned ‘Fucking Awesome Bulimics I Know’ they agreed. Bulimia has that effect on people, it’s like yelling out herpes! – people want you to go away and will agree to anything.
Russell’s show was brilliant. He was satirical, political, genuine, self-deprecating and insightful. My favourite, ribald line was, “The Queen’s crown is so opulent she could buy a fucking hospital with it.” The whole arena was besotted.
All the way through I kept looking at the two boys. Throw it I willed. Come on. Then as Russell was saying good night, one came through! He stood and threw his dart.
We watched it fly straight up, do a 360 loop, and land four rows behind him.
Oh God. He threw too hard.
However Russell didn’t disappear backstage, he wandered down into the audience, chatting and getting photos with people.
“Hurry,” I yelled at Fi. “Our second chance.”
We ran through the crowds, fought our way through everyone trying to leave in the foyer and raced through the bottom of the arena.
I had one dart left.
I could see him. He was about three metres away surrounded by people wanting Russell selfies.
‘Do it’, Fi mouthed.
Standing on a chair, I pointed, aimed and threw that dart with all my heart. It flew so well it sailed right over Russell’s head, right over his bouncer’s head, and across the stage and settled by the back curtain.
We couldn’t get near him.
On our way out I asked one of the roadies by the sound desk how to get a letter to Russell. He shrugged then a guy with a blue scarf pulled him away.
Fi jumped in a taxi to go home and I needed to go home too but I sat in my car feeling disappointed. I should have been happy I finally saw him live but that was my only chance to get that letter right into his hand. In person. And I had blown it.
I did not drive home. Inside the empty hotel lobby there were two others waiting, they were young with cool nail polish and hats on.
By midnight I was exhausted, and feeling self-conscious. I should’ve been at home in my bed dreaming of meatloaf, not waiting for a very gorgeous funny comedian rock star celebrity from Essex like a groupie.
Five minutes, I promised myself. I’m leaving at 12.05.
12.05 came around and the guy with the blue scarf walked in.
“Hey,” I said. “You’re one of Russell Brand’s crew!?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, in a thick London accent.
“I saw you there, by the sound desk.”
He pulled out his phone and looked intently at the screen, silently willing me to go the hell away.
“Could you give him a letter please,” I asked. I had stashed a back up one in an envelope in the car.
He ignored me.
“Please. It’s about bulimia and body image and…”
“I can’t help you.”
“Look,” he said, sighing heavily. “I think you’d better turn around.”
I turned around.
There he was. Just causally strolling into the lobby. There was Russell Brand.
The girls in hats were on him immediately, got their instagram shots and buggered off.
And then he was walking right past me.
I couldn’t move.
Feeling ridiculously shy all of a sudden, I gave my letter to a guy next to him, Mr Gee. He’d performed some epic poetry as a warm up for Russell.
Mr Gee took the letter but he looked about as enthusiastic as the guy with the scarf.
Then Russell was walking towards the lift.
I gave the wrong guy the letter. Russell Brand was right there and the poet was holding the letter.
“Oi,” I yelled, in my best kiwi accent.
They all turned around.
“You,” I said looking at the poet, “can you give that letter to him.”
Names deserted me. I was down to pointing.
Mr Gee gave the envelope to Russell, who stopped, looked at me, then stepped out of his circle.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” I said.
He looked like Jesus but much better.
“There’s a letter in there,” I said pointing to the envelope, finding my voice finally. “I know you’re not doing interviews but I was hoping to talk to you for a site. It’s not political.
Russell was listening.
“It’s called ‘Fucking Awesome Bulimics I Know’.”
He was still listening and on hearing ‘bulimic’ his face softened.
“Awww,” he said. “You’re alright then?”
And he leant down and hugged me.
It was a compassionate hug. It was a, sorry to hear you’ve been a bit messed up with bulimia hug.
Oh no. That’s not how I wanted to present myself. Not as barfbag.
I wanted to say, “I’m not bulimic anymore and let’s not talk about vomiting, I mean ew. And I’m actually quite fucking awesome actually which is why I set up the site because if I could get bulimia, you know, me, then how many other totally awesome people out there have had it too. Like you. Which is why I want to talk to you. I mean you probably don’t identify yourself as an ex-bulimic but I want to talk about vices and addiction because I think you are truly brilliant how you survived your battle with drugs and alcohol. And how you’ve channelled that desire for MORE into all the work you do with The Trews and the café you set up for ex junkies. And I want to just sit and riff and talk about that stuff and put you on the site so that the thousands of other people who are still messed up with bulimia might read something from you and laugh and feel hopeful and not so alone. That’s all.’
But I didn’t say that because if my favourite comedian was able to see me, really see me, then I needed to see him.
He was totally knackered. “I’m tired, ” he said.
Instead of being another person trying to claw something from him—a photo, a kiss, a story to tell—I needed to listen to him. He wanted to go get in that lift.
“We can do the interview later. Online,” I told him, waving him towards the lift. “It’s all in the letter.”
And he walked away.
I drove home feeling grander than all the jewels in the Queen’s crown.