Pulled a Queen fan. I’m a royal failure

By Paul Lester, May 14, 2009

It’s been a busy old month. In fact, I’ve become a bit of a dating machine. I could give lessons… on how to fail dismally on a regular basis with a huge variety of women.

First, there was the sultry Spanish waitress I chatted to at a restaurant in Camden. We were getting on quite well — luckily I know how to say “you’re one red hot mama” in Castilian — so we arranged to meet at a bar in Notting Hill the following week.

All very promising until the evening in question, which she spent blathering on about her celebrity connections and boasting that she’d once kept notorious rock lothario Lenny Kravitz waiting a year before becoming physically intimate, which made me wonder how long she’d keep me waiting.

After a few hours in her company feigning interest in her endless anecdotes about her numerous famous friends, I got my answer — probably a lot longer.

Then there was the blind date who I was led to believe, by the practical joker who arranged it, was going to be a sort of Jewish Jennifer Lopez. The middle-aged lady who arrived at my house more closely resembled Jennifer Saunders, if the comedienne was a diminutive yenta from Gants Hill.

Not that I’m all about looks — maybe 90 per-cent, tops — but even the promise that she was “massively into music” turned out to be somewhat misleading . She was massively into musicals, so I had to endure a five-hour conversation about the merits of Oklahoma! and La Cage Aux Folles, which, funnily enough, is longer than both productions combined.

It wasn’t going so well in London, so I decided to look further afield. By chance I got a phone call from a newspaper to cover a fan club convention for the rock band Queen. The location? Pontin’s in Somerset. Oh, the glamour. Did I want to go? What, and spend the weekend in a holiday camp with a bunch of beery Freddie Mercury and Brian May lookalikes playing air guitar and singing terrible karaoke versions of We Are The Champions? Taxi! Kings Cross!

The convention, held annually at what could be described as the poor man’s Butlin’s, was a touch shabby and low-rent — imagine a scene out of the TV series Phoenix Nights, with muscular, tattooed hard-nuts (and their boyfriends) as far as the eye could see.

I like to consider myself something of a “method journalist”, so I got dressed down (yes, even more than usual) in jumper and jeans, and with “snakebite and black” — a lethal cocktail of cider, lager and blackcurrant cordial popular with the younger drinking classes before alcopops — in hand, I mingled with the masses.

My brief entailed getting some quotes from the convention-goers about why they chose to spend their hard-earned money attending a weekender, the highlight of which was a tug of war between Freddie Mercury fans (known as Mercurians) and Brian May buffs (aka Mayniacs). In other words, a great way to meet girls.

So I sidled over to a group of ladies (term used advisedly) wearing T-shirts bearing the image of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, 60 this summer, beside the slogan “I So Would… Still…”

I vaguely recall an expert in such matters explaining that a sure-fire way to ingratiate yourself with members of the opposite sex was to subtly emulate their mannerisms and speech patterns. So I began dropping my aitches wildly and adopting the vernacular of “the street” in order to establish rapport.

This seemed to pay off as I caught the attention of one girl in particular, a 25-year-old mother of one from somewhere east of Redbridge with a pinched expression and the pallor of someone who hasn’t seen much daylight this century. A Queen fan, basically. However, despite my best efforts to sound coarse and Not Middle-Class, after a few minutes’ conversation she made a distressing observation: “Cor blimey, you’re really posh!”

She even said — true story — that I had “posh teeth”. Posh teeth! How can you make a judgment about the relative nobility of enamel? Anyway, one thing led to another and I ended up back at her chalet; purely for research purposes, you understand.

I was going deep undercover to find out just why it is so many ordinary people are in awe of a pomp-rock group fronted by a narcissist in a leotard wailing in a cod-operatic falsetto. Only it wasn’t just me there — her older sister, a generously proportioned woman with bingo wings and a throaty cackle, was in the room next door, as was her three-year-old daughter.

It was at this point that I began humming the refrain from that well-known Queen song I Want To Break Free, and before you could say: “Bismillah! Let him go!” I had scarpered.

Last updated: 11:49am, May 14 2009