Caroline in Red Breeches. “My agent's had this great idea.” Caroline is dressed in a pair of bright red short breeches. She is perched on a table, and someone is taking photographs of us both. We have been told to ignore the cameras. Okay, that's easy enough. “Yes,” I say as noncommittally as possible.
“Apparently there is this club. Well, it's a sort of dive really. Quite small. It's run by a Gunter Grass freak. You do know who he is?”
“Yes, alright. Not everyone is as clever as you are. Some people haven't read anything of his.”
“Have you?” I grin at her.
“Shut up. Stop putting me off. Anyway. There's this club which is based on one of his books, I've forgotten which...”
“The Tin Drum?”
“Probably.” She glances across at the camera and back to me. “I'm not sure. The place is called The Onion Club. Doesn't sound much like a tin drum.”
“Yes. I know what you mean. Are you sure that's a good idea?”
“It sounds great. I come in and do some Kurt Weil song in front of a microphone...”
“Hold on, hold on. What's going on here? I'm the singer, you're the model.”
“Yes, I know. That's alright. I don't actually sing. I just pretend. I mime to a Marlene Dietrich track.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Good god.”
“Shut up. It's the ambience for the dresses. Well, not exactly dresses, but there is this selection of German inspired clothes, and I come in wearing... well...” She looks down. “This for a start. And then there is the black gear.”
“No, you ass, black trouser suits, sort of Georges Sand. Femmes fatales, and all that stuff.”
“You got it. And they play old thirties songs. You know, songs by Hans Eisler and Kurt Weil.”
I look up. “I beg your pardon?”
“Quite. I've been doing some homework. I really like them. My agent's getting me a CD. The music helps to get me in the mood, and the clothes, and the band.”
“You guys of course.”
“I beg your pardon. We aren't playing in some corny thirties dive.”
“Oh yes you are.”
“It's the first I've heard of it.”
“It's all part of your video.
This is the point at which my mouth falls open, and I wonder if I've transferred to another planet. Instead of saying something, I sit down. It's only then that I notice the photographic shoot appears to be over.
“What's the matter? Don't you want to do this?”
“It's...it's...” I wave my hand around as if to pluck some useful comment from the air. “That's our director. He's trying to get his own back. I bet this is all his idea.”
“No, it's my agent's idea. I thought you'd be pleased.”
I cant help wishing the photographers were still taking pictures. They wanted us to be natural, and here we are heading for an argument. You cant get more natural than that. I think Caroline has forgotten about the shoot and hasn't noticed.
“Hold on, hold on. Let's get this straight. You have a fashion shoot in some thirties dive. The audience are eating onions...”
“What on earth for?”
I sigh. “It's part of the script. Remember the book? The Tin Drum? It's a scene from there. Why do you think this dive's called The Onion Club?”
“Oh yes, I see. Ah!” Her eyes open wide.
“I see the connection. I thought I was supposed to be doing a strip-tease.”
“You're taking off all your clothes?”
“Not all of them, silly. I start wearing one costume with others underneath, and as the show goes on I peel off something to show what's underneath.”
“Let me finish. I go through a series of costume changes like a striptease, but the whole routine is called Layers of the Onion.”
“Weird. Do onions sell clothes? Sounds a daft idea to me.”
“Don't ask me. I just do as I'm told. But you guys are part of the audience, and towards the end you come up on stage and sing a couple of numbers, and that's the part that's in the video, and sections of it will be shown separately as part of the ad sequence for the clothes. Apparently your agent has agreed. And you get a payout from the clothes company. There's a lot of money on the table.”
“I must have a word with Julian about this. I don't like the idea of backing clothes ads.”
“Oh don't spoil it. That's part of the reason I've got these sessions. You know they were all based around your tour.”
“Yes but... Hold on. Let me speak to Julian.”
“Don't you dare wreck this. I'll never forgive you.”
"Where's my phone?"
"Where you left it. Wherever that is."
"I think it's in the car." We head back to the car park.
“Calm down. I just want to know what's going on.”
This is odd. She really has forgotten we were in the middle of a photo-shoot. I'm going to enjoy reminding her what happened when we are at dinner tonight.
Back at the car I dial the hotel. “Room six-two-one please.” I listen to a lot of clicking and the bell rings for ages. “I bet the bugger's gone out.” Eventually Julian picks up the phone.
“I'm with Caroline. Look, what exactly is this deal? Surely we aren't advertising a bloody wardrobe?”
Julian cuts straight to the guts. “It's a two million pound deal.”
“A what?” I stumble back into the driver's seat.
“There's an extra two million quid for us in this, just for us playing in a cabaret. Just two songs, with Caroline smooching about in the background. That's all. We aren't endorsing any product. We are simply the cabaret.”
I can't think of anything to say.
“That's a million pounds a song. Do you want to cancel?”
For once in my life I am speechless.
“Well, there you go then. That's what I thought. There are two shoots going on here, combining the venue. Caroline is on stage singing some cabaret stuff from way back. She changes costumes, and there are a couple of shots of us in the audience. That's all for her shoot.
“While that's playing out our video crew are shooting us in the club, and we get up and do a couple of numbers. There's a certain amount of cross shooting at this stage, and that's what we're getting the money for.”
“Okay. I guess we need the money. What are we doing in Paris?”
Julian laughed. “Don't worry, I'm still negotiating. Leave it to me.”
“If you say so.”
“Look Johnsie this thing is going to work out really well. This is going to be good publicity for the band. Caroline photographs really well. She is going to be splashed all over the place, and we are effectively benefiting from that advertising campaign.”
“Good god, I'll never live this down. Are you suggesting that she's bigger than us and we need her to...” I'm staring at the wretched girl, and she's grinning her head off. “You realise she'll blackmail me forever after this.”
“No she wont. She's a nice girl.”
“Nice girl, my arse. I have to live with her.”
“Careful baby boy.” A finger is pointing at my face.
“Did you here that?”
Julian is laughing.
“See what I mean. It's alright for you, but I'll hear about this to my dying day.”
“You'll cope. Come on, relax.”
I put the phone down.
“Nobody tells me anything.
“Julian says you're a lousy negotiator. You just annoy people.”
“So you two have been working this behind my back.”
“Rubbish. No-one's going behind your back. You knew the two campaigns were linked right from the start.”
“So what have you got up your sleeve for the Paris gig?”
“Not sure yet. I think it will revolve around paintings.”
I sit down on a low stone wall that borders the car park and stare into the distance. “I need a brandy?”
“Of course darling. I'll ring for room service. But it may take a while to arrive.”
“Do you know something?”
She gives me a broad grin. “What's that?”
How on earth could I live without this girl? She's lovely. I run my eyes up and down what is to me a perfect girl. Not only is she pretty, vivacious, and has a fantastic figure, but she's clever, fun to be with, and everybody who meets her loves her. The times I look at her and think I'm the luckiest idiot on the planet. “I adore you, you cow.”
She comes over, bends down and gives me a hug and a big kiss.
“I'll love you forever, and I already owe you in any case.”
“What do you owe to me?”
“I only got into this business because of you.”
“Whereas I had to spend a whole ghastly year in the wilderness for you, baby boy. Now there's real devotion.” She is grinning at me. Her face darkens. “And don't you forget it.”
I give her another kiss.