Saturday, November 1, 2014

When I Met The Legendary James Brown

Okay, so I did say I would tell you about this one day. Today's the day. 

Many years ago when I was a chief cabin with Kuwait Airways we were waiting to board passengers out of Heathrow for a flight to New York. I was in the first class cabin when one of the ground staff told me we have James Brown as a passenger. I immediately started singing the chorus to 'Get Up Offa That Thing' and seriously thought he was joking and that there was just a passenger with the same name. I was pretty busy with last minute checks and just carried on with that.

Passengers started boarding and about 10 minutes later I look up the tube (the one that passengers use to board the aircraft) and blow me down it is the man himself - Mr James Brown in a shiny satin shirt unbuttoned to almost the waist, gold neck chains, jacket over his shoulders and his signature overly coiffed wig. I left out a little scream and peed myself a weeny bit. 

He and his entourage were all first class, he sat next to his young fiancee. We chatted with some of the entourage and they told us that they had been in Beirut performing at a wedding party. How cool is that to have the man himself at your wedding party!

We didn't want to pester Mr Brown but we all so wanted a photo with him. So after a few hours I went and asked him, ever so politely, if we could take a photo with him. He said sure and then proceeded to get groomed by his fiancee for about twenty minutes. Lots of wig combing and face powder going on. He looked exactly the same but we finally got our photo.

Before landing Mr Brown asked me if he could make a call but back then we did not have telephones onboard. The only way to get a message through would be for the Captain to radio JFK (landing airport in New York) and then whoever took the message would make the landline call. This was only really permitted in rare cases. I thought as he was a special passenger (and a living legend) maybe the captain would allow him to send his message. I took Mr Brown upstairs to the cockpit (747) and asked the steward to inform the captain that Mr Brown was ready to relay his message. Whilst Mr Brown and I waited outside the cockpit he asked me where I was from I told him I was English. He then told me straight-faced that he was 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Sioux, 1/4 Black and 1/4 Japanese (honestly that's what he told me) trying to hide my astonishment I said quickly, " A true warrior," in reference to his alleged Japanese/Sioux Indian heritage. Well, this prompted him to start singing something about being a warrior. Surreal moment - thought I'd maybe inspired a song but no never heard that one again.

I waited outside the cockpit for Mr Brown to finish and then escorted him back to his seat. A few minutes later the crew told me the captain wanted to see me. The captain and first officer were both laughing and told me the message from Mr Brown had been to his housekeeper that Mr Brown will have the veal roast for dinner. Now I believe the radio messages can be picked up by all the other aircraft in the area so it must have been a little embarassing for the captain.

On landing Mr Brown was gracious enough to invite us all to his next concert, for a few moments we were utterly delighted and then found out it was a free concert at Central Park along with at least a 100,000 other people.  

Regardless, any moment spent with this incredible superstar is a cherished memory indeed. RIP James Brown there will never, ever be another like you.

Can't wait to see the movie [link to the preview].

And from the Godfather of Soul himself..  

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