Tuesday, 22 May 2012

BEAT STAR (George Pammell, 1960)

The first thing you have to do is get an audience with Donald P. Impressario.  He's the main brain.  He has a stable of lads, all with names conveying undoubted star power.  Some will tell you that you should go it alone, employ a manager rather than be employed by one, that some singers earn 500 pounds a week, and that Impressario will only pay you 20 at first, but what they don't tell you is that he gives you a five year-contract, and he knows how to put you on the right bills.  He's a starmaker, and no mistake.

And look at his list: Dickie Brown, Bobby Dream, Luke Famous, John Gently, Vic B.Goode, Nelson Drive, Jimmy Lies, Dougie Anger.  Masters of the suggestive.  To a man they can rock a civic hall with a beat or bring the girls to screams just with the way they light a cigarette. 

Some of them are in Chichester on Friday.  This is your chance.  You know some chords.  When you worked on the barges after you escaped from that horrible comprehensive you held that job for a while, and you even liked it.  When it was quiet, the old fella Joe taught you a few blues runs on his homemade guitar, and you'd picked it up alright, Joe had said.  But they'd sacked you in the end, just like the other places, and now your Dad is all over your back with talk of the army.  You're eighteen in two weeks, and it is now or never. 

You put on your best blazer, the one you picked up in London when you went there that time, the one with the green silk lining that cost a packet that you hide under your bed.  You don't ring your mates, because they'll want to lark about and throw fag ends at girls, and they don't even know you've got some songs anyway.  They won't want the hassle of the train up to Chichester and back anyway, they reckon the big beat is silly half the time.  Elvis came out four years ago, and this fad will be done soon, they reckon.

The doorman is distracted by a blonde in a polka-dot dress, so you step by, push through the girls at the stage door and you're in.  A man asks you what you want, and you say you're looking for Mr Impressario.  That's me, he says.  Whereupon you tell him you've got some songs for his boys.  He takes you to the dressing room, where Bobby Dream is doing his hair.  Up close he looks even younger than you, has some acne, but still has that something.  American cars in his eyes.  He gives you his guitar and you carefully strum through one of your numbers.  Mr Impressario watches and says nothing, just keeps asking if you've got any more  Each one you play causes Bobby to tap his feet, click his fingers and fidget.  Sometimes he laughs at a particular change or lyric.  You can't tell if he likes the songs or not.

So you want to be a beat star,  he says, and you say no, no, you just want a publishing deal.  It doesn't work that way, he says.  Mr Impressario gets up, puts his arm around you, and leads you down a corridor.  The brush-off is imminent, you're sure, and he pushes you through a door.  There are lights in your face.  You turn back, and there is a red curtain.  You turn again, and see that you're on stage.  There are girls screaming.  You're mad, you've been tricked.

Sell it son, Mr Impressario shouts through  his laughter.  You're stricken.  You can't move.  You hate him for showing you up.  But the girls keep screaming,  and looking at you expectantly.  They can't see through the illusion.  They buy it.  You play a few awkward chords, and they still buy it.  You give them a number, stammering over a word or two, and they love it even more.

When you leave the stage, Mr Impressario puts his arm around you again.  He thinks you can do a deal.  And he's got a name for you.  Ricky Nervous.  It's a good name, he says.  You don't normally stammer you say, and will be sure to be more confident next time, when it won't be a surprise.  But he wants you to stammer for England.  Stammer like there's no tomorrow.  The girls don't love Elvis because he is tough, he says, they love him because he's a Mummy's boy, and that's why they'll love you too.

Beat Star Directed by George Pammell, Produced by Tom Harverd, Richard Richardson.  Written by Ron Stockwell  Starring Vince Eager, Max Miller, Marty Wylde, Anthony Newley Red Arrow/ Rank Organisation 94 mins UK Release Date: March 1960 Tagline: 'So you wanna be a beat star, eh?'