Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Graeme Fowler Remebers Partying with Elton

The first time I met Elton John was in a restaurant in Sydney in 1983. I was on my first tour as an England cricketer and my teammate Ian Botham had invited me along. Beefy loved Elton’s music and Elton was a big fan of cricket – he’d go so far as to schedule concerts to coincide with England’s matches abroad – and so they had become big pals.

At the meal I ended up sitting opposite the great man. I was terrified – what do I say? But then, wearing his big earring – a hoop with a jewelled parrot sitting on the bottom – he leaned across to me. “Do you know,” he confided, “I’ve been nervous about this all day.” He felt the same about meeting a cricketer as I did meeting him. Underneath, we were just the same.

Nerves weren’t affecting me when I met him next, two years later at a party at his hotel in Auckland. By the time I got there I was already plastered. I’d been out drinking tequila all day. Downing a glass of gin, mistaking it for water, didn’t exactly help – I fell backwards through a glass-topped coffee table and it smashed to pieces.

It was then that I found myself between Elton and his then wife Renate. Don’t ask me why – up until then I had only routinely bitten my teammate Paul Allott – but I turned sideways and bit her on her upper arm. All things considered, she wasn’t very happy. “Get him out of here!” she screamed. Next thing I knew, Beefy was dragging me out of the room.

I was riddled with shame and remorse. Elton, meanwhile, was having a barbecue on his hotel balcony. I knew I had to apologise. But the reception I received was somewhat unexpected – a standing ovation. “Stay!” said Elton, sitting on the bed in a pair of faux zebra skin boots. But I couldn’t. I was just too embarrassed.

Two years later, Elton spotted me again – I was at the Ashes Test while playing club cricket in Perth. “Foxeye,” that’s what he called me, “let’s have a barbecue this afternoon.” He meant at the house where I was staying. Jumping in my Ford Fiesta, he filled three shopping trolleys. He was like a kid, running around the supermarket, just chucking stuff in. “We don’t need all this you know,” I said. “Yes,” he looked at me, “but darling, you won’t need to go shopping for a few days, will you?”

“How come I’m here?” I asked him, when we were hanging out on a later occasion. He pondered the matter. “I thought cricketers were quite boring,” he told me, “until I came across you in Auckland. You were the best entertainment we’ve ever had.” He’d never wanted me to leave that party. He was loving the chaos that I was creating.

- Guardian

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