So it’s been a bit of a strange time. I’ve been silenced for too long but now, finally, I can speak out. I was on Britain’s Got Talent this week. Didn’t expect that did you? It all started before Christmas, when a friend of mine called me saying she was helping out the show’s producers. She rang to see if I knew any talented people in Brighton. ‘No,’ came my reply, ‘but I know a 45 year-old man in a gold catsuit, who could belt out a Queen song.’ ‘Perfect,’ she said, disappointingly. And so it began.
They called me the very next day to say that they were in Brighton the following weekend and that I should find a stage somewhere and they would film it and take it back to the show’s producers. That Saturday, in full make-up and shiny gold skin, I strutted my stuff to ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ with a full light show and smoke machine, at Concorde 2, in front of a researcher and a cameraman. I signed a bit of paper and they said they’d be in touch.
Within days, they said they’d liked what they’d seen and they’d like to see more. This time they wanted me to film five different song choices (three of them were Queen) and send it back to them with my Top 5 song preferences to ‘sing’ on the show. Off it went back to BGT HQ and again they responded fairly quickly saying they liked what they saw and they were ‘seriously considering’ me for the show. However, their number one song choice was different to mine. They wanted ‘I want to break free,’ I wanted those fat bottomed girls. I relented but as the former was my weakest vocally, I increased my monthly singing lessons (see former blog) to weekly sessions. If I was being set up to fail, I wanted to at least spring a surprise on them.
Anyway, several calls and e-mails later, I was confirmed to perform in front of the judges and a live audience at the Dominion Theatre, London. I got my make-up done in Brighton, slipped on a tracksuit over my catsuit and headed to the big smoke with my family and friends. It was a very surreal day. We arrived on the red carpet (rolled up), shortly before Ant n’ Dec and Cowell and crew rocked up (red carpet rolled down) and that was probably my most nervous moment. I realised just how big this show was.
What followed was nine hours of interviews, set-up filming (chatting to other contestants, registering ten times, etc) and a lot of hanging around. They filmed two shows that day, each three or four hours long. I was on third from the end. I was tired, the crowd was tired and I think the judges were tired (hard to tell from all the botox).
The most bizarre moment of the day was when I was being interviewed by Ant N’ Dec just before stepping out on to a stage in front of Cowell, Walliams, Dixon and Holden. There were people having minor strokes backstage and yet I’ve never felt so calm stepping out on to a stage. Not a shred of nerves. The moment was so surreal, I felt like I was in some strange cartoon. It didn’t really register the magnitude of it all. I stepped out in to the spotlight and an excited ripple went through the audience but the look of utter disdain from the judges faces, was obvious. They wanted to go home.
However, I’d worked hard to get to this point and I wasn’t going to let this put me off. I had a brief chat with a disinterested David Walliams, who commented on my ‘very tight’ catsuit, gave the thumbs up to Ant N’ Dec and got in to position. I was about five yards from the mic stand, when the opening chords of ‘I want to break free’ rang out around the theatre. I rose up from my crouching position, cape in full affect, like a bird spreading its wings, I strode up to the mic, did a few strokes of air guitar (UK Champion) and sang my first line. Before I’d started the second, all four buzzers went, almost simultaneously before Walliams’ said, ‘are you having a laugh?’ Well yes, I would have, if you had given me a minute or two. And that was it.
I went off stage, relived we could get the last train to Brighton (and yet there was more filming to be done afterwards) to be greeted by Ant n’ Dec who said ‘it was some kind of record’ the sheer speed of which I’d been voted off. My first thought was for the family and friends who had spent nine hours waiting for me to come on, only to watch my minute on stage. I needn’t have worried. As soon as I went in to the corridor, I saw them all falling about on the floor laughing. Including my eleven year old son. We laughed all the way home.
There was only two outcomes for me doing this show; sing the song and wow the audience in to a standing ovation, or fail spectacularly. I didn’t want to be that in between guy. I had to settle for the latter.
On the train home, chatting to my family and friends there was a sense of being robbed of a performance no one will ever see but also some relief that we would no longer be involved. Its fun but it’s manipulating. I went as a character (Vince Venus) but of course, all they wanted to know about was Guy Lloyd and I wasn’t willing to expose that side so much. I found the constant interrogating exhausting. They work hard at breaking you down.
Overall, it was a great experience and fascinating seeing the workings of the biggest show on telly. But what I soon realised, even if you go in as a bit of a joke, you are totally in the hands of a well-oiled machine and as the hours went by, waiting to be called to stage, it was my soul that was slowly ebbing away and not my vocal chords. They were never there in the first place. But I’d achieved my goal, to get in front of the judges and sing (for 5 seconds). It could have gone better (I was genuinely confident I could wow the crowd, probably not the judges) but it could have gone worse (getting through to the next round).
If you have any desire to go on to any of these reality shows, have a plan, be thick-skinned and don’t take it seriously. It’s just a telly show. But be warned, it can be a telly show at your expense. Luckily, I am all those things and I feel like I can look back on it now with fondness but I saw so many people backstage, with broken dreams and broken hearts. My advice, if you have a real talent (not a pretend one, as I had), do it the traditional way. Work hard, stay focused and ride the bumps. Don’t let someone else take control.
However, if you want to meet Ant n’ Dec, go for it. They are lovely chaps.