Some things are worth waiting for




Mariah Carey has had to wait 26 years to finally hit the UK number one slot with All I Want For Christmas Is You. The one and only time I interviewed her it took almost as long for her to turn up.

That was in 2002 and I can’t find the piece anywhere, either in my archives or online, but I vividly recall that the three-hour wait for the diva to make her entrance felt like an eternity. A couple of years before she’d done a cover of Against All Odds with Westlife and I remember, after two of those three hours, thinking it was against all odds she’d ever appear.

It was, to be fair, an entertaining wait.

Myself and the record company PR were in a gorgeous suite at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge and it looked like they’d gotten every available vegetable from Harrods’ Food Hall sent over and cut into crudités. There was sliced carrot, cucumber and cauliflower everywhere, on fancy plates on any available surface, although we were informed by a rather prissy assistant on arrival: ‘Don’t touch the food, it’s for Mariah!’

Bemused and amused, as soon as he sashayed out of the room we nibbled on a carrot baton here and a bit of cauliflower there, rearranging the remainder to disguise our mange misdemeanours.

That killed an hour.

The second hour was spent listening to a bunch of record company folk noisily, excitedly flowing in and out of an adjoining room. Carey had just signed to a new label and it seemed everyone from the CEO to the char lady had abandoned their desks to drop in for, as we soon learned, a meet-and-greet with the diva herself.

Yep, Mariah was in the next room but when at the 120-minute mark the exasperated PR popped into the corridor to rant about the delay, saying ‘I have a journalist who’s been here for two hours’, she was told the record label hierarchy were first in line and I’d have to wait.

Hour three was the funniest. There was a table and two chairs set up for the interview and Mr Prissy Assistant kept coming in to change the flowers, then rudely ordered me ‘Sit here!’ - here being the chair opposite the window.

He then began fiddling with the venetian blinds as he declared ‘Mariah likes the light across her face a certain way’ in a voice that was high-pitched, American, annoying. This was accompanied by a swoosh of a hand across his own face, like Norma Desmond preparing herself for her close-up, with such dramatic force that it almost blew the bouquet off the table.

‘By the time she gets here there’ll be no light,’ I said in what was meant to be a mutter but came out louder than intended. He hissed at me, then flounced out.

The light had indeed faded when Mariah finally made her entrance in a blaze of designer finery and the sort of through-the-roof star quality I’ve only encountered a few times in my life.

Yet, despite her murderously high heels, she was surprisingly down-to-earth as she smiled and said ‘Help yourself to the food’ followed by ‘I hope you haven’t been waiting too long’.

‘Er, just three hours,’ I couldn’t help saying. The smile was gone and so was Mariah, teetering into the corridor with an apologetic ‘Give me just one more minute’. I couldn’t see who she collared or hear what she said but it was loud and angry.

A moment later she was back, smile restored as she said ‘Shall we?’ and lead me towards the table where - guess what - she sat in the other chair!

Yes, she sat with her back to the window and no, she didn’t touch any of the food that was supposedly for her exclusive consumption.

She was more fun than you'd expect from a world-class diva, the least lofty thing about her being a daringly low-cut dress that kept drawing my attention to her décolletage, prompting her to eventually ask if I was eyeballing her ample assets.

‘Absolutely!’

‘Why?’

‘I’m gay, love, but even I think they’re amazing.’

‘Good!’ she said, did a pendulous swing from side to side, then burst out laughing.

It remains one of my funniest career moments and was well worth the long wait.


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