Here are some wonderful pictures and memories from Paul Stephens in Sydney.
Above: Programme cover from Shirley Bassey at Sun City, Bophuthatswana 1984
Above: Programme cover from Shirley Bassey at Sun City, Bophuthatswana 1981
I saw Shirley at Sun City’s Superbowl in 1981 and 1984. I never thought that I would get to meet her and share some precious moments with her some time later.
In 1993, I was centre, front row at all her Johannesburg concerts. On the last night, I had arranged to give her flowers – a huge arrangement made for me by a top Johannesburg florist friend. It was so large that the flowers were positioned on the floor in front of the stage but out of sight from Shirley’s view. It had been pre-arranged that assistance would be required to lift the flowers to her after the third song.
At that time, I got up and said “I have something for you”. I bent down and lifted the arrangement up. Michael Alexander (maestro) walked over to assist. In size, the display was about a metre square – difficult to transport and carry.
100 long-stemmed red roses. The audience erupted into thundering applause. Of course, Shirley was thrilled. Later, she dedicated “Big Spender” to me.
After the third night’s performance in Johannesburg, I was invited backstage to a very private meeting with Shirley. There was only myself, Gerry Freeman (her drummer), Michael Alexander (Musical Director) and my partner. We spent just over two hours with her in private, just chatting and discussing various topics.
When I next saw her, it was in Sydney. I waited outside the State Theatre because I knew she would be arriving for a sound check. The security staff were not interested in me until Shirley arrived. Suddenly, she arrived – very incognito and almost unrecognisable. She saw me and cried something to the effect “Oh my, Paul! I received your letter. I couldn’t believe you were now living in Sydney”. She took me downstairs into the dressing room, and we spent about an hour talking before her sound check.
On another occasion, I was invited to attend a post-concert function at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. There were heaps of well-known media people there (I was the odd one out because I was no longer working in the industry).
Prior to my very first interview with Shirley Bassey, I had the jitters. I wasn’t worried about how I would handle the interview because I had interviewed many major acts like Cliff Richard, The Moody Blues, Foreigner, Status Quo, Andy Mclusky and many more. This interview would be a breeze. I wouldn’t need to do research, I knew it all. I guess I was apprehensive about how she would take to me, and if I would be let down by my own expectations of her.
This much I will say. Shirley Bassey has always been thoroughly delightful, polite, warm and generous to me.
Paul at the food hall, Broadway Shopping Centre, Sydney