Chris De Burgh is not a name that regular readers of this blog might expect to find here but bear with me as my brief acquaintance with the man brought forth one of the most unusual meetings I ever had.
Although his music has never been on my playlist, that didn’t stop Omnibus Press from publishing an authorised biography of De Burgh in 1987. The approach came from his manager, Dave Margereson, and since I figured it was a commercial proposition we went ahead, and I even recommended an author for the book, Dave Thompson, who did a sterling job. Chris himself provided most of the pictures and since he fancied a large-format illustrated book it was necessary for Mike Bell, our then chief designer, to get to work on his drawing board, this being the era of letraset before computers took over. I oversaw the project in my capacity as editor here at Omnibus.
Chris proved to be an amiable if business-like chap and he didn’t make too many demands on me, only that he wanted to see the artwork for the book before it went to press which was a reasonable request. The only problem was that he was domiciled in the Irish Republic and for tax reasons and was unable to spend more than 90 days in the UK in any 12 month period, almost all of which had been used up by the time we needed to show him the pages from the book. The designer and I didn’t fancy flying to Dublin and thence to wherever Chris lived, so how to resolve this issue?
In the event Chris’ manager Dave came up with a solution. “He’s off to Hong Kong next week,” he told us. “Doing some gigs there and then going on to Australia. You could meet him at Heathrow, airside of course.”
In order for this to happen Dave had to buy Mike and I tickets to Hong Kong, business class too as I recall so they’d have cost a pretty penny. So on a Friday evening Mike and I went to Heathrow with our passports and files on the book, and in Terminal 3 we checked in as if we were flying to Hong Kong. We had no luggage but that didn’t seem to faze the staff at the check-in desk. We had been told that Chris would be waiting for us in the first-class lounge which was, indeed, where we found him, with his wife and kids. We had our meeting, looked through the pages of the book, took note of any amendments he requested and all was well. Afterwards, about an hour later, Mike and had to pretend that we’d changed our minds and didn’t want to fly to Hong Kong after all. The immigration staff looked at us very suspiciously.
“Why have you decided not to fly?” I was asked.
Thinking on my feet, I said: “I just checked in with my secretary and she’s told me that we have to be present at an important meeting in London on Monday. We’ll get our travel agents to change the flights.”
“What about your luggage?”
“Oh, we’ll get someone to pick that up in Hong Kong for us,” I lied. Admitting we didn’t have any would have seemed even more suspicious.
Then they let us back into England.