Shropshire Star

Dan Morris: When name dropping was below the belt

"I remember when me and your mum were at this party with the Duchess of York and Patrick Stewart."

Here's to having friends in famous places...

Over the years, a lot of my dad's stories have started in a similar fashion, squarely putting one's own anecdotes into rather harsh perspective.

A name-dropping aficionado second only in exuberance to Tom Jones, my father – a former newspaper man himself – had the fortune over a long career to get up-close and relatively personal to a number of household names.

These ranged from chat show charmer Des O'Connor and telly starlet Tricia Penrose (Gina à la Heartbeat), to snooker sensation Ronnie O'Sullivan and boxing behemoth Frank Bruno.

And then there were the politicians – David Blunkett among them, Betty Boothroyd also on the list. Oh, and then "that sax-player from Arkansas". I'm not even joking.

Suffice to say, having an old man who can count Bill Clinton among those he's shared a room with has meant my eternal defeat in the Name-Drop Olympics. I had naively hoped as a youngster that this may change when I joined the working world, and competed in said tournament outside of my own household. Yet, sadly, in joining a newsroom of seasoned veteran journalists, this was very much not to be.

"The Princess Royal? An absolute delight on every occasion we've spoken," was the sort of thing that emanated from a number of colleagues who were rightly proud of the public personalities they'd been privileged to interview.

In such company, story-topping was always going to be a tall order. Unless of course, you were prepared to sacrifice your dignity... or started with very little to begin with.

A long, long time ago (I can still remember), I was returning from a holiday to Portugal with some pals. After a week of sun, sea and sangria, we were loath to be heading home, yet cheered up somewhat by a surprise bit of celebrity spotting at the airport.

Confirmed by my cohorts (I've never been much of a one for sporting knowledge), football management royalty Ron Atkinson and Steve Bruce were stood but 15 metres from us, idling about as one does in such places, chatting to pass the time.

We weren't the only lads about the parish to notice the pair, and pretty soon the rubber-necking started in earnest. While no-one was brave enough to approach the duo directly (like gazelles in the savannah, football managers in the departure lounge are easily spooked), many eager beavers were trying to subtlety deploy their camera phones.

These were indeed 'camera phones', not 'smart phones', which may give you an indication as to how long ago this episode occurred. The selfie certainly hadn't yet been patented, and it is possible that this moment saw its true genesis.

One-by-one we semi-shielded each other so as to covertly (who were we kidding?) grab a pic of ourselves with the two legends of the beautiful game in the background.

All went well, and each member of our merry band was succeeding in scoring a snap that would be worth a pint or five back at our local. And then it was my turn.

Up I stepped, my 'shield-buddy' to my side, another mate in front. Concentrating on framing my photo without being spotted, I hadn't noticed that said mate was poised to take another shot of his own – until, of course, it was too late.

In a perfectly choreographed moment of treachery, pal-at-the-side swung his fist squarely into my unmentionables as pal-in-front clicked his camera – immortalising not only my pain, but also the roaring laughter of the football royalty that had in fact watched the entire debacle unfold.

I was down to the floor, in a manner that only such an expert shot can achieve, with Steve Bruce's unforgettable laugh ringing in my ears, and Ron Atkinson clearly pleased that a bit of live entertainment had broken the standard airport monotony. Happy to be of service fellas – any chance of a signed shirt... or at least a lift up?

Though I'm yet to match Dad's dizzy heights of urinating next to a former WBC heavyweight champ (or Mum's faux pas of asking Patrick Stewart for his autograph, only to realise she was conversing with his brother), I'm proud that my misfortune on that fateful day was able to provide a bit of light relief for a couple of famous faces.

It's a tale of woe that I suspect will continue to follow me for some time – but who am I to let embarrassment get in the way of a good yarn?

After all, it always goes down well at those poker games at the Obamas'...

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