Digital Blonde: Read Chapter One for FREE


Congratulations. You find yourself in a great place, seconds away from reading the first chapter of Digital Blonde, Nick Hansen’s exciting 2017 release.

Part satire, part thriller, Digital Blonde is a hilarious riot of narcissists, gangsters and sex tapes. And above all it is an unlikely pop star’s inspiring journey of self-discovery and naked ambition.

And it’s going to blow your socks off!

So take pour a large glass of your favourite drink, ease back and enjoy…

 

CHAPTER ONE

Dancegate

Melody limped through Claridge’s penthouse suite, sunglasses hiding bloodshot eyes. Her nose was running and beneath the bathrobe her body was slick with cherry flavoured lubricant and sweat. Unable to walk another step in her black leather, thigh-high, stack-heeled military boots she collapsed onto a chair and felt her brow to check if she had a fever.

The noise was unbearable. Her manager, Binksy Schindler, was laying into the director of Adventures In Blonde, the ill-judged documentary that had been recording the mayhem since December. Elsewhere, pale fashionistas hogged the sofas, gossiping about nail varnish and slopping cocktails on some old horror who looked a lot like Binksy’s plastic surgeon. And then, through a crowd of tanked-up music journalists Melody spotted two of her dancers, flexing their muscles like they owned the place.

Trying not to start crying again, she hugged herself and looked away. ‘Paradise City’ thundered and squealed in the master bedroom and she concentrated on tuning out the noise until Binksy slinked over and whispered something in her ear. But Melody heard nothing. The black dancer known as Otis was now pointing at her and laughing with his buddy. Laughing at the star, in full view of everyone. She hated racists more than most, and had even dated somebody called Washington whilst at university; but Otis was a problem, standing there in his jazz pants and tight vest, his jealous eyes boring into her.

‘What’s wrong now honey? You’re freaking everybody out,’ shouted Binksy over the heavy metal.

‘This is totally insane, you’ve got to stop them all staring at me.’

‘Shall I bring you a nice glass of water?’

‘No, what you need to do is deal with Otis. I’m totally not employing that bitch any more.’

‘They’re all bitches dear, just ask Roland.’

‘Listen to me, I’m being extremely specific. Somebody needs to get Otis out of here, I can’t even look at him.’

‘I hope this isn’t still about that silly interview yesterday,’ said Binksy, her Kentucky twang never sounding more patronising.

‘What, after he said I needed a dance-double in an interview for my documentary! It’s all over the tabloids and you won’t believe the abuse on Twitter.’

‘Come on Melody, he only meant that the dance routine for “Killer Braziliano” was super tough. The video was a triumph and, let’s face it, everyone uses a double for the tricky bits these days. It’s expected.’

‘Why can’t you just back me up for once?’

‘Don’t be so bitter, you could use the publicity right now. And remember, we’re all a family and Fuzzy Wuzzy is like our baby brother.’

‘You really shouldn’t call Otis that.’

Binksy smiled solemnly. ‘It’s what everybody calls him dear, even his boyfriend. It’s our affectionate name for a gentle dancing bear of a man who thinks the world of you. Now I’ll do whatever you ask, I’m here to serve, but you should give Fuzzy Wuzzy another chance. Can you do that for me?’ Binksy lifted Melody’s sunglasses, a clumsy attempt at intimacy, and observed her charge’s face for some moments before croaking, ‘Sweet baby Jesus, what have they done to you? Hey! Rocco! What have you been doing to my girl, I told you to go easy today.’

Rocco had emerged from the bedroom where they’d been shooting scenes for the other film Melody was starring in, which had a working title of The Great Scatsby. ‘Don’t tell me how to treat your girl, we’ve been through this. I said you should’ve got us Puppy Monroe for this gig.’

‘This is Melody’s film, you knew that right from the first concept meetings. I need some Rocco magic here, so don’t start giving it the whole “Puppy Monroe rocks my world” bullshit and get my film finished.’ Binksy winked at Melody to say, ‘Look how I fight for you!’

‘Listen sister, I’m working miracles in there,’ bellowed Rocco, a shredding guitar solo shaking the walls, ‘but if you don’t get me no decent actors even I can’t make this movie right.’ He paused, removed the steaming reefer from his teeth, spat in disgust and refused to look at either of them.

There had been similar behaviour during their first meeting in LA last summer. It had been scheduled to take place at Rocco’s office in North Hollywood, but was changed at short notice to the ‘set’ of his current project which turned out to be in an urban war zone known as Westmont.

Melody travelled there from The Peninsula in a rented limo with Roland, Binksy’s number two, who was tasked with negotiating the deal and keeping her safe. Due to a police roadblock and what looked like a minor riot on South Vermont Avenue they had to walk the final six blocks to the ground floor condo. Stray cats congregated in the shade near a door that kept slamming and Melody tried lighting a cigarette but was too nervous to inhale properly as Roland tapped out the secret knock until Rocco eventually let them in.

There was no furniture in the dark living room apart from some beanbags and a mattress, and the kitchenette was full of scary men who reminded her of the bouncers at an early gig that had ended very badly. When one of them aimed a vintage movie camera at her, Melody stared at the carpet and asked, ‘Why is that man filming me?’ as politely as possible.

‘That’s Emilio,’ said Roland, ‘he’s going to be your screenwriter.’

‘Best there is,’ said Rocco, lowering his great mass onto a beanbag. ‘Somebody bring the little princess to me, I gotta brief her for the casting.’

‘The what? Roland, a word please? In private?’ said Melody, monitoring the killing machines who were now circling her.

Formal introductions followed. It turned out that one of the men was a lighting technician, two were cameramen, a small Latino was referred to as The Fluffer and the biggest dumbbell, introduced as Giant Larry, was to act with Melody for the casting she had known nothing about.

‘Get Binksy on the phone right now. I mean this is my film, what am I casting for?’ said Melody, trying to cover her Rolex as Emilio lit a joint and Giant Larry removed his sports vest.

Roland was explaining that Binksy was off limits due to the time difference and that she never listened to him anyway when someone else started banging at the door.

The Fluffer grabbed a knife and checked the peephole. ‘It’s cool, it’s just Chip!’

After unlocking all the deadbolts Chip fell in, his gun drawn.

‘Put that with the others girlfriend,’ said Emilio, pointing to the gun box, ‘we all cool here.’

‘Cool,’ said Chip. ‘I think some cop was tailing me out on Sunset. I’ve got a trunk full of roofies.’

Rocco grinned, giving Chip a complex handshake that lasted many seconds. By now Giant Larry had stripped down to his underpants. His ebony skin, but not only his skin, reminded Melody of Jet, her childhood stallion as he instructed The Fluffer to ‘warm him up’. She decided to hide in the toilet. Gagging in the humid cubicle, she heard Emilio and the cameramen arguing about whether she was ‘that singer from Australia’ and Rocco talking numbers with Roland at great volume.

‘What you gotta understand is if we gonna be filming in England we ain’t doing this shit for less than three quarters of a million. I’ll need a hundred grand up front like we agreed and then I’ll expect the balance in cash once I deliver the final tapes. And don’t look so worried Roland, once they’re uploaded your girl will be the most talked about star on the planet.’

Melody now opened her eyes, suppressing the memories of that horrendous day.

Binksy was still arguing with Rocco. Across the sitting room, near the Edwardian fireplace, Giant Larry was chatting up Binksy’s astrologer and asking who the Aerosmith fan was. He was wearing a leather locking-corset and red cock-ring brief with laces and a glans hamper, and looked wasted after spending much of the morning in the bathroom due to a mystery stomach bug. This unexpected development had inspired Emilio to introduce another dirty protest scene, which required only a minor script tweak. Unfortunately, a more complex re-write had been needed when Vipada, the Thai actress hired to play the lesbian tennis player, was arrested at Customs. As a result, they were seriously behind schedule when they finally started filming with a reduced cast of Melody, a Dutch midget with a micro-penis, Giant Larry and two horny Rottweilers. Five traumatic hours followed as Rocco insisted on endlessly re-shooting certain sections in his quest for perfection, only stopping when even The Fluffer couldn’t bring Giant Larry to attention.

‘It’s your job to get us the right actors Rocco,’ shouted Binksy, smiling angrily. ‘And to make my girl look totally amazing.’

Rocco smoothed grease from his moustache. ‘The trouble is your girl ain’t right for the lead. That’s what I’m talking about here. Jesus, all she gotta do is look impressed when the meat monkey whacks his cock out.’

Binksy was on her feet, pushing towards him. She put a hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear. He took a light meter from his pocket and pointed at it, shaking his head. Melody couldn’t make out what he was saying, but now Binksy was nodding, looking round at her before calling Otis over who seemed happy to testify about something. Rocco started waving his finger at his chest. His kimono fell open, but nobody cared because Binksy was making a call. Melody heard her demand to speak to Puppy Monroe’s agent and then Roland appeared, today wearing a leopard print suit and pink brothel creepers. Melody fiddled with some of the buckles on her enormous boots, her face moist with sweat that wouldn’t stop flowing. Roland asked if her nose was bleeding. It wasn’t. It was just the sweat made red by shame.

Binksy returned, complimented Roland’s suit and said, ‘I’m afraid Rocco is extremely unhappy. Do you know how hard I had to work to persuade him to make your movie? You think all this just happens?’ Binksy extended her hand towards the animals clambering over antique French furniture, dropping cigarettes on the solid oak floor and complaining that the bar was almost empty. ‘And now we’ve got a problem with your schedule because he wants to work a new medical examination scene with you in ten minutes.’

‘I’ve done the medical examination scene four times already. I’m finished with Rocco.’

‘So much negativity! Look, I’ll talk to the Adventures In Blonde guys, try and push the start time back for the live interview and limit it to half an hour. That way we’ll have plenty of time to tidy you up for the Dizzy Pop awards.’

‘Okay, but then I’m through for a couple of days. You know I have to see my dad tomorrow, I can’t keep cancelling,’ said Melody.

‘That won’t be easy, you’ve got the PA at your old school in the morning. I’ve even managed to persuade some of your old classmates to show up. They’ve assured Roland they’ll have some nostalgic anecdotes that will be perfect for the documentary.’

‘Didn’t we agree not to do that?’

‘I’m not getting into this again, I’ve got enough on my plate getting you through tonight. Come on, work with me, remember everything we’ve been through. Everything I’ve taught you. There’s a lot riding on the next few days.’

‘But I’m so tired, you wouldn’t believe what Rocco’s had me doing.’

Binksy placed her hand on Melody’s forearm. ‘You are a sweet girl, and I am your friend, but my job is to keep you monetized. Rocco’s movie is crucial to the overall campaign and a strong performance at the Dizzys should finally persuade the sponsors to back your arena tour.’

‘I’ve got to see dad tomorrow, that’s all I know.’

‘What you keep forgetting is that your window is closing. You’re practically twenty-five so it’s time to go balls-out for the prize. I’ve got the designers finalising your new electro-urban fashion range, we’re close to distributing the upgraded Melody doll and I’ve almost clinched the three-book deal for your “food-fiction” concept. Plus I was talking to Javier yesterday about an amazing opportunity for you to voice-star in a cutting edge children’s cartoon.’

‘Not another cartoon.’

‘Don’t worry, this one is already massive in Peru so it’s got credibility. You’d feature as a singing owl in a magical forest populated by animals that have human characteristics. This is high-concept work where each show tackles important cultural issues. You know, child obesity, illiteracy, poverty; the list is endless. I suppose your character is like a teacher, or healer, who promotes the importance of personal faith and self-reliance.’

‘Oh…I see now. Yes, that’s just the sort of thing that will boost my album sales.’

‘Exactly, it’s perfect for you with an opportunity for worldwide syndication. So with all that in the pipeline we need to keep focused and work your ass off.’

There was a commotion as some waiters trooped in with plates of burgers and bottles of champagne. Binksy took a call whilst the rabble ran giggling into the second bedroom, or leapt behind chairs shouting ‘Hide the shit!’

Melody tried to snatch the phone away. ‘You’ve got to get these people away from me. Please Binksy, I need to sleep.’

‘Good news, direct from the street,’ said Binksy after thanking the caller. ‘Your fans are already out in force. They’ve surrounded the hotel. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands. You’d better get on the terrace and show yourself. They’ve probably been travelling for days to stand outside the building where they think you’re staying.’

Melody tried to ignore the hand on her thigh, the beseeching eyes and her deep fear of the pack. ‘Yeah, I’m totally on board with that. Maybe a bit later, when I’m more centred?’

Binksy knelt in front of her, staring directly at her sunglasses. ‘Hush now, we’ll have no more tantrums. I’ll find you a camcorder so you can look down on your people and make out like you’re filming them. They’ll go wild thinking you want them in your home movie. They need you to do this, you are their coping strategy. It’s time to change your shit up honey.’

‘It’s a lot to ask Binksy.’

‘They love you Melody Bright. Just to see you smile, makes their lives worthwhile so you owe it to them to stroll across the terrace of one of the best hotels in London, if not the world, and gaze down on them for a minute or two.’

‘But what if…’

‘Now get that silly old dressing gown off. You. Are. Going. Out. Subject closed. End of communication.’

Binksy slid the plate glass doors apart and Melody stepped through. She hardly registered the sub-zero February afternoon as she lurched forward, blundering against bedroom furniture and a glass-topped table that Emilio had set up for various outdoor scenes that had yet to be filmed. Powerful lights illuminated the terrace and through the sleet she saw London’s murky panorama. She stood at the epicentre of a nation, an empire, her subjects chanting her name from the slush below. The London Eye seemed to wink at her, the lights of office buildings swam in her vision and the distant Gherkin swirled and thrummed like the best toy a girl could ever own. She walked cautiously in the stack-heeled military boots, her ankles still weak after hours spent wearing locking spreader bars, and leant nervously over the balustrade.

Her fans, caged like swine, blocked Brook Street which, due to Mayfair’s one-way system ensured a long night of travel chaos for thousands of Londoners. A brass band had found enough space to strike up a stirring version of her first hit single and klaxons and whistles joined in at appropriate moments. Although worried about what they would make of her PVC discipline dress, she couldn’t help laughing as she became aware of flashes from cheap cameras, the heavy police presence and the fact that her altitude rendered her untouchable.

The police retreated slightly as the battle for the best spot from which to view Claridge’s upper echelons turned violent. A helicopter from Sky News hovered nearby. It was time to give something back. Melody held up the mobile phone (Rocco had refused to let her touch his camcorder) and pointed it towards the pavement. The klaxons became a chorus of victorious battleships and Melody blew a kiss at her people, her tribe. They felt no cold or sadness whilst in her presence. They were Melody’s Undying Friends Forever; the MUFFs, young and old, together in denial. Then, after less than a minute, feeling depressed and violated, she waved farewell and returned to the extreme warmth of her suite where a tearful florist retrieved her phone and checked it for damage.

By late afternoon Melody was reclined in the second bedroom. Rocco and Emilio were audible in the dining hall, still arguing about the emotional dynamic of The Great Scatsby. This creative impasse had meant no more filming which had given Dante and his head stylist much needed time to repair the day’s damage. Myrrh worked diligently as Melody dozed, propped up on white pillows a metre wide. Dante appeared only occasionally to shout compliments, and spent most of the time in the en suite with Giant Larry. Nose to nose with Myrrh, who was applying a lip treatment, she hardly noticed Binksy return.

‘I brought you some food. We need you to be strong tonight,’ said Binksy, placing a large silver cloche between Melody’s outstretched legs.

Melody could see that Binksy was upset and, without moving her mouth, mumbled, ‘Hey yent it yith the nanager?’

‘Oh, he was rather charming in the end. He was a bit obsessed about everybody smoking indoors, which he described as illegal and a “fire risk”, but at least his spies hadn’t noticed Rocco’s ganja and he seemed a bit happier with people smoking on the terrace from now on. I had a tougher job explaining the dogs though. In the end I said Giant Larry and Emilio were blind, which virtually did the trick although he still had some grievance about them pissing on the granite pillars at the entrance. Marking their territory he said, although I didn’t know dogs did that? Anyway, everything’s smoothed over now. He’s sending in a team when we’re out this evening to take a full inventory of the damage and we’ll meet again tomorrow to agree compensation. All very friendly really.’

‘So that’s a good outcome?’ said Melody, easing Myrrh aside and lifting the cloche to reveal a small green salad.

‘It could have been much worse. Now remember to chew properly,’ said Binksy who was studying Melody’s hair. ‘Excuse me Myrrh, do you know where Dante is? It’s quite urgent.’

‘He’s in the bathroom getting noshed off by some black dude last I knew. Better not disturb him, he gets emotional if he’s interrupted.’

There was no cutlery so Melody used her hands to eat the lettuce as Binksy dragged Dante out of the en suite.

‘Tell me Dante, what. Is. That?’ Binksy slightly raised her voice, pointing at Melody’s head.

‘Isn’t it marvellous! The kink-flick is what all the snazzy heads are wearing in Paris right now.’

‘Dante, look at me. It. Is. A. Perm!’

‘How dare you!’

‘I dare me very much. My star is not going on a live global Internet broadcast and then on to a crucial awards ceremony with curly hair. Try and keep your pecker out of Lenny’s mouth for five minutes and get it straightened!’

‘But that’s…’

‘Do it! Subject closed. End of communication.’

Dante shouted something in French. Myrrh disappeared to find a straightening iron and as she began un-perming Melody’s hair a clothes rail was wheeled in and Binksy browsed the free offerings from various leading fashion houses.

‘I’d love to wear something totally glamorous, like from the 1920s? Something beautiful for the red carpet.’

‘I know sweetie, but this is business and luckily you look nice in almost anything.’

‘What about that silver gown with the diamante pinching?’ said Melody, ignoring the scorching wand millimetres from her nose.

‘It’s okay, but this is more current,’ said Binksy, lifting a garment from the rail. ‘We have to manage your style very carefully and this piece is perfect. It’s high-fashion but accessible, so won’t alienate any fans.’

Melody stared at the cream ‘sheath’ catsuit that Binksy was fondling. It was crafted from heavy leather, with a high choirboy collar and red satin piping. The garment also boasted front zip slivers, a broad belt and feature zips at cuff and ankle. Six oversize ebony buttons at the front and a large rear bow completed the intriguing ensemble. She couldn’t find any verbal way to express her anger, and an intense burning smell made her cough.

‘Isn’t it wonderful? We’ll get you back on the front cover of Vogue yet.’

‘It’s like what motorbike riders wear! Why can’t I choose something beautiful for once?’

Binksy put her fists on her hips, shaking her head. She hadn’t looked this angry since she laced Melody’s water with laxatives and locked her backstage, as punishment for eating two Cadbury’s Flakes when celebrating her first UK number one.

As an act of contrition Melody nibbled some lettuce, but her mouth was so dry that she spat it out.

Binksy was unmoved until she clasped her hands over her mouth. Myrrh was performing an urgent procedure with the straightening irons. Dante was summoned and Melody sensed a catastrophe in progress. Taking control, he yanked the glowing prongs left and right, practically snapping Melody’s neck.

‘It’s no good, the hair’s melted!’ shouted Myrrh. ‘Them fucking irons must be bust up or something.’

Dante responded with an explosion of French indignation and tried again to pull the irons from the molten hair. Melody decided to continue screaming. It seemed to be the proper reaction. He had no possible defence so there was no need to limit her rage. In fact there was good reason to off-load much lingering fury on Dante, his underling and Binksy for offences too appalling to contemplate.

As she screamed and clawed his hand an enormous clump of blond hair extensions appeared in front of her face. Only Giant Larry’s heroic intervention stopped Binksy from braining Dante with a table lamp. Once everyone had calmed down Dante began an emergency haircut, but even he could only manage a serrated mid-forehead fringe and had to hack five inches from the back. There was talk about taking Melody to A&E, but after another diazepam and some fraught negotiations Rocco agreed to lend her his bandana and the show was back on.

Before the Adventures In Blonde crew returned Binksy helped Melody into the living room. The walk from the bedroom was excruciating. Her open toe ‘knitting needle’ stilettos had seven inch heels, so Melody had to walk en pointe and the rigid catsuit, like a full body plaster cast, meant she couldn’t bend her knees causing an embarrassing goose-step leg action.

‘Now this is the big one,’ explained Binksy whilst lowering her onto a sofa. ‘When I bring them in you’ll be moments away from the biggest interview you’ve ever given. This isn’t just for the DVD, it’s going out live round the world so you stay focused.’

‘But I’m so tired. And this catsuit keeps riding right up my…’

‘Do not fuck this up my girl. Remember all my training and keep in character. And I’ve got something that will help.’

‘What’s that, a deaf aid?’ asked Melody as she looked at the tiny device between Binksy’s fingers.

‘Oh no, it’s much better than that. This practically invisible earbud means I can talk to you if you need help. I can literally give you the answers to any tough questions, all you do is speak the words. Not that there will be any tough questions after what we’re paying these screwballs to put the documentary together. Now, should I get Emilio to give you a shot of something awesome to chill you out?’

Melody shook her head, her bottom lip trembling as a producer shouted, ‘We’ve got five minutes before the live feed, is your girl ready?’

‘I think we’re good to go,’ replied Binksy. ‘Now, you work it sister. And keep the sunglasses on at all times. Do not let them see your eyes.’

The cameramen took their positions (two static, one mobile) as Farrah, the interviewer, gambolled in like a twig-limbed giraffe. She was wearing a floor length evening gown in emerald green silk. The flowing bias cut bodice, with bow detail perforated in the neckline, was loose through the bust with spaghetti straps over the shoulder. The wide waistband wrap was knotted at the front and left to hang over the straight cut circle skirt with a high front slit. Melody tried not to stare as Farrah blew a kiss at Binksy, who reciprocated, and reminded herself that Farrah’s only real achievement was to have reached the early rounds of Britain’s Next Top Model.

Perched on the edge of the sofa her catsuit bulged, the leather hard and unflattering. Farrah was closer now, waving her bony arms as though greeting an equal, and as Melody tried to cross her legs the leather below her studded belt ballooned like a cheap pair of knickers in a Jacuzzi.

‘You look nice, my grandad’s got a jump suit like that. He rides a ‘58 panhead,’ said the half-caste skeleton, kissing Melody near each cheek before Binksy appeared and gushed about her inspirational gown.

Melody felt like she was inflating and concentrated on sucking her tummy in, back erect, arms outstretched, hands on knees. Her head ached. Dehydrated. Binksy was emphasising that Farrah must stick to the agreed questions; live broadcasts should remain ‘on piste’. Farrah gave assurances, pawing Binksy with her abnormally long fingers and in that moment, adrift on an ocean of narcotics, inferiority and hunger, Melody was overwhelmed by Farrah’s exquisite dress; the tonal orgasm of jade chiffon, the cut and drape closely resembling sumptuous pre-war couture, the perfect choice for a live interview from the art deco suite at Claridge’s. In order to remain calm she breathed deeply and fantasised about knifing Farrah in the face.

As Binksy left Farrah sat down. ‘That’s an interesting headscarf, I wish I was brave enough to ignore all the boring fashion rules. This butch retro-biker look might really catch on.’

‘Sorry babe, can’t understand a word of that. You really need to sort out that lisp if you’re to get anywhere in this game. Your wordth never theme to thound right.’

Farrah reclined, crossing her legs in an open, relaxed posture. ‘You look nervous, even more than usual. Shall I call Binksy back?’

‘That’s not necessary, I’m just ekthited. Not about thith interview, but about all the luxury and joy in my life.’ Melody tried to draw attention to her Rolex, the Tiffany earrings and Bulgari ring that Binksy had allowed her to wear; then attempted to flatten the catsuit with her elbows, but the grooves were much too hard.

‘And sunglasses indoors? Really?’

‘Yeth,’ said Melody, noticing the crew wheeling in sound monitors and TVs so they could interact with the fans outside. After a pause she continued. ‘So, how’s the modelling going? I didn’t see you at New York fashion week and you don’t seem to have any campaigns, you’re never in the magazines.’

‘Oh my God, is that a hearing aid? I hope the cameras don’t pick up on that, it makes you look a bit disabled.’

Melody needed a vicious reply, she knew the tactical importance of keeping interviewers pinned to the floor with insults but now, as the director counted them in, Melody had to prepare for battle. She raised her head above the high collar that brought out a double chin, her gaze angled towards the ceiling, and in the silence became aware of cheers from the MUFFs through the monitors as the ordeal commenced.

‘Tonight we welcome Internet viewers from around the world for our live and exclusive interview with none other than Melody Bright. I’m Farrah Mbadinuju and I’ve had extensive access to Britain’s blondest pop star since before Christmas, during which time she’s had another number one single and her second album, Premium Blonde, hasn’t been out of the top ten.’ The MUFF’s screams intensified over the monitors. ‘So Melody, what have you been up to, apart from selling millions of records?’

Laughter from the MUFFs.

‘Oh, don’t. I’ve been in LA like forever. It’s so totally hardball out there, but I love it. I spent most of the time in the studio with Camilio recording tracks for my new album. He’s like deeply spiritual and the most totally awesome producer in the world.’

‘And I’m told you even co-wrote some of the tracks?’

The question was delivered with a grin of disbelief and Melody clenched her fists before answering.

‘Yeah, it’s my most personal work to date, but that’s part of my growth as an artist? Camilio totally encouraged me to go back to basics while also embracing different musical genres. Blending Flamenco, Latin swing and eighties synth jazz gives the album a fresh, raw vibe. And when I wasn’t with Camilio in Malibu I was reading cool scripts and meeting top producers…’

Binksy: Pull it back honey, keep it humble.

‘…But it’s awesome being home, getting to chill with my mum and old school friends and do the normal stuff. They keep me totally grounded. I love you guys! In fact I’m going back to my old school tomorrow where I’m going to perform a few songs.’

‘Wow, I bet you’re terrified.’

‘About meeting my old teachers again? Hell yeah…Seriously though, it’s truly about giving something back and I hope to meet as many of my gorgeous MUFFs as possible!’

Rapturous screams.

‘Man, what about those fans?’

Melody slid back on the sofa, stiff like a cadaver, virtually horizontal. ‘Let me tell you, those guys blow me away! You know Farrah, I had a beautiful moment earlier today out on the terrace, seeing everybody singing my hits and having a great time. I felt like we made a connection, like I was down there with them. It was beyond awesome.’

‘Okay, let’s talk music. Twelve million album sales, a Christmas number one and four Dizzy Pop nominations. And you’re only twenty-three!’

Melody laughed wearily. ‘Twenty-two actually, I think somebody might need a new researcher. But, like I say, the crazy thing is now I’m in my very early twenties I feel more at peace. I’m so completely happy right now? It’s like, you know, unconditional happiness comes from learning that life is a precious thing.’

‘I love it when you pop singers talk philosophy.’

‘Hey, I’m no philosopher, it’s just that in my teens I felt terrible pressure and public judgement and it’s taken great courage for me to, you know, overcome the hurtful perceptions through the wisdom and calmness that comes from life experience? I feel positively liberated. And, my God, those fricking album sales are off the chart. Yes, I’m totally blessed, but the honest truth is it’s not just about the sales or all the money. I may be one of the most successful British female artists ever and spend my life jetting round the world to exotic locations, but in other ways I’m still just that little girl with a big dream.’

‘I’m sure our viewers will find that a comforting sentiment, but it hasn’t all been jet-set glory has it? Would you agree that your lyrics have sometimes caused controversy, particularly taking into account the average age of your fans?’

Melody raised her eyebrows. ‘There goes that researcher again.’

‘What about your rap in “Slide To Unlock?” Most critics thought you were glamorising domestic abuse.’

Binksy: Listen to me, keep your cool. Remember that it’s all about empowering women. That’s the message.

Melody twisted awkwardly to eyeball her interrogator. ‘I still get emotional when I perform that track. It was actually written by NailGunnah about growing up in Brixton, and I connected with his pain on a deeply personal level. It’s a totally powerful message that calls to women of every age and race and says, “you too can achieve your dreams!” That’s what I teach, it’s who I am and I’m proud to be able to project that message to millions of people through my music.’

Binksy: Superb! Now steer the discussion towards the Dizzys.

‘And what really moves me is how I’m now honoured by four Dizzy nominations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all about the music but it’s still cool to be recognised by the industry in this way. For my fans.’

‘Right, well let’s move this on and take a question from one of those fans. Mike, are you there?’

Mike: (shouting into a microphone in the pissing rain, people barking over police sirens and car horns) ‘Farrah, I’m down on Brook Street outside the hotel with hundreds of Melody’s fans. There’s a carnival atmosphere and I’m joined by Shannon Connolly who has a question.’

Binksy had paid Shannon, an unemployed call-centre worker from Birkenhead, fifty quid to ask one specific question, but she was so close to a calypso drum troop that she was barely audible. ‘Oh my God, I love you Melody!’

‘Love you too girlfriend! Are you having a great time?’

‘It’s bustin’. A whole gang of us piled down last night and camped on the street so’s to get the best spot. Me nan’s lovin’ it! Anyway, we wants to know if you’re bringing out a new clothing range soon like?’

Melody responded in the affirmative, plugging her new range of hoodies and skinny hotpants although Shannon obviously wasn’t listening as the crowd pogoed about, fists in the air, chanting ‘Hug a hoodie, hoodie, hoodie…’ and a trainer with the ‘M’ branding flew in, smacking Shannon’s baseball cap off her head. There were fists everywhere, the cops waded in and the live feed was cut.

‘Oops, we seem to have lost the…happy scenes…’ said Farrah, shaking her head at the director. ‘So, let’s talk about Cosmopolitan who recently ran a feature describing you as one of Europe’s top ten rising businesswomen. You must have been amazed.’

‘Don’t worry, music will always be my passion but being a successful businesswoman comes so naturally. Running cool businesses is a total blast and part of who I am so, in a way, I’m proud to express myself through music and…business.’

Binksy: Okay, now mention the book deal and slip in the ‘I just got lucky’ routine.

‘I’m also in love with writing and I’ve combined this with my love of cooking to write a series of short stories. You don’t need to be a brilliant cook to enjoy them because they’re mostly science fiction and love stories with simple recipes for some of the meals that I love to cook and eat.’

‘That is incredible, the days must be thirty hours long where you’re from. I didn’t have you down as somebody who was into books.’

‘I love them. When I’m not singing or working at my businesses you’ll always find me curled up with a good book. Reading and writing is who I am, it defines me as a liberated woman and I teach kids that getting an education is the greatest gift. Teachers are the heroes, not me. I’m just lucky that I have millions of fans around the world so I can actually make a difference. It’s part of the social responsibility of being a star.’

‘Why not tell us who your favourite authors are, what are you reading now?’

Binksy: Breath deeply, I’ve got Roland looking up some writers on the iPad…

The outside broadcast was back, but the mention of books had silenced the MUFFs.

Binksy: …but if it helps, why not say you love Jackie Collins, she’s awesome. Mention Hollywood Wives, it’s a raunchy comedy about adultery and then maybe you can name drop Jilly Cooper, she’s another really brilliant writer who…

‘Earth to Melody, do you need me to repeat the question?’

Melody sighed thoughtfully. ‘Actually I love the works of American writers like Jonathan Franzen and Bret Easton Ellis. He’s got this cool sexy style that us girls love to read. And Evelyn Waugh’s early stuff is to die for. As a brilliant British novelist he empowered women all over the world with his fearless satire. Then there are the Russian masters, I never tire of reading Tolstoy and Chekhov and you can’t ignore the French, the clear visuality of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary remains an inspiring and deeply revealing analysis of vanity and repressed sexuality. But, you know, if I’m honest my favourite book has got to be The New Testament. My faith is very important although I totally respect all faiths around the world.’

Farrah looked flabbergasted. ‘Wow, all this business work and reading the Bible, could this explain the widely reported dip in your sales over the last six months? Do you think fresher acts like “little” Chelsea Earnshaw are taking over? Isn’t she the hot ticket now?’

Binksy: Your record sales remain stable. Hint at the big deals in the pipeline, but make it clear that you cannot discuss details.

‘Did you thay thales over thix monthth? Thumtimes I can’t underthtand…’

Binksy: Stop it!

‘…you, but if you think my sales are falling you are seriously badly informed because my sales and popularity are great, just ask those guys out there. I’m in a really happy place right now and I love the music. In fact we’ll soon be announcing some incredible projects that I’m so excited about, but I can’t give you any details as I’m working the details over?’

‘If there’s time I’ll dig the sales figures out, but now I’d like to discuss the story that’s running in the latest edition of Pronto magazine and most of the tabloids.’ Farrah held page nine of a red top to the camera and read the headline. ‘DANCEGATE…Britain’s hottest star deceives fans with dance-double in steamy new video…’

The monitors erupted with horror.

Melody shook her head. ‘Isn’t it amazing what these stupid journalists invent just to sell their papers. It’s obviously all lies. I’ve been dancing since I was three, longer than I’ve been singing. Killer Braziliano” is seriously up-tempo and the combination of street ballet and contemporary jive is tough, but I nailed it! Listen to those fans, they know the truth.’

‘It’s strange that because it was Otis, your own dancer, who told me about your dance-double. In a recorded interview.’

Binksy: Keep it vague sweetness, this is an ambush. And remember, Otis is your friend. He’s like our little brother.

‘I doubt Otis would say that, he’s not a liar see.’

‘In fact I have the transcript right here. Your Otis Gbadamosi had plenty to say. “I love Melody like a sister, she’s like a sister to me and give me a break. That’s why she did the right thing using a double for the video. I been dancing for years, but for a novice like Mel some of them moves could’ve got her badly hurt. It takes strength to know when you need help and I think the video looks great, you can’t hardly tell it ain’t her.”’

Melody tutted, sweat running into her eyes. ‘Oh Otis, what’s he like. He was probably having a laugh to wind you up. He’s a good guy deep down, he’s just our big old Fuzzy Wuzzy…’

Gasps from outside, then silence.

‘Did you just call Otis Gbadamosi a…fuzzy wuzzy? Or are you denying that as well.’

‘What? Everybody calls him Fuzzy Wuzzy, even his boyfriend. I’m only expressing affection for a brother.’

Roland had the producer by the lapels. Farrah announced that she was terminating the interview because of strict policies against racism. Binksy appeared and hauled Melody to her feet.

‘Follow me dear, we must get you to safety.’ They were blocked by Farrah and a cameraman. ‘Roland! Be a darling and drag every single one of this so-called documentary crew out of this suite. Do it immediately and use force if necessary,’ Then, addressing the senior producer, Binksy said, ‘That was the most amateurish ambush I have ever seen. Tell your superiors to expect hell from Binksy tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Now get out of my suite you massive queer.’

The massive queer started stammering about humanity and prejudice.

‘Gedouda here! Subject closed. End of communication.’

END

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