Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drama Queen

It's the second anniversary of Lebo Mathosa's death tomorrow. It's funny how life reminds you of these things in the subtlest of ways. I know it's this time of the year, in October, but in the day-to-day running of life, I had forgotten the exact date. But today I drove passed a wall that had a painted picture of Lebo on it for an advert of sorts, or something, I couldn't quite make out. And I remembered.

It's not that I've forgotten her. Or the music she made. Most of the shows and concerts I go to I wish I could see Lebo on the bill again - doing what she did oh so well. Her songs were catchy and her dance routines were always well-rehearsed, energetic and vibrant. I often joked with my friends that I wanted to be a Lebo dancer, and become one of her back-ups. Very few in the South African music industry have come close to matching that kind of stage performance; that kind of magic she produced.

She was only 29 years old when the driver of her car lost control and hit a tree. On the day I found out about her death, I had been doing the radio news thing for about ten months and was getting used to having to urgent phonecalls turn into developing stories - good and bad. It was a Monday, my day off, and I got a call around 6am, saying the station had word that a local singer had been killed in a car crash and the suspicion was that it was Lebo. I had to call some industry friends to confirm it - most weren't even awake yet, and hadn't heard. I felt so terrible being the one to possibly break the news.

When the confirmation came through, I just went into overdrive - writing and recording an obituary detailing her achievements and getting friends and fans to comment. I remember writing the words over and over for new bulletins - the reality not quite sinking in. The thing is, if I had stopped to think I wouldn't have been able to continue. And I wanted to be the one who would try distill Lebo's legacy into words (as much as was possible in a short newsclip).

I had come to know Lebo in my own way. Aside from interviewing her a number of times, I had danced with her at parties, giggled with her when we were both out and about; and chatted about cute boys. Just a few weeks before the news, I had been interviewing her at a fun day at the Tapologo Aids Hospice in Rustenburg when she broke down and told me how sad she was for the babies with HIV/Aids living there. But she pulled herself together and entertained the older children, dancing with paint on her clothes and her face. It's a memory of the Lebo I knew and the legacy she left behind.

It's a legacy that lives on, and not just in the songs that I still sing at the top of my lungs during traffic - providing amusement for taxis swerving past. I should probably admit that I had been speeding passed that painting of Lebo, rushing off to a story, and perhaps this was her way of telling me to slow down?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Princes

I had wanted to start my blog with a list of reasons why I love Jozi and how it plays out as the backdrop to many of the fabulous things my job allows me to do...but instead, this blog is about Durban - Port Edward, actually. And Two Princes.

I've just come back from a trip to the Wild Coast where the Royal Brothers were starting an 8-day epic journey from Port Edward to Port Elizabeth - all to raise money for three African charities. I had convinced my boss that it would be brilliant to go there and get the story - straight from the Princes. She agreed - on the condition that I get an interview with the Princes themselves. Should have been an easy enough assignment, right? Especially since they are doing this for charity and would want publicity. Well, as with most good ideas, not necessarily so...

So I flew to Durban and drove along the beautiful route that is the N2 South - passed Port Shepstone, Southbroom and Margate, and got to Port Edward - a town so untouched, I could count the number of restaurants on one hand. There was, however, a Peg, done up to look just like the Keg. No sky-high apartments and no Spur - this place is holiday heaven.

Late Friday afternoon I went to the place where a handful of media (mostly British - ie, Sky BBC, Daily Express, etc) were meeting the Princes' PR person, the organisers and charity reps. I couldn't believe that the Royals were staying at the same resort as all the other bikers - it was a pretty average place. Anyway, we were lead to a photo opp set up for the photographers and TV crews. We stood behind a line and watched the Princes from afar, talking to one of the organisers, before putting on helmets and whizzing passed. That was it. I got sound. Of motorbikes revving. But no Royals talking.

Prince PR person said, not tonight. I asked him, tomorrow then? He said, perhaps, but "they are Princes, you know." So I chatted to one of the organisers and tried to pry out info from him about the boys' preparedness for the rally. Then, Prince PR told us they were going to come say hello to us, but I must put away my microphone or else I will scare them away. Okaaaay. But then how will I record what they say?? No, this was meant to be an informal chat. No one was allowed "equipment" - no cameras, no pens and pads. Damn those print journos who can just write down what they remember - I need soundbites!

Okay, so Prince William comes in first - waves hello and says, "I need a cup of tea", and runs into the hall where we had all been meeting. He went to the back of the room where a little drinks table had been set up and made himself a cuppa. I was flabbergasted. Isn't tea meant to be brought to him - made already?? He's a Prince, isn't he? Then we all went inside and Prince PR said, go on, go talk to him. So I went up, put out my hand and said, "hi, I'm Nadia. I'm from Joburg, sorry Johannesburg."
Prince William: "Oh yeah, I had my luggage lost there at OR Tambo."
Sky News correspondent pipes in: "Great - now you've had the true Joburg experience."
Me: "So anyway...what's it like being a Prince...?"

Okay, so I didn't ask that question but for the next twenty minutes or so we got to chat to them. Someone asked William about him flying Ecomomy class here. "Credit crunch, you know," he quipped. He was very funny. Kept joking about how much he is going to fall off his bike during the rally and how unprepared he really is. One of the TV people said they should've given him a mini camera to put on his helmet and record his voice during the trip, to which he said, that wasn't a good idea 'cause the only thing we'd hear would be 'oh no, I'm falling' and 'ouch, ouch, ouch'.

I moved over to the very cute red-cheeked Harry. He was wearing flip flops and just looked the epitome of Harry Casual. He was talking about Zim - but not Chelsy (fortunately or unfortunately?), and bemoaning the fact that newspapers lead with stories about celebrities and not important world issues. Bless. One of the journos wouldn't shut up about economics and the history of some place I tuned out. Just let Harry talk, I thought, or let me talk to him! He seemed a lot more into world issues than his brother though - and a lot more engaging. Showed me his arm bands and told me about which charities they represent.

And then they were gone.

Such lovely stuff about them spending time together as brothers, about how William hasn't seen as much of SA as Harry, all this stuff and we weren't allowed to record any of it! Afterwards, my photographer friend asked me whether I saw Williams' bald spot. No, luckily I am too short to see that. Wouldn't want to spoil the illusion...

So did I get my story? Eventually, yes! Hallelujah. Four of us were given ten minutes with them the next morning at the rally start, and they said some great things - especially Harry about riding through some parts of the former Transkei where Madiba grew up: 'it's only a pity Nelson Mandela won't be joining us'. And when they were asked to pose with some bikes, which someone went to fetch, Harry said to William, 'let's just go fetch them ourselves it will be quicker.' Down-to-earth.

And me? Miss Head-in-the-Clouds.