Gym’ll fix it

JUST GOOD FRIENDS: 4.33 am December 16 1990. Job done! Richard Wallace (later to be Daily Mirror editor) and Roger Tavener (both are 100pc straight. Honestly!) celebrate Rod Stewart's marriage to model Rachel Hunter in traditional excessive Fleet Street-style at the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. God knows who took the pic, we doubt if even the photographer remembers 

 ROGER TAVENER fixes a gym for Rod Stewart’s new girl

Los Angeles, December 1990.

Rod Stewart’s holding his crotch. “Fuck me, Rog, Rachel’s gonna kill me.”

We’re playing football for the Los Angeles Exiles on a Friday afternoon. Rod’s getting married in the morning.

He’s done his groin. Yes, that’s going to very fucking funny banter in the dressing room and also the stag night later that evening.

Rod’s worried whether it’ll be all right on the night.

“She bloody told me not to play … ”

I help him limp back to the changing room. And I’m thinking: “How the hell did I get into this?”

Everything’s happening fast. Rod met Kiwi Rachel Hunter in an LA nightclub and proposed three weeks later. Now, three months on, they’re getting married.

Flash-back two weeks to the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. It’s a boring Sunday afternoon. And the bar’s propping me up.

The barman grins and nods to “a bridal shower”. What the fuck’s a shower?

A bunch of giggling, gagging, gossiping, glammed-up LA girls and a lot of ice buckets full of bubbles, darling, celebrating someone’s forthcoming nuptials.

One of them comes across. Liberated after a few champagnes, she’s interested in the only straight bloke in the bar and, maybe, the city.

So she’s Rachel Hunter’s best pal and the model’s marrying Rod Stewart in a few days time. I feign complete indifference. But keep her talking.

She’s ferrying boatloads of Krug from the shower, but returns to the party for a few minutes.

A guy moves in. He appears from nowhere.

Fuck me, he’s not some nutter from the Spanish foreign legion (see earlier Drone) thinking I’m coming on to his girlfriend?

“You know Rachel’s best friend? Looks like you’re in with a chance mate. She’s available.”  Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. He’s a fackin’ Landoner. And not her bloke. Phew.

“'Allo mate, I’m Dave.”

Turns out he’s Rod’s major-domo — chief fixer and gofer — and he’s checking out the Four Seasons because the wedding reception’s going to be held here. That’s good to know. I must extend my stay.

rodwedding.jpg

ALL WHITE ON THE NIGHT: Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter wed in 1990                                              ©RAMEY PHOTO AGENCY

So we have a few drinks and my new girlfriend has become an attachment.

“So, what do you do, Rog?” asks Rod’s main man. Gulp. (If you’re staying in the Four Seasons, you must be doing OK.)

I couldn’t possibly say I was a journalist on a massively discounted rate. The first thing that came into my head was the furthest from the truth possible.

 I own a sports equipment company. You know, gym machines and things.

“Fuck me. That’s exactly what Rod needs,” says Dave. “Rachel wants the whole house changed — no traces of the ex — and the gym by the pool has to be re-designed. She’s into fitness. Do you want to look at it and maybe take it over?”

Rod first fancied Rachel when he saw her modelling lifestyle TV ads and knows this is close to her heart. He wants to get it right. He’s crazy about this girl and nothing can go wrong. No pressure then…

I blubber that normally my staff do that stuff, but as it’s Rod (and I have a pushy new girl friend),  I’ll see what I can do.

A three-mile long limo arrives, as arranged, at 8.30am the next day. I’m whisked to the rocker’s home in the Hollywood Hills, which is being rebuilt. Workers everywhere. And now me.

And my new girlfriend is there to help out.

I’m getting in well above my head here … a few early voddies in the stretch are wearing off.

Dave shows me around. I’d love to take photos of the whole place, but that would be too obvious. I see the gym, take measurements and a few snaps and ask what kind of equipment Rachel likes.

And what budget I have to work with…

It’s enough to buy my house in stockbroker-belt Surrey.

And there’s a bonus for doing it inside a week. Rachel doesn’t like mess.

I have the use of the stretch and its bar for a day and take it to the Beverly Centre shopping Mall. I pop into the best, most expensive, sports equipment shop and pick up a few brochures. I tell the driver to cruise around Malibu and then back to Santa Monica to Shutters on the Beach, while I thumb the pages and drink the free booze.

Back at the hotel, over a few more refreshments, I go for bust. I’m half-pissed, so what the fuck … I design a gym for Rod. I’m a former pro-footballer and qualified PE teacher, so I do know a bit about gymnasia, even though I loathe them.

I double the cost of everything, but it still comes in at half the budget … a quick call to the shop manager to pass on the deal. I ask him to invoice Rod and install it. He’s delighted.

 I’m doing a runner on the money. He agrees to give me a finder’s fee. Why not? Everyone’s happy.

 It’s agreed in an hour. Dave says just get it done. “Do you play football?”

“Well, I used to…”

Great, says Dave. You can play for Rod’s team, the LA Exiles, and then go on to Rod’s stag night.

Over the week the gym stuff is arriving at Rod’s home. Jesus, when am I going to be found out?

Then it’s the pre-stag-do game.

Rod plays right back. He’s good and fit.  I’m right-midfield. So we have 75 minutes playing together. He’s what we know. A good bloke. Taller than you think because he always goes out with statuesque blondes. And a decent player who had the chance of going pro with Brentford.

He thanks me for creating his new gym. Loves it.

We’ll meet later for the stag night party. Thanks for the invitation Rod.

And you’re coming to the reception too with your girl?

Er, yes.

The desk trusts me enough to know I’ll deliver. So now I have the whole insider deal on the latest Rod Stewart wedding. The world’s press have turned-up, but they’re locked out.

I’m on the inside.

Now, what happens on stag nights in LA, should stay in LA.

A fleet of cars ferry about 30 of us around the city. Everything is paid for.

The booze is flowing. And, I’ve no doubt, others are having a snortingly good time. Let’s be real, everybody’s doing coke.

In one club, the guys take the piss out of a barman who says he’s waiting for his big chance in movies. They snigger. He pulls a pistol from under the counter and switches into crazed gunman mode.

We all freeze and go silent. And take a step back.

Then he laughs, and says: “There you go. I was acting and you lot got fooled…” Fair play. He was convincing.  

We end up in Stringfellow’s on Rodeo Drive. Peter Stringfellow has jetted in for the occasion.

And, still, everything is free. Even the girls.

By now more people have turned up and the club is shut to all but Rod’s pals. And I’m pretending to be one. Awkward. But great colour.

Rod shows up but just for a short time. Rachel’s got him on a short leash and he needs to get that groin rested. A little speech and see ya tomorrow.

The next day. They get married.

Extract from Rod’s biography: “On December 15, 1990, a little over three months since I’d mimed to Rachel at the Roxbury nightclub, we were married at the Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills.

“The ushers were mostly the mates I played football with, and I got them to wear sunglasses and carry white canes, so that, as they showed the guests to their seats, they’d be  performing an impression of the blind leading the blind.”

The reception at the Four Seasons is full of Scottishness. Pipers, neeps and tatties and haggis and Scotch whisky everywhere.

Rod’s in tartan and and his family have flown in. They’re lovely. Sadly his father had died shortly before and he’s sorely missed.

This is falling good for me. London’s eight hours ahead so I file some drunken nonsense and snatch pictures (that was a problem) which arrive early hours UK.

My colleagues are trying to bribe me for details and dreaming up spoilers to save their skins.

No thanks. I’ve got the inside track.

A killer Sunday for Monday….

Now, where was Rachel’s best pal?

She needs some attention.


© 2005-2018 Alastair McIntyre