“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt
Good morning peeps, meditation done.
Quote for the Day:
“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.”
Yesterday it was really nice to have an Instagram catch up with my Dutch bro Ray Slijngaard of the 90’s pop group 2 Unlimited.
2 Unlimited were founded in 1991 by producers Jean-Paul De Coster and Phil Wilde and fronted by rapper Ray and vocalist Anita Doth. During five years of enormous worldwide popularity, the act scored 16 chart hits, including “Get Ready for This”, “Twilight Zone”, “No Limit”, and “Tribal Dance”.
During their career, they have sold 18 million records worldwide. Although they enjoyed less mainstream recognition in the United States, many of their songs have become popular themes at US sporting events, particularly in the NHL
Yesterday Ray posted a picture on Instagram of him and I in Port Douglas, Australia shooting the video for ‘No One’ he wrote,
raytack Throwback #portdouglas #australia shooting our video #Noone with my homey @steveagyei one of our dancers back in the day
I responded by posting a similar picture of Ray and I replying,
steveagyei Right back at you Ray @raytack #TBT #PortDouglas #Australia #Shooting #NoOne
And then raised him by posting some pictures of Anita and fellow dancer Clare Frith who I went to ballet school with and have known since she was 14, and posted a picture of all four of us together from the same shoot and trip to Australia.
We had travelled all the way to Australia for a whirlwind whistle stop tour down under of only four days including the shoot in Port Douglas on a nearby beautiful deserted island and the stunning Batt Reef where “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin tragically died after a stingray barb went through his chest into his heart while Irwin and his crew were filming a documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest.
We then spent 13 hours in Sydney where we managed to fit in a concert and I managed to catch up with a school friend from Hassocks ‘Woo’ aka Andrew Pinnock on another wild night out.
Ray and I became really close on tour as we spent virtually every day and night together travelling the world from Amsterdam, which I was predominantly based for two and a half years spending an average of only four days a month back in the UK.
It was an incredibly gruelling schedule, requiring high levels of fitness, as we would finish a show have a quick drink, towel ourselves down and then would begin the next long drive all over Holland and into Germany across the Dutch border.
During the week we would fly to different countries to do TV Shows, Promo tours and Award Shows during the week. We travelled to France, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Greece, America, Israel, Senegal, Australia and Japan, amongst other places that I have probably forgotten along the way. Life was a whirlwind; a blur of shows, different cities, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, parties, and girls there was no time for sleeping.
Planes and cars were for sleeping, by the time you had finished a show, got something to eat, gone out and got into your room, put your head on the pillow it was time to get up, jump in the shower, brush your teeth pack, grab your passport, check out, get in a taxi and head for the airport, whilst telling Clare and Anita what we had got up to the night before.
We would come off stage, soaked with sweat and shattered but on a massive adrenalin high from performing and then begin drinking beer and champagne, whilst slumped in our chairs laughing at anything funny that had just happened in the show.
If we were abroad i.e. not in Amsterdam then the record company would usually take us to an upmarket late night restaurant and then they would take Ray and I out to a club, put us in a VIP area filled with buckets of champagne and rum and invite models to join us. Meanwhile Anita and Clare would usually stay in saying they were tired and they would both get pretty homesick.
I think staying in different hotel rooms night after night is really lonely and makes you homesick, which is why I went out every night, it was a chance to meet new people and experience different cultures albeit in a nightclub environment. I would wake up around lunchtime have room service which usually consisted of a grilled salmon main course for starters and then a steak with salad and rice and then when that had gone down with a large bottle of sparkling water, I would workout in the hotel gym most days, sometimes Clare would join me sometimes Ray would, but most days I would train on my own.
I had some of the best times of my life performing and touring the world with 2 Unlimited and the four of us were a real family, like brothers and sisters.
Clare is one of my oldest girl friends, we had been to Urdang together, she had been in the lower school after attending the Royal Ballet School and they used to start earlier in the mornings than the senior school, because they had to do school work. I was always at school earlier than everyone else to warm up, by our changing room, which was on the same floor as the lower school classroom, so Clare and her friends were always chatting to me and giggling while I was stretching.
I had also asked the lower school French teacher for French lessons as I needed something to do academically for my brain and I thought it would help me learn all the names of all the ballet steps and terms, which are in French. One day the French teacher asked me if I would go on a lower school day trip to France by ferry and be one of the adult chaperones. On the ferry I caught Clare smoking, she was 14 at the time and gave her a right lecture about smoking and wearing too much make up, another pet hate of mine as it completely messes girl’s skin up, as it can’t breathe if they plaster their faces everyday, the lecture on smoking was more understandable, because of the health implications and it effecting your breathing and stamina for dancing.
Anyway Clare and I and her mother Lorraine, became great friends after this and when I was living in Hassocks near Brighton, I would often stay at their flat in South Woodford, when I had to work in London, they are both like family to me. Now ironically they both live in Brighton and you will be pleased to know over 30 years later, Clare has finally given up smoking!
For the last year two of my other longest and closest dancing friends Michele DuVerney and Benji Adeyemo aka ‘Miss Diamond’ joined us. It was like a dream come true touring the world doing what I love with my closest friends.
And it was on a trip to Romania that I encountered one of the most bizarre and hilarious moments of my life. Our hosts took us to to a nightclub and they asked us if we would like to eat we all said yes. A pretty simple request you might think?
Armed guards escorted us to a crowded dance floor, where we were introduced to the crowd. This is when it gets really bizarre, the body guards pushed the dancing crowd back and moved a dinner table into the dance floor and began setting it for us to have dinner. We all looked at each other in disbelief we then all sat down in the middle of the dance floor surrounded by a massed crowd of revellers, who literally just stood and watched us eat as the DJ carried on playing music!
The food was delicious and as the champagne flowed Ray, Benji and I would stand up with a microphone and start free style rapping. Ray thought it would be funny to stand up and tell the crowd that it was Benji’s Birthday and would everybody sing Happy Birthday to him, which the crowd duly did.
Then Benji, who I have already mentioned is one of my closest friends from my dancing days, when we used to be inseparable and he is a very funny guy, to his credit managed to produce the most hilarious three minutes I have ever experienced in my life.
Benji decided to get up and dance, but instead of dancing sensibly he decided to dance off rhythm, a little bit like Carlton on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” to deliberately dance off rhythm is actually very difficult, we all began laughing hysterically, Benji never needs much encouragement to play the fool and he was now in his element and decided to do a contemporary dance piece which was totally out of context for where we were, we had literally now fallen off our chairs and I remember being on the floor crying holding onto Clare and Michele who were also both on the floor on their knees crying with laughter, whilst Benji was prancing around the room doing Martha Graham triplets, with a stunned Romanian club crowd looking on in silence kept back by armed security.
There were so many amazing times and stories from the 2 Unlimited days, an amazing gig in Senegal, with Youssou N’Dour, where the atmosphere was electric, drums were beating and there was a huge crowd of 200,000 dancing, colourful, singing Senegalese people packed into the run down old shanty football stadium. The people seemed so happy to be there, the vibe was incredible, with fireworks and guns being shot in the air and bonfires being lit in the stands as the temperature cooled down as the night drew in (Health and Safety eat your heart out) and we gave it all we got, as we performed in this surreal atmosphere where western pop techno met the rhythm and abandonment of Africa’s natural dancing spirit.
There were crazy encounters with the Mafia involving guns and security in both Russia and Romania, travelling what seemed the length of Czechoslovakia with Benji in a Skoda. Visiting the wailing wall in Israel and having an argument with a lady who was saying that it was blasphemous that Claire and Anita were showing flesh in front of the wall, I said surely it is more blasphemous for soldiers to be standing next to it with machine guns as “Thou not shall kill” and as far as I know a bare skin does not kill, but bullets do!
One of the most amazing days we had was the Dutch Remembrance of the Dead Day called Dodenherdenking in Dutch and is held annually on May 4. It commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II.
We performed five shows in five different locations on that memorable day. Travelling by car would have been a logistical nightmare as there were crowds everywhere, so we got to fly in a little six-seater plane which I got to fly on the way back. The flight there was terrifying, primarily because as we got in the plane, Anita started crying and becoming hysterical, saying that she had had a dream the night before that we were all going to die in a plane crash. Talk about making us all nervous as the small plane shook massively as it roared up the runway.
When we arrived at the gig the crowd was huge, there were an amazing 500,000 people there and from the stage you could look out and see people as far as the eye could see, it was an amazing feeling performing to that many people, the adrenalin rush was huge and I remember feeling quite breathless in one of the numbers because of that huge performance high.
When we finished the gig, there was not much time to rest it was back in the car, drive through the crowds back to the six-seater plane. This time I went in the cockpit and the pilot let me fly the plane. It was an amazing feeling, being high above the clouds on what seems like a vast motorway in the sky.
My most memorable moments with 2 Unlimited were our annual trips to Monte Carlos for the World Music Awards. It was the pinnacle of the music industry awards shows, I have performed at most of the European awards including, the MTV Awards, the Brits, the MOBOS, Smash Hits, the Diamond awards and many others, but in my opinion, because of its intimacy, the amount of global super stars, it being held in the royal principality and the attendance of Prince Albert, as he was known then, make it that little bit more special. Although I never got to perform at any American awards shows so it is difficult for me to compare it with the Grammys, which I would loved to have performed at.
In Monaco we partied with Prince, Clare and Anita watched him bizarrely suck a purple lollipop in silence in his room, we met Stevie Wonder, hung with Helena Christensen, Kylie, Whitney Houston and partied hard with Michael Hutchence, chilled with Boyz to Men and Salt n Pepa, one of whom had the biggest diamond necklace you can ever imagine, which she told me had been lent to her by Tiffany’s and was worth millions and chatted with Prince Albert as you do when you are having dinner at his palace.
The glitz and glamour was amazing but what meant the most to me is that I have so many memories and have shared so much laughter and wonderful experiences with my best friends who really are like family for me.
Have a fabulous Friday peeps and a wonderful weekend remember,
“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.”
Breathe, Believe and Achieve
Be Happy, Healthy and Wise
Keep on Winning Smiling and Living the Dream