Polite people don’t talk about money. It’s vulgar. But right from the start, Bob made it clear how rich he was. I know a few people with money and I’m used to them talking about amounts that I could never hope to have as if they are small change. But Bob was the master at this game.
The first time Dave and I met Bob was in The Chequers. He told a story about drinking in a bar when a girl approached him. They chatted for a long time and they were getting on well. Then she mentioned his car, an Aston Martin. She’d seen him park it and had followed him in. She only wanted him for his money.
Having money is like being exceptionally beautiful. People are interested in what you have, not who you are. But beautiful people could hide some of their beauty, and no-one forces rich people to buy Aston Martins. As Dave has often said about the problems of rich people, my sympathy circuits are having difficulty firing.
I’ve never met anybody for whom money is no object in the way it seemed to be for Bob. That first time he talked about how it’s a waste of money to own a yacht when you could charter one fully crewed for a fortnight for only $200,000. That was why he had sold his yacht.
He told us that he was a country singer and songwriter, originally from Uxbridge. He had been working in Nashville for 20 years and he had now decided to move to Bourne End. He was in the process of buying a house on a posh local estate. He’d written several hit songs, and had recently been commissioned to write some songs for The Scissor Sisters new album. He’d been referred to them by his friend Mike Batt.
He also mentioned that he had just had his third divorce. He asked us where we were on that and I explained that both Dave and I were still on wife 1.0.
Bob wore a baseball cap, cowboy boots, big white shirts, frayed jeans, and a belt with a big buckle. His nails were manicured. For the moment he was renting a room in Bourne End, and also helping a friend out with his flooring business, which was playing hell with his hands. Hence the manicure. He was planning to invest in the flooring business soon. Meanwhile helping out gave him something to do.
Bob asked me to record him for some demos for the Scissor Sisters. He showed up for the recording several hours late, with a nice guitar. On this and every subsequent appointment I had with Bob he was late. Sometimes hours late, sometimes several days. He was the least reliable person I have met.
I have recorded only two voices that filled the room so much that I thought I had left the monitor speakers switched on. Bob’s voice was one of these, rich, strong, like Roy Orbison, or maybe Elvis. The songs that he had written were derivative, and the lyrics represented the worst of adolescent romantic views of love relationships. To write certain kinds of popular music you need to incorporate elements of poor taste, sentimentality and unoriginality. Bob’s writing revelled in all three.
Doing the recordings, he had the professional’s ability to play and sing a whole song without wavering. That first day we recorded three songs in about an hour. Bob was strangely delighted with the results, as if he hadn’t heard himself recorded so well before. He sat on my sofa, grinning, and after hearing each track on the speakers, he listened again on his iPhone, which delighted him even more. During that session he took a call from a woman. He was negotiating a relationship with her, talking the way he talked in his songs. The moment I saw you I knew you were the one. I’ve never felt like this before. She didn’t believe him. He sent her a link to a track we had just recorded, appropriately named Believe Me, which he said he had written for her. A while later she texted back that she had cried when she heard it and that now she believed him and that she loved him.
Here is the track Believe Me:
Bob said that he’d want to do a lot more recording, and would pay for new equipment for me. I didn’t know whether to take this offer seriously. It didn’t seem like a good idea. They want me to go on tour, said Bob. I asked what sort of venues. Oh, the O2, that sort of thing, he said. I’m thinking of investing £5,000,000 in promoting it. I can get Eric Clapton on the tour.
I saw Bob a few days later. It turns out the woman on the phone (let’s call her Sarah) lived in the house that he was buying. They were having an affair, and he had ordered a yacht for her birthday next year. I bought it because she doesn’t want me for my money. The price was $80,000,000.
He told me that he had ordered a Bentley and he was going up to Manchester to collect it, after which he’d come for a recording session at about 2pm, and he’d bring me the money that he owed me. When he arrived, a couple of days late, he didn’t have the money, and the car hadn’t worked out. Problems with getting the cash over from the US, he said. He was in a state, sweating, nervous. He lifted his baseball cap to scratch his head, which was bald. I knew he would be bald, but the nakedness of his head was shocking, something I was not meant to see.
The reason for the upset was Sarah. He had been hanging around her place, using the space to write songs, spending time with her family. She’d now said he wasn’t to contact her again until they’d exchanged contracts on the sale. She called me a liar, said Bob. This time he struggled to record the songs but in the end we got a couple more down.
There was a third session a while later during which it emerged that he was a stone mason, and he showed me a picture of a pink stone fountain that he had made for a hotel lobby in California. And he was a freemason. And he told me how he had given away $8,000,000 worth of land to the Sasquatch Indians. He’d inherited the land from his grandfather. He’d been offered vast amounts of money by the oil companies to lease it to them, but had turned it down. Bob wrote me a cheque for the money that he owed me. The account was at the Nationwide and the name on the cheque was R J Hollister Rank. He told me not to cash the cheque just yet, as the money wasn’t quite there yet, and that he’d bring me cash later.
I investigated Bob online. His footprint was suspiciously light. There was a country CD on iTunes in his name. There were several unimpressive Twitter and Facebook accounts. There were some inept self-shot youTubes of him singing his songs. There was the company in the US that he claimed to run. There was a record of the birth of a child in Uxbridge, at the right sort of date and called Robert James Hollister. And then there was this on ask.com: What became of Lord J Arthur Ranks Illegitimate son Robert James Hollister? Unanswered. One of the twitter feeds showed a Rank Organisation gong.
Bob started to find me in the local Costa, where I sit and write several days of the week. There were long discussions about the difficulty of getting his money into various banks, how the people in the banks didn’t know how to handle large sums of money. He talked vaguely about some projects he wanted to do in music and film. He wanted to get me involved. He would pay me well, he said. He asked for advice and listened intently. Another time he arrived, hands shaking, carrying a crash helmet, bald head showing. Sarah had finished with him. He didn’t know whether to go through with the purchase.
A few days later I got this text:
Jeremy, can we meet up in a day or so, had seriously horrible day yesterday pulled out of buying house after she had called and texted all Sunday and Monday morning, trying to become the strong confident man I was rather than a bloody baby haha sorry and thank you for being a good and patient understanding friend, I do not conduct business or friendships in this manner so thank you.
Sorry to hear about the house. Let me know when you want to meet.
Thanks Jeremy, was actually going to buy it until she called and texted. I was in a good place emotionally Sunday, thank you will do, just need a day or so just not good company at all, stupidly broke down in bank yesterday, had to leave quickly bloody embarrassing haha never done that before, must be serious haha thank you… Not answering calls or texts from her at all now she tried texting and calling yesterday evening made things worse… No worries see what today holds
Then a few days later:
Jeremy, sorry for being illusive had accident, had MRI can’t drive or ride etc, but planning on being around Monday afternoon, so lets meet in Costa and I can settle up with you… Thanks for being patient
He turned up this time, wearing a brace on his knee, which seemed to be giving a lot of pain. He’d been riding a horse bareback and stupidly, he said, he’d been trying to teach it. The horse had thrown him. He was still having problems getting money into the country.
He told me that 1st September would be the date when everything was going to happen, he would have a house, he would start his business and have a place to run it. He talked about buying a local pub, The Firefly, and turning it into a music venue and headquarters for the business. Bob showed me a logo that he’d had designed, something like ЯHR. I wondered whether producing a logo was the first priority in running a business. We talked about what the business might do. He was vague about it but in the end we decided the mission statement would be to create and commission new music, and to place the music in movies and other media. Around this time he introduced me to a girl in her early twenties, who he was interviewing for the role of intern in his business. They sat at a table and talked intently for an hour or so.
Bob talked about the people that he was going to to hire, including his current landlady. He was concerned that there shouldn’t be an even number of people. Even numbers are bad, he said. It’s strange how odd numbers can sometimes be even.
I haven’t seen Bob again. I was told that Bob had run up a bar bill at the pub across the river which had never been paid, and had written a cheque for £30,000 for their Africa appeal, which he said not to cash yet. They tried to cash it and it bounced. Bob was now with with a woman who lived nearby in a caravan mobile home. I was also told that he had borrowed money from several people, and put at least one local business at risk by ordering stuff that he didn’t pay for.
And that’s all I know, for now.
All names changed except Bob and celebrities.