Nothing much surprises me now I’ve passed my 200th birthday, and seen the the human cabaret in all its sordid glory. On the other hand you, dear reader, have not. So let me share with you a few true stories from the south of France ...
Ah, Mipim. So many beautiful people, so many happy memories. Of course, being a conscientious, hardworking 203 year old, I tend to retire early, so know little of the kind of merriment that goes on at the property industry’s annual Riviera shindig. But one does hear things ...
For example, there was the lawyer friend of mine who returned to his hotel room after dinner at the Martinez. He too is of a conscientious, hardworking disposition and, aware that he had a 9.30am meeting the next morning, thought he’d better stop off at the concierge for a wake-up call. “What time would you like it?” asked the concierge. 7.30am, said my friend, to which the concierge replied: “That’s fine sir – but it’s 7.15am now.” I can only think that the service at the Martinez was unusually tardy that morning.
I have it on good authority that such things happen all the time at Mipim. Therefore, purely as a warning to younger and more impressionable minds than myself, I have assembled the following compendium of cautionary tales in the perpetrators’ own words, none of which, I need hardly add, involved myself in any way whatsoever. In all cases, the names have been withheld to protect the less-than-innocent (and, of course, you never know when such information could come in handy ...)
Taxi? You’ll be lucky ...
Nobody has done more than I to further the cause of the humble cab (just check out my Wikipedia entry), but in Cannes in March I feel my efforts were for nought ...
The hippo and the hare
“It’s the early hours again and I’m waiting for a taxi outside some sleazy hotel bar. But this was the year that there was a taxi strike in Cannes. You couldn’t get one for love nor money. The upshot was that hundreds of property types were left either fighting for a ride back to their hotels or walking. Lots of people slept on the beach.
Anyway, I’m waiting for a taxi with an absolutely gigantic fat guy (a QS, surprise, surprise). One eventually turns up but just as he was about to get in it, a really slick looking (but absolutely tiny) property agent jumped in in front of him and the cab sped off.
“This was bad, and the fat guy was very angry. But the taxi goes about 200 yards up the road and stops at some traffic lights. So our large QS friend sprints across the road – actually, it was more of a comedy wobble – opens the car door and pulls the agent out of the cab and they begin wrestling. No punches were thrown and it was all pretty funny, and I’m sure they didn’t know each other, but the cab just roared away leaving them grappling in the road in absolute hysterics. There were about 50 people cheering them on.”
A steep fare
“One year we took a colleague of ours to Mipim. It was his first time and he got blind drunk on the first night. He managed to find a taxi but then realised he didn’t have any money, nor any idea where he was or where he was going. The taxi driver threw him out in the middle of nowhere and with no money in his pocket he was forced to walk around aimlessly.
He came across two north African guys who were packing oranges into boxes and he asked for their help back to his hotel. Without any cash on him they refused but came up with an alternative deal. He had to stand by the roadside helping them pack oranges at 4am for an hour before they finally agreed he had earned their help and took him back to his hotel.”
Dogs and dinghies
“Last year there was a group of people on the Tchenguiz boat who wanted to get back to the Carlton hotel. They couldn’t get a taxi boat so they persuaded some of the crew to row them to the hotel jetty in a dinghy. They were refused access to the jetty and by this point the guard dogs had jumped into the water and were biting holes in the dinghy. They had to row back to the boat as fast as they could while the dinghy deflated.”
Dressed to impress
What you wear says a lot about you at Mipim. Personally, I go for a boating blazer and white flannels at all times. But others prefer to let it all hang out.
Time to cool off
“It’s 2am in the bar at the Martinez hotel, the hub of late-night social activity in Mipim week, and amid the usual crowd swigging £100 bottles of champagne and £8 bottles of beer, is a large group of property agents. After what appears to be a heated debate, a small group of men and women in a corner, thought to be property agents, suddenly strip off all of their clothes and dive into the swimming pool. This is followed by a game of chase before security is called.”
“One year we were going to pay the French national synchronised swimming team to wear branded swimming costumes at our party and swim about with their legs all in the air. They agreed and we had the costumes made. But at the last minute our boss got wind of the idea and said it was totally un-PC. So we cancelled it. But then we had all these ladies’ swimming costumes. Obviously once our clients left the party we all put them on and pranced about instead.”
These boots weren’t made for walking
“Never buy a pair of new shoes before Mipim. I did without realising how much walking you had to do. My new suede shoes completely screwed up my feet. They were covered in blisters and ripped to sheds. I was in agony all through the my firm’s party and was glued to one spot. When I got back to the UK I was actually rushed to hospital for two days for a course of treatment as my feet had become infected.”
Famous people and senior industry figures getting up to all sorts? Not the sort of thing I’d read myself, you understand ...
Ken Livingstone – exposed
“I have a very vivid recollection of coming out of the Majestic to be confronted by the disturbing sight of Ken Livingstone clad only in a very skimpy pair of swimming trunks and goggles. He grinned at me and I grinned rather stupidly back and said, ‘All right?’ It was only about half an hour after he’d made a speech slagging off private developers and so I initially assumed he’d been jumped, stripped and tied to a lamp post by irate property people. Actually, he’d just gone for a swim.”
A question of Cliff
“One year, the North West Development Agency held a dinner with a sporting theme, which involved the representatives from Liverpool and Manchester going head to head in an a Question of Sport-style quiz. This event, attended by sporting stars Alan Hansen and Darren Campbell and hosted by Sue Barker, was a huge success until a group of developers, fuelled by the warm Cannes sun and white wine, asked Barker: ‘So then, did you have an affair with Cliff Richard or not?’ Cue silence.”
Moshing with the man from the ministry
“One fond memory I have was pogoing to the Stranglers at Mipim 2005 in an unlikely mosh pit with several fit-out contractors, three Cyril Sweett partners and the deputy head of the ODPM’s Thames Gateway delivery unit. It was particularly bizarre because I had been talking to the last of this group only hours earlier about housing densities in Barking Reach. Now he was shaking his fist and shouting ‘Nice ’n’ Sleazy’. Yikes.”
Now, who could that be?
“One year, the head construction honcho of a leading contractor was spotted on several consecutive evenings leaving a late-night drinking establishment with a stunning young lady on each arm. One night, noticing that I’d noticed him, he beamed a big smile and touched his nose as if to say: “You’ve caught me red-handed, but mum’s the word, please.”
If you have any tales to share with Hansom, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org