A LIFE IN THE DAY #3

By Edward Wilkinson Latham

Nigel Reams, 56, used to perform in social clubs during the 1960’s and 70’s under the stage name Raymondo the Magnificent. He moved from Grimsby to Los Angeles in 1975 and had a number one hit single with ‘Daddy Doesn’t Do That’. In 1977 he founded Raymondo’s LA School of Music, which became Raymondo’s School of Music & Drama in 1979 and finally Ray’s Dry Cleaning in 1981. His memoirs are currently being made into a multi million-dollar Hollywood movie starring the actor Hugh Grant.

“When I got the call, I was steaming Mel Gibson’s laundry from his movie Apocalypto. It was Wednesday, very busy, so when the phone rang I thought it was a prank caller. I get those a lot, but mostly it’s Larry putting on his English accent. Somehow on the phone he always sounds more believable than in person. My day starts the same way it has always done since I first arrived in the US in 1975. At 8.20am I get a call from Larry. I’ve tried changing my number, staying in motels, but he still calls. He was my first serious fan in America and until recently I thought he would be my last, however I still have this nagging feeling that he will always be my last fan. But on that morning the person on the other end of the phone was not Larry, it was Harry; Harry Weinstein, the film producer although I didn’t know that at the time. He was talking fast, saying he wanted to make a movie about nightclub crooners, dry cleaning and North Korean spies, starring Hugh Grant and Chuck Norris. Something about what he said rang a bell in my memory, but I had no idea who he was so I hung up the phone. I mentioned it to Larry, when he came into the shop and after acting more peculiar than usual for five minutes; he finally admitted that he had stolen my diaries three years ago. Up until then, I had thought it has been a maid I employed at the time called Rosa who had taken them. She was trying to teach herself English back then, before she was deported. If you read this Rosa, I’m sorry. So Larry went on to explain that after he had stolen the diaries from beside my bed, he had gone across town to see his mother and left them on the bus by mistake. The rest is a mystery.

Fortunately, Harry Weinstein came into the dry cleaners that afternoon with the diaries. He had disguised himself as a Hasidic Jew, as I hear Hollywood stars are prone to do when they don’t want to be identified around Los Angeles. Some others dress like Buddhist monks or even Catholic priests, although I hear that’s not as popular as it once was. At first I thought Harry was a local Rabbi who wanted to bring me back into the faith with a gig at the temple or something. Harry then removed his disguise and introduced himself. He waved out to the car and in came Hugh Grant and Chuck Norris, in similar disguises. I was in shock and Larry got so excited he ran up stairs and cut half of his hair off for no reason. Harry offered me a cheque for more money than I’ve ever seen, suggesting I should sing the soundtrack for the movie based on my diaries. He also asked if I could do anything with a stain on his cashmere twill sports jacket.

Well, the money couldn’t have come at a better time. Last year we had a terrible lawsuit against us when we destroyed one of Oprah Winfrey’s bras. It nearly ruined the business. So when I cashed the cheque I bought pizza and pop for all my skilled steam consultants who have worked so hard for me over the years. I think it was the first they had eaten pizza before. They don’t go out much you see. Well how could they? They haven’t got keys.

When I toured around the Midlands in the old days, I always had cash in my pocket and as much beer and meat pies as I could consume. Crowds would scream, Raymondo! Raymondo! When I moved to LA and cut my hit single,’ Daddy Doesn’t Do That’ I was on top of the world. After one week at number one it was a hard coming back down to the real world. When you’re called Raymondo the Magnificent every single day for a week, it’s tricky to remember that your name is really Nigel. After a period of adjustment, I was advised by Larry to open a School for Music. He said people would come from miles around to learn dance moves from the great Raymondo. As it turned out I don’t think LA was ready for something like that at the time. It was 1978 you must remember. Larry only came to one class, saying he preferred doing things like hanging out watching me doing things instead. It was then that I got involved with booze, drugs and the whole dry cleaning business. I knew a lot of Columbians in my area and as they saw I was on hard times they insisted on sending me their laundry. It came from far and wide, Columbia, Peru, Mexico, Haiti and The Isle of Wight. I could only cope with so much in my bathroom sink at home, so I decided to convert the music school. Since then, I’ve made a lot of good contacts and become friends with some of Hollywood’s finest actors who trust me with their delicate items, but I do think how funny life goes sometimes. You’re doing one thing and then someone asks you to do something for them, so you stop what your doing and then twenty-six years later you get back to it.

I’ve got some gigs lined up as a result of the interest for the film. I’m going to be on Oprah next week, which might be a little embarrassing, but I’ve got a photo of the evidence if things get ugly. Then after that I’ve got an eight-week lounge-singing cruise around the Caribbean with Robin Cousins. I’ve never ice-skated before, let alone aboard a cruise ship, but I’m sure it will be a good move. I don’t know what I’m going to do about the dry cleaners while I’m away, because Larry says he’s coming with me. I could ring up Don Johnson again, but the last time I left the place in his command he borrowed some of Michael Douglas’s blazers and ruined the sleeves.

Since my life has now gone back to being what it was, I’ve been thinking about what to do with the money. One idea is to expand the business and buy a fleet of laundry aircraft. I’m thinking big, like the Fedex of dry cleaning, with ‘Raymondo’s Dry Cleaning’ painted down the side of each plane. Of course all this hinges on whether the movie and soundtrack do well and I get the ‘Raymondo the Magnificent’ come back tour that Harry has promised. He seems keen, although he hasn’t heard anything of my new material yet. I’ve got lots of notebooks with songs from my lost years, as I now call them. Ballads like ‘Hermits Croon Too’,’ I’ve had enough,’ I’m going out’ and ‘That’s once, twice, three times, I’ve steamed it!’ Plus there’s a remix of a track I did for World of Oriental Carpets in Malibu that I’m hoping to use. I’ve dug the old suits from storage and the Cuban heels still seems to turn some heads. I’ve managed to convince Larry’s sister who works at the YWCA to let me use the dance studio on Sunday mornings, so I can get these magic feet working again. I was known in the old days for a very identifiable little side shuffle.

When the movie ‘Daddy Doesn’t Do That’ premiers in London, it will be a strange day for me because I’ve never actually been to London before. I spent my early life in the Grimsby, Wold Newton, Fotherby and Caistor on the A1084, so London will be like going to another country, or city anyway. I must admit that I’m looking forward to all the female attention once again. Ale and salty snacks don’t satisfy every man’s needs and it’s been a while since I’ve gone out driving at night in a strange town. Hugh has given me some names and addresses over there, plus the directions to a well-priced B&B in Kings Cross. Chuck’s all geared up as well. He’s a real professional when it comes to tourism. He’s already got all the maps, a new mackintosh and details and times of all the west end shows. He wants to see the Royal Tournament most of all and to check up on his waxwork in Madame Tussauds. Chuck knows London. He spent time in Lewisham during the postproduction for Missing in Action I, II, III and that’s where he got to know the backcountry of the metropolis, as he calls it.

I haven’t been sleeping much since the movie deal was made. Larry keeps ring me up asking me to tell him again. I’ve never seen him so excited. He’s gnawing through handkerchiefs like a gerbil and he’s also writing his own memoirs and looking for someone to steal them from him.”

EWL©2006