It wasn't tricky to join Ricky's gang
WELL I've just got back from Las Vegas, and do I have news for you?! The strangest things seem to happen to me and my time in the world's gambling capital was no exception.
I only went to see a boxing match but somehow I ended up being invited into boxer Ricky Hatton's changing room and making a new friend in Wayne Rooney .... not to mention bumping into a drunk and grumbly Vince Vaughan - and very nearly making my big Hollywood movie debut.
I hardly know where to start. My partner Michael and I bought tickets for the big match, paying an eye-watering £150 each for the two of us, Michael's son Paul and my friend Stu, and jetted off from Manchester airport.
In the days beforehand, my quest to get a press pass to take pictures was ignored by all and sundry despite mine and my PA's phonecalls and emails. That just made me more determined ... my challenge was to get VIP entry to the match without using my expensive ticket.
The others just rolled their eyes, they can't imagine why I just don't hand the ticket over, go in, sit down, enjoy the show and behave myself ... but where would the fun be in that?
As they entered the venue to take their seats, I decided to go for a scout round with my camera bag. Round the corner was a VIP entrance with a big red carpet. A limo drew up and a bunch of American celebrities got out. I had no idea who they were but from the fuss all their security people were making, they must have been pretty important. So I just joined their group - and got ushered in with them, simple as that!
Inside the building, this red carpet was the longest red carpet I'd ever seen, and at the end were curtains leading to the ringside and the VIP seats. So far, so good. There were some pre-fights so I took a place next to the photographers with their proper passes, and started snapping.
I noticed Rio Ferdinand in the crowd, and Wes Brown. Wayne Rooney and Colleen McLoughlin were right up at the front. Vinnie Jones was there and Antonio Banderas, who was supporting the other guy.
Robbie Williams was around somewhere but I couldn't spot him. Suddenly there was a tap on my shoulder. "Where are your credentials?" said a security guy. "One of the promoters brought me through," I lied. "Who?" he asked. "Oh, I can't think of his name," I replied, importantly. I was rumbled but then he got distracted by someone else so I nipped away and sat down in a free seat a few rows back. By the time he returned his attention to me, he couldn't spot me.
I took my time and didn't get up again with the camera till the fight was finishing and all eyes were on champion Ricky. Then I jumped up and got amazing photos of the celebrations - Ricky planting big kisses on Colleen and his own girlfriend, Rebecca, and everyone larking about with the big prize belt.
I spotted Ricky's manager, who I've chatted to a few times before when Ricky's been making personal appearances. "Hi Paul," I said. "Hi!" replied Paul, seeing a familliar face from England and welcoming me into the entourage.
The next thing I knew, we were all trooping off to the changing rooms. The excitement continued and Wayne Rooney was taking somewhat of a back seat, enjoying the atmosphere while Colleen did all the talking and socialising - you can definitely see who wears the trousers there.
I had a chat to Wayne, who was wearing a nice black Prada top. He has a lovely smile and piercing blue eyes and he's very shy - I teased him about his sunburned red nose and we had a chat for about 20 minutes. I told him about the reality TV show I'm going on, in which I had to live in a caravan for a week, and he told me about his dad's caravan on the Welsh coast.
I got the impression that there's all this hype around him and he's just in the middle, a bit overwhelmed - and maybe even worrying that all the money and stardom could all come to a halt. He confided in me that he'd shrugged off controversy over his friendship with Ricky, an ardent Man City fan, and that he wasn't a big fan of clubbing and nightlife, that Colleen's the party animal.
Ricky got showered behind a screen and proceeded to wander round inhis t-shirt and shorts. next came the post-match press conference and I trooped out with the Hatton gang. Weird! It got a bit boring, it was all boxing talk, but I had a laugh with Colleen who told me how she and Wayne had become great friends with Ricky and Rebecca, while the journalists asked their questions.
An hour later, the pictures were on my Myspace and I was getting hits from around the world, and I still had my ticket intact, unused!
The next morning, we went out for breakfast to the Wynn Hotel where I had to pick up a Jean Paul Gautiler suit I'd bought and had altered, and who should we see chilling out by the pool there but Wayne and Colleen? I didn't go up, I thought I'd leave them to it in case they were hung over - but I did send Champagne to their room - number 208, if you wanted to know!
How I nearly got into the movies
While we were in Vegas I spotted a commotion outside Caesar Hotel - it turned out to be the filming of a Hollywood movie, called Iron Man, to be released next year, and starring Samuel L Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow plus Robert Downey Jnr - who I spotted acting from a distance.
I noticed a lot of people coming to and from the barriers and thought to myself: "They're not showing passes," so I walked through. They were heading to a queue so I joined them. I quickly realised I was in the wardobe queue for the extras who were getting kitted out in glamorous gambling gear for a scene.
This was hilarious. If I stayed in that queue I'd end up all dressed up and on camera, soundlessly saying 'rhubarb rhubarb' behind Robert DJ. Sadly, an hour and a half later, I was no near the front of the line - all the bit-part actors were moaning about how disgraceful the delay was - and I gave up, bored, and rejoined the others.
As I left the enclosed part of the street I noticed a drunk-looking guy with a group of Englishmen, tall and heavy-set. I recognised him. It was Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Aniston's ex. People were asking him for photos and he was grumbling darkly at them, looking annoyed and saying he 'wasn't allowed' to. So I didn't dare go and rattle him some more - that's one photo I haven't been able to bring the Examiner!
It wasn't tricky to join Ricky's gang