“Hello! My name is Japanese F***ing B***h,” the transvestite screamed down the microphone at Chinese restaurant come raucous karaoke bar, Lucky Cheng’s, in New York. At this point I knew that my choice of seating, behind a long table, against the wall, was a wise choice to avoid any “audience participation” the 6ft wig-wearing drag queens aiding Japanese F***ing B***h (JFB) dreamt up for this Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Galactic press trip dinner.
And audience “participation” there was with Virgin Atlantic’s corporate comms chief being stripped half naked, simulated sex acts and the airline’s chief pilot having to give a lap dance and my RBI (our publishing company) colleague from Travel Weekly having his head trapped between JFB’s thighs while she, he, gyrated above him. Twelve hours earlier, on Wednesday morning, I had woken up in my room, for want of a better word, in the “trendy” Hudson Hotel on 58th street.
Trendy people might use the word petit but for me it was just bloody small. So small in fact that ironing a shirt became a process of placing the ironing board on a trestle that had to go on the bed so the iron’s plug reached a socket. And I wasn’t ironing while kneeling.
We’d flown on the previous evening of the 26 September with an 18:00 flight that saw us finally check-in to the Manhattan island hotel at about 04:00 UK time. Thankfully the flight had been on a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340 in luxurious Upper Class out of Heathrow but it didn’t quite take the edge off having to stay in a place where a normal double bed filled the entire room.
And what was going on with the corridor d馗or, I wondered, as I made my way down to breakfast and the pre-press conference briefing about Virgin Atlantic chairman Sir Richard Branson’s plans to lead a charge to make aviation greener?
After questions to Virgin PR director Paul Charles about how much fuel and money going green would save Virgin Atlantic; whatever happened to the UK Sustainable Aviation group the airline had already joined; and wasn’t Branson just creating another talking shop, we were bussed to the actual press conference location, Soho House, which wasn’t in the New York Soho district.
Delayed for reasons unknown, but who cared when free bagels, brownies, Danish pastries and drink was on offer, we eventually got to the fun aircraft animations about airport starting grids (don’t ask) and even a ‘by-satellite’ appearance by recent eco-warrior convert California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The environmental love-in between the Hollywood action movie hero and the “rebel billionaire” didn’t convince me, sadly, it did other journalists.
Jabbing her finger at me over the spring rolls the young newswire reporter emphasised her belief that Branson wasn’t going to make announcements about green promises he couldn’t deliver on.
Maybe it was the cocktails or the mind bending cacophony from the drag queen as he-she wailed past with the a karaoke classic that had turned Lois Lane into a member of the cult of Branson?
Personally I had more important diversions than moguls intent on saving the world for us; “Come on! Race!” the Virgin PR girl dared me to beat her in a race to drink from the bowl of Pink P***y, that’s a cocktail just in case you were wondering.
Slurping on the Pink Pussy and watching men pretend to be what they think passes as being feminine I couldn’t help but feel that the drag acts before my eyes were a metaphor for the Virgin group’s apparent conversion to an Al Gore, George Monbiot world view, which Branson’s people call Gaia Capitalism. They can dress in the clothes, they can annunciate and twirl with every outfit including the Emperor’s new clothes but an airline is a polluter and always will be.
Squeezing into my room at sometime between midnight and 01:00 I tried to iron my shirt for the following day, well later that day really.
In just four hours I would have to get up to meet everyone in the lobby for a 06:00 departure. Feeling distinctly hung over I eventually found a seat in the Javitz conference centre’s Nextfest technology exhibition hall where suborbital space tourism company Virgin Galactic was unveiling another development for its spacecraft SpaceShipTwo.
We were moments away from Branson, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn and head of astronaut, for which read customer, relations Stephen Attenborough unveiling the interior of SpaceShipTwo.
Sitting near the front I fired up the PC to log onto the exhibition’s wireless network only to find my nemesis Buzz Aldrin sat in front of me chatting up Branson’s mum.
Filing my story and pictures, taken by my own fair hand, I listened to the ill informed questions from the world’s media conference and reflected on the trip that would end later that day with another 18:00 flight back to England.
Despite the ‘red-eye’ flights, horribly early starts, even more horrible hotel d馗or, chocolate shoe deserts, excessive alcohol intake, gullible hacks, wacky spaceship designs, I couldn’t help feeling that despite the alien, final frontier-like vision that was Lucky Chengs, JFB’s karaoke favourite said it all – I will survive.