There’s nothing quite like watching a plane take off without you to really focus your mind on how much you want to be on it. As flight BA987 knifes off the runway, and begins its journey to Berlin, I’m watching it through a window in the departures lounge – still holding the ticket for seat 12A in my hand.
Due to a frankly unlikely series of events, I had got to Heathrow three minutes after the flight was closed. Although no missed flight ever comes as a joy, this one is a particular mellow-harsher because, in five hours, I’m supposed to be interviewing arguably the most famous woman in the world – Lady Gaga – in an exclusive that has taken months of phone calls, jockeying and wrangling to set up.
It’s not so much that I am now almost certainly going to be fired. Since I found out how much the model Sophie Anderton used to earn as a high-class call girl, my commitment to continuing as a writer at The Times has been touch and go anyway, to be honest.
It’s more that I am genuinely devastated to have blown it so spectacularly. Since I saw Gaga play Poker Face at Glastonbury Festival last year, I have been a properly, hawkishly devoted admirer.
Halfway through a 45-minute set that had five costumes changes, Gaga came on stage in a dress made entirely of see-through plastic bubbles, accompanied by her matching, see-through plastic bubble piano. You have to respect a woman who can match her outfit to her instrument. Although the single Poker Face is a punching, spasmodic, Euro-house stormer, Gaga took to her piano and started to play it as cathouse blues – all inverted chords and rolling fifths, with falling, heartbroken semitones on the left hand; wailing out like Bessie Smith sitting on the doorstep at 4am.
It was already incredible before she did the second half of the song standing on her piano stool, on one leg – like a tiny, transvestite ballerina.
Twenty minutes later, she ended her set literally bending over backwards to please – fireworks shooting from the nipples of her pointy bra, screaming, “I fancy you, Glastonbury – do you fancy me?” The audience went wholly, totally, dementedly nuts for her.
It caused me to have this – unprecedented – thought: “She’s making Madonna look a bit slack and unimaginative here. After all, when Madonna was 24, she was still working at Dunkin’ Donuts in New York. She weren’t playing no rolling fifths.”