|Del Boycs: Luvvly Jubbly|
"Ten years ago I almost had to close the business" said Mr. Hogg, crumbling the half burnt note into a solid gold ashtray; "but at the moment I'm having to turn work away because supply just can't keep up with demand. If I could double, quadruple even, the number of artists I represent, I still wouldn't be able to keep everyone happy."
After thirty years in the business Chris Hogg has seen it all. In the 70s the pubs and clubs wanted traditional comics, strippers and cheesy ballad singers. "This was the first golden age of club entertainment" says Hogg. "I used to send out packages of artistes to venues comprising a blue comic, a bird with tassels on her knockers and Tony Monopoly. It was money for old rope. Then the politically correct brigade arrived and everything changed." The next decade saw the rise of alternative comedy and synth pop. By the mid 90s audiences had changed again; nostalgia was the order of the day and the major agencies on the entertainment circuit had to adapt or die.
"It was an odd thing that took the industry by surprise" added Hogg. "It was almost as if punters knew that they couldn't expect to see the real performers but would settle for somebody who looked and sounded a bit like them and who could perform the greatest hits in a reasonably accurate way. Bands like No Way Sis and TRexstacy became genuine stars in their own right. At one point I had four Abba tribute acts on my books."
Then things got even stranger. Chris Hogg took a phone call that changed his life.
"It was the day after England won the Ashes in 2005. A very famous concert promoter phoned me and said he wanted some cricket-related performers to appear at a series of cabaret shows in London. He wasn't particularly bothered about what they did in their act. He just said “make sure they're in whites and everything will be alright”. That was the mood in the country at the time - because England had won, everybody went slightly cricket crazy."
|Elton John Jameson|
Hogg scoured his list of artists but knew he had no specialist cricket acts on his books. "I had to improvise. I asked a Frank Sinatra look-a-like that I used if he could don a white coat and go out as David Constant. To avoid legal action I had to rename him David It's A Con-stant. Then I added a progressive rock tribute band to the bill and renamed them Emerson, Laker and Roy Palmer. They went down a smash. I knew then that I was onto something big."
As the bookings came in, Hogg Artistes focused exclusively on expanding their range of acts. Hogg himself personally held auditions the length and breadth of the country in an attempt to meet demand.
Perhaps surprisingly, Chris Hogg was the only entertainment agent who spotted the commercial potential of this new branch of the business. "Some corporate functions just wanted, what we call in the business, a Meeter-and-Greeter, or Mix-and-Mingle. That's normally a look-a-like whose job it is to simply appear at a business-do and shake a few hands. A few years ago this would have been an ideal job for a Del Boy or Basil Fawlty, but with the popularity of the hiring of corporate boxes at test matches, I found that most people setting up these events want a cricket-related personality. We now have over 100 such look-a-likes for hire including Nearly Foster, Phil De Fraudus, Ian No-tham, Adam Hollihoax, or for Asian customers, Cheatin Sharma and Imran Khan't. If you really want Del Boy then we can provide Del Boycs who mixes cheerful cockney patter and in-depth match analysis. If children are going to be there, then we can give them favourites like Sponge Bob Willis and The Daryl Hair Bear Bunch."
But it's not only look-a-likes that Chris Hogg Artistes can supply. "We have an extensive range of musical acts to suit all age groups. The youngsters prefer pop bands like Ray East 17 or Agnew Kids On The Block, older rock fans might enjoy Steely Dan Vettori or The Crazy World Of Alistair Brown. We have even branched out into full stage musicals such as David Lloyd Webber's Bats, The Phantom Of Bopara or Leg Side Story."
The emergence of the IPL has further fuelled the worldwide demand for cricket entertainment. "During the last World Cup, and now the IPL, we got very busy indeed. The market in India is very lucrative but they are quite fussy about who they want to see. It's no good giving them a western rock band like The Tom Moody Blues or the Gladstone Small Faces because they will never have heard of them, although the cheeky duo Sreesanth and Dec went down a storm."
For the time-being Hogg Artistes Ltd. continues to flourish, but Chris Hogg knows from past experience the fickle nature of the business. "I'm concentrating on my cricket roster at present because that's where the money is. In a couple of years we might be back to erotic dancers and jugglers - you never know".
With that the telephone rings. It's a south London cricket club looking for a couple of acts for their end of season dinner. Chris Hogg quickly offers them the satirical comedy review team The Alan Knott The Nine O'Clock News, disco band Sister Sledgers and the tribute umpire John Scamshire. The club is more than happy and Mr Hogg has made another tidy sum from the deal.
"Another day, another dollar" muses Hogg as he pours himself a large brandy. "In fact, that reminds me ... David Van Day from Dollar is trying to get in on the act. He has been trying to steal some of my artistes for his new agency Dollar Doppelgangers. Have you seen his Sir Geoffrey look a like? Boycs Fizz! It's a terrible act. He rips his cap off whilst singing Making Your Mind Up, a rubbish song about umpiring. At least I can go to bed at night safe in the knowledge that we have nothing to fear."