“Fancy meeting you here,” he said, grabbing my shoulder. He added that for several weeks he had been trying unsuccessfully through my manager to meet me and just when he thought he might never get the opportunity to ask me a few questions, there we were together at the year’s Miss North Wales beauty contest, of all places. What to do? I had thirty minutes to kill before I stepped onstage with my band. I gave him his damn interview.
Some three months later my manager handed me a copy of the magazine featuring my “life story.” The article began dramatically enough: “Antiguan-born Ricky Wayne is Britain’s answer to Elvis!” A year or so earlier I had emerged the winner of a search for London’s King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This was hardly the first time a writer or record reviewer had associated me with my hero from Tupelo, Mississippi. I smiled appreciatively, ignoring the obvious error. But soon I was taking phone calls from my Saint Lucian friends in London who demanded to know why I had told a writer I was born in Antigua. I tried as best I could to explain that the question was never asked of me, that the South African reporter somehow got his islands mixed up, that up to the recalled time I had visited no other Caribbean island but my own.
I remember one particular late-night East London party when an obviously inebriated character cornered me near the cloak room: “Wotsit wiv you geezers,” he asked, “that the minute you gets a little bit of fame all of a sudden Saint Lucia ain’t good enough for you no more?” I knew exactly what he meant by “you geezers.” A short time earlier Emile Ford, whose very first record on the Pye label “What Do You Wanna Make Those Eyes at Me For?” sold in excess of a million copies, was quoted in a puff piece as saying he was born in the Bahamas when most Saint Lucians knew him back home as Mickey Sweetnam. Little did they realise the singer’s middle names were actually Emile Ford and that while he had grown up in Saint Lucia his birthplace was really the Bahamas.
To this day I bump into angry people who insist that Emile was born here, as was his brother David, aka Mr Clean, for the fact that for several years he operated a local carpet-cleaning company. As for me, at least one calypso seeks to underscore somehow my own betrayal of fellow Saint Lucians when I “was making it big in England,” to quote my friend Pelay.
And now, dear reader, I hear you asking: “Why the hell is Rick bringing up this old near-forgotten story at this time? Why can’t he just move on?” After all, the Internet and my books, not to say hundreds of articles by myself and other authors state precisely my place of birth. Indeed, the story about how I came to be born in a country I have never visited has been retold over and over. So why yet another time?
Yes, you may well ask. And the simple answer is this: Last Sunday, while surfing the Net, I came upon the Australia Associated Press website that featured several wonderful pictures of Aiasha Gustave, taken at the recent Chain of Hope Ball in London. Aiasha, some might recall, represented Saint Lucia in the recent Miss World, where she placed eighth. The event featured 120 of the most beautiful women on earth, small wonder that Aiasha was awarded a special Miss Caribbean/World crown. Currently in London, our girl is attracting much useful attention to herself and to our somewhat bruised nation from the leading model agencies and recording companies. So how to explain this photo caption on the Australia Associated Press website: “Ayesha [sic] Gustave, Jamaican beauty”? We might just as well ask why Derek Walcott appears in at least one edition of the widely-respected Almanac as Trinidadian, while Sir Arthur Lewis features elsewhere as a son of the UK.
Yeah, life gets tedious, don’t it?