Driving the dictator
Another classic trip from 20 years of TG mag: delivering Admiral General Aladeen to a big telly interview.
Posted: 28 Oct 2013
I wiggle a hand in what I hope is a non-committal, Russian fashion. Thankfully, one of the girls starts babbling about Jack Bauer, saving me from any more Russian sign language. Bless you, blabby Brummie. We glide down Horse Guards Parade. Cars and bikes veer respectfully towards the kerb as we pass. Over the Thames, Houses of Parliament and London Eye to the left, S-Classes at close quarters, and this is the oddest thing I’ve ever done. Drive smoothly, don’t kill one of Hollywood’s top stars.
And then a fat bloke on a Boris bike swerves in front the Prombron. This is bad news. Braking the Dartz requires several months’ planning and a couple of hundred yards of stopping space. I am faced with a stark choice: (a) flattening an obese tourist, or (b) slamming on the brakes and sending the Dictator flying into my lap – the Prombron has no rear belts – before flattening an obese tourist. I wince and heave right and skim the fattie. The Dictator chunters. I have avoided the strangest collision of the decade. Jean-Claude doesn’t flinch.
Finally, finally, we are at the television studio, and there is a great crowd waiting, alongside dozens of paparazzi. As we reach the entrance, they swarm around the car, pressing cameras against the windows, flashbulbs popping. “Keep driving!” snaps the bodyguard. Is it illegal to run down a paparazzo?
We pull up beside the studio’s revolving door. “Stop,” commands the bodyguard. “Now get out, open door.”
I jump from the car, heave open the heavy rear door and am confronted by four very long legs. The Soviet Brummies unfold themselves, and then Admiral General Aladeen emerges, babbling and waving to the crowds. I catch sight of Leo in the scrum. He gives me a thumbs-up and waves a pot of caviar triumphantly. Mission accomplished, clearly.
The Dictator is hustled into the studio with his harem of ladies. The paparazzi and crowds and security melt away. I am left alone, a journalist pretending to be an IT worker pretending to be a Russian guard in a £750,000 gold-and-platinum-plated bombproof truck. I place my TG business card on the driver’s seat, hop out and head off to find a tube home. Odd day.