This World Famous Pianist Tried to Get Tortoises to Bone Each Other
This is Richard Clayderman. He’s a piano player – not just any piano player, though; the “most successful piano player in the world”. Those aren't my words, they're the words of the noted music critics at Guinness World Records. He’s sold 70 million records worldwide. That’s more than Jay-Z and Lady Gaga. His signature piece, "Ballade pour Adeline", is the fourth biggest selling single of all time. It was featured in the final scene of noted Danish satirical film Gayniggers from Outer Space. Not bad for a solo piano instrumental written about a child.
If you’re a fan of walking along the Seine, drinking in Parisian cafes and playing grand pianos in a room then I suggest you watch the video for this 22-million selling pop smash.
These creatures are Galapagos tortoises. They can live for up to 150 years but have had a little trouble repelling predators, probably because they're really old and slow and don't have any means of defending themselves other than hiding in a shell and waiting for inevitable death, so there aren’t too many of them left. This means that it's the obligation of the ones at London Zoo to bang, bang, bang in the wider interests of keeping their species alive. But Dirk, the 73-year-old male at the zoo, has had some performance related issues of late.
You see where this is going, right? Yeah, Richard Clayderman's gonna play some music in an attempt to give a tortoise an erection. Nancy Reagan once called this guy the "prince of romance". I guess she wasn't wrong.
And so it was that – one bright morning – I found myself with the world’s media (AP, Reuters) at the Galapagos tortoise enclosure to watch the prince of romance serenade a pack of frigid tortoises. Who says journalism is dead?
Like Harry Styles looking into the eyes of a 14-year-old girl and her mother, our maestro checked to see that his audience was ready. Dirk had some issues lumbering into place but seemed generally au fait with the idea of having his loins stirred by the power of the solo piano. Tortoise Viagra isn’t what it used to be. Sometimes you’ve gotta go to the source of sex: a 59-year-old man and his Steinway Grand.
Richard was well aware that he was in grave danger, but he didn't let that deter him from his mission of getting tortoises to bone.
Dirk seemed pretty entertained, but none of the ladies were joining him. Perhaps they thought Richard’s music was simply elevator music? Richard himself doesn’t mind that people call it elevator music. He’s never heard it in elevators, he says, although he did once hear "Ballade pour Adeline" in a car park.
There was a real scramble down the front for good angles. It was like Chinawhite on a Saturday night post-Chelsea victory. One photographer got very anxious about WiFi; the New York bureau needed his Clayderman shots ASAP – time was of the essence, god damn it. Richard was mainly worried that his hands were getting cold. Worried about that and the plight of the Galapagos tortoise, of course. In a touchingly personal moment, he later revealed that he has an enduring love of animals. “I have a golden retriever at home,” he said, in French.
I went back into the tortoises’ enclosure as they were being treated to a particularly wistful version of “Time to Say Goodbye”. I couldn't help but think of all the goodbyes I’ve said in my life and started to weep. I realised that I’d have to say goodbye to Richard and the tortoises soon. I wept some more. The enclosure was humid and I thought for a second that my camera lens was covered in steam, but soon realised it was just my tears fogging up the glass, almost as if my tear ducts were protecting me from witnessing the scene properly and crying even more.
Richard looked at Dirk and a moment passed between them. Two men rich in experience and rich in pain, but also in joy. Two men who know that sometimes a woman’s love can only be won with the help of 88 keys, two nimble hands and a whole lot of closing your eyes mid-song.
(Those last two pictures are different photos by the way, tortoises don't really move quick enough for this to be too dynamic a piece visually.)
In came the zookeeper to rouse Dirk and his lady friend for the finale, a barn-storming performance of “Chariots of Fire” by the man whose piece "A Comme Amour" is the default ringtone for every China Mobile SIM-card purchased in Shanghai.
They were roused a little but they certainly weren’t fucking.
I went back round the front and Richard told me off for encroaching on the footage of the world’s media. There’s a reason the man has 70 platinum discs.
Feeling philosophical, I left the world’s media to fight over their prize pig and headed off in search of more peaceful climes. The PR whirl had knocked me sideways and the concern I felt for Dirk and his libido had worn me out.
So, unmoved as I am by the machinations of modern publicity, I went to compare some meerkats.
You better keep a watch out, buddy – the prince of romance is on the move and you don’t know where his ballad truck will park up next.
Follow Oscar on Twitter: @oscarrickettnow
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