Saturday 20 April 2019

First Person: Mark Hayes - 'I want to be the best'

The path to world domination has not run smoothly for him, but LA-based Corkman Mark Hayes keeps trying

Mark Hayes
Mark Hayes

When I was a young wee lad making my way in the real capital of Ireland - Cork - boy, I had little to no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. Besides the best, obviously. The question was, the best at what?

For a while I thought I was going to lead the way in the art world. Scribbling, colouring, painting, I was the Irish Picasso, the Cork Van Gogh. Then I tried to draw a boat but it was crap and I ended up stabbing myself by mistake. So I decided that was that, the end of my art career. I was five. Naturally I ventured next into the sports world. All kinds of everything with balls - soccer, GAA, hurling, tennis, ping-pong, snooker. Soccer was my preferred route, but a childhood addiction to cereal led to me gaining weight and growing boy boobs. This mental and physical setback thwarted my development into a world-class soccer player, and so, that career path was not meant for me.

Singer/songwriter/dancer/heir to Michael Jackson's throne was next on my list. I even started taking keyboard lessons so I could make my own brand of Eurodance, just like my idols at the time, 2Unlimited. An unfortunate pants-wetting incident, plus the fact my teacher insisted I learnt the basics of piano before diving into the production side of things, hampered my progress in the musical world.

I never sang in public or in front of anyone, even myself. I much preferred to live under the illusion that I was a great singer, rather than face the fact that I might not have all the high ranges I hoped for. Self-delusion all the way. I did sing in my school choir though, so I could definitely sing somewhat. Or else maybe just mime along in a convincing manner.

We did all appear on TV one day, on TG4, singing Christmas carols. That was great fun, the seven-hour bus ride up to Galway from Cork, the 15 minutes in the roasting hot studio where no one knew what was going on, followed by the nine-hour bus ride home thanks to heavy traffic.

When I arrived back home that night, my grandparents happened to be over at my house. Chuffed to bits and feeling like I knew I was right about being MJ's one true heir, I asked my Gran if she had seen me on TV. She had, she told me, adding, "You were very good but you looked very fat in the face. You had a big red head."

I coughed, spluttered, and put down the overflowing bowl of cereal I was busy shovelling into my big fat, red head. I finished chewing the Special K and swallowed, then felt my fat face go even redder with embarrassment as I tried to say the camera adds big fat, red head pounds and it only looked like that because I was wearing a turtleneck so my head looked extra large like a lollipop on a stick and the TV studio was roasting so my head and face were puffy because of the heat and they didn't even give me my own dressing room so how was I meant to know what I looked like and I'm never singing again.

Briefly, after too many run-ins with scumbags, I considered becoming a boxer, but soon I said nay, my hands were too soft and I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to be punched in the face.

Many more career attempts since: carpet mover, nightclub promoter, barman, bar boy, bar manager while still a boy, kitchen cleaner, chef, Dunnes Stores bag boy, car-wash boy, rent boy, wax-hands maker, carnival boy, lemonade salesman, German-gun translator, ShamWow salesman, rent boy again, travel companion and DJ at a gay gym, to name but a few. Oddly enough, none of the above prepared me for what I currently do: write down my adventures, turning them into books, and stand up on stage telling people stories. Any good? I hear you say. Meh, mediocre, at best.

Which means I am the best at being mediocre. So, yeah, I've achieved my boyhood dreams. Giddy-up!

Mark's new book, 'Predumb: Before I Came to LA', is out now

Sunday Independent

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