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How I helped do away with Michael Flatley's mystery girl

I am sitting in for MOD who, after literally putting the MOD in Monday for 50 consecutive Mondays, is taking a short break to polish his diamond-encrusted Lamborghini and, if the rumours are true, give Sinead O'Connor a call.

As it happens, I first met Michael O'Doherty ( as he was then known) 14 years ago this month in the Pembroke Bar (now Matt The Thresher), on Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2, with Vincent Browne to discuss the relaunch of Magill magazine.


I recall nothing from the meeting other than that Vincent was wearing a heavily-creased white linen suit and that Michael sported a brown leather jacket in the blouson-style popular among power balladeers of the mid-80s -- they looked like a weary, veteran detective and his young badly jacketed rookie cop.

I lasted with them about six months.

MOD and I met again to launch VIP in 1999 and a very early shoot involved the magazine's current cover star, Michael Flatley, and his then girlfriend at home in Malibu.

On the night before we went to press we got a call from Flatley. Would we come to the Westbury Hotel and show him the photos.

I went to his suite and was sandwiched between the dancer's then press agent Chris Roche, a very large man and another large, unnamed man (I recall he may have been Russian), on the couch as a pensive Flatley sat across sifted through the slides on a mobile light box.

He then removed every single shot of him with the girl. "You can't use these," said Flatley, flatly.

The real reason -- presumably he and the girl had now split up -- was never given. Instead I was told that Michael had a reputation as a single guy hoofing around the world and that a shoot like this would destroy that image. "You understand?" asked Chris Roche.

The shot without the girl amounted to about six images of an even-more-oiled than usual Flatley working out in a gym. This was impossible, I told the assembled.

Flatley then stood up and began to pace. I tried to lift myself off the couch but the press agent and the Russian seemed to close in and the room got smaller. Flatley, now pretty furious, asked "Why are you doing this?"

I mumbled that we had spent a fortune going to California for the shoot, this was our cover and about 12 pages inside and maybe we should, you know, see if we can reach some kind of compromise.

Flatley then closed the conversation: "I put this country on the map. What have you done?"

Answer there was none.


These were the very early days of computer airbrushing, soon to be known as Photoshopping, and the next few hours were spent laboriously removing Flatley's ex from every, single photo.

Tucked away to this day on MOD's computer are the images of the Lord of the Dance and the lady that never was. And there they will remain.

He had put the country on the map. It was the least we could do.