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Eamon Carr: How I got Van and Michelle together

"If you don't see me when I'm on my lucky streak,

Woa, I want you to come on back. I've made it very clear,

I want you to come back home in the Celtic New Year."

(Van Morrison -- Celtic New Year)

Not since the First Noel two thousand years ago has a birth during the festive season caused such a brouhaha.

Web reports of the arrival of a "Little Van" last week have taken the celebrity spotlight off Tiger Woods and turned the harsh glare of media interrogation on Ireland's most private middle-aged twosome, Van 'n'Michelle.

As an information source, the worldwide web can be notoriously unreliable. So it was no surprise when Van piped up and protested that he wasn't the daddy.

But as further fuel is added to the fires of speculation, it seems that the normally reclusive Van is likely to become the international paparazzi's target-du-jour.

They seek him here. They seek him there. Those hard-up paps, craving fresh celebrity meat, will seek our mystic Belfast Cowboy everywhere.

Intriguingly, Van is set to play three concerts in a few weeks time. They're all in Texas. Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas.

Anyone predicting the demise of the paparazzi phenomenon had best think again.

Texas is the reported home of mystery woman Gigi Lee, mother of the baby announced on the web as George Ivan Morrison III.

If Van's shows in the Lone Star State go ahead, then the world will be watching to see if Gigi Lee shows up. It's said Ms Lee, the woman described as his business partner, lives in Fort Worth.

Should Van wish to leave his hotel on personal business, he might be advised to don a fake ZZ Top-style beard to fool the newshounds who will be stalking him.

I'm almost certain I've never met Gigi Lee. I have, however, met Van's wife, Michelle Rocca, the former beauty queen. In fact, I played a significant part in bringing Ireland's current most famous couple together.

It was in the early 90s and Van had just performed what still ranks as one of the most sensational music shows I've ever witnessed.

The cast of superstars who joined in for a celebratory knees-up encore was equally staggering. Bob Dylan, Bono, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Winwood, Nanci Griffith, Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde and Jim Capaldi were among them.

Spluttering

Afterwards, as we sank a few dry sherries, Michelle, who was there with a mutual friend, announced loudly, "Van, Eamon Carr is giving your show a good review in the Herald".

The spluttering sound I heard behind me was Van doing an impersonation of a short fuse burning dangerously low on a stump of dynamite. Given the man's dislike of critics, Michelle's humourous aside could have lead to a major diplomatic incident. But luckily it was a party, after all, and as I stepped out of the picture Van's eyes beheld Michelle's ample beauty for the first time. It was love at first sight.

The next time I watched Van perform at the Point Depot, the old romantic sent Michelle on to read some poetry for the encore. She looked heavenly in a Ghost-style diaphanous dress which, unfortunately, failed to silence a noisy crowd.

Still, the couple survived more tempestuous nights than that and I rejoiced to hear that they had parented two children together.

Sixty-four-year old Van keeps in good shape. He has a radiant smile, an interesting line in headwear and, like the late British jazz giant Tubby Hayes, enjoys tootling on his saxophone.

Last year, to celebrate the success of the Herald's HQ magazine, I thought Van might like to shoot the breeze on music and stuff. So despite the fact that I'd never been in his company without drink taken (by me), I floated the idea of a pow-wow.

Van politely declined. He wouldn't be doing any interviews with the media in Ireland, either print or electronic. Fair enough, says I.

Then came the surprise. A suggestion to conduct a live online interview with Van exclusively on his website. Some colleagues urged me to accept the offer.

Van is a difficult man to say no to. He's an artist. One of this country's most compelling, yet complex, poetic voices. But I had to decline his generous offer. I felt uneasy about interfacing with web technology. I felt it would be the wrong medium.

I worried about the security issues involved in such an online venture. And now sadly, after last week's sensational claims, so does Van.


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