When Sandro Monetti honed his craft on the local reporter rounds of old – courts, councils, community issues, breaking news and beyond – he never expected to end up mixing in the company of Hollywood A Listers.
Today having interviewed just about every major star in Hollywood as an LA correspondent for the British press and a celebrity biographer in his own right, the ex-Gazette reporter and journalism tutor is taking to the stage to reveal just what the big names are really like in his hit one-man show.
Fresh from successful runs in LA, New York, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and London’s West End, Clooney, Cowell, Pitt and Me: Amusing Encounters With The A-List is now headed to Sandro’s native North West with a performance at The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays later this month.
What? No Blackpool? Los Angeles-based Sandro says it’s the closest booking he got to his old home turf. His family still live locally.
Sandro admits: “I would have liked to perform in Blackpool but the Grand didn’t ask me. The Lowry and other theatres came to my show in Edinburgh and booked me after that. I’m hoping some of my old pals and closest friends in the resort will come to see me.”
But his old paper has been given a sneak preview as Sandro spills the beans for us by sharing some memorable moments from reporting on Tinseltown over the years for, variously, Sky TV, Sunday Express, Smash Hits, News of the World, the BBC and more.
He adds: “I’ve been so lucky getting to meet these huge talents and it’s a thrill to share funny stories of the stars with audiences who love entertainment as much as I do.
“It’s the first time I’ve been on stage in the region since I was the opening act for The Chuckle Brothers at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre many moons ago – I hope things go better than they did that night.”
Sandro’s kissed Madonna, headbutted Tom Cruise, irritated Jimmy Stewart, and tells of close encounters with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Simon Cowell, Kelly Osbourne, Joan Rivers, the Twilight stars (whose fans are known as Twi-hards) and more.
Sandro’s show recently sold out the Leicester Square Theatre on London’s West End. But the Salford performance is extra special as it represents a homecoming of sorts.
Raised in Blackpool, he began his journalism career on The Gazette before going on to report for Express Newspapers and other major media outlets. He lectures on journalism in Britain but spends most of his time at his home in Beverly Hills interviewing celebrities for the international press.
“My career has taken me from Coronation Street to Hollywood Boulevard and I can’t wait to share stories from that journey with an audience who’ll be at home with my northern humour,” says Sandro.
“As well as funny stories about American icons like Angelina Jolie and Sylvester Stallone I’ll be adding encounters with local favourites like Morrissey, who I met in the unlikeliest of places given his dour image…a comedy club.
“The first time I met Tom Cruise I headbutted him – by accident. I’d gone to shake his hand but I’m 6ft 2in and he’s ....considerably less than that. I leaned down, he reached up and bang.
“As he recoiled, holding that $30m nose, I feared my showbiz reporting career was over.
“He flashed that megawatt grin ‘don’t worry about it, man, could happen to anyone.’”
One of Sandro’s first big Hollywood interviews was with screen legend Jimmy Stewart (It’s A Wonderful World). “I got it in my head he must be hard of hearing and bellowed out questions. He graciously put up with this before eventually snapping and asking ‘why are you shouting, son? I may be old but I’m not deaf!’”
Sandro says Clooney is his favourite star: “Always enthusiastic, upbeat, eccentric. Last time he delightedly showed off his new iPhone 4S and got such a kick out of the talking concierge service purring at him: ‘Hiiiii Georrrrrrge.’”
His favourite actor is Mickey Rourke. “He took one look at my colourful jacket and said: ‘Have you been raiding my wardrobe?’ What a character. I wrote my first book, Wrestling with Demons, about Mickey and my next one, The Man Who Would Be King, about another top bloke, Colin Firth, who is every bit as friendly and witty as you would imagine.”
As for the star for who he feels most sorry? “Brad Pitt. It must be awful to be as famous as that. You can’t have a minute’s privacy without some idiot like me chasing after you.”
Greatest perk? “Meeting Angelina Jolie – and kissing Madonna. I cheekily asked if I could give her a symbolic good luck kiss on behalf of the British press. She replied: ‘You may kiss my hand.’ I kissed her elbow and arm too. Very cold skin.”
l Sandro’s biographies are available as e-books from Amazon. His show is at The Lowry on Sunday January 27, tickets, £10, call 0843 208 610 or book online at www.thelowry.com