Samantha Marks remembers an awkward encounter with a pop star in Starbucks


Some years ago I went to Madrid to train as an English teacher. The training course was to last two months. Shortly before it commenced I checked into a hotel in the city centre on a temporary basis, before finding more permanent accommodation. Then on my first night in Madrid I went to out to eat dinner, and afterwards went to the nearest Starbucks for coffee and to read the required book for the course.

While I was waiting for my latte I noticed how crowded it seemed inside. The clientele was entirely female with each table taken with lots of young women talking amongst themselves in an excitable and expectant manner. However at the rear of the cafe, which was at a slightly lower level, there were some seats unoccupied and I went over there to get seated. 

Samantha at Leeds Pride in 2018

I’d  got stuck into Teaching English as a Foreign Language when a young man walks over to me waving his arms about, closely followed by a young woman. She was very smartly dressed and discretely made-up; whereas he looked like some scruffy undergraduate who had just rolled out of bed after a night on the town. To be honest, if he had been sweeping up and mopping the floors he wouldn’t have looked at all out of place one bit.

“You can’t sit here,” he said, which to me seemed really odd as I was staring at least three empty chairs.

“Why, what’s the matter?” I replied, slightly confused.

“No you misunderstand… you can’t sit here because I’m a pop star,” he pleaded trying to clarify the situation. 

“Oh really?” I replied, quite incredulous at what my ears were hearing. “Look I’m just sat here reading my book, you’re not bothering me at all,” I added. 

Pop star looked a bit flustered, possibly because I hadn’t a clue who on earth he was and, unlike his fans who were almost camped-out nearby, I was quite indifferent to his celebrity status.

A few minutes later he returned with the duty manager who took one look at me, threw his arms in the air and simply walked away. Pop star may must have realised by then that no power on Earth was going to move me. And besides he wasn’t going to disappoint his crowd of adoring and mostly adolescent female fans all because of one seemingly awkward trans woman from England. So pop star and his female companion both sat down nearby and, very reluctantly, joined me for coffee.

“So where are you from?” he asked. 

“England. London actually,” I replied as it was where I had been living until then. “How about yourself?”

“Italy. So why are you here?” pop star probed. 

“To train as an English teacher. I’m starting a course tomorrow,” I replied. “How about you?”

Initially there was no reply to my question. And then: “Excuse me, but are you a boy or a girl?”

Quel horreur. Oh shite… “Not that old chestnut again”, I thought to myself, and I paused for a few second before replying. “I’m female. I’ll show you my passport,” I said with more than a modicum of pride.

This wasn’t a wise move on my part. Pop star opened up my maroon coloured UK/EU passport, turned the first page, and suddenly jumped up from his seat like a giant puppet on speed. It felt like he’d launched himself into the air and then crash landed nearby.

“Ambulance, ambulance… please come quickly. Help help!” he cried as he pretended to speak into his air mobile phone. Now, in retrospect, he was probably trying to create some kind of spectacle for the fans but at the time I suddenly felt minute, and wanting to urgently disappear into a dark corner somewhere. But I didn’t move a muscle at that point: I kind of froze and my pulse began to run riot. Pop star sat down with a huge grin of pride on his face. 

Then female companion shot him a look that was the kiss of death and quietly said something in Italian. Whatever it meant seemed to shut him up for a while, and he became quiet and pensive. 

I guess he then felt he had to engage in some conversation, as we talked a bit about music. He said he was a U2 fan and I told him I’d seen The Who live in concert. But then I got distracted by his girlfriend who had stretched out her leg and placed her foot down strategically over pop star’s crotch. Perhaps it was her statement of ownership but she needn’t have worried because I don’t generally go for men. 

At this point, I started to think about leaving as this encounter was drawing to the close of play. But one thing still bugged me and I was thinking to myself, “Iz you iz or iz you ain’t a popstar?”

So I asked him what was his name and where I could find his music. He began to shuffle about a bit and looked uncomfortable, looking in his girlfriend’s direction for some support, no doubt. “It’s Guillermo,” he replied.

“I think that’s like William in English,” I said, thinking to myself that if this ever gets into a newspaper the headline ought to read “Pop star tells porkies” or something like that. But it was time to go so I said Ciao for now and departed.

Two months later, I flew back from Madrid to Luton with EasyJet but my suitcase had a plan of its own, travelling from Madrid to Marbella in the south of Spain, and then on to sunny Tunisia before it came home. I thought that perhaps this was a message from my Higher Self, kind of nudging me to take a holiday. But not being one to do as I’m told in life, I flew to Bangkok a few months later for my first nose-job and an upper and lower eye-bag removal (which you could say is the polar opposite of Mr Sainsbury’s bag-for-life guarantee!)

As for pop star, I was doing a quick internet search on Italian pop stars a few years later, and I can tell you that although he IS a pop star, he certainly ain’t called Guillermo, that’s for sure.

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