If you paid as much attention to your homework….

Simon and wife Lolly Gallup with his Emmy in Los Angeles last night.
Simon and wife Lolly Gallup with his Emmy in Los Angeles last night.

Woke up this morning and… No, don’t worry, it’s not going to be a blues lyric. My woman was safely at my side, my crops (well the runner beans at least) were just fine and my livestock (the cat) was happy, healthy and eating a hearty breakfast.

I woke up his morning to find that social media was alive with the fact that my brilliant, talented brother, Simon, has just won an Emmy for his lighting design work on the American TV programme Dancing With The Stars. The award is well deserved and it’s been a long time coming. Simon, an excellent lighting designer with 40 years experience of theatre, music, stage and TV work, has been nominated every year for more than a decade. Until now though the coveted Emmy has always gone to someone else. A few weeks ago he told me that his “loser’s smile” (perfected to avoid awkward TV footage) was as perfect as it was possible to be. Well let’s hope his winner’s grin came even more naturally.

Simon (right)  and me 44 years ago
Simon (right) and me 44 years ago

The fact that Simon became a lighting designer came as no surprise to anyone at all. As children ( Simon  is three years younger than me) we were often taken to the theatre.  From an early age he invariably looked, not at the stage, but over the back of his seat at the people operating the lights. He got some early hands-on experience with school productions and also at the Hong Kong Stage Club where our dad was a leading light.

The day he left school, formal exams finally over, he wrote the words “education begins” in his diary and headed straight for London where he was soon working in the West End helping to build sets for plays, operating a dry-ice gun for the Royal Ballet, taking any jobs going. Watching and learning. Next came years on the road with rock bands. Touring Europe with everyone from Caravan and Barclay James Harvest to Iggy Pop and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith. He worked with Blondie, Madness, Wire, Simple Minds, Lene Lovich, Status Quo – a curious slew of musical styles but they all needed lights.

In 1981 Simon moved to Los Angeles and started establishing the well-deserved reputation that he currently enjoys. Over the past three decades he has toured extensively and produced a wealth of LA based work that encompasses live theatre as well as lighting for TV and video. He has worked with Sinatra, Streisand, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli and countless others. There have been many one-off shows, TV specials, awards ceremonies and long-running series like Dancing With the Stars too.

It’s funny that we both remember an occasion back in the 1960s when we were avidly listening to Pick of the Pops on the radio and our mother – still going strong at the age of 88 by the way – told us that if we paid as much attention to our homework as we did to the charts we just might stand a chance of getting decent jobs when we finally left school.

Having watched one son earn a living lighting countless shows for musicians and the other pay the bills by writing about them, she admits this advice may have been misguided. Not that it matters. It was ignored.

Simon, our mum and me.
Simon, our mum and me.

Simon and I don’t see each other as often as we’d like to these days and when we do our encounters can be in unusual places. I remember catching him for dinner in Las Vegas once and saying our farewells in a vast hall full of glass cages where half-naked men were frolicking with lions. Then there was a long midnight conversation held on a traffic Island on the Upper Westside in New York and the last time I saw him was in a pub car park in Surrey.

But however long we are apart, as soon as our paths cross again, we seem to instantly take-up where we left off. I’m looking foreword to the next time so I can congratulate him on his Emmy face to face.

Author: Jeremy Miles

Writer, journalist, photographer, arts and theatre critic and occasional art historian.

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