Flatley tells court how `cordial' relationship soured

 

The former Riverdance and Lord of the Dance star, Michael Flatley, described the deterioration of his working relationship with his manager which eventually led to his dismissal during the UK leg of his hit show, during cross-examination in the witness box at the High Court yesterday.

A story of a "cordial" relationship that became soured by allegedly violent incidents and continuing unhappiness with his manager's attempts to secure film deals and advance publicity for Lord of the Dance led the dancer to question whether Mr John Reid was putting his best efforts into representing him.

Mr Reid, former manager of the singer Elton John, is suing Mr Flatley for a reputed £10 million, claiming breach of contract over his dismissal by Mr Flatley early in the UK leg of the Lord of the Dance tour. In a counter-claim, Mr Flatley alleges deceit by Mr Reid and is bringing a claim for negligence against his former solicitors. During five hours in the witness box, Mr Flatley admitted he did not have a good memory for certain key dates or the precise nature of conversations with representatives of Mr Reid's company, John Reid Enterprises (JRE). However, asked by Mr Reid's counsel, Mr Robert Englehart QC, to recall events during a holiday in the Maldives in December 1996, Mr Flatley spoke of being "horribly disappointed" that no one from JRE had telephoned him to congratulate him on the Lord of the Dance video reaching number one in the UK.

"It was very important to be number one in the UK, it can't get any better, it's an enormous thing. Getting to number one is a major thing and it was worth saying something to me," he said.

Mr Flatley also spoke of a heated exchange with Mr Reid on the opening night of Lord of the Dance at Wembley Arena in January 1997, in which he said his manager had "screamed . . . using a lot of profanity and throwing things around and yelling".

The meeting, in Mr Flatley's dressing room, had been unwelcome, he told the court, because he had already begun his stretching exercises and was mentally preparing for the show, which was "a big night for me". Mr Reid had brought two glass unicorns for Mr Flatley as a Christmas present and these were "very nice", but he was also demanding to hold a business meeting and Mr Flatley eventually agreed.

"I don't mind swallowing things along the way . . . but screaming at me right before show time I don't see as a proper way to manage," Mr Flatley added.

Despite disagreements about Mr Flatley's wish to secure a film role, which he said Mr Reid considered "premature", and about advance publicity for Lord of the Dance in America, he said his relationship with JRE was "cordial". He was not making complaints, he simply wanted to discuss the best way to advance his career.

Another area of disagreement concerned the services of Ms Arlene Phillips as director of Lord of the Dance. Mr Flatley maintained her role was "not necessary". She was a famous choreographer who had worked with the group Hot Gossip, but he had worked hard on creating Lord of the Dance and believed he could fulfil the role of director.

However, Mr Flatley claimed that Mr Reid told him that VVL, a subsidiary video company of Polygram, had insisted that Ms Phillips should be hired and that if she were not hired they it would not support the Lord of the Dance.

The case continues today.