Yep, you read that title right. Ladies and gentlemen, I am ready to be humiliated. I bear myself before you as I admit this hilarious, adorable, strangely tender truth: My actual first love was Michael Ball.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll disregard fictional first loves, of which I’ve had many. (Mr. Darcy, Clayton Westmoreland, I’m lookin’ at you.) My first real love was Michael Ball, and I have the cringe-worthy proof coming up. First, allow me to tell you how it all began…
The Michael Ball discovery began when I was approximately 17 years old. Which means Michael was like…52? Mind you, it didn’t start with the 52-year-old Ball. (Although, to be honest, I don’t give a damn. Neil Diamond’s 78 and we all know I’d get with him any day. And Fred Astaire’s dead! Age is just a number.) I was adding musicals to the playlist for my school commute, so that I wouldn’t have to listen to the music played by the girl in my carpool. I started exploring Aspects of Love and thought, “My! Whose beautiful voice is this?” It was the voice of baby Michael Ball.
To make a long story short, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is based on a novel by Bloomsbury-ist David Garnett. It’s basically a love octagon in which literally everyone is in love with each other. Quite nonsensically beautiful though. Makes me cry. Look it up.
When I made the effort to watch the Aspects of Love performance at the Tony’s, I saw Michael and I thought, “…Meh.” There are indeed many aspects of love, one of which is seeing the guy and assuming he’s not all that. Jump a couple years into the future and I have completely changed my girlish mind.
In the words of my ex Fitzwilliam Darcy, “I was in the middle before I had begun.” Therefore, I can’t quite determine when or how the obsession started. It might have been with the 2014 album If Everyone Was Listening. Michael Ball singing “Stuck Like Glue” is a total dance party. My heart definitely got involved when I listened to the Original London Cast of Passion, written by my boy Steve Sondheim. Michael played the Italian captain learning about love, and I love Steve, and the music overwhelmed me, and dammit I think I started to fall for this man!
The fact that I associate Michael Ball’s solo albums and Passion OLC with my time in college does – not – help. My first years at university were absolute misery. I’ve never fit in with young people, since I’m mentally about 50-80 years old. I was always alone, always exhausted by depression and mysterious stomach pains. When I listen to Passion I see myself on a rainy day in Fall. Sitting on the steps of the art department, headphones in, eyes closed, wishing I could fall asleep forever. This Kismet medley reminds me of the first time I heard it, standing in line at the school café, barely able to contain my emotional reaction to the voice and the songs.
It’s all kind of sad now that I write it. But also sweet! And weird as hell. I became obsessed with this man. Seriously, you will not believe all the content I’ve seen over the years. God bless you, Internet. You helped me find super 80s music videos, interviews, concerts…the Coronation Street cameo, that movie musical parody with Lily Savage… THIS TV trivia contest where the winner got to roll out with Michael in a limo!!!! To this day, I have never felt such intense envy.
Now, a lot of you may be wondering… Why? I must respond with, “Why the hell not?!” His voice is unbelievably beautiful – and untrained, by the way! Then there’s the smile, the curly hair… Seriously, why wouldn’t I fall for him? Look at this video below. What the hell, Michael Ball in 1993? What the hell?
I totally loved him. I loved him, knowing at one point he sported hideously blonde hair. But I wasn’t in love with him yet. You know how that happened? I decided to ship myself out to London for a week. (Using a credit card – ahahaha, so smart.) I could not be in the UK without seeing my man Michael. Luckily, he was set to perform for the Queen’s birthday and the Royal Theatrical Fund.
So, it’s a temperate June night in the West End. I’m standing outside the Haymarket Theatre, wearing a black vintage dress and hot pink leather jacket from Notting Hill. The concert I had just witnessed changed everything. I felt like I had truly become a woman – a very unnerved, happy, pained woman, quaking in anticipation. In spite of my nerves, I knew I had to try and meet him. But I didn’t see Michael after the show.
I continued reliving the moments in my mind. I chose to hold in my tears until I stood in the hotel shower. Whatever love is, I had felt it while I watched Michael Ball sing. And, obviously, there was nothing I could do about it.
Michael Ball was my first love. And I almost wish he was my last. Mind you, I never “broke up” with Michael. I’m still a big fan, listening to his new albums and checking his social media on occasion. But the romance ended out of necessity.. You know, because he’s 34 years older than me, very happy with Cathy McGowan, and doesn’t know I exist. Then again, I’ve had a hard time with men who do know I exist…
If I’m honest, I never felt that way again. It was pure. And, much like Aspects, was ridiculously, incomprehensibly real. How real? So real, I had to tell him.
Yep. That’s the humiliating proof.
I tried to tell him. I emailed the Michael Ball Show at BBC Radio. You know, the address you’re supposed to write to make song requests and talk about music? I wrote a very long email and I told him the whole story.
Rather than try to recapture my experience in the audience at the Hayworth, I’m going to embrace my disgustingly sweet and naive young self – by sharing that exact email with you.
Oh, and I’ll be commenting in bold. That way we can laugh at it together.
I never received a response. (Thank God.) Let’s all hope that if Michael read the email, he immediately did this:
Where to begin? I suppose I ought to start by saying that I’m immensely fond of you, as well as inspired by your work. It’s hard not to admire the passion with which you sing and create music; in fact, your dedication to your craft caused me to rethink the limits I had set in my own life. Slightly introverted, horribly lacking in self-confidence, I had never imagined I would look forward to a future in which I would sing on the stage, not just in my car or my shower. Until I met you.
Or, I should say ‘saw you’. Back in June I came to London on a ‘holiday’ with my mother. I’d always wanted to come to the UK of course, but this trip I was especially interested in seeing my favorite singer perform. So there I was, front and center at the Royal Theatrical Fund’s charity event. I saw you sing “I Won’t Send Roses” and “You Made Me Love You” (two of my favorites, by the way) Still favorites! and the experience, for me, was almost indescribable. However, I will make an attempt to convey precisely what occurred there in row H, seat 7 or so:
You walked out on stage, and I loved you. Instantly. Anyone who knows me will tell you that though I’m young, I am passionate. I fall into cheery, blissful ‘love’ easily and fully, whether it be with an actor or a novel or a song I’ve had in my head all month. This was entirely different. The feeling was intense, uncomfortable, entirely unexpected and undesired. It felt as though I were seeing one of life’s many doorways when I saw you. As if you could have shared some small or large part in my life, had things been different, had I been older, prettier, smarter, or simply in the right place at the right time. It was all downhill from there once you started to sing; I’m not ashamed to admit gentle tears were shed, though I was inconvenienced by the sting of melted makeup in my eye and the need to make conversation with the elderly woman at my right WITHOUT looking like a cow-eyed idiot. She was very nice! Bought me ice cream. Probably because she saw me crying. Also, that mascara hurt like a bitch.
The memory of that night haunted me on the flight home to Los Angeles. And it continues to come back to me from time to time, that stabbing pain in my chest and the inability to wipe the stupid, tearful smile from my face. Cringe. I never expected to be so completely and irrevocably undone. Seeing you in person changed everything for me, including my priorities for my future life.
Though I do love you, there’s also a part of me that thinks we would be at least good friends, CRINGE if things were different or if I were a bit more intelligent. I don’t know why on earth I said this. I was and am intelligent, dammit. As it is, we both love music, – though I never realized just how much I loved to sing until I became a fan of your work. So, I’m changing my scholarly focus to music this coming school year. Though I’ve always loved it, I’ve never once considered studying it. I’ve simply never had the confidence to imagine myself using what I’d learned and doing well. The board is still out when it comes to my possible rate of success, but none the less I am doing it. Yeah, I effed that up. Literally didn’t even finish one semester as a music major. All because I fell in stupid, silly love with a man I’ll never really know.
Oh, a part of me likes to imagine us as good acquaintances who from this day on will write back and forth every now and then, discussing our favorite things, but I know that can never be. Of course that can never be!! Such a creep. What the hell. In fact, I’ll be lucky if you don’t immediately toss this message out and pray that God deliver you from the nutty Californian girl. I assure you, I’m not a danger to others, though I’m sure I must be a danger to myself for going through with writing this letter. Anyway, since I doubt we’ll ever speak again, I want to share a few final thoughts:
I’m not sure if you’re past that point in your life where you’re mentally pacing the floor, wondering after your value and worth. I doubt Michael needed this. But it’s sweet of me to say. Whether or not you have those days of uncertainty, I want to say that I value you, and that you’re worth a great deal. You are a gift of unspeakable rareness and quality. Handsome, gifted, intelligent and, of course, inspiring. I’m sure you’ve heard many women talk about your voice and your looks, which, we’re all agreed, are top shelf CRINGE!!; but when I think of you, I think of your unique ability to sing with all your heart. To lay yourself out on the line by courageously singing anything and everything, from Andrew Lloyd Webber to ABBA. I pray you continue to challenge yourself, and that you never underestimate your God-given talent for fashioning love through music. Saccharine. But quite true.
To finish, I must beg that you not read any of this on the air, that is if I ever summon up the nerve to send this to you. God help me, I have no idea why I’ve done this. I can only say that I had to tell you. I could not bear the thought of you never knowing.
Thank you again, my favorite, my friend. My first and forthright love, the only one I’ve had so far in this life. Maybe, if I manage to dig up the talent, we’ll work together someday.
If we do, I hope you won’t remember this letter.”
Michael will never fully leave my life. He’s an incredible singer, total sweetheart, and the man who graced my bedroom wall. (I bought a rare 1996 poster in a literally ENORMOUS size – floor to ceiling.) A girl never forgets her first love. Whether the memory makes you laugh or cry, it will “never, ever let you be the same.”
Comment below telling me how crazy, hilarious, or concerning this is.