Lord Of The Dance: My Story by Michael Flatley“I’m sitting on the porch of Castlehyde, staring into the depths of the Blackwater river as it flows past me.”
Oh, my giddy aunt. And it doesn’t even start there because you see, Michael Flatley is a man who (in a mere book about his life) needs no introduction. Or else you would think:
“(Michael is) a rare, potent phenomenon. A dreamer and a doer, a world winner in the grand tradition of American Enterprise.”
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the subject of this book would make Chris Moyles look like Pee Wee Herman on the grand scales of arrogance and ego mania, but really, what sort of autobiography opens with a 5-page introduction, full of invisible applause, cringe worthy praise and sickly fortitude from the subject’s co-author?
“He believed as a child, as he does now, in the arithmetic of dreams, the more certain it is that they will come true.”
Someone pass me the sick bucket, please.
The co-author in question is one Douglas Thompson, who is mainly (as in, every other book before this) a biographer. But in this book, he is very much the minor role in this latest project. Of course he is.
Included in this biographer’s minor role seemingly is the position of interviewer as not only does ‘Lord of the Dance: My Story’ tell the rags to riches story from the author’s own lips and large, feathery quill, but we also hear from those closest to Michael for their insight to this enigma of a man. We hear from family, friends, work colleagues, ex-lovers (who are not bitter and still very much in love with him, it seems) and of course, conquests (sorry, dancers) he has worked with over the years.
Sorry Douglas, please continue:
“It was a brave step for Michael Flatley to encourage me to interview people on three continents with no assurances of what they might choose to say about him.”
Yes, I’m sure it’s all going to be very balanced…
“Reality often pales in comparison to legend. Not this time. I went looking for the man behind the myth and found an astonishing story. And a friend.”
Is anyone else creeped out yet? Now those guys have gone off and got a room together, let’s carry on.
As the great one has now been introduced, he then slopes on like a proud cougar onto the pages in the form of a wistful, dreamscape prologue (Yes, it’s a long way to Chapter One), where we find our ridiculous first line about his castle and as you can probably expect, “The dance is there in my very first memory…” he soon tells us.
But first, he does not want to talk about ‘the dance’, oh no, we open Chapter One with the story of a man and his flute. How he as a young lad walked miles (barefoot and in rags, mind) with his beaten up wooden flute, that he taught himself how to play with no knowledge of reading music (even still to this day), in search of someone to teach him how to play and how they did laugh when he presented them with his instrument.
Michael thinks back to how the cruel music shop assistant was to him,
“I’m nearly crying writing about it now.”
I know you all have lumps in your throats, people and this is as difficult for me as it is for you. Be strong people, and continue with me on this journey. If but for nothing, but for the sake of THE DANCE.
Fear not, for our story does not end a sad one though. As you know, Michael eventually became a celebrated flautist and two-time winner of the All-Ireland Flute Championships, the first in 1975 and he smugly gets to put one over on his early detractors with sour and wistful comeuppance. The Wikipedia list for the said championship standings places one Dierdre Hollis as champion that year, but what matters people is that in his heart, he was a champion.
And yet, he then went on to produce and release TWO albums of his own flute recordings. Both those albums are currently unavailable and seem to be curiously absent even from his own website’s, “Celtic Tiger Store”but still in his heart, he is a celebrated flautist. Because that is what counts. If you a celebrated anything in your heart, you ARE amazing. He tells us that thanks to his grandfather’s ethics he learned the special qualities that enabled him this amazing life. That of strength, determination, concentration, working hard, standing your ground, belief in one’s self and the ability to state things enough times, they become facts.
As well as an interesting admission about his family ties to the IRA, the early part of the book has an overbearing emphasis on family poverty. Not the pains of the Irish, in general. Just his own. Like when he’s sorting out the second hand toys on Christmas Eve with his mother and how it felt as a seven year old to be told that there was no Santa Claus and how it pained him to see the enthusiasm in the eyes of his younger brother.
“Santa hadn’t brought me anything, I wanted to tell him. I wrapped my presents myself.”
The violins (or in Michael’s case, Donegal fiddles) are expected to play at this point, but I can’t help feeling that it’s all a bit too much Charlie Bucket really. In that, it’s far too fairytale and I do wonder at times whether this book should have gone to paperback and just instead stayed in some sort of velvet-bound hardback, tied with ribbon and emitting wondrous inspiration, glee and sparkly fairy dust every time it’s opened.
Michael was a dreamer, as Dougie T pointed out. At School he admits (to my astonishment) that he wasn’t the best pupil. Probably the only thing in this book he is not BEST IN THE STRATOSPHERE at. No, his attention strayed.
“Years later, I found that I had a high IQ…”
Ahhh, so that’s where he was going.
“…and that my real problem at school had been that I was bored.”
That, and the countless wedgies, I expect.
Michael, ever at loggerheads and frustrated with the tabloid perception of himself throughout the Riverdance and Lord of the Dance years, attempts to answer his critics somewhat, who question what they call an ego in him. In a rare, humbling, pondering moment between others praising him by simply telling us that with him, it is just a question of confidence and an instinctive and learned sense of determination, distilled in him from a long line of overachievers within the field of THE DANCE. The field that he was destined to be a success in, and absolutely not a question of selfish egomania.
Michael, I appreciate that sentiment and that you explain this to us and to a certain degree, I can empathise, but you then go onto open your next chapter with a quote from a Roman emperor.
I mean, timing is supposed to be your thing. Tell us about Riverdance though, Michael. We’re all dying to hear…
“As I danced, I felt eight hundred years of Irish repression on my back.”
No you didn’t. Honestly, he’s so melodramatic. It’s really tedious. More so than that though, on the subject of Riverdance, his breakthrough show, and how he was solely responsible (despite his super and magnificent team, all of which love him) for some sort of re-invigoration of Irish culture and taking the credit of a resurgence in the interest of all things Irish. A fact that is frankly ludicrous.
Yes, he has done a lot for Irish culture but acknowledge that, stay humble and move on and talk about something else. Don’t bleat on about it all the way through the book, like you saved the country from some sort of poverty-ridden abyss. Yes, Riverdance and in turn you being the person behind it all, completely re-invented Irish dance by (as you put it yourself) just raising your arms above your shoulders and introducing the aspects of American tap, but you cannot (I will not allow, I say) take the credit for the booming economy and even (at one point) the changing fortunes of the club’s soccer team.
If we are going to argue about it, major recording stars like The Corrs, The Pogues, U2 and Sinead O’Connor and the phenomenon that became The Commitments were out there promoting Irish culture around the world while you were still digging ditches.
So, don’t give me any of that culture-saving messiah shit. Who do you think you are? Chris Moyles?
On the subject of the messiah. Delusions of grandeur do not even fully describe the tone of this book, as the documentary style interviews that continue to plague each chapter like a potato famine get sillier and sillier and it seems like everyone he comes across has some sort of vision that he is indeed the second coming as he improves and enriches all of their lives.
Then, calamity. Michael is fired and cast out into the wilderness of THE DANCE, as he is fired from the Riverdance show, which as he points out wouldn’t exist without him, in case we weren‘t really paying attention for the last 100 pages.
But fear not, for he is a man of valour, strength and fortitude and he picks himself up and decides to stage his own show. But not before pointing out this one particular review of the first show in London that Michael is replaced.
“Dunne, a man with the build of a leprechaun and hair that badly needs barbering, does not have Flatley’s skill or sex appeal.”
Meow… But just when you are beginning to think that Michael is an upstanding man of principles (and I know you all do) then begins the toing and froing between women and the many relationships his heart desires. It’s uncontrollable, apparently. Because of THE DANCE, he is far too a passionate man.
Whereas he tries to paint himself as some sort of victim of the heart, he just comes across as an arrogant arse, playing one’s emotions off onto another. He ends up looking like some sort of prize ham to be fought over by two cackling wenches at a village fete and the teenage dancer whom he has a fling behind his wife’s back with.
Kelly Byrne, is made to look like some home wrecking, deviant slut, constantly thirsty for Michael’s taut, chiselled body. That’s right, it’s very chiselled and he is at the peak of fitness, a specimen like no other for his age also. A fact he often likes to point out.
He refers to Kelly as ‘wild as a bog fire’… He’s got his mother’s charm for sure. But I think she was just a nineteen year old inexperienced in affairs of the soul. He doesn’t ever admit it (for it is a sign of weakness) but he treats her appallingly, using her for his lustful ways and I expect, danced a merry jig all over her heart.
It leaves a sour taste, to be sure. Michael is very much the spiritual man. A man of faith. Not only extreme faith in one’s self but also others. In particular, the spirit of his dead grandmother, who he always saves an empty seat in the venue for, and attributes a miracle recovery from a torn Achilles to her.
He should be a man of faith too, with all of those included people in the book who believes he is the Saviour and some sort of medicine man, especially when his sister thanks him for single-handedly pulling her out of some sort of severe depression with one three hour walk. Ok, he did that and he’s a nice guy but really how many times in one book do we need to be told by all and sundry that he was always destined for greatness. But faith isn’t something that is taken lightly. No, not at all. Michael believes that he can do anything, even fly:
“I saw myself as a man standing naked on the nose of the Concorde with my arms out, my eyes wide open, the supersonic jet flying as fast as it could possibly go.”
Ok, I’m bored now. You probably are too, so let’s wrap this up.
Unfortunately for this book’s subject, sorry author, is that Thompson’s clear and innate desire to kiss Michael Flatley’s backside is so apparent it has really worked against the tone of this book, which is overly melodramatic, vomit-inducing in it’s humble portrayal of Michael’s upbringing and more importantly, the more and more Michael involved in his growing business empire (brought on solely from his own hard work, inspiration, vision and creative genius and nothing else) and the more ruthlessly rich he gets, the more smug he gets.
The decision to pepper Michael’s words with documentary-style comments is both annoying and off putting that just seems like vanity, despite them presenting it as a brave step. In fact, it seems like there is more bile ridden, verbal sucking than words from the actual man himself.
I have no doubt that right now (as you read this) one Mister Flatley is sat in one of the many vast, stone-clad rooms of his Irish castle, feet up and surrounded by pots of gold and dancing pixies (but only doing one of his groundbreaking routines) and seated on a gilded throne, legs akimbo and erect penis in hand, reading a leather bound copy of this book.
Walt Disney World: A Dream Come True (1986)
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Yes, it did take money, employees and a large team of artists to create Disneyland, but it all begins with courage. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. We didn't go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. Your work is never finished. If Disneyland was built in 1 year, I think we can finish our lingering projects a lot sooner than we think.
Walt Disney had to overcome extreme resistance and rejection to get Disney Films off the ground. He died of circulatory collapse caused by lung cancer on December 15, Regarded as one of the greatest minds in the entertainment industry here a few lessons we can learn from the legendary Walt Disney. He become the famous voice of Mickey mouse and went on to create an empire. Needless to say, people thought he was crazy with delusions of grandeur.