In September 2011 I opened the door to ‘Nicole Urbanski Boutique’.
One day, when I was busy with customers, the phone rang. Helen, my lovely assistant took the call. I glanced over my customer’s shoulder and saw Helen holding the phone behind her back and signalling urgently with her hand for me to come over.
Her expression was serious. I excused myself and went over.
She whispered passing the phone to me: ‘It’s Hollywood!’
‘What?’ I was puzzled
She nodded with wide open eyes. I took the phone.
‘Hi, is this Nicole, the proprietor of the store?’ It was a distinctively American accent.
‘Yes, it is.’
‘Ah great, we are going to film an episode of ‘Joan knows best’ and one of our researchers has done a reccie and we love your place. Joan loves it too; she saw your website. We looked at other places in Brighton, but Joan thinks yours is different, more special. So, to cut a long story short, we would like to film this episode in your boutique.’
What? Is this somebody taking the micky? And who is Joan?
‘Sorry, I don’t quite understand…?’
Who is this?
Helen kept looking over at me.
‘Ok, let me explain a bit more!’ The voice on the other end of the phone sighed, expressing some frustration, as if I should already know who and what he was talking about.
‘I’m calling from California. We’re the film crew for Joan Rivers reality program ‘Joan Knows Best’. Have you seen it?’
‘Um, no… sorry!’
All I could think was Joan fucking (sorry) Rivers here? Filming here in my boutique??? This must be a joke! I thought of what I heard of Joan Rivers. She was very outspoken. What if she was rude to me, or about my business? On her program ‘The Fashion Police’ she was very critical, to the point of being cruel.
‘Can you give me a contact number, so I can call you back? I just have to think about it for a moment?’
‘Yah, no worries, but we need to know latest by tomorrow!’
What was I going to do? I could not sleep. At five in the morning I had an idea. One of my customers was Clare Balding, she is a celebrity! She might have even met Joan Rivers herself. Maybe she can advise me? I got up and wrote her an email explaining what had happened and what my concerns were.
She got back to me immediately. It was only six in the morning, but she was already up and on her computer.
‘Nicole, go for it! This is a wonderful opportunity,’ she wrote. ‘A professional like her would never want to be harmful to an individual like you. She only lashes out at people who are already in the public eye. She would not do that to you. Enjoy, this will be very good for you and your business!’
At eleven one Sunday morning in October 2012, the door opened and in walked Joan and Melissa, both tiny, both wearing enormous sunglasses, covering most of their faces and both looking like superstars. And best of all, they were here, in my boutique. My heart was beating fast, how did that happen?
And she was lovely! And so was Melissa. Very polite, very complimentary, very professional. When the camera was off, they were completely normal. When the camera was on, they were playing their parts as Joan and Melissa.
After the filming was done, they both started to shop. Really shop.
‘I adore this purple jacket, I must have it!’ Joan pulled my Carmen jacket from the hanger and tried it on. She did not want to take it off. Hats and clothes, scarves… we could not wrap them quickly enough. Joan scooped up the jewellery from my display table. She thanked me.
‘We never have enough time to shop. This is a real treat. You have a great place here!’
She was still wearing my purple boiled wool jacket from my Carmen Collection when she was filmed meeting Graham Norton in a restaurant a few days later back in London. The word spread quickly about our famous visitors and people came to the boutique wanting to hear all about it. She was an inspiration to me and I feel very blessed to have met her.
That is what I love the most with the door opening onto the high street, every day is completely full of surprises and unpredictable. You just have no idea who will come into the shop and therefore into your life.