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INTRODUCING

Introducing…Robert Wells

He's a hirsute cross between Richard Clayderman and Europe who can fill a concert arena better even than Elton John. In this week's introducing, Paul O'Mahony rhapsodizes about Robert Wells.

Who is he and why is he famous?

Robert Wells is a pianist, singer, composer and bearer of extraordinary hair. The ivory-tinkling entertainer is most famous for Rhapsody in Rock, the musical extravaganza of his own creation.

Never heard of it. Would you classify it as rhapsodic or rocky? Or both?

It is a heady mixture of rock, boogie-woogie and classical. Night after night the formula works its magic on a rapt audience. Perched behind the piano, his unique hair visible from all vantage points, Wells never fails to unleash a seemingly endless stream of old hits.

It must get a bit tedious after a while though: a man, his hair and a piano.

Oh no, there’s much more to it than that. With him on stage is a backing band made up of guitarists with poodle rock hairdos, a full symphony orchestra ,and a slew of guest performers. Imagine if you will a cross between Richard Clayderman, Europe and the Royal Philharmonic and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark.

I certainly will not. I’ll have left the ballpark in the time it takes to say ‘unholy alliance of incompatible elements’, and I’ll be picking up pace with every step.

Hold on just a second. His show is enormously popular so he’s obviously doing something right. Every summer, accompanied by his band of merry middle-aged men, Wells tours the length and breadth of the country and is joined on stage by household names such as Carola, Lena Philipsson and Tito Beltran.

And that pulls in the punters, does it?

It does indeed. Take the second half of 2003, for example, which was a good year even by his high standards. As the summer drew to a close Gothenburg was lulled into a Wellsian trance when 43,000 devotees filled the local football stadium. That was more seats than even Elton John managed to fill at the same venue.

Blimey!

Yeah, I might have known it would take an international superstar to soften your cough. Anyway, after the Gothenburg performance Wells went on to play 24 sell-out shows at Stockholm’s Cirkus venue.

Sounds like quite a year alright.

Hang on to your hat, it doesn’t end there. Towards the end of the year he embarked on a Christmas tour.

Let me guess: Rhapsody in Yule.

No, you’re miles off. It was called Jingle Wells.

How desperately amusing. Surely he must have settled down for a long winter’s nap after all that activity.

Not on your nelly. He hopped straight back into his one horse open sleigh and jingled all the way to China.

Gosh. Did he want to go or was he shanghaied?

You must be joking, he was delighted to go. He has beijingled repeatedly over the years and is a huge superstar in China.

How huge?

He once reached 600 million viewers on a single evening when one of his concerts was broadcast simultaneously by all six state television stations.

Cripes. Isn’t that somewhat akin to mass hypnosis?

Indubitably. And it worked. Wells was soon offered an acting role in a romantic drama series for Chinese television.

Really? What was the role?

He was to play himself. Robert Wells, the Swedish musical maestro, would meet and fall in love with a Chinese actress. But he decided to stick to what he knows best.

Which is what exactly?

Achieving untold popularity in communist countries for one thing. Way back in 1990 the Soviet Culture Ministry so dug the Wells vibe that they whisked him across the Baltic to perform Rhapsody in Rock. His brand of showmanship went down a treat in the crumbling empire and soon he was back touring Sweden with new back-up in the form of the Leningrad symphony orchestra.

What about bastions of capitalism? Any luck there?

Quite a bit actually. He has played a few nights at the Metropolitan in New York and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

That’s quite a resumé. Has he had time for a family amid all this activity?

Absolutely. He and partner Maria have been an item for sixteen years and have two sons together.

Good for them. And when did he get his big break or has he always been incredibly famous?

He certainly has not. When he first launched Rhapsody in Rock in 1989 there were as many musicians on stage as there were paying punters. For ten years he played the shopping centre circuit and and took what jobs he could until the show eventually built up a head of steam. Soon he was feted across the nation and became an ever present on game show Så Ska Det Låta, the highly successful Swedish version of The Lyrics Board, Ireland’s most successful musical export since Riverdance.

So much for one small country to answer for. Riverdance debuted at the Eurovision song contest, didn’t it? Has Wells ever made a stab at that?

Yes, several times. But his entries have failed to hit the mark. This year he took the unexpected step of submitting an entry to the Latvian qualifying competition. The song reached the final in Riga but lost out on the night.

Maybe he can try again with Lithuania next year.

Well, why not? The man simply knows no boundaries. As the title of one of his albums suggests, we are all mysteriously hyperlinked on the musicological superhighway that is the World Wide Wells.

ROYAL

Introducing… Camilla Henemark

Introducing... is The Local's guide to Swedish celebrity. In this installment David Landes gives the lowdown on Camilla Henemark - the busty pop-queen whose alleged affair with the king has once again put her in the spotlight.

Introducing... Camilla Henemark

So, who exactly is this woman and why is she in all the papers.

Yes. Well, where to begin. There isn’t much that Camilla Henemark hasn’t done: photo model, pop star, political activist, actress…lover to the king.

In the mid-1990s she hosted her own erotic television programme “Seventh Heaven” (‘Sjunde himlen’) and appeared on the spring 2012 season of “Let’s Dance”, Sweden’s version of “Dancing with the Stars”

She is also the author of a soon-to-be published autobiography.

Whoa, back up there. Lover to the king? Which king?

Well, the King of Sweden of course: Carl XVI Gustaf. At least according to Henemark, who was born in Stockholm to a Nigerian father and Swedish mother.

So is that why she’s making headlines these days? I mean, the king is a happily married man, right?

Easy there cowboy, one thing at a time. Henemark’s current round of headline-making stems primarily from her forthcoming book, “Adjö det ljuva livet” (‘Goodbye, sweet life’) in which the busty 47-year-old former face of the band Army of Lovers reportedly devotes page after page revealing her own army of lovers, including the king as well as a battalion of other well-known Swedes.

Army of Lovers? Wait a minute…weren’t they…

…big like 20 years ago? Yes. The band was founded in the late 80s and had a number of hits, with 1991’s “Crucified” hitting number one on the European charts. Here’s a video if you need to refresh your memory:

Ah, yes…that was all well and good, but let’s get back to the good stuff. What’s this about her getting down and dirty with King Carl?

Right. Well, reports about a fling between Henemark and the king first emerged almost two years ago with the publication of “Carl XVI Gustaf – Den motvillige monarken” (‘Carl XVI Gustaf – The reluctant monarch’), an unauthorized tell-all biography about the king and a number of alleged affairs, including one with La Camilla, is she is also known.

In her new book, Henemark says the affair lasted about 18 months and took place around the turn of the millennium.

So this was more than just some one-night stand?

According to Henemark it was, although exactly how hot and heavy things may have gotten remains unclear. She says she and the king were “very fond of one another” and saw each other weekly when the relationship was at its most intense.

In the book, she tells of one steamy meet-up which evolved into a sort of food fight.

“The king liked to gorge himself on sushi and cake,” she writes in the book, according to the tabloid Expressen.

I think I just lost my appetite.

Sorry to hear that, because I almost forgot to tell you about another food-related episode that put Henemark in the spotlight just last week.

Please…spare me.

Sorry…you asked, so I’m telling. Last week, Henemark was at the centre of another royal controversy – although not by choice. The dust up stemmed from a work of art depicting the King Carl XVI Gustaf eating pizza off the body of a naked and prone Henemark.

First sushi. Now pizza. Please, make it stop.

Well, let’s get back to those lovers, shall we.

Actually, I’m not sure…

Well, to use Henemark’s own words: “there isn’t anything or anyone that I haven’t tasted” she says in her new book.

“Young and old. Men as well as women. Counts as well as hooligans. Everything needs to be explored. I want to have it all,” she writes.

Okay, okay. I get the picture. But does she name any names.

Apparently yes. Names which have emerged so far include former boxing pro and TV personality Paolo Roberto, former hockey great Börje Salming, crooner Tommy Körberg; and rapper Dogge Doggelito. It should be noted, though that the degree of intimacy Henemark reached with these and others named in varied widely.

And what does the king have to say about all this?

Not much really. When the tell-all book about him came out in 2010, he told reporters he wanted to “turn the page” but never flat out addressed the rumoured affair which Henemark has more or less now confirmed in her new book.

And this time around, the king isn’t saying anything more until after the book comes out.

So, I guess we can expect a few more headlines next week when this juicy tome hits bookstore shelves?

I’d say that’s a safe bet.

David Landes

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