ABOUT 40 years ago a teenager from one of Cape Town’s southern suburbs sat mesmerized in a local theatre as a teenybopper idol named Jonathan Butler belted out his first great hit, a wistful ballad called ‘Please Stay’
This week, Beryl Crosher-Segers reflected on that show – and that time so many years ago – as she began putting the final touches to one of the biggest tests of a burgeoning career as a showbiz promoter in Australia: a tour Down Under (and to New Zealand) by … the very same Jonathan Butler.
‘It’s incredible. Who would have thought that a girl from the ‘hood would be promoting a boy from the ‘hood some 40 years later – on another continent?’ she mused.
‘You’ve just got to love the circle of life.’
Crosher-Segers, who left South Africa 24 years ago to start a new life in Australia, is determined to keep her South African roots alive. ‘I’ve never stopped yearning for the sounds, the rhythms, and the memories of growing up in Cape Town,’ she said.
‘And for me, Jonathan Butler forms a big part of that unique era.
‘It is clear to me that many people who left South Africa to set up homes here remain connected to their roots. But I realize too that there are some who have moved on and have cut all ties with South Africa. For instance, I have a younger brother and a younger sister, who would not be seen at a South African event,’ she said.
‘But everyone is free to make their own choices – and I have made mine.’
Crosher-Segers said she has nurtured her roots, and the memories of what she refers to as ‘those wonderful years of music’ in 1970s Cape Town, by promoting shows in Australia that have featured South Africans such as Zayn Adams, Tony Schilder, Leslie Kleinsmith, Richard Caesar, the Rockets, Loukmaan Adams and Marc Lottering.
‘A few years ago when I brought Adams to Australia, I told him how, when he was a big star with the group, Pacific Express, and I was a teenager in the suburb of Retreat, he used to whizz past me in his red sports car.’
‘It’s strange how things turn out. Today, I am sponsoring his visa and making it possible for him and other artists to come to Australia.’
Crosher-Segers’ concerts are well attended by expats. In addition to being able to listen to good music, the audiences have jumped at the opportunity to catch up and socialize with new and old friends. And the fact that she donates some of her profits to South African charities is appreciated by many who attend these events.
‘The success of my productions featuring South African performers, and of the Koesiesta Kulture Klub, which I helped form two years ago with a Cape Town DJ, Gary van Dyk, and which serves as a forum for South Africans across the world to reminisce about music, shows that there are many expats who share my longing for the sounds of Cape Town,’ she said.
Explaining her Butler coup, she said she had first made contact with the Athlone-born, but now US-based R&B singer/guitarist via social media, and had had brief conversations with him about the possibility of bringing him ‘Down Under’. ‘The idea grew when a friend attended a Butler concert in the United States and introduced me to his agent,’ she added.
‘We set the tour in motion a year ago, but it nearly fell through because of the costs involved in bringing him here,’ she said.
‘Butler is very excited about coming to Australia and New Zealand and says it is a dream come true for him.’
Crosher-Segers said the Butler tour would be her biggest production – financially – by far since she started promoting shows in Australia more than 10 years ago. ‘I made the decision to go ahead with it only after much soul searching and long discussions with my very supportive family,’ she said.
And, laughing, she added: ‘They usually run and close their bedroom doors when I utter the words: “I’ve been thinking.”’
Crosher-Segers said the most difficult part of the negotiations to bring Butler to Australia and New Zealand was trying to make his management understand that while he is held in high esteem by expats, he is entering new territory in Australia. ‘He is virtually unknown in the local markets. I am definitely stepping into an area where angels fear to tread,’ she said.
‘But I have been so encouraged by the support and encouragement of strangers. This support has kept me going.’
The risks, nevertheless, continue to loom large. For a long time, she struggled to get the media to take an interest in the Butler tour. And it is common knowledge that media can make or break a show. Over the past few days, however, Crosher-Segers and her crew have been heartened by the news that a number of newspapers and radio stations have acknowledged the newsworthiness of the event.
‘It has been a major accomplishment to get them on board,’ she said. ‘But to add to the risks involved in putting on a show of this magnitude, in another moment of madness, I bowed to pressure from expats across the Tasman Sea – to take the show to New Zealand.’
Crosher-Segers said her team for the Butler show is … ‘Me – and members of my family’.
‘My daughter, Sasha, is the driving force in setting up the events. And my husband, son and daughter-in-law play significant roles in keeping things going. Even my two little granddaughters are good at selling the artists’ merchandise, often bringing them to sold-out status,’ she said.
‘My 81-year-old mother often helps by folding flyers and preparing for a mail-out. She is my biggest supporter and the person who has instilled in me the need to “live your dream”.
For Crosher-Segers, it is a dream that has grown and grown since those days, when, as an 11-year old, she used to invite people in the neighbourhood to pay 1 cent to see local children give dance and gymnastics concerts at her home in Pickerill Street, Retreat.
- Butler is performing in Perth on 18 February; Brisbane on 21 February Melbourne on 24 February; Sydney on 25 February; Auckland on 27 February and Wellington on 29 February.