Friday, August 4, 2000
'Publicity Is What I Really, Really Want'

It is another match made in public relations heaven: the unexpected
(and, Robbie fans might say cruelly, highly unlikely) revelation that
Halliwell and Robbie Williams have "fallen for each other in a big
Whether we're falling for it in a big way, too, is another question.

As Robbie, 26, and Geri, 27, took separate flights to the romantic
South of France, their fans are left to puzzle the coincidence that
Robbie's latest single, Rock DJ, has been released this very week.
insiders say it will top the charts on Sunday - and the publicity
resulting from this supposed St Tropez tryst won't have
done anything to harm its chances. If Robbie's song does it, he may
inclined to splash out on a birthday gift for Geri, who turns 28 on

This "relationship event", as it can only be described, is curiously
reminiscent of similarly fortuitous moments experienced by Geri. In
fact, this sort of miraculous timing is becoming a bit of a speciality.
Remember the lucky coincidence last November when, on a Thursday, it
announced that Geri had formed a shock coupling with DJ Chris Evans?
(Again, the word "unlikely" sprang to some minds).

Her third single, Lift Me Up, had been released the previous day and by
Sunday it was number one. Their romance was cemented with a fake
wedding on Evans's breakfast show. When Geri was asked on air if she
take this man, she replied: "Hmmm, will it help sell more records? Yes,

Some thought the timing of their loving revelation was essential in
avoiding ultimate chart humiliation: Spice Girl Emma Bunton had a
(What I Am) out that week, too. With this extra publicity Geri outsold
by 30,000 copies.

Geri either has a publicity-savvy God shining down upon her or is a
fantastically calculating businesswoman. Slated as "washed up" after
splitting from the Spice Girls in May 1998, virtually everything she
has done has turned to gold, despite constant criticism.

Her autobiography If Only has sold 320,000 copies, netting a satisfying
profit for Transworld publishers, which raised eyebrows by paying
£1million for the rights. When the hardback was released it topped the
best-seller lists for 19 weeks and the paperback has just gone straight
at number one and looks likely to stay there for
some time.

Record company EMI was initially ridiculed for offering a £3.3million
record deal but Geri's much-maligned album Schizophonic has sold two
million copies and yielded four hit singles, including three that went
at number one, one of them outselling everything else in the chart by
to one. Whatever she is doing, whether it's cynical manipulation of the
public or not, she is having the last laugh.

Of course, there are always those who suggest that Geri needs to be a
specialist in hype to cover up for deficiencies elsewhere. Former
colleague Mel C said last year: "She's hiding behind all that because
she's not talented. Geri can't sing and can't dance either." The same
been said of Madonna, to whom Geri has been compared and who also never
misses an opportunity to capitalise on publicity.

TIMING is crucial: Geri's first single Look At Me was released in the
same week as Channel 4 screened Molly Dineen's infamous documentary
her. However you thought Geri came across (and as initial horror turned
sympathy, the 45-minute film became, surprise, surprise, a publicity
coup), you knew she was back.

Similarly, she chooses to unveil any image changes with military
precision. July 4, 1999 should have been remembered for the wedding of
Victoria Adams and David Beckham. But as her former friend exchanged
vows Geri was already lining up her front-page credits by appearing
for the first time at Hyde Park, with a new blonde hair-do, more
than ever and a bare midriff. She upstaged the Spice Girls again at the
Brit Awards in March when her performance of Bag It Up, featuring her
emerging from between a pair of 70ft female legs, became the focus of
evening. The Spice Girls were awarded a Brit for outstanding
but once Geri had ripped her shirt open, no one really noticed. (She,
incidentally, had been nominated for two solo awards, where the other
Spice Girls' solo efforts
received no attention).

And Geri's efforts are not just confined to targeting the British
record-buying public. She pulled off a global coup in January at an
awards ceremony in Cannes. The Golden Globes were taking place in Los
Angeles on the same night but despite the presence of Liz Hurley (the
ultimate scene-stealer) in LA, it was Geri whose see-through Versace
outfit was beamed around the world.

It's interesting to note that despite this encounter with Robbie, for
the first time Geri appears to have nothing to promote. Her film
Therapy doesn't start production until December and, for the time
she doesn't have any imminent singles releases.

So is she just being generous to a friend who wants a number one or
could it be love, after all? A spokesman for Geri's PR chief Matthew
said "no" on both counts: because there is no relationship. "They are
friends, no more, no less," he says, confirming at least that they have
gone on holiday together to St Tropez - but with a group of friends.
like with George Michael - they're just mates. Robbie and Geri have a
in common because they have both left pop groups to go solo. That's
They hang around together a lot because they both have the same
choreographer and are with the same record company. They bump into each
other at EMI all the time."
Relationship or not, if Geri is passing on some of her tried-and-tested
publicity knowledge to her new "boyfriend", then
he'd be a fool to ignore it. He's been solo since 1995 and is worth
£11.25million. Geri released her first solo single just over a year ago
and is already worth £19.6million.

Watch and you might learn something, Mr Williams.

© Express Newspapers, 2000