IN THE early 2000s, Westlife flew to Copenhagen to do a gig. Sofie Hagen was waiting for them. It was her hometown. She knew where they were staying.
When they emerged from their hotel, she jumped in a taxi and said to the driver: “Follow that car.” It was the best day of his life. “This is what I got into cab driving for,” he told her. For Hagen, it was just another day on the trail of Westlife.
“When I was 13, I thought I was going to move to Ireland and marry Westlife,” she says. Which member she intended marrying? “I think I would have married the band as a whole. That was the dream — to marry all of them and keep them in, like, a cellar or something.”
Hagen was part of a community of obsessive Westlife fans. “There was a lot of manipulation because we didn’t want anyone else to know where they were,” she says. “There was quid pro quo — ‘I will tell you which hotel they’re at if you tell me when they’re leaving the airport’, or ‘I have their tour manager’s phone number if you can get me Kian’s address’.
“It was very calculated. We would trick each other as well, saying, ‘Oh, they’re at the Phoenix Hotel’ and then we would be standing at the Marriot, meeting them on our own. It was very evil and mean-spirited. It took a lot of admin skills. A lot of us must have ended up in management positions today because we were good at getting our goals.”
Hagen, who returns to Ireland to perform at Galway’s Vodafone Comedy Carnival next weekend, was interviewed on a previous visit by the Westlife member turned RTÉ 2fm broadcaster, Nicky Byrne.
“I was very happy because I could finally meet him as a normal person and not someone who screams in his face. He’s just a nice, regular person. He wasn’t that dark like I thought when I was a kid. It was nice talking to him about these things we did as kids but I thought he would be more curious about the fan experience, but I think he was just a bit scared. The 14-year-old me would love that 13 years later I looked into the eyes of Nicky and said, ‘I used to chase you’ and he was very scared.”
Hagen, who moved to London in 2012, is a hot ticket on the comedy circuit, having won the best newcomer award at this summer’s Edinburgh Comedy Festival. She gags about her Westlife experiences in her show, bringing that peculiarly Danish worldview perspective on matters.
“In Denmark, everyone’s funny,” she says. “It’s kind of like Ireland from what I can understand. People are raised to be funny. You joke around with everyone, in a way that I haven’t seen in the UK. The most important thing for British people is to be polite. Whereas in Denmark — and I think in Ireland too — we don’t really need that because we’re a small country; we all know each other. We can get to the point.
“The humour in Denmark is abnormally dark. One of our biggest comedy films is about cannibalism, about two butchers who start eating people. And we have Lars von Trier, probably our best director. His movies are all about the end of the world and people who have been abused and people who’ve lost their child.
“He did a Nazi joke at the Cannes Film Festival, and got into a lot of trouble. He had to go back to Denmark. They didn’t want him at the festival because his joke wasn’t funny for them. In Denmark, people lost their minds: ‘What’s the problem?’ it would have been the funniest thing.”