Trouble is, few do and the myth is perpetuated. Sadly, for replying ‘I don’t care who you are – take your millionaire self away,’ an unsuspecting victim of an over-paid, under-civilised, groping footballer found herself appearing as a witness in a UK court last week, after he’d punched her so hard in the face that her lip was split and her nose broken. Ironically, the sickest part of his defence was his claim to have been the victim of mistaken identity.
For those who court publicity, there comes a point where how it is obtained is immaterial. The same faces are continually doing the rounds, turning up at glitzy premières, scampering about on a tropical beach or tumbling out of taxis.
There was a time when celebrity status was reserved for positive achievement. Now the currency has changed to focus on notoriety through excess. We are faced with a surfeit of tawdry cocaine sniffing, serial alcoholism, wardrobe malfunctions and an unbridled willingness to reveal sordid intimate details of private lives – whether true or false – all to attract the glare of publicity.
Animated clothes horses ensure that the paparazzi are installed to capture a lucrative ‘exclusive’, before flouncing in public clad in as little or as outrageous as will get them and their imperfections plastered in the rag mags. And when it comes to high-altitude hissy fits, the first-class cabin in the sky provides a veritable stellar rogues’ gallery which has led to many a bumpy landing and a path to the courts of infamy.
France has a particularly lively magazine industry thriving on the love/ hate relationship the nation has with showbiz. This both makes the publications very readable and accounts for the frequent front-cover legal judgments against the publishers.
This blatant ‘two-faced’ approach, of publicising capricious goings-on on one hand while sending them up with unconcealed venom on the other, mirrors the hypocritical attitude of the ‘glitterati’ themselves, given their own ‘dog eats dog’ appetites.
Of course they will always be a gold mine for the gossips and unscrupulous former employees, happy to divulge tales of cruelty, summary dismissal and petulance behind the scenes.
There are also frequent opportunities to sow questions about the elliptical underlying morality that goes with being constantly under the glare of the ephemeral make-believe spotlight. How often have we been left speculating about the ‘accidental’ disappearance of expensive jewellery and clothing draped over them during photo shoots?
Unless you’re one of the pack, it’s difficult to understand or accept the well-publicised excessive demands of these dippy ‘drama queens’. By the way, it’s not a uniquely female trait – it simply reflects the keener media appetite for photo opportunities to accompany such foibles as capricious instructions that hotel suites be redecorated in their own favourite hue, air-conditioning recycled, hand-picked lackeys in constant attendance and traffic brought to a halt as they and their mighty entourages hit the street.
Having never run a hotel or restaurant, I confess I can’t vouch for what it’s like to be ‘favoured’ or targeted by the so-called celeb set. So I’m not across the calculation of how the publicity of having them on the premises balances with having to put up with the disruption, boorishness and inevitable repairs.
However, it came as no surprise to read a couple of weeks ago that one particular Hollywood actress had been busily refining her pretty woman credentials during filming in India by upsetting the locals with an entourage of thirty-five bodyguards, whose activities had blocked access to several temples during a religious festival. ‘Ah these stars who consider themselves divine’, opined the reporter. But such is the kingdom of the Diva.
And like desert plants that wilt when moisture is withheld, their thirst for publicity is endless. Exaggerated claims of harassment, stalkers, kidnap threats, even personal violation – for which the police have no evidence – all designed to milk publicity, usually when either their agents feel they’ve been on the resting couch for too long or when an album, book or line of endorsed lingerie is about to be launched. Choreographed tales of hinted-at marriages previewed, paraded, dissolved, knots retied, all for the snap of an SLR shutter.
The point is, once in the public eye, like Royalty – though a cultural Berlin Wall apart – there’s no hiding place. You’ve chosen it, you live with it – it comes with the territory. Don’t expect to play the ‘celebrity’ card one moment when it’s profitable, then dive under a stone of anonymity on a ‘bad hair day’ when it’s too hot to handle. There’s no such thing as a private life, and it goes further. In waiting are the unproductive wayward progeny bankrolled by doting, uncaring, often absent parents, to litter the news pages with hedonistic excess.
I suppose you could say that throughout history the record shows the ‘haves’ have treated the ‘have-nots’ rather badly, but these are the ‘originally had nots’ showing contempt to the ‘wish they hads’. Nepotism has a great deal to answer for.
The French call this parade ‘Les People’, or ‘Les Pipol’ which is closer to how it sounds, but the species is universal. And with party season about to hit the free glossy mags, the court of notoriety is about to open its basement doors.
Be prepared for a photo-outpouring of the same banal faces clutching the obligatory goblet of cheer on the familiarity circuit. Excuse me, but don’t you recognise this wine glass?