Jumping in at the deep end, I’ll start with a name drop. I love them. Shame on me, but I do. UK news broadcasts now include the warnings, ‘Caution, this segment contains flashing images,’ (although I can’t help but wonder how many unfortunate epileptics are bracing themselves in their armchairs around the country – six? Ten? And do they reach for sunglasses or peep through their fingers?). I hardly need warn you that I season my writing with celebrity names as liberally as I do swear words. I’m worse than Roadies, who would needlessly apologize for their language in my presence before they realized I outshone them in the cuss department. What can I tell you – my father was a sailor, about the only profession further down the scale than Roadie for abuse of the spoken word. It wasn’t a love of the sea I inherited.
So. My good friend Chrissy Iley, (Hooray!) veteran of more celebrity interviews for The London Times than you’ve had hot dinners (with apologies to my three friends who are Raw Food proponents…actually, no, fuck ‘em, they are deeply weird) once said to me that the secret to writing was to tell your story exactly as if you were writing to your best friend. Spill all, especially the juicy gossip. No holds barred. I don’t write fiction. I share the inner workings of my cluttered and shabbily disintegrating mind on the page. It’s very personal. Now that a great deal of it is out there in the world for strangers to read I find myself having to come to terms with the concept of people I’ve never met knowing me quite well, or certainly feeling they do. I write, hopefully, in the way that I speak and I have, as do all of us, a pattern and style that is my own. Watching an actor’s work for decades will familiarize you with a large part of who they are, because they can’t help but insert their own mannerisms, inflections and facial expressions into a part and it leads to the feeling that you know them at least as well as your Auntie Doreen. Likewise musicians, who have the added secret weapon of music to evoke an emotional response in the listener that I’ve always envied. However, once you have spent some time on the other side of the celebrity fence and had the myth of glamour dispersed you become less likely to place anyone on a pedestal even if you understandably admire their body of work. Have I fantasized about getting stuck in a lift with someone who’s work I adored and letting them know that yes, yes, yes, I identified completely with their emotional revelations and also, ah, I’m a really interesting person that they’d get along with like a house on fire given that we think so much alike, if they only got to know the real me? Of course I have. So have you. But the reality of being an artist is that the real gift you imbue your work with is the ability to strike a familiar chord with your audience, in the same way that a comedian stumbles across a great joke of human foible. Something you imagined was your private and unique habit being a trait we all identify with, such as moving speedily away from a fart in a small shop, hoping against hope that the remnants won’t cling to you like a large arrow. I know, I know. I might have chosen a loftier example. Heartbreak in a song. There you go. The trick is to recognize and be aware of falling into that trap. Be yourself and live your own life creatively and who knows, you may end up on the other side of the fence for it (even if you still love a name drop) instead of being the persons recently discussed in the Michael Jackson trial who gathered outside the Staples Center to speak with him then raced to his house through the traffic to get there first to speak to him all over again.
I’ve been on the frenetic side of the fence too, I might add, and I’ll tell you how. 1984. Not wishing my marriage to fall apart due to my husband growing and becoming distant due to a lifetime of extraordinary experiences that I hadn’t shared with him, I was accompanying Culture Club (Huzzah! Got another one in) on their massive North American tour. There is an adrenaline rush of acute fear and heightened excitement that comes with running the gamut of a hysterical crowd upon arriving at an airport or hotel. It can go horribly wrong, such as the time Roy and I got separated from the band in Sydney airport and had to take refuge underneath the desk of a travel agent’s booth in the terminal rather than run the risk of having our hair torn out and clothes shredded. That really happens in uncontrolled mob frenzy. It’s dangerous and frightening and you worry not just for your own safety but also for theirs. Anyway, anyway, (I am gesturing in vague dismissal; I gesture a fair amount when in full flight, be glad you’re nowhere near me with a replenished glass of liquid) we were preparing to plough through a vociferous crowd of several thousand by the time we arrived at a certain Toronto hotel. The local radio station had been helpfully giving a blow-by-blow commentary on our precise location. Oh, thank you so much. We geared up for the duck and sprint and piled out of the mini van that had ferried us from the airport but in the melee of arms and legs my hand was ripped out of Roy’s firm grasp and a surge of mania quickly put a dozen people between us. I was swallowed up in a sea of screams and yelled out my husband’s name in desperation and panic. It suddenly dawned upon me in one ghastly and delightful second that everyone else was doing the same thing with identical intonation. “ROY!! ROY!!” Damn. Like getting caught in a January Sale rush, along with everyone else I was fighting to get near the band. Well, I could fight harder. Plunging in with determination I met with the immoveable force of a six foot four security guard who stuck out his arm just as I dived for success. He clotheslined me and I went down faster than a Detroit Lions Quarterback. Roy could only watch in dismay over his shoulder as he was carried away by a tide of police bent on protecting their primary targets and only once inside did he manage to alert them to let me through the front door. Breathless, dishevelled and scraped I dusted myself down on attaining the sanctuary of the service elevator with the band and various personnel. I was aggrieved in a very 21-year-old working class Essex way: “Some complete cunt just decked me!”
I couldn’t believe he admitted it, but from the corner of the elevator, an immense and stoic security guard broke his silence with an incongruously timid voice. “Uh, sorry, ma’am. That was me.” Right you are. Awkward.
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