Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The cult of celebrity

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The Levenson Inquiry into the British press is daily producing outrageous examples of the brutal intrusiveness of some journalists. The most forceful and excoriating of the celebrities called to give evidence is probably Hugh Grant who gave a grim catalogue of incidents where his family’s privacy had been violated. Grant has been part of the celebrity scene for some time. In fact a friend of mine saw him and the recently deceased director Ken Russell in the Izaac Walton Hotel in Ilam when they were making the film " Lair of the White Worm" in 1988. It’s not Russell’s greatest work it has to be said. Of course Russell himself later achieved a dubious distinction by being in the 2007 Celebrity Big Brother.
I have only occasionally been in the presence of a celebrity. I sat opposite Francis Rossi in a Manchester hotel and saw Joe McGann in "Coffee Beans" in Leek. On both times I gave them a wide berth. I suspect my stance is untypical. The usual response it seems is like that I witnessed on a train on the Wirral when Dean Sullivan aka Jimmy Corkhill of Brookside sat next to me- his after shave smelled nice it has to be said. The attitude of the other travellers on an overcrowded train was if a God from Olympus had descended. I was staggered by how awe-struck people seemed to be.
My apathy towards celebrity is even more amplified when it comes to royalty. In this I wear a plain republican coat. I did not come out in the street when Princess Diana visited Wigan when I worked there. Several years later I saw many paparazzi besiege a restaurant in Soho where she was dining. I cannot help but think that if everyone took my attitude to her then she would have had a happier and longer life. My indifference to the whole cult of celebrity is so marked that I cannot think of anything more hellish than Hello magazine. And I believe that the popular obsession with stars and stardom is corrosive to public life as the Levenson Inquiry is revealing.