Sunday, 2 December 2007

On The Nature of All Things Mirren

We had a little party at our house tonight for close friends. Nothing special, it was a time for old faces and well worn anecdotes. It was livened up a little after dinner when, having invested a little too heavily in the grape, Nigel Havers challenged Wendy Craig to a fist fight. Of course, I stepped between them but only after Havers had been laid out on the lawn, the merest tap of Wendy’s knuckle having drawn blood from his nose. How were any of us to know that she’d learned her unarmed combat skills with the RSC?

But this was another example of how celebrities never fail to surprise me. You normal people – and by ‘normal’ I only mean unknown, talentless and generally feckless – can never imagine how those of us born to this life have a surfeit of skills. Jack Osbourne isn’t a prodigiously annoying young man with fewer talents than he has wits. He’s actually a classically trained oboist and has written two books on the symbolic language used in eighteenth century Italian libretti. His sister has so many charms that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Kelly’s work to negotiate a peace treaty between East African nations has been unfairly ignored by the media who insist on portraying her as the spawn of a village idiot and a succubus. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jumping to conclusions is a fault we all share. Whether vastly blessed with ability and TV contracts, or struggling to pay off credit card bills amassed in the local off-licence, we are all occasionally prone to grasping the wrong end of the stick. My post, yesterday, has been wrongly interpreted as a moan about my readership. Such a conclusion can hardly be further from the truth.

My wishing for more readers would be like complaining that the membership of the local heath club was too low and we want more colonic irrigators pumping out large-hipped shop assistants. Do we go to the golf club and decry the lack of imbecilic bus conductors or witless manual workers? Of course we don’t. And the same is true of my blog. I’m glad that it’s exclusive. Keeps out the undesirables. And before you take offence, that doesn’t mean you, but it does mean the person following you. Yes, you!

I think this all came into focus a few months ago. I was at the premier of some film – I can’t remember the title because we slipped out the back once we’d been photographed on the red carpet – where I got chatting to its star. Helen Mirren radiates beauty, talent, and charm on screen but she’s an intense ball of eroticism in the flesh She’s an actress I’ve always admired from afar for a couple of reasons. I said as much to her as I cornered her outside the ladies in the Odeon.

‘Looking forward to seeing the film enormously, Helen,’ I said. ‘But since I won’t be staying around to watch it tonight, can you tell me: when if finally comes to DVD, can I expect to see the unubiquitous topless shot?’

She pulled in her chin, as though a little started by my honesty. ‘I’m playing the Queen,’ she replied.

‘Yes, but isn’t it a matter of artistic interpretation and what’s right for the role?’ I asked. ‘And given that you’re playing the Queen, who is, I believe, a woman, God bless her, wouldn’t it only be right to portray her in her natural habitat, i.e., strap free and swinging loose? I mean, she is part German. That makes it continental film. You know… Like the French.’

‘Richard, I think you’re being rather rude,’ said Helen. ‘I don’t know if you’re trying to be amusing or trying to annoy me.’

‘Hey!’ I said. ‘I’m not the one who can’t keep my nipples in my dress!’

She thrush a glass of champagne into my hand and backed away. ‘I’m sure we’re all glad about that,’ she replied. ‘And for what it’s worth, I think people get naked in modern films far too often. Sometimes it’s sexier if it’s left to the imagination.’

And with that, she began to retreat towards the bathroom. I was left there, holding her glass in my hand, and feeling the eyes of celebrities staring at me. I couldn’t let them think that TV’s greatest talker had been outfoxed by a mere actress.

‘So,’ I shouted to Helen’s back, ‘where does that leave those of us who don’t have an imagination? That’s what I’ve always loved about your work, Helen. I didn’t have to imagine a thing. It was all there. Up on the screen. In glorious colour. Looking down on me…’

A moment later, a guard arrived and asked me to accompany him to the stage door where I happily met up with Judy who had been escorted there after having an argument of her own. She’s apparently had a furious row with ‘Handy Andy’ who she’d taken to task about the right way to put up shelves on a studded wall. And that’s when I fist came to realise that the celebrity mind is a hugely complicate and often contradictory thing.

We all want to be loved and we crave attention. Yet we also hide ourselves away and seek solitude. We’re eager to get naked on the screen, yet become little puritans when people say they admire our jugs, cherries, onions, or, indeed, our slightly bent bread sticks. So, when I say I want lots of readers, know that I’m happy with what I’ve got. And when I say that I’m happy with what I’ve got, know that I want more… many, many more.

Could it be any simpler than that? I think not.


leewouldbemrshavers said...

Yes, but did nigel say the word bollocks in his nice accent? That's what I'd want to know ;).

Listen here -all Lizzie's private bits are reserved only on show for Phil the Greek, and are certainly not for portrayal on screen.Let's hope it always stays that way, too.

philthegreek said...

Oh, blast -that doesn't make sense -there should be a / between reserved and only on show.

Richard Madeley said...

Lee/Phil, I think I see what you're saying but I'm only being honest when I say that Dame Helen's best work has been done without the use of clothing. That, in my mind, is real acting. Not a single prop.

Selena Dreamy said...

I'm glad that it's exclusive. Keeps out the undesirables. And before you take offence, that doesn't mean you, but it does mean the person following you. Yes, you!

Well, that does it. I definitely consider myself >undesirable<, as alien as a Scottish Prime Minister in the English House of Commons. Nobody ever responds to my posts. Never! Feel free to eject me from your domain. I shall relish being actually spoken to for once.

Take Bryan's blog, for instance. Which is supposed to be >about, among other things, imaginary ideas.< The first thing you notice - apart from the absense of imaginary ideas - is that all he ever talks about is football. Apart from the pictures of old churches, of course. Either he has entirely lost his head or he sees and knows something that altogether escapes me. I refuse to believe that a fearless thinker like Bryan should, at the age of sixty-six, end up as a sacristan. But when I met him I discovered an entirely different man from the one I had imagined. I remonstrated once, but received no reply (we avoid talking to each other as much as possible).
And the fact that I'm hiding behind a fictitious intermediary doesn't mean that my name is Abrahams. I, at least, have a clear conscience. He obviously has not. Frankly, if I wanted to be welcome on any blog it would be Jeremy Clarkson's. But then, I don't suppose he's even got one.

For all further inquiries please call the Bryan Appleyard switchboard on 0209 496 2785. Discreation assured!

Richard Madeley said...

Selena, the very fact that you consider yourself undesirable and wish to be ejected means that I welcome you with open arms. The fact that nobody normally answers your comments means that I’m more than happy to answer you. Judy tells me that she loves me because of my good looks but I suspect it’s because I’m so damn contrary.

I agree about Bryan but you have to admit that he looks good for a man already collecting his pension. I’d have put him at least twenty years younger. Yet I suppose that explains his recent obsession with churches. A man of my relative youth can’t get drawn into these old man discussions about the proportions of naves. The next thing I’ll know, I’d be hosting Songs of Praise and cutting out coupons for thermal socks from the Daily Mail.

Funny you should mention Clarkson. I’m currently negotiating with him to write something for this blog but he’s being stubborn about his fee.

(By the way, the number you gave me didn't work. The people there didn't know anybody called Appleyard stopped picking up the phone after the fourth time I'd rang it.)

Selena Dreamy said...

Gosh, I never thought I'd see the day. An entire reply all to myself. My customary irreverence has, hitherto, made me the blogger who, more than any other, is detested by his hosts. But this, of course, changes everything. Thank you Richard, for your courtesy. And if I have conquered my own irreverence with this extreme display of gratitude, it is because I hope it is useful. I might even watch your TV-show. Except, of course, that my 1976 black & white Deccavision has a very bad reception on Channel Five.

Too bad.

One more thing. I notice you post a lot at the ghostly hour of 2 am. Are you an insomniac like Bryan, or do you work in bed, like Marcel Proust?

P.S.: I will do everything possible to persuade Bryan to reflect on what he is doing wrong.

Richard Madeley said...

Selena, well have another reply all to yourself. I too share the same fate. My replies are usually ignored by one and all. As I believe I complained about in my previous post. I think it's that most people don't have a humorous attitude to the world. They expect we visionaries us to be as serious as they.

No, I work the other way. I work into the night while the world sleeps. I believe it's a popular routine with many writers. When I do go to sleep, I usually have a very deep sleep.

All Shook Up said...

Wendy Craig? I'm surprised she still gets an invitation to your soirees.

Like Her Maj, she's not someone who ever bared her knockers for her public, either.

rilly super said...

I'm sure I went to school with a Selena dreamy, although that might be your married name of course...

Thor said...

Amusing that you should post this the very day before Dame Helen won the award for Best Actress at the European Film Academy awards:

Also, I'm new to your blog - and already I'm enjoying it thoroughly. Or as thoroughly as a fantastically nerdy American college student can. It's quite good.

Richard Madeley said...

All Shook Up, you're right. Wendy is a lovely woman, though she does pack quite a right fist.

Rilly, are you saying that you're Rilly Selena?

Thor, it's only natural that you enjoy this blog. I'm American friendly and I try my hardest to explain our eccentric British ways. I take it that you do know who Stephen Fry and Bill Oddie are?

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