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.