Magazine article The Spectator

The World of Celebrity

Magazine article The Spectator

The World of Celebrity

Article excerpt

Television

For the last fortnight I have been laid low with flu, causing me to haemorrhage a fortune in lost income, to grow weak and depressed, and to be driven almost insane by the numerous prats out there who do not seem to realise that flu is not the same as a nasty cold and I bloody well hope you all get flu soon so you can learn the difference, especially YOU, sister-in-law Lydia.

But at least one good thing has come of it. All that time in bed watching far more TV than I do normally - Countdown, The Weakest Link, yes, even Richard and Judy - has made me realise something very important about myself: I do not want to become a celebrity.

Of course, deep down, I have known this for a long time. It's impossible to spend any length of time as a showbiz journalist, as I once did, without realising that being a celebrity is synonymous with being a total c***. But, I somehow managed to persuade myself that becoming a c*** was a small price to pay for being able to book the restaurant table of your choice at a moment's notice, having people recognise you in the street, being treated as an equal by fellow celebrities, getting to shag pretty much whomever you want, and so on.

Then I saw Dr Raj Persaud on Countdown and mine eyes were opened. Here is someone whose sole apparent purpose in life is to use whatever modicum of skill he has at his disposal - in Persaud's case, pop psychology - purely to get himself on TV as often as possible. He simpers, he smarms, he makes himself cosy and accessible, he wears his no doubt considerable learning lightly. But to what purpose? So that an audience of geriatrics, students, flu victims and the unemployed will know who he is should ever they find themselves accidentally next to him in the queue at Sainsbury's.

And the depressing thing is, it's not just Persaud, they're all like that. Even talented ones, like Carol Vorderman. Here is a woman with brains, wit and demure beauty, but how has she decided to use them? Why, the demure beauty bit has ended up being squeezed into ever more ludicrous dresses so as to get her picture in the papers; the wit bit, she employs so as to fend off the legendarily razor-sharp intellectual sallies of Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley; and the brains bit? Well you can imagine the scene at the Pearly Gates. `And how did you use that wonderful mind of yours, my child?' Peter asks. `Impressing daytime TV viewers with mental arithmetic,' says Carol, as the clawed hands seize her ankles and she's dragged, gibbering, down to hell.

Some celebrities probably think they're immune from all this. I'll bet Michael Parkinson, for example, likes to think of himself as a proper journalist, a serious interviewer and a trusty anchorman, untainted and uncompromised by the essential tawdriness of showbiz. …

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