Diary: Mick Jagger Is Criticised for Being Wrinkly. but He's 57! Would We Really Prefer Him on His Seventh Nip and Tuck?
Frostrup, Mariella, New Statesman (1996)
I've just returned from a week-long fundraising trek in Nepal with Penny Smith on behalf of the children's Society. Our arrival coincided with the end of the Maoist guerrillas' ceasefire and the announcement of a state of emergency. However, the moment we saw the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas glinting in the distance, Osama Bin Laden himself would have been hard-pushed to deter us from setting off. In a group of 50 of the charity's UK supporters, we headed for the hills. Local newspaper reports took the edge off any fear. Apparently the Maoists were operating in a distant part of the country and honouring promises not to harass foreigners. Aside from their battles with the police, the guerrillas' worst crimes to date included demanding donations from passing Sherpas (for which they issue receipts). The Maoists' terror credentials were further damaged by the local media's continual misspelling of their name. We were warned to be on the lookout for "Moist" guerrillas. In our tent at night, curled up togethe r for warmth, Penny and I speculated on how we'd be able to spot their approach. Perhaps a series of damp patches on the dusty footpaths?
Perhaps it was the sight of the Nepalese going through a daily battle just to stay alive, but one look at the papers on my return convinced me we really have to get agrip in this country. It's not like we've got such a lot to be proud of at the moment. Queues for beds in hospitals, homeless people on the streets, a Prime Minister who runs around begging America to let our troops go to war, infrastructure that's falling apart, a terrible record on pollution and waste disposal, and an overfished North Sea soon to be closed to cod fishermen. Fifty years after supposed emancipation, women are still not on equal pay, children aren't safe on the streets and racist attacks are a drunken Friday-night norm. But why should we worry about all that when we've got celebrities to distract us? Robbie Williams's battle with fame immortalised in 140 minutes of documentary, Liz Hurley's struggle with single motherhood straddled across the frontpages, Geri's search for spiritual enlightenment, Mr Madonna telling his wife to cover up. The list of strangers' lives we spend our days gorging on is endless. In my line of work, you meet them all and, quite frankly, the "celebrity" lifestyle is as mediocre as everyone else's. Perhaps if we cauterised our showbiz obsession, we might get around to tackling real issues that would improve our lives. First step is stop buying Hello!, OK!, Heat and all the other dreadful rags that convince their readers that other people are having a better time. Trust me, they're not.
Our addiction to drivel was never more in evidence than with the deluge of vitriolic publicity about Mick Jagger having the audacity to release a rock album in his fifties. …