I heard a story once – possibly more of an apocryphal tale – about Wham’s Andrew Ridgeley. (Remember him? He blazed a trail for the likes of Bros’s Craig Logan and The Corrs’ Jim Corr.)
The story goes that Ridgeley, drunk on fame and his celebrity lifestyle, had become an annoyance to the paparazzi who regularly camped outside many of London’s high-profile nightclubs. So one night, in advance of Ridgeley’s emergence from the bowels of his latest hangout, they all made a pact to down tools and turn their back on him, refusing him the publicity he craved.
I can’t remember how the story ended. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as Ridgeley’s star soon faded anyway. It was just a demonstration of the paparazzi’s power over celebrity. They knew that, to celebrities, fame is like oxygen. Keep it pumping through their champagne-diluted bloodstreams and they’ll happily regale us with news from their vacuous lives. But banish them to the cold, unforgiving vacuum of anonymous ordinariness, and the female celebs will claw wildly at their throats with talon-like false nails, while the sudden onset of a nosebleed cuts a trail through several inches of fake tan.
That’s sort of what I wish for the likes of Katie Price and Kerry Katona. Only I’d prefer their banishment to a paparazzi-less wasteland to be more like the final scenes of Total Recall, when Cohaagen, Quaid and Melina are ejected out into the thin Martian atmosphere, resulting in their bloated faces looking like something from an extreme interplanetary gurning competition.
If I ever got trapped in a lift with the likes of Katie Price or Kerry Katona, my heart would sink to the point of dribbling out of my bottom like diarrhoea. I’d prefer to be trapped with a Russian serial killer-cannibal. (Actually, seeing as this is my lift fantasy, let’s remove me from the equation, reinsert Price and Katona, and drop the Russian cannibal in through the service hatch. Hmmmm, yes, that’s better. Messier.)
Anyway, I digress.
Like most celebs who are famous for being inexplicably famous, they’re the kind of people who’d turn up to the opening of a cadaver’s chest cavity, just as long as they were promised free champagne, canapés and a VIP gift bag at the autopsy. (Drop some expensive freebies into a coil of intestines and there still wouldn’t be a single item left in the bag at the end of the evening.)
A celeb’s primary business is self-promotion, while their numerous other businesses – which usually span a bizarre range of unconnected products – have a pungent whiff of desperation about them, born of the knowledge that their ‘star quality’ is finite.
Katie Price is a case in point. She’s got the ghostwritten novels, the perfume, the electrical hair products, the equestrian clothing line, the baby clothing line, the range of defibrillators, and the ‘KP’-branded fleet of unmanned aerial drones. (OK, I made those last two up. But you get the idea.)
If Bob Blackman had achieved his fleeting fame today, his agent would probably encourage him to release his own range of designer trays.
From a business perspective, it’s impossible to deny Katie Price’s shrewdness and general business acumen. But it’s the fact that tabloids and celebrity magazines would climb over each other to publicise her launching a missile at a primary school that pisses me off. Yes, it’s largely the fault of the tabloids and celeb mags, and their willingness to cover every aspect of her life, but she knows full well that if she guffs under the duvet on Monday she’ll be able to read about it in the papers on Tuesday. Unfortunately, she doesn’t shy away from that. She exploits and embraces it.
But I suppose when celebrities have got magazines willing to write overblown articles about their personal lives, which read like a 30 year part-work of the shittest novel ever committed to print, maybe it’s easy to lose yourself in that. But that’s certainly no excuse!
Heat magazine recently referred to last year’s split between Peter Andre and Katie Price as “the biggest showbiz split of the century”. Presumably, by that same token, their cover version of A Whole New World must be considered “one of the greatest singles ever recorded”. Similarly, the brief relationship between Big Brother 8’s Channelle Hayes and Ziggy Lichman might well be “the most heartbreaking tale of lost love the world has ever known”. And Hayes’ latest boyfriend, Jack Tweed, is no doubt seen as a talented, charismatic hellraiser; a sort of Richard Harris-Richard Burton hybrid for the ‘who fucked who and wore what and fell out of which club’ generation.
(In reality, of course, Tweed is a profoundly thick convicted thug, only marginally less interesting than a rockery. But, hey, why not pay him a few grand and stick him on the front cover of OK! magazine so that we can all be reminded of just how unfamous he really is.)
In a recent Guardian interview, the wonderful Drew Barrymore said of the word ‘celebrity’:
“When I started out I was an actor. And now when someone calls me a celebrity, I want to shoot them. I want to go, thank you for reducing me – I’ve worked for 35 years, I’ve killed myself to be established as someone who is responsible, reliable and accountable in my field of work, yet you’re calling me a name of someone who basically got famous for no reason…it’s like the worst name on the planet. I hate it. And people say it all the time: ‘You’re a celebrity.’ No, I’m an actor. I’m a producer. I’m a director. I’m a toad. I’m roadkill. I’m anything but a celebrity.”
That quote is just one of many reasons why I adore Drew Barrymore. But she nails it: ‘celebrity’ is just a deplorable byword for someone who’s famous for fuck all. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the injustice of talentless nobodies earning more money in a year than most of us would see in ten lifetimes, but can anything really stop them?
The problem is, ‘celebrities’ have an inexhaustible supply of drivel for magazines and tabloids to print. If the rungs on the celebrity ladder are splintering and falling away, they needn’t worry. They can just do some (or all) of the following:
1) Start a new relationship in the full glare of the cameras (e.g. Kerry Katona draped over a Dyno-Rod plumber from Rawtenstall, or something). Then, when the relationship inevitably crumbles, they can sit back and watch their bank accounts bulge with various six-figure sums after selling ‘their story’ to various red-tops and celeb mags.
On occasion, it also seems to be ‘the thing’ for a celebrity’s new partner to automatically qualify as a journalist. Alex Reid has his own column in Star magazine, where he basically talks about himself and spends an exorbitant amount of time stressing that his relationship with Katie Price is full of rainbows and bunnies and laughter and love, and that it’s categorically not a publicity stunt. No, honestly. It’s all genuine. Mark my words: in a few months time, when their relationship implodes, under no circumstances will the tabloids and celebrity magazines be awash with headlines like – ‘Alex: Why I left Katie…and why I still love her’.
2) Contrived celebrity feuds seem to be in vogue at the moment (Katie versus Peter…Kerry versus Katie…Cheryl versus Sarah…Paris versus
Nicole Ritchie Kim Kardashian etc etc). The reason for these so-called feuds is simple: there’s nothing truly interesting to write about these people. But the public love a good fight, don’t they? Having said that, it’d be more interesting to read about a feud between Ricicles’ Captain Rik and the Nesquik Bunny. At least they’re more famous.
3) If a feud isn’t on the cards, celebs can always spend thousands of pounds on cosmetic surgery and invite the paparazzi to marvel at their stunning new look, which usually sits uncomfortably between a six-year-old’s first attempt at modelling a claymation character and something from Louis Tussaud’s House of Wax (after a fire).
4) The classic drink and drug addiction, followed by rehab, followed by redemption, never fails. Not so long ago, “shameless” Kerry Katona was splashed across the pages of the News of the World funnelling coke up her nose with all the suction of a Dyson. Now, a mere nine months later, according to Reveal magazine (which I bought purely for research), she’s filming scenes for a possible new reality series with the working title Recovery With Kerry.
I’m just going to have stop writing for a moment so that I can vomit and weep into the toilet.
Right, sorry about that. Where were we? Oh, yes…
5) Alternatively, ‘celebrities’ can always squeeze out a few kids. Katie Price recently said that she wants eight kids (or “as many children as my body can have,” as she recently told Reveal magazine). Given her penchant for botox injections, I imagine the strain of forcing out several more children might, at some point, see the obstetrician delivering the baby down at the business end while a second medical team work tirelessly to plug a gaping fissure in her forehead, pissing botulinum toxin like Old Faithful.
For us, this is the most awful route for a ‘celeb’ to take because their offspring’s future CV will simply read “inherited fame” (think Peaches Geldof and Callum Best – two perfectly useless fucking morons with justifiably famous fathers). Somewhat depressingly, we’re all probably going to live to see Katie Price’s daughter, Princess Tiaamii, splashed across every magazine front cover, tumbling out of nightclubs and practically impaling herself on a phallic sea of pavement-level, foot-long camera lenses.
6) If a celebrity’s star is on the wane, there’s also the opportunity to claw back some fame by starring in their own terrifyingly self-obsessed reality TV series. Former Steps singer, Lisa Scott-Lee, went down this route with MTV’s Totally Scott-Lee in 2005, which followed her last desperate throw of the solo career dice. I always thought it would catch on with the rest of the band. I’m still waiting for Putting the ‘H’ in Halfords – cameras follow Ian Watkins as he takes on a second job to make ends meet.
7) Celebrities can also get a lot out of hiring an elite management team to further propel themelves into the shitosphere. Then, when their profiles have been suitably raised, they can sell stories to the press about how their management team frequently waterboarded them and fascistically controlled every aspect of their lives. (Hey, whaddya know…Reveal, Issue 21, pp.10-11, Kerry: ‘I feel like a prisoner’.)
But whichever routes celebrities decide to take to keep themselves in the public eye, it seems to be almost impossible for them to evade the pages of ten-a-penny celeb mags anyway. Kerry Katona could go on a coke-fuelled rampage with a hammer, bludgeoning a young family to death in their sleep, and it would only be a matter of time before she once again turned up on the front pages (Kerry’s story: “Bludgeoned family’s ‘smelly prawn ring’ jibe was so hurtful, it made me crazy”).
This would undoubtedly be followed with later headlines, like: ‘Kerry’s a vision in overalls!’ (accompanied by photos of her having carefree fun in the prison exercise yard, and looking slim to boot!). Maybe she’d even be able to secure another reality TV series: ‘Prisoner Cell Block K’ or ‘Hammering the Truth Home, with Kerry Katona’.
Given that I’ve ranted for nearly 1,800 words, I haven’t even got time (you’ll be pleased to hear) to fully address ten series of Big Brother ‘celebrities’. However, BB8’s Charlie Uchea recently managed to form a coherent sentence and said something wonderfully refreshing. And honest. In response to a question from Now magazine (again, bought for research) about whether work offers were now starting to dry up for her, she said: “You’ve got to expect that – we weren’t on BB for our talent.” She’s absolutely spot on with that assessment. Never a truer word said. So why do former contestants stick around for so long?
I don’t have a problem with Big Brother contestants, or anyone else, enjoying their 15 minutes of fame (or 13 weeks, if absolutely necessary), just as long as they sign a contract beforehand – preferably in blood – to confirm that they’ll return quietly to their humdrum lives afterwards, never to be heard from again. It would also need to be enforceable by law, so that if any of the pneumatic, identikit Big Brother blondes were ever spotted on the front cover of Nuts or Zoo magazine – like pictorial shrines for a veritable army of masturbators – they could be arrested and immediately deported.
Anyway, I suppose I’d better wrap this up. I guess there’s no way to realistically stop this onslaught of celebrity mediocrity. And unlike the brief stand against Andrew Ridgeley and the vacuousness of celebrity he embodied, which a small scrum of photographers allegedly took one night in the 80s, it’s unlikely that such an act – on a broader scale -would ever be repeated today. There’s too much money involved. Let’s face it, photographers would find a way to get a snap of a celebrity’s anal polyps if there was a few grand in it. They don’t care that it doesn’t mean anything. But I wish they did.
And I suppose, in turn, the photographers and tabloids and magazines are only feeding the public what they crave: repetitive, inconsequential and achingly mundane ‘celebrity news’. (Although, it would be cheaper for people to siphon putrefied waste from a compost bin and inject it straight into their penny-sized brains.)
So, I guess that’s it, then. After my lengthy rant, it turns out that we’re ultimately to blame for all of this. Big, stupid US. (Well, not me. But you know what I mean.)