As someone who has been around celebrities for most of my life, having spent my childhood growing up with a legendary family in the entertainment industry– I have always been interested in the fascination of the rich and famous.
Even with the announcement of the New Year Honours list last week, with people like Eastenders Actress Barbara Windsor becoming a DAME, I am wondering, have we really lost the plot! Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing at all against our National Cockney Sparrow Treasure, and really enjoy her when I spasmodically see her on TV in a soap or chat show, but I can think of far more worthy contenders who have so far been overlooked.
A few years ago a relatively unknown Actor friend of mine had to make a decision. She had been trained in performing arts, but had taken a backup teaching course in Drama and had ended up getting more work in teaching young offenders than acting jobs. She had also found that the teaching work was far more rewarding, but that at Dinner parties and social gatherings she received more attention when she was talking about her Acting experience than any other. She eventually decided to go with her passion and thank goodness did not allow the ego to take over, but it was a narrow escape.
Going back to fame and celebrity, I have just watched the Documentary on the mega talented Amy Winehouse, which does shine a rather dazzling light on the concept of stardom and the effect it has on the individual, especially in one so young.
The programme is brilliantly moving and tells the story of Amy’s very short life with enormous sensitivity and passion, against the backdrop of old and more recent footage of the singer, and the true relationships she had with her friends from childhood, her family and those she became acquainted with during her music career. It paints a vivid picture of the Singer’s rise to fame and her inevitable downward spiral with drugs and alcohol abuse. Only the day before she died she confided in her bodyguard saying that she would trade in all of her talent just to be normal again and walk down the street unhindered. A truly troubled soul that fame just tipped over the edge.
I have met many famous people from the world of film and television, some of whom are an absolute delight and have been able to cope with their notoriety quite comfortably and others who clearly have not.
The late Robert Mitchum was a prime example of a legend deeply unaffected by his global celebrity status. He was a man of great dignity and humour, and although I only had the pleasure of his company just once, knew that he was worthy of his status, and had earned it. I was introduced to him by the late Michael Winner who I was working with at the time, and he was anxious that I met Robert and his wife Dorothy and invited me to his house in Kensington for Sunday lunch.
I was fascinated by the stories both Robert and Dorothy shared with me about their wedding that had taken place decades earlier, before he had become famous, and how they remembered the smell of cooking in the house next door as they recited their vows. They remained together during and throughout his rise to fame and for the rest of their years thereafter – quite a unique showbiz success story. Dorothy certainly kept his feet firmly on the ground.
Tales of other Hollywood royalty like Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were also divulged over lunch, and reading between the lines, how their fame had created cracks in their relationship and lead to even more dysfunctional behaviour in later years. Vivien Leigh had also been a victim of her own publicity, and was taken from us long before her time.
I could share many ‘interesting’ stories of celebs big and small that I have spent time with, and how I had perceived their influence as a result of national or international notoriety. It still baffles me somewhat to know that in our Western Society, that the lure of celebrity is courted in every walk of life. It is no longer even based on talent, as it seems that anyone can be bestowed with the title of ‘celebrity’ these days, which is quite an enigma.
But I will refrain for now from some of the more ‘colourful’ showbiz stories, as I really do want to avoid any impending lawsuits, as I personally would prefer to remain ‘under the radar’ for as long as is humanly possible. But who knows in the future – all I can say is – watch this space …………
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