Small sidebar. I’m afraid there are plenty of words used by slebs to describe non-slebs. Here are some I’ve heard.
Mops/moppets – silly. It stands for Members Of the Public. Civilians – reasonable, but a bit John Goodman in The Big Lebowski. Ordinaries – ouch. Muggles – obvious and quite sweet I suppose. Punters – naff.
I’m sure there are many others. And now I’m sensing a certain amount of antagonism from some. How dare such valueless, vulgar, shallow little people with their adventitious so-called ‘celebrity’ develop a contemptuous slang for the decent, hard-working people who pay for these cheap weasels in the first place? Hm? Hm?????
Well yes, but we’re all human beings here. You would do the same. It’s not about being rude and one of the reasons you’d do the same is SCALE. Scale matters. If you’re accosted on average once a week, it’s charming. You can give a little time to the one who stopped you, be delighted by their knowing who you are and the whole thing can be a most pleasant and mutually satisfying interchange. If you are stopped every ten minutes then it’s a whole different deal. You keep your head down, pretend to be on the phone, wear dark glasses and generally hope to pass unnoticed. Or you get someone else to do your shopping, tube travelling and general street-using for you, sitting in the back of a Lexus most days and never interacting with the rest of the human race except when surrounded by burly security men who place their palms in the faces of anyone who dares to come near. Which is sad and can engender the reputation of being standoffish, grand and all the rest of it, but if the alternative is not being able to move around very easily, who can blame those afflicted with that level of fame? It’s the same with letters. Twenty to fifty a week you can just about keep on top of, reply to personally, strike up friendships, establish cordial relationships and so forth. Ten times that amount and rising and it’s all your secretary can do to filter the ones you might want to see from the ones that threaten to burn down your house and scratch your car. You’re the same person, no ruder, more off-hand or nonchalant than you were, but the scale alters how you can behave. The scale enforces a kind of distance that may be alien to your natural bonhomie.
The Tom Cruise Eye-Contact Canard Poor old Tom Cruise. If only I had a euro for everyone who has said to me in tones of wild, almost joyful disapproval, ‘apparently no one is allowed to look at him on the film set!’ (Actually the link I’ve embedded just there also shows how these ‘stories’ can be skewed for the purposes of some raving agenda, in this case a right-wing one). ‘Eye contact is banned!! I’m not making it up!! How mad is that?! Extras and crew are actually instructed not to stare at him!!’ In fact, a little imagination of the kind I asked you to summon up earlier and you might be able to picture this scenario: Tom Cruise (but you actually, because you’ve put yourself in his shoes) is about to do an important scene which involves hundreds of extras. He has to break down/shout/burst into tears/whatever. He comes on set to finish the camera line-up and get ready to shoot. Wherever he tries to rest his eyes there is someone staring at him. He is working, mind you, earning his fantastic salary (or if not earning it in your opinion, complying at least with its contractual imperatives), this is what he does, it takes concentration and skill, you may not value it, but take it from me, it isn’t easy. He has to prepare himself for whatever is required and then repeat the performance time after time for different camera angles. Put yourself in his position: you’re going to have to do something wild and daring in front of the camera and as you try to put yourself in the correct frame of mind there is nowhere to rest your eyes. Is it unreasonable to say to the Assistant Director, ‘would you mind asking all the background artists if they wouldn’t stare at me? Actually, knowing Asst. Directors, they would probably foresee the problem and make the announcement without consulting him even before Cruise ever arrived: ‘no one to stare at Mr Cruise when he’s on set.’ This gets repeated, comes to the ear of gossip columnists, mad republicans and others and it soon sounds like insane vain stardom all over again. When I was playing Wilde I had the same problem getting ready for the scene where Oscar comes out of the courtroom in handcuffs and is jeered and spat at. As the scene was being lit I couldn’t look in any direction without meeting the gaze of an extra, so I spent all the time staring at my boots or into a corner, like a naughty boy at kindergarten. I didn’t ask the AD if she’d put out a request for them not to look at me, but if I were in the same position again I might. Or I would spend the whole time in my trailer until the very, very last minute, which is bad for the director, the crew and the performance, not to mention the reputation of the actor who is forever set down in people’s minds as a Trailer Queen. But see how easily rumours of mad egoism get round? I’m not saying there aren’t wild egos amongst the famous, but sometimes it’s just a lack of imagination amongst the non-famous that sees insanity where all that lies behind it is professionalism and self-preservation. Many people of course have an ardent desire to want the famous to be deranged, spoiled, stupid and impossible to live with and perhaps some of you reading this will still choose not to believe me, preferring your image of star as pampered idiot child monster. It’s too much to bear that they have all the money, adulation and opportunity in the world, so let’s console ourselves with the thought that they’re deranged imbeciles so far up themselves it hurts. It is interesting isn’t it how very, very important money becomes (even to the most apparently spiritual) when criticising a famous person. ‘What are they complaining about? They’re paid enough aren’t they?’ as if money compensates for all things. Maybe it does in some people’s minds. ‘I’d put up with any amount of shit if I was paid that much.’ Would you indeed, how noble of you. I’ve seen enough of the very famous close up, film stars, sportsmen and musicians, to know it’s a pretty miserable fate. Happy superstars are a rare sight. Not many seem to want to believe that, but it’s true.