Be yourself Plenty of people have said to me in supermarkets in slightly affronted tones ‘what are you doing here?’ as if I had no business being in such a place. I long ago gave up answering with a silly sarcastic ‘playing badminton, taking a shower, duh, shopping!’ kind of answer. The way to respond is with a ‘gosh, I know! Isn’t life silly! Aren’t I daft!’ sort of grin. ‘Tch, I don’t know! Aren’t we barmy just for being!’ For everyone who looks down on a famous person for not shopping in the supermarket or using the bus, there are those outraged to see them doing just that. Some want our famous people to shop only in a fantasy Famous People Village, to zoom about in limos and use special extra private double-secret VIP lounges – others hate them for doing just that.
The lesson for the sleb is be who you are, not what you think others want you to be. Otherwise you’ll get yourself in a pickle by putting on a mockney accent believing that ‘the people’ will be impressed by how ‘real’ you are, whereas we all know nothing grates more. Conversely you might give off a false air of dining every night at the Ritz when in fact you’re happier in the local chippy. No need. Be yourself.
Negatives There are drawbacks to fame, of course there are. The scaling up and the misinterpretation are two that I’ve mentioned. By the way, just as one can have bad hair days, so one can have bad fame days. There are days when try as I might I cannot go unnoticed. It’s as if I’m walking around with a neon sign over my head. Every cab driver, everyone I pass in the street, every shop assistant stops me and asks for an autograph or photo (of which more later). I can lower my head, concentrate on looking anonymous, but it’s no good. On other days I could lope about in fluorescent clothing meeting everyone’s gaze and nobody would take any notice. Seems to defy logic but anyone in the public eye will tell you the same. ‘Weird, I’m really famous today,’ is how one might put it. Back to drawbacks …
Mood Famous people are not allowed to be in a bad mood in the way that everyone else is. ‘We made you, we paid you, you will therefore look cheerful and contented (but not smug) at all times.’ This is difficult to live up to. The day comes to all of us when we’re not in the best of moods. It comes to me big time on occasions. I have made this public by talking about my mood issues, my bipolar disorder, but even if I weren’t so especially afflicted, I would, like any human, have cheerful days and less cheerful days. But woe betide the famous person who wanders about with a scowl on his face. Passers-by will read all kinds of things into a sour expression: ‘what a misery!’ ‘I suppose he thinks he should be served first because he’s famous!’ ‘Does he expect us all to bow down and worship him?’ etc etc. All of it incredibly unfair and not something we would presume to read into the facial expressions of a non-famous person, but we can’t help it. They are famous and therefore we can impute all kinds of motives and attitudes. A daffy smile is therefore at all times de rigueur. A sort of ‘tsk, don’t mind me, I don’t know, golly isn’t life potty, still mustn’t grumble, ho, goodness, I say, don’t you think, hm?” sort of expression that covers all eventualities in an English self-effacing, I’m-embarrassed-by-my-own-existence sort of way.
Who are you? A fair chunk of the population does not care to be reminded that they themselves are not well-known and their default position when it comes to the famous is one of scepticism, contempt, out-of-my-way-I-really-have-no-idea-who-you-are resentment; expect from them narrow frowning as they stare at you in a way that they really want you to notice: it says, ‘I think I may have seen you somewhere before, but my life is too busy and my standards too high to know exactly who you might be. If you care to approach me and tell me who you are I might pay you some attention, but otherwise I find you faintly annoying.’