Monday, November 24, 2014

The price of fame

On Saturday evening, as I sat at the front of the London-bound plane, a chant went up from the crowd of passengers behind me. “Chriiisss Kamaaara! There’s only one Chris Kamara!!” 

I looked up, and saw the Sky Sports reporter, smiling sheepishly at the baying mob down the plane as he took his place at the end of my row. The barracking continued for most of the flight.
It was jovial and friendly, for Kamara is one of the good blokes in sport. A football commentator for many years, he’s famous for his excitable reporting and unfortunate gaffes. Amongst sports fans, he’s a lovable legend. 

He showed himself to be incredibly tolerant of the planeload of QPR supporters whose team had just lost against Newcastle. I smiled when the captain came on the loudspeaker to welcome those on board who might be disappointed by the result. A cheer roared down the plane. But the biggest shouts were for the celebrity in the front row. 

For the entire flight Kamara endured a procession of the world’s most boring people. One by one they handed him a business card, or a copy of the programme for him to sign, slapping him on the shoulder, demanding a selfie. 

‘I really wanna meet you,’ went one supporter, his raw North London accent slurred with drink, ‘because I’ve got this broadband business that trying to get into offices and I think you should know about it for Sky,’ as if a sports reporter had any influence over the telecommunications strategy of an employer that supplied broadband to half the country. 

‘That’s really interesting, thanks so much for telling me’ said the perma-smiling Mr Kamara, before crumpling the business card into his empty wine glass after the man had weaved his way back down the aisle. 

‘I get so many,’ he sighed, ‘but you’ve got to be polite’. 

Television celebrity isn’t easy. Having formerly lived with a presenter for years, I know how invasive fame can be, how easy it is to decry and ignore the popular masses that enable it. I used to have arguments with Anneka about going down the pub. 

‘Let’s just go the Rose and Crown for a gin and tonic – we can just sit in the corner and be normal.’ 

‘There’s no normal,’ she said. ‘They’ll be studying everything I do, every word I say. I would be miserable.' 

‘But at least be friendly to them, show them you’re an ordinary person.’ 

‘They don’t want me to be ordinary. They want me to be Anneka Rice.’ 

She was right, of course. Every time we went out, people strained to see her rear of the year, or tell her about some charity that wanted to challenge her, or ask her to open a fête or simply leer. Normality was impossible. 

So I was impressed with Chris Kamara’s attitude to his fans. Even with his smart, pressed presenter’s suit, he played the part of cheery chappie until he finally exited the plane. Then, before sprinting down the gangway, he apologised to his neighbours: ‘Gotta run – if I pause, I’ll be taking selfies for the next hour.’ 

People with real on-screen talent don’t seek fame or adoration, they just acquire it as an inevitable side effect. Not so Gemma Collins. Never heard of her? She’s the over-fed, vacuous fluff-brain from The Only Way Is Essex who quit I’m A Microcelebrity, Get Me Out of Here last week after just a couple of days. 

There was something ironic about watching her rounded form complaining of ‘starvation’ by the producers. Real celebrities in Los Angeles would have paid good money for a diet like that. 

'I just want to lead a normal life,' she is reported to have wailed from the comfort of her 5-star hotel. 

Really? You’d think that without skill, charm, personality or any perceptible talent, she now has every opportunity to be normal. But I suspect she’ll still be demanding the front row of the plane for quite a while her agent picks up more five-figure fees for fleeting appearances in Z-List celebrity shows. 

For once fame strikes you, like any life-threatening virus, it’s very hard to shake it off.

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