Deported pop star easily steals the show
HEATHROW airport, London. Morning has broken and there’s a passenger about to disembark who is expected not to be too happy about being here. It’s Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. In a moment of American bureaucratic madness, the man who gave the world joyous, light-filled albums such as Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat in the 1970s, has been refused permission to enter the US.
How much simpler things were before Stevens turned his back on the trappings, indulgences and seductions of fame in an effort to free his soul, cemented with a change of name and a religious conversion. Though this occurred decades before 9/ 11, the Americans are jumpy. You suspect not even a burst of Peace Train would have helped.
But Heathrow is a busy place and there’s more to this debut episode of the seventh series of Airport , all set here, than a grumpy former pop star and the media hordes waiting to garner a comment, explode flashguns in his travel-weary eyes, and film him for this program.
In fact, so fascinating are the goings-on at Heathrow that before Islam disembarks, we are whisked off to watch a crisis unfold at the Animal Reception Centre.
This stalwart institution deals mostly with animals flying in and out of Heathrow. But today there’s a real stop-the-presses emergency: a squirrel is stuck in a nearby car wash.
Even the animal health officer, in his high-vis yellow vest, thinks it’s probably a wind-up. But it’s not. A terrified, oil-covered squirrel has his paw stuck in a cog of the establishment’s mechanism.
Perhaps sensing the anticlimax of it all, Airport snappily returns us to the
Unwanted in America: Yusuf Islam arrives at Heathrow in September 2004 Islam story. The former star comes out a back door as the media pack descends like fox hunters. Does Islam have a lot to say? Not yet. Because now it’s time to cross to an airport worker who joined Britain’s domestic airline BMI for an unconventional reason: she loves the uniform, especially the hat. Cut to a clutch of uniformed BMI flight attendants, the female equivalent of businessmen in bowlers. Robert Palmer girls without the guitars.
And then, would you believe, a grumpy Irishman who says he has been discriminated against because he is Irish. This is the problem with reality television set in public places. In the effort to make watchable TV, entirely mundane occurrences must be magnified and dramatised. Entitled passengers bark at staff. Staff get exasperated and bite back. Baggage and passengers are overweight, and it seems everyone is tired and emotional, especially some of the 3000 members of Qatar’s ever-travelling royal family. No wonder the Cat’s tale is dragged out interminably. It’s the only real story for miles.
Not Molly Malone with her cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o, but indigenous seashell artist Esme Timbery of La Perouse, Sydney. Timbery is one of the last living sea shell artists and the craft may die out if it is not passed on. Pete Rowsthorn turns jumping off buildings into an art form and a papparazzo reveals some of the tricks of his shady trade, telling us about the photo that made the most money. As well, an old friend must be found before it’s too late. They just don’t make them like this any more. At a whopping 228 minutes, is big in every way. Big stars: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, pictured, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Havilland. Big story: a love triangle set against the background of the American Civil War. And big, memorable quotes. With her mansion pillaged by Union troops, Scarlett O’Hara ( Leigh) vows she will do anything for the survival of her family and herself: As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again,’’ she vows at the end of part one. But the most enduring and influential quote comes right at the end. As Rhett Butler ( Gable) finally walks out the door, she pleads, Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?’’ His answer? All together now: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’’