I want my stars to have secret vices not skanky jogging pants
‘More stars than there are in heaven!” So ran the slogan of MGM – home of everyone from Ava Gardner to Johnny Weissmuller – 70 years ago, during Hollywood’s golden age. But nowadays we are more likely to look in less celestial places to find the people who would once have been revered as secular gods.
With every report on the Brangelina divorce – the latest is that Brad Pitt has been ordered to pay an outstanding half-million euro debt to his lighting designer for work done at the wine chateau he and his nearly ex-wife have decided to keep on as an investment – or allegation about AN Other A-lister’s private persona (actress Leah Remini lambasting Tom Cruise as “diabolical”, perhaps, or Rupert Everett revealing in his biography that Julia Roberts always smells of sweat – something to do with the maleness that female stars have to cultivate to get ahead, apparently) – and of course the running commentary on every suspected boob/nose/eye job (the wonkier the better) kept up by the tabloids and internet at all times, I weep.
I long for a return to the good old days when the deal was that the studios kept their actors and actresses provided with the right scripts, jewels, furs, make-up, lighting, pills, houses and spouses to maintain at all times the illusion of perfection. That’s what I want. Not papped pictures of them in skanky jogging pants and/or no knickers. I can get enough of that at home.
I’m not immune to the lure of gossip. I love a good trashy biography of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis or Elizabeth Taylor, and the frantic manoeuvrings by the movie moguls to keep their factories churning out dreams and dollars. But I wouldn’t want to have known it all at the time, any more than I want to know about our lot now. The participants need to be at least half a century dead or so gloriously corrupted by decades of excess and success that they no longer care what is said or known about them.
But the creation of true glamour depends on an optimistic age and a certain degree of innocence that cannot even be pretended any more. We collectively know too much, including that fact that we can never be as gifted or gorgeous as those who would once have been our idols.
So, unable to reach up, we must bring them down to our level instead. I don’t know if it’s simply the embittered response of a meanminded age, or of a more profoundly anxious and pessimistic one that cannot even countenance embracing a few hours of escapism. Either way, it’s not just the pictures that got small.
I got the A-level results I needed for university but I still occasionally wake – literally a quarter of a century after I last shook the sixth form dust from my feet – from a heartsqueezing nightmare about turning up at my French exam having forgotten to go to any lessons.
I don’t know why it’s always French (maybe Brexit will at last allow my psyche to uncouple completely from whatever it is that evidently so terrifies me about the Gallic nation). But I know that the nightmare itself stems from the fact that that first fear of failure with real consequences – no university, no job, a solid beating from one or more disappointed parents – never leaves you. So, kids, whether the grades you got this week were good, bad or indifferent, welcome in a very important sense to the rest of your – cramped! anxious! – lives.
Tens of thousands of people lined the walls of Portsmouth’s harbour this week to watch the arrival of the UK’S new £3 billion aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Among them were my husband and six year old son, who got up unprecedentedly early, eagerly to make their pilgrimage and be there in time for the berthing.
They returned late in the afternoon, looking like they’d been vouchsafed a redemptive ecstasy. They tried their best to explain quite what it was about the thing that had induced such bliss – “It was an aircraft carrier!” said one. “Yes!” said the other, before they headed upstairs to watch footage on the news and Youtube clips of other aircraft carriers (“Yes!”) until their respective bedtimes.
I don’t get it. It must be a boy thing. Fortunately, a day at home while her husband and child spend the day at Portmouth harbour is very much this girl’s thing. Each, happily, to their own.
Clarks has withdrawn a shoe called “Dolly Babe” from its girls’ range after it was publicly contrasted with its equivalent in the boys’ range, called “Leader”. This followed earlier complaints from a customer about the relative flimsiness of Clarks’ girls’ shoes, which wouldn’t allow wearers to play as boisterously as the boys’ did.
This is all fair enough, but as the possessor of size 13 feet all my adult life (that’s the size of a six year old’s), I have witnessed first-hand the evolution of girls’ shoes over the past 25 years and can only say that nobody should down activist tools yet.
It used to be that children’s shoes for both genders were indistinguishable. But for years now I have been able to head for any girls’ section in almost any shoe shop and confidently expect to be able to buy something strappy, shiny and highheeled enough to wear to a cocktail party and in a full, grown-woman amount of pain. They are not ( just) sexist but sexy and have appeared in lockstep with our increasingly unhealthy attitude towards prepubescent girls. (Incidentally, Clarks itself is rarely guilty of this – they stray only into “girly” rather than “sexy” territory.)
It’s tremendously handy for me and my last-minute shopping needs. But it’s much less good for our children.
HMS Queen Elizabeth arriving at Portsmouth: it must be a boy thing