I want my stars to have se­cret vices not skanky jog­ging pants

The Daily Telegraph - - Comment - Michael Dea­con is away

‘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

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