Life as a Nobody
Even a nonentity has her off days - one of my most spectacular
took place outside the box office of a London theatre when my life was
disintegrating faster than the former Soviet Union. After an argument
with my husband I was sitting on the theatre steps, crying my eyes out
behind a pair of black Raybans when a little chap in an anorak came up
to me and said - hey Mrs - are you famous - and can I have your autograph?
Sweet child - he had obviously recognised my star quality, as yet undiscovered
by the rest of the world. Photographers ask me to move out of the way
so they can take a picture of the person I'm talking to with someone else.
When I dress in black, people at cocktail parties hand me their empty
glasses and ask me for ashtrays - and when I try to make an impact by
wearing a bright orange dress, they merely think I'm advertising Tango.
Shoppers wonder if I have this dress in any other size; and I never linger
in the ladies loo just in case I'm expected to wipe down the hand basins.
A friend of mine sympathises. She often accompanies an actor to film premiers
when he's between girlfriends and is used to the flashing lights of the
paparazzi when they arrive together. When she goes alone, however, she
needs a torch to light her way. There's something about the insolent silence
of non whirring cameras as you walk into a night-club where celebrities
are expected that brings out the wannabe in almost any shrinking violet.
That red carpet feels longer than Route 66 when you're mincing up it in
too high heels, holding your stomach in to the utter boredom of the assembled
You feel they could at least set off a few flash bulbs just out of politeness,
or provide a special Dork's entrance where you can slide in without humiliation.
We're not talking the Oscars here - merely the celebrity pond-life of
minor soap stars - or Tanya Bryar. I mean - nice girl - but she trots
out like the Duracell bunny in a posh frock everytime someone in W1 opens
their fridge. And at the opening of Sugar Reef, a club in central London,
they wouldn't even let me leave through the main door because they were
expecting that international superstar Stan Collymore.
It's not that I have pretensions of fame. No-one who has ever crawled
through the desert that is afternoon cable television to promote a book
can harbour fantasies that in a parallel life they're really Cate Blanchett.
Well not when you're on after a toe-reader, and the 'star' is a chap from
the West Midlands whose hobby is collecting telephones.
But it is easty to get used to being a personality. Once, when walking
along the street with, what I thought was a lesser-spotted comedian, I
was stunned by the number of people who recognised him. Talk about reflected
glory. I was almost in my swimsuit, stretched out on the pavement covered
in Factor 15. I felt like arm candy, albeit of the soft centred variety
that no-one ever eats.
However, it was short lived. At restaurant openings I've become accustomed
to being left off the guest list. The trick is to arrive alone so no-one
can witness the agonising ten minutes while the monkey suit scans his
clipboard trying to find your unpronounceable name, as you spell it for
the third time. Then there's the joy of being reintroduced to the same
person at every single function and the same blank look in their eyes
when they fail to recognise you.
Recently I even went to party where a woman asked me what I did. A bit
of work for the Times, I said. Oh, I know who you are, she said. Bingo,
I thought. You're that Jane Gordon - I always read your stuff. Thanks
Jane - I almost gave her an autograph.
Still, I imagined I'd finally broken through the photographic barrier
at the launch of new restaurant, Cassia Oriental. Dragging myself away
from a dull man who, in the space of five minutes, had asked me in no
particular order if I dyed my hair, was wearing surgical support stockings
and had bought my handbag in a novelty shop, I espied a friend across
the crowded room. I rushed over to him to find him deep in conversation
with Andrew Neil and attendant gorgeous, pouting escort. During introductions:
"this is wrong name who works as wrong job description for totally
wrong publication", a photographer asked for a picture. Like the
good lady in waiting I am, I immediately prepared to step back but - no
- this time I was in the shot.
Three weeks later I was at the hairdresser (yes he was right about the
hair, but not, I assure you, the support stockings) and there, smiling
at me from the pages of OK magazine was the picture of the fragrant Mr
Neil and friend at none other than the opening of the Cassia Oriental.
I however, had been cut out of the photograph.
But never mind. In America I was once mistaken for a broad Scots speaking
Susan Sarandon. In her fat, freckled Glaswegian phase, presumably.