I saw that Bill Oddie walking down the Strand the other day. I looked at him covertly, as you do with well-known people, and it was definitely him. He’s shorter than he looks on the radio. He also had a sort of guarded look about him, as though he was trying to walk down the street with an invisible perspex riot shield in front of him.
It must be pretty horrible being well-known enough to be recognised; to have to walk down the street behind a face which is recognisable enough for people to stare at it. I’m not sure that anyone particularly enjoys being stared at by strangers (in normal circumstances, I mean – it’s different in a performance context). In nature, to stare is rude; it means that you are thinking of either attacking or eating the staree, who will react accordingly. We have all had the experience of automatically looking up in a public place directly into the eyes of an unknown person who is looking straight at us; we have evolved to know instinctively when we are being watched, because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t survive. Being looked at by strangers is not comfortable for us.
I’m sure Bill Oddie didn’t start off his career wanting to be stared at by strangers, just as I’m sure there are a number of celebrities (and probably more sublebrities) who do want exactly that. Even so, fame, real, megawatt-star fame, must be hideous, even if you did sign up specifically to the “Look at me” clause, as opposed, say, to the “Be a successful actor/singer/comedian/footballer” clause. I guess there are a number of ways of dealing with it, including the ever-popular drink’n’drugs, cultivating a monstrous ego complex, wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses every time you leave the house, buying a private island and only hanging out with other celebrities. Or, indeed, a personally chosen smorgasbrod of all of the above. The more well balanced move to small and unstarry neighbourhoods where their very ubiquity means they become part of the scenery and are no longer stared at, except when they go outside those areas and have to carry their metaphorical perspex shield in front of them.
I don’t really have anything profound with which to end this post, other than to say that it’s not that surprising that so many celebrities end up more or less mad, and that I’m sorry I stared at Bill Oddie. Oh, and one more thing. Anyone who was reading earlier in the week may have spotted a change in Tuesday’s title, from “Look at me” to “Installing updates, please wait”. I saw Mr Oddie on Tuesday, and was going to write this post, and then, while I was writing it, it changed to a post about how I was feeling, and I forgot to change the title until after it was published. Hence the title of today’s post, which, for obvious reasons, could no longer be ” Look at me”. There. That was interesting, wasn’t it? 😉