Britain loves people who, when asked, “Who was Winston Churchill?” reply, “He was the first black president of America.” It loves people who say, “East Angular – that’s abroad, innit?” Useless is good. Useless is the new success. Useless gets ratings up.
I was in conversation with a man the other day and expressing relatively strong opinions about something. He interrupted me to say he was “scared” of women like me. I glanced at his polyester shirt and replied: “That’s OK, because I’m scared of lighting a match near that top. You’d better get off to Primark before it shuts.” It made me wonder how dangerous having opinions can be these days.
It seems that if you sit there like a piece of plankton dosed up on Quaaludes and saying stupid things, Britain rewards you with hollow fame, money, cars, sex, love, TV shows, column inches and new teeth. And just in case the public’s attention begins to falter, punch a granny in the face next time you go to the cinema and people will love you even more.
You cannot read or write, but you do have great plastic breasts and have flashed your kebab on national TV. You will be deemed interesting enough to have three TV shows by the end of the year. Don’t waste brain cells watching Newsnight when you can watch people locked up in a house or lost in the jungle. That said, even I am intrigued by Celebrity Big Brother, because it’s got a Bollywood star in it. I’ve been keeping one eye on the live footage to spot if the entire house breaks out in song and dance, though I really didn’t want to see Jade’s mum in a wet sari.
I was filming this week, and had to interview an 11-year-old girl and her 16-year-old sister. These girls were intelligent and articulate, and attend a very good school. I asked who their role models were. They replied without any hesitation, “Jade Goody.” I asked them why. They said, “Because she’s herself.” I had to agree. She is definitely herself. I thought back to when I was 11. Who was my role model? Freddie Mercury. He inspired me to grow my moustache and wear string vests. How times change.
Last night I was a guest on a late-night radio show. I went on air at midnight and sat in the studio for an hour and a half listening to people calling the programme to comment on the day’s events. I’m scared of people like that: people who sit in their bedrooms boiling with rage about the issues of the day, until they call in to a radio show and release it all in a tirade of profanity and malapropisms. I suppose it’s better they do that than go knocking on people’s doors and shooting them. That’s best left to the police.
The hot topic was David Beckham. I have three brothers – my sister and I grew up having to endure football on the TV and radio and in the back garden for many hours a day. It was a large part of our life. The first time I saw a man cry in public was when my dad took me to see Aston Villa play. They lost and I laughed at the man and called him a “cry-baby”. My dad told me that most people cry when they go and see Aston Villa, so I’d better get used to it.
The callers to the show unanimously loved Beckham, which is good because, unlike many celebrities, he has actually done something. Now that he’s off to America to make a change, I hope he doesn’t come back with plastic breasts and false nails, though if anyone can carry it off, he can. Apparently the move will help his wife, Victoria, launch her career in Hollywood. We’ve had Ugly Betty; next season it’ll be Skinny Vicky. Maybe one day they’ll be ready for hairy Shazia. Until then I’ll just have to keep pestering my agent to get me locked up in a bathroom, bungalow or fish tank. People will love me – I’ll just be myself.