Close encounters of the famous kind

Moby & JLS: not destined to share a stage any time soon.
Moby & JLS: not destined to share a stage any time soon.

In my line of work I meet a lot of famous people: some blessed with tickly nearly-fame, others with sharp, pointy, face-splitting notoriety. Some who you’d walk past in the street without even noticing, some who you’d stop and think ‘now where do I know him from… was he the guy who pissed in Sharon’s salad? No, not him…’ In the last two days, for instance, I’ve stood next to the curly-haired one from JLS (wispy fame); spoken to the dark-haired half of Groove Armada (anonymous mega-fame) and sat in a plush hotel room in Marylebone with musical miserablist Moby (gargantuan fame). I know that Moby is certainly the most famous, because when I told my oldest sister she’d heard of him. She’d also just been introduced to the Black Eyed Peas that day by her students and thought their lyrics “interesting” and songs “catchy”. If I’d taken afternoon tea with will.i.am and Fergie, she’d have been majorly impressed, as opposed to the tiny yelp she allowed herself at the mention of every ad exec’s dream collaborator…

And meeting famous people is great: you get to ogle them with wide-eyed stares, study their spots and nod as you realise that money can’t buy you style. But it is distinctly odd too. “Let’s meet up in a hotel and I’ll tape you talking about yourself,” is essentially your offer. (Note the use of the word tape there – how analogue of me.) But they accept because they have to, and then they turn up and chat rehearsed lines of patter over and over, normally wearing sunglasses so you can’t see the blowtorched glaze that’s settled over their canopied line of sight.
Contrary to popular opinion too, famous people are normally nice. Some you might even imagine yourself swilling Stella with in your local and fighting over the last cheesy puff (which is never going to happen unless you happen to stumble into feather-flicking fame yourself by the way). They’re selling themselves, your job is to make them sound plausible and interesting and then you never have to see them again. It’s hard to admit, but they’re not your friend. However, for that 15 mins sunk into impossibly soft sofas, surrounded by Cornish-crafted biscuits, Italian mineral water and coffee, their fame beam is focused on little ol’ you. They’re your bitch and they know it.
I don’t get nervous meeting famous people. I mean, if it was Madonna I would probably mumble something like “don’t you think that leotard period circa 2005 was a bit ill-advised looking back?” And she’d probably slap me and I would be executed on the spot, with baby David and Rocco ushered out of the room to save their innocence. But fame is just a concept, and famous people are… Well… People. People who bathe in diamonds and get more free drinks than me, but people nonetheless.
Today I met Moby. He was short, earnest and perfectly well-mannered. He fidgeted with his fingers when he spoke and sat on a desk chair to the side of the plush sofa I had nested on, one leg crossed over the other at the knee revealing dollar-store white socks under his light blue jeans. His five o’clock shadow was dark even though his head is slappably shiny. He takes his music VERY SERIOUSLY and called it “art”. It’s not that I disagree with such sentiments, but most famous-people conversations aren’t quite so intense. When I asked him which artists he’d like to be the love-child of, he wanted his dad to be the father of surrealism. In 20 minutes, he didn’t smile once. When I spoke to JLS last week on the other hand, within 30 seconds I knew what their favourite flavour of Krispy Kreme was and they’d guffawed at one of my jokes. That’s the difference between lived-in fame and the flashflood-new variety. Moby was more wary, measured; JLS were eager, frothing.
Still, in our celebrity-obsessed age, there are worse jobs and it’s not a bad one to have. For the record, Tom from Keane is surprisingly tall and thin (and superbly lovely) in real life; you would love to go for a pint with Tony Mortimer (although he’d have a cranberry juice); and Kanye West is a pantomime villain, pure and simple.

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