Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Death of the Celebrity

The BBC runs an interesting argument on why there are so many famous deaths this year already. Concluding that it's gonna be like this from now on - the number of famous people increased sharply with the advent of television, while the population - the boomers - increased sharply post-war, thus giving us what might be called an optimal environment for a famous-death occasion.

I wonder however for how long this scenario will be maintained. The great upsurge of record-boying that gave us so many baby-boomer pop stars was when I was in my teens. I note that by the BBC's reckoning, Billy Idol is a baby-boomer. Which makes me wonder if we can sue him for calling his former band Generation X. But when that great pantheon of singers has taken its final bow and toppled off the stage, what then? Their place - on a multiplicity of channels - has been taken to a large degree by lesser folk. People who just want to be on TV. People who are happy to be filmed 24 hours a day eating baked beans and playing "Who's that fart?" In other words, "reality TV stars."

The only way the TV companies can fill up the schedules is by screenings of less important, cheaper people. They all get to say they are " X from Made in Chelsea", but they're just endless recycling on a theme - muscle-bound blerk from Newcastle / dyed-blonde woman / man with hair that looks like a brunette iced-gem / woman who has a habit of showing off parts of her body you'd really rather she didn't. And as they become more identikit (or, as Peter Cook used to so foppishly say, identiquite), people just ain't as famous as they used to be.

A club in the Midlands that Burton visited on one of his drip-mat collecting expeditions had a board advertising three leading comedians. One was from TOWIE, one wasn't, and one was apparently actually famous as a comedian who got to the semi finals of Britain's Got Talent. This isn't exactly a show with Victoria Wood, Linda Smith and Rik Mayall. And that's my point. We have reached peak celebrity. The genuinely famous are increasingly dying out and being replaced by people who are legends in their own lunchtimes.

What this means is that we shall soon reach the point where there are more dead genuinely famous people - "stars" and "superstars" than there are living ones. We will have a talent deficit to the next world. What sort of place to live will that be? One where we have to resort to watching re-runs of Last of the Summer Wine, Only Fools and Horses and Minder. We will be living in UK Gold, in other words.

So dry your tears for Prince, and Victoria Wood. The next will be along in a minute. This is how it's gonna be, ice-caps permitting, for the next 20 years. Can someone please keep an eye on Peter Sallis? He's the only one beating the odds.


  1. The very word "Celebrity" makes me shudder. People who are famous for being famous (or infamous) are like the new royalty.
    Real genius/talent/ability seems to go largely unrecognised, while the 'one-trick ponies' are celebrated almost universally.
    What has happened to us that we can no longer differentiate between the truly 'great' and the seemingly endless parade of talentless nonentities.

  2. There are the Real Celebrities (people worth celebrating) and then there are the Slebs.

    1. As the stars of the early days of reality-TV begin to approach their dotage, surely there is a television opportunity here? Might I suggest that a group of them (representative of all the minorities of course) could compete over a series of seniors-related tasks, e.g., drawing one’s pension at the post office, speed-sucking Werthers Original, mobility scooter supermarket rallying, extreme toileting, etc. They could call it Pro-Celebrity Coffin-Dodging.

      It's what they would have wanted.

  3. Sorry: I'd love to come up with something profound, but your mention of Iced Gems brought up such a nostalgic surge — for heaven's sake, I haven't thought about them for forty years! Little biscuits with a sharp swirl of icing; suddenly I feel eight years old.


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