Things I hate #24

Renaissance celebrities. By this I mean so-called celebrities, celebrated mostly for their ability at self-promotion, who come to public attention via manufactured over-exposure and then suddenly realize that they have the capacity to do absolutely fucking anything and everything and attempt to broaden their fame and ring every last penny out of the suckers who liked them in Crossroads. These are people whose talent looked thin enough to start with, but who have managed to spread their lack of ability in the same way as a lad I used to spread dog shit all over my Mum’s best carpet, up the stairs and into my bedroom.

 

Kylie Minogue. Or as I always call her, Kylie Fucking Minogue. Kylie started off life in the public eye as Charlene in second-rate Australian soap opera Neighbours. We should never ever let polished branding, clever product placement and the sight of her arse in some hot pants let us forget that. The second fact that we should never ever forget is that she was then taken up by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. AKA the fucking Hit Factory. My arse. AKA a load of bollocks. AKA Shithouse, Arsehole and Wanker. Neither of these two beginnings have the pedigree for anything more than mediocre mass entertainment for halfwits without any sense of cultural history or depth. Now, don’t get me wrong, Kylie’s an attractive lass and I’d have an hour myself, spinning her ‘round my cock like a wing nut, but she has an appalling singing voice which squeaks out of her and she couldn’t act her way out of a sex pest’s cellar if her fanny depended on it. Which it probably would. Believe me. At the very least. But she’s packaged. She’s heavily produced. And the finish product drips with gloss. And the newspapers and magazines are happy to talk about her, especially since she made cancer fashionable. So what you get is all the girls want to look like her and all the gay lads want to go shopping with her. It’s like printing money. But what does she know about perfume? Seeing as she has her own perfume range. Did she do a degree in chemistry? Has she tested the various prototype compounds on twenty thousand lab mice and dripped pipettes of it into a few Beagles’ eyes? If some bird sprays it on is it going to strip the top layer of epidermis off or cling to the insides of her lungs like mustard gas? Look at it rationally, how the fuck can I trust someone who was in Neighbours to mix up some perfume? You’d have to be out of your fucking mind to spray that shit. Seriously???!!!!! So why can I trust it???!!!!! BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T FUCKING COME UP WITH IT, THAT’S FUCKING WHY!!!!!!! Some slaphead Tefal experts in white coats brought a selection for her to sniff and she said, ‘Yeah, that one’s nice, cobbers!’ and voila she has her own perfume range. And what about knickers? What does Kylie know about knickers? You pull them up, you pull them down, and you stick them in the washer when they start to smell too fishy/shitty/piss sodden. Has she done a course in textiles and fashion? Has she spent years designing and re-designing, struggling to get her creations noticed? No. I suggest she knows fuck all about knickers. I suggest she knows no more about knickers than I know about boxer shorts, other than the fact that we both wear them. But sew a few Kylie branded labels on some pants and there’s bound to be some fuckers out there who’ll be inspired to buy them. Generally with a 25% mark up added; because all two million pairs are from the exclusive range. And so we get fifteen stone Janice who thinks if she drags on a pair of Kylie’s French knickers – ooh la la! – then suddenly she’ll be spinning around like a fucking nympho. What a load of cynical, grasping shite.

 

And then there’s Kylie’s sister (which she’s always billed as, bless her) Dannii. Fuck my spats. You can almost see the spite dripping from Kylie’s sister Dannii. Why isn’t she Kylie? that’s what her every struggling facial expression says. Why isn’t she as big a gay icon as her sister? Why didn’t she come out of the womb first? But regardless of these set backs she’s slipstreamed her way to fame and a few bob and now acts as a judge of other people’s talents on The X Factor. Thanks for that, love. We really need the expert input of someone who failed to chart with ‘Boogie woogie’ in 1995 as to what’s happening and what’s not. Your efforts are appreciated. Like a dose of clap at a gang bang. Dannii – Kylie’s sister – Minogue now has her own fashion range. Degree? Fashion? Textiles? Has she buggery. What she has is a reality TV show and someone with money saying we could sell some shit of the back of Kylie’s sister Dannii. Kerching!

 

But Kylie and her sister Dannii are not alone. Katie Price. AKA Jordan. AKA her with the monster tits. She writes books (apparently), she has her own clothing range, she has her own signature perfume. Is there no end to her talents? Well, yeah. Getting her tits out was pretty much the top and bottom. But there’s nothing so thick as people with money to spend and a lack of imagination. Victoria Beckham. AKA Posh Spice. Couldn’t sing, couldn’t write music. She has her own perfume, clothing range, and has glamorized eating disorders. Geri Halliwell, AKA Ginger Spice, couldn’t sing, couldn’t write music, she probably has her own fragrance range (I dread to think – I’m imagining Grimsby Fish Market on a hot July afternoon. With the doors shut) and writes children’s books. She’s a UN ambassador for something or other. Peter Andre works a few shifts at NATO and writes Spenserian verse. He has his own fragrance range (don’t they fucking all? What is this obsession with personal aroma ranges?!). The list goes on and fucking on…

 

I’ve always fancied my hand at a spot of brain surgery. Perhaps if I get myself on Coronation Street somebody’ll give me a crack at it. Film me wrist deep in some poor sod’s cerebral cortex, cracking a funny and singing my latest single. And now, before we suture him up, how about a squirt of my brand new au de cologne… For fuck’s sake. What has gone wrong with the world? The second-raters have taken over. And their own involvement in their brand is like a CEO putting a signature on other people’s work and ideas. They actually do very little; they are there just to help flog it to gullible mugs who thought they were fucking great in that thing on the telly. But at some point one of these celebrities is going to believe their own hype and marketing and convince themselves that they really can mix up their own fragrance range. Let loose in a lab they’ll fuck it up and come up with a mix of cyanide and Strontium-90. And then we’ll all know about it. The air will be poisoned, the water table ruined. Crops will fail and the sun will be blackened out from the sky. Joe Pasquale’s Squeaky for men could mean the end of the world as we know it. Be warned. A celebrity signature fragrance will kill us all. Geri Halliwell’s Kipper™ will bring down humanity.

Don’t look back in anger

Last year I got my hands on all three series of All Quiet on the Preston Front on DVD. They were shown (and never repeated) in 1994, 1995 and then the final series in the late summer of 1997. For anyone who’s never seen it, the programme is a comedy/drama following the ups and downs of members of a Terratorial Army platoon in a small town in Lancashire. Lloydy’s signature phrase of ‘mecks me laff!’ was the Britpop ‘Garlic bread!’ It’s the new shape for the 90s. Round and deep. Northern. The world of Preston Front is the working class idyll inhabited by Fred Dibnah, Selwyn Froggitt and the bald or brill-creamed stars of World of Sport wrestling, where Ray Mort would turn up as a cowboy in All Creatures Great and Small and every comedy seemed to be set in either Yorkshire or some Northern neverneverland, a world later populated by Peter Kay and to a degree the world of Life on Mars. A world built on memories of the Silver Jubilee and Raleigh Choppers, Space Hoppers and the original Star Wars films, for people who the year 2000 was a milestone that over the pages of an Asterix book, or lining up Airfix soldiers on the carpet to re-fight World War 2 or at the controls of Astro Wars seemed an infinity away. It’s Last of the Summer Wine country for the Oasis generation. ‘Some might say’ and the long summer of 1997 when Be Here Now was drip fed to us, with Compo transmuted into a Stone Island wearing, Madchester-loving football hooligan full of witty swagger. Lloydy epitomises the man who has grown up into this world. The Bruce Lee-obsessed teenager who took karate classes in the Mapplewell Working Mens’ Club and North Gawber Miners’ Welfare. You have offended my family, you have offended the Shaolin temple… Who played back yard cricket in the Coronation Street terrace snickets of Harrow Street in South Elmsall pretending to be Beefy Botham. An Arcadia of Best Bitter and Black Pudding that has for its Grandfather Brian Glover in The Fishing Party. Who spits out TV catchphrases transformed by irony or ridiculousness or well-timed satire into things of beauty. Because the 1990s was the first truly post-modern decade. When everything from the past century – and the final forty years of it in particular – were scooped up and dusted off to be re-lived again. We wore the clothes and aped music and were desperate to cling to the past’s confident ethos of cool. We were going to live forever. And sometimes it seems that outside the world of technology, nothing new has happened since. It feels that we’re living in a cultural groundhog day.

 

Watching the Preston Front DVDs I was shocked by how quickly and silently that world had slipped into the past. That it no longer lived here and now. The price of petrol (62p per litre) on the board outside Diesel’s garage was a stunner in itself. And I was reminded of places that had imprinted themselves on my mind during that time and that are now associated with back then so strongly that I feel that to revisit them I would slip through a wrinkle in the time/space continuum and find myself in some Clark’s desert boots and Levis white tab. As if suddenly I’d slip back fifteen years to be driving over Midhopestones past the parched reservoirs with ‘Roll with it’ playing, or stepping out of the Oval tube station in the hot late summer the day before Diana’s funeral. Except the feeling would leave me after a moment and dump me back here leaving the past even farther behind than it was before. Like it did when I watched the Preston Front DVDs for the first time.

 

I also recently bought Scully on DVD. Set in Liverpool and written by Alan Bleasdale. First shown on Monday evenings between 14th May 1984 and 25th June 1984 as the Miner’s Strike and Frankie Goes to Hollywood were in full flight. And we watched it as part of our English lessons. This was the days of the cold war when we were being prepared in classes by Mr Savage and Cozy Powell for Barnsley being sandwiched between the thermonuclear hits on Sheffield and Leeds. We’d get the fallout apparently. Hurricane force winds hitting us. Tumours popping quicker than our incipient acne. Obviously this is all Nostalgia TV. Preston Front, Scully, Bergerac, Lovejoy, all of it. Even the film stock and the colour spectrum are of their time. The colours either washed out or over bright (Adidas waterproof). Then there’s the mullet haircuts, the slang (‘ace!’). The square cars. I remembered Scully as being somehow more expansive in my mind’s eye. But you used to get more out of thirty minutes in those days and as you age the exchange rate of experience into time gets you less for your money. At school the picture came through hazy VHS on a TV the size of a Gameboy screen but we still managed to have Gilly Coman in our sexual fantasies. What hit me when I watched it for the first time in a quarter of a century, like when I watched Harry’s Game, was the difference in production values between now and then. There’s a marked contrast. And the lack of ambient noise. No eerie strings sound-tracking every moment. No quick cutting of the camera angles. No wobbly shots to pretend it’s all gritty and exciting. No drum and bass or moody electronica glossing over the shoddy script and the crap acting. The director just let the drama happen. Scully was made at a time when Channel 4 had taken up the baton from the BBC in producing original screenplays. In the tradition of Play for today. It also made One Summer that I watched at school. Another drama set in Liverpool. If the 1970s had largely been Yorkshire’s, the 1980s belonged to Liverpool. One Summer also had the scene with the tidy blonde lass in it that gets her top off. Or doesn’t. It’s amazing what your memory will do to you. And frightening. Especially when you try to go back.