Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Fame Game

On Monday afternoon Karen and I decided to make the most of the last day of our holiday staycation by following in the footsteps of many and spending a pleasant few hours in the local park with the kids.

And by “the kids” I, of course, mean our kids specifically rather than “the kids” generally. I’m afraid the days when I’d sit on a park bench necking back a bottle of Diamond White with the local yobbery are far behind me. There are, after all, only so many cars that you can nick, joyride and leave burning by the roadside while you hold up the nearby petrol station before it all becomes a tad boring.

Ennui totally killed crime for me. My low boredom threshold made a straight man of me in the end.

So we’re feeding the ducks and some of it is reaching the birds and 33% of it is going into Tom’s mouth as he can’t bear to part with his share and we pass what looks like Russell Howard on a park bench.

For those of you who don’t know Russell Howard is an up-and-coming comedian who appears regularly on the BBC’s Mock The Week programme and is extremely funny – and I apologize to my overseas readers as Russell Howard and Mock The Week will undoubtedly mean absolutely nothing to you but the experience I’m about to recount possibly will so bear with me.

Anyway, Mr H is neither swigging Diamond White nor getting down with the kids but is doing his best to look unobtrusive and unremarkable while he talks to someone rather earnestly on his mobile phone. He is, in effect, blending in.

And indeed he would have got away with it but for an uncanny act of synchronicity... I’d bought Karen Mr H’s comedy DVD for Christmas last year but as we’re working our way through an immense DVD backlog we’d only got round to watching it the day before our visit to the park. The “Extras” package on the DVD features footage of Russell in civilian mode where he looks oddly unrecognizable from the bouncy persona he presents on TV and stage... but having seen it we were able to see through his “blending in” tactics and pick him out immediately.

It was him. On a park bench in Leamington. Him off the telly. A real life famous person. Him. Him there.

It’s funny but I always thought I’d be unfazed by a close encounter with a famous person. That I’d play it cool. Nonchalant. They are, after all, only people. Same as you and me. No big thing. Autograph hunting is for saddoes. Etc.

And yet I cannot deny there was a small part of me wanting to run up to Russell, shake his hand, say hello and act like his best mate in a manner that would have resulted in the rest of my life being spent trying to overcome the subsequent sense of shame and wince-worthy degradation.

The impulse was so strong.

But I was saved by his mobile phone. Fame be damned. There was etiquette to think of! One cannot just interrupt a phone conversation for the sake of self gratification! It’s bad form! It would be un-English Goddamnit!

So we fed the ducks and left Russell Howard in peace and he – no doubt feeling the sniper glare of our distant attention beginning to bear down on his shoulders – soon got up and walked away from us, looking smaller than he does on the telly and disappointingly un-star-like and disappeared into the milling Bank Holiday crowds of Leamington Spa.

When we got home we did a quick Google search... you know, just to see if he was playing any gigs locally which would explain his presence in the park and found this (check out the last question at the bottom of the page).

Yep. Russell it seems lives locally. He’s moved in. He’s become a Leamingtonian.

He and me are practically brothers!

Welcome to Leamington Spa, Russell! Hope you like it here. But next time you’re walking around town, keep your mobile phone handy, eh?

For both our sakes.


Suburbia said...

I am hopeless with faces, the queen could pass me in the street and I wouldn't recognise her! How did you recognise someone from the radio?!!!

Anyway, exciting to have a celeb neighbour!

Can you still buy Diamond White? I used to dring bottles of the stuff years ago (not on a park bench tho'!)

French Fancy... said...

It is odd when one suddenly sees a familiar face from films or tv - for a minute you think it is a friend. I've worked for a couple of places where I rubbed shoulders with the well known bods around town and once they don't have a script or make up on they all seem terribly ordinary actually. I know that sounds blase but it is true

Valerie said...

Steve, nobody looks like they do on telly. I engage a few well-knowns as speakers and I'm always surprised at how different they look. So Leamington is attracting the famous, is it? You'd better keep your autograph book handy ... get a few signatures your boy can swap with his mates.

Brother Tobias said...

I'm saved from these encounters by being perpetually preoccupied and very slow-witted. Also rather bad at recognising faces. From failing to recognise Jack Charlton when he greeted me on a train, to misdirecting Keith Chegwin when he fell out of the back of a transit in Maidstone once to ask directions, I managed a convincing impression of the only apperceptive agnosia sufferer in Britain without a telly.

KeyReed said...

I have to say the gentleman has never made me laugh. Come to that, although I park myself in front of Mock the Week quie often I seldom even titter or chuckle. I am a hard nut to crack I suppose.

English Rider said...

Two American friends, one French husband and I (Brit.) went to dog rescue fund-raiser that was a Parade of Collies and a Lassie Look-a-Like competition.
As we were leaving the car park there was huge excitement from my American friends who had spotted "Timmy" of "Timmy's down the well" Lassie movie fame. They were dying to get out and talk to him. French husband was totally oblivious,Timmy? Lassie? Quoi? and I was cringing in my seat, begging him not to stop as I hated the idea of intruding on a stranger. We are all different.

The Sagittarian said...

I'm betting whoever this guy is, he scarpered only to go tell his mates that he had seen the fabulously funny Steve from Blogland! No idea who this guy is, but you make me laugh all the time Steve-O and that makes you more important in my book! Now then, a park bench and some booze...ah!

The Joined up Cook said...

I think it can depend on where you see these people.

I once walked past Michael Caine in London. It was near Whitehall right in the hub of the city. It seemed kind of natural to bunp into famous people there. I was miffed when I didn't see anymore.

I wasn't tempted to say, 'hello' as I was the inerloper in this 'famous people's area'.

Yet when I saw a wll-known TV presenter for BBC Yorkshire in Tesco's I had to stop myself from saying something; because she was on my territory I suppose.

Tim Atkinson said...

Can I have your autograph please Steve?

Steve said...

Surburbia: Mock The Week may have started as a radio show but has been TV show now for 4 or 5 years plus Russell's DVD allowed us to eyeball him with ease! I'm pretty sure you can still buy Diamond White but only from the less salubrious establishments...

FF: I agree. Seeing someone without the correct lighting and makeup makes them look exactly as they are - as mortal and ordinary as the rest of us!

Valerie: that's not a bad idea. Maybe I should have pounced on Russell after all and said I was "doing it for the kids"!

Brother T: I think if I was apprehended by Keith Chegwin I would just outrightly pretend I had no idea who he was on principal!

Tenon_Saw: everyone has different tastes I suppose - I'm very susceptible to the type of humour they have on Mock The Week; same with Have I Got News For You.

English Rider: yes, invading someone's privacy is the biggest obstacle for me. I've only ever asked for someone's autograph once (Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins) and felt awful afterwards. Sullied somehow, like I'd needlessly abased myself.

Amanda: you're a sweetheart. I shall forward your comments to the BBC and see if I can get a regular slot on Mock The Week myself... Then I can sit in the park alongside Russell with pride.

AWB: yes, context is everything. Seeing Russell in a civilian setting really through me. I wasn't quite sure who was the biggest interloper - me or him, or even neither of us.

Dotterel: you can with pleasure though alas it will prove worthless at auction. By the way, I'm having trouble accessing your blog. I've tried several times and each time Internet Explorer says it has encountered a problem and needs to close down. :-(

Anonymous said...

Well as you so wisely predicted, his name means nothing to me, but never mind you had me at Diamond White, that got my attention, of course I am no longer that Diamond white guzzling person I ahve reinvented myself.
Celeb-wise, I saw Dame Peggy Ahscroft once in the bar at The National,( that's hardly an alien enviroment for her though I must admit, and if you ahng out in the bar there you see loads of well known folk) only my innate British reticence stopped me stooping to kiss the hem of her dress.Lucky for her I suppose, a few more diamond whites and I'd have gone for it!;)

Steve said...

MissBehaving: if I was waving a bottle of Diamond White around who knows...? Russell may have even approached me instead! He looks the type...

Savannah said...

I'm afraid I don't know who Russell is or what Diamond White is either for that matter but I understand where you were coming from. We mere mortals are so funny about famous people aren't we?

I saw an actress from my favourite show at the airport once and was dying to go up and say something but then I realised she probably just wanted to get her bag and get on home so I didn't.

justme said...

I am really rather impressed that you recognised him! I am hopeless at that stuff. I once spent twenty minutes chatting to a rather famouse actor at a party before asking him 'and what do you do?' Ooops. Not to mention the time that I suspected an even MORE famous actor of being a dodgy character hanging around outside my son's primary school, and asked for him to be investigated. Turned out his daughter was in my sons class at school.....he was just collecting her!

Steve said...

Justme: the fact we'd literally watched his DVD the day before definitely aided our powers of recognition... otherwise we'd have walked on by without taking a second look. I suspect most actors are secretly thrilled to find someone who doesn't recognize them... it means they can behave like a normal person and have a normal conversation without someone having star expectations of them.

Selina Kingston said...

Russel Shmussel!
You're the star here mate and I'm coming over to Leamington Spa to hang around, drinking Diamond White, until I spot YOU and then I will be running up to you and shaking you by the hand, no, probably throwing my arms round you and planting kisses on your cheek whether you're on the phone or not.
You have been warned !!

Steve said...

Selina: I've always wanted my own groupie. Thank you. ;-)

Suburbia said...

Ha! you can tell I never watch TV can't you? I had no idea. Silly me!

The Sagittarian said...

BTW - what is Diamond White? It sounds like loo cleaner...

Steve said...

Suburbia: on the bright side it means your brain is less likely to have been polluted by the inanity of modern living...

Amanda: Diamond White = cheap and nasty cider so, yes, loo cleaner in other words.