I am rarely, if ever, star-struck. I have met a fair few of the rich and famous, in one context or another, but on the whole, I haven’t been impressed by their ostensible eminence.
Recently, I found myself in Brighton and in need of coffee. As the nearest place was a Costa, I hied me hence. It was a busy time and I ended up sharing a table with a girl who looked vaguely familiar. Eventually, it dawned upon me that she was an actress in one of the soaps, and a love/hate figure for tabloid journalists. I did not reveal to her that I’d recognized her – indeed, my cognitive processes had not allowed me to recall either her name nor that of the character that had made her famous — and we chatted in a desultory manner about Brighton and shopping and whether the (sunny) weather was likely to change. She was much nicer than the tabloids would have one believe, but — alas — not more intelligent. Coffee consumed, we left Costa together and walked down I-know-not-where in each other’s company.
And then I observed a street artist. I looked more closely. Yes. Yes, it was. It really was! It was Kevin Hayler. I have for years been impressed by his talent. (He is, for those who don’t know, a self-taught wildlife artist, and a true genius. Here’s a link to his work: http://www.kjhayler.co.uk/ As one who has artistic aspirations herself, I can safely say that his is a rare and enviable talent.) I was gobsmacked. Here, in the middle of a Brighton street, was one of my heroes. I gasped. I gawped. I stopped talking to the starlet, who was a little bemused, I suspect, that I hadn’t reacted with such awe in her presence. He was equally bemused, I think, to be greeted with such idolatry. He’s a nice man, and unassuming. But look at his stuff and tell me that my hero-worship was in any way misplaced.
Which brings me on to Lemmy. Lemmy Kilmister, lead singer of Motorhead. I have not met Lemmy. I would dearly love to meet him, but I have not done so, at least not yet. Were I to be playing that Fantasy Dinner Party game, Lemmy would definitely be on my guest list (most — if not all — of the others would be dead people). Nevertheless, years ago, I passed up on the opportunity to meet (and possibly have meaningless groupie sex with) this man. My then boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend was a great Motorhead groupie. She appeared beside the great man , often in a state of undress, in various photos in various fanzines of the day. My then boyfriend’s brother somehow remained oblivious to her proclivities, or chose to give that impression.
One day, this girl (whose name I forget but whom I shall call Lyndsey for the simple reason that I know that that was not her name) asked me to go to a Motorhead gig and accompany her to the party backstage afterwards. Because I had morals in those days (hell, I still have morals, just not necessarily so mainstream as they were back then), I felt that, out of solidarity with my then boyfriend’s brother, I had to turn down the offer. Lyndsey tried to persuade me. ‘Just come with me,’ she pleaded, ‘you won’t have to do anything.’ But that was not my fear. I have always been too bolshie for anyone to make me do anything I didn’t want to do. My reluctance was solely baed on the fact that she was lying, and expecting me to lie, to my then boyfriend’s somewhat naïve and trusting brother. Do I regret my decision? No. Because, whilst the mature me would love to meet the mature Lemmy, the teenage me was never going to become just another of his post-gig f**ks. That has never been my style. And besides, I didn’t appreciate then just how cool Lemmy is. Nor had I ever heard this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk4ATrsNnFc
The realization of his total and overwhelming coolness came in the mid-nineties when he was interviewed on (I think) Channel 4 by some blonde, giggly, bimbo-esque presenters who clearly thought they’d discomfit the silly old rocker and make him look stupid for having shagged everything that moved.* Suffice it to say — they didn’t. Because Lemmy has more cool in his little finger than the Noth Pole and the South Pole combined. Because Lemmy is a God. Because no one in their right mind would try and get the better of Lemmy. But he’s not unique. A similar situation obtained when Robbie Coltrane was interviewed a couple of years later by Chris Evans, and there was clearly an embarrass-the-fat-bloke agenda going on, the barbs of which completely failed to scratch Mr C ‘s impenetrable composure. And does anyone remember the pasting Anne Robinson got when she tried to out-snide and out-bitch the drag-queens in a Weakest Link special?
There are very few people in this world who can achieve the coolness of Lemmy, the sang-froid of Robbie, or the effortless put-downiness of the drag-queens. I have had the honour to meet — oh! — I’d say fewer than half a dozen such individuals. But they know who they are: I told them.
*I have tried — and failed — to find a clip or a transcript of this interview, so if, dear reader, you can point me in its general direction I would be forever in your debt.
[Photo pinched from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericvv/5466375289/in/photostream/ ]