Easily won fame and the institution of marriage are on my mind at the moment. This is, first, because of the Royal Engagement; second, because of the ascension of Ted Baillieu and his lady wife; and, third, because I recently read an ‘Ask Sam’ post on the topic of waiting for men to propose, in which is mentioned a Daily Mail writer’s anxieties that ‘[Kate] Middleton’s behaviour [namely, waiting around for the question to be popped] is an increasingly worrying trend when it comes to young women hankering after a ring’.
In the course of my life, I’ve spent a lot of time considering the benefits, or otherwise, of acquiring fame through marriage. I, of course, remember vividly the 1981 royal wedding of Diana to Charles, and even have in my possession no fewer than two identical souvenir cake tins issued in honour of the big occasion. While I certainly never expected to see that New Romantic era engagement ring on another woman’s finger, I am, quite frankly, looking forward to the big day because, while I don’t want my own, I rather enjoy being a spectator at weddings. And watching a wedding on television gives you all the advantages of actually going to one, yet none of the disadvantages, such as that situation at the reception where one person gets the fish and the next person gets the chicken, and you get the chicken when you wanted the fish and don’t know the person next to you well enough to ask them to swap with you. As well, I’ve always been partial to televised royal spectaculars. I still remember having friends over to watch Princess Diana’s funeral, and how we were fittingly sombre until the camera focused on Chris de Burgh seated among the congregation.
While Kate Middleton would have been assured of a degree of fame for the rest of her life just through her lengthy association with Prince William, she’s now a shoo-in for lifelong celebrity, but if she should want to extricate herself from the relationship, she had, of course, better do it soon. I recall from the telemovie Diana: Her True Story one of Diana’s sisters bitchily remarking to ‘Shy Di’ that it was too late to get out of the engagement because her ‘face was on the tea towels’. Kate looks like quite a hip doll, so I hope her face is on something more exciting than tea towels, but the principle remains the same.
Anyhow, I’m sure that Kate has not the slightest intention of getting out of it, given the advantages, as I see them, of this marriage. First, her grooming will be attended to by professionals; second, she will get to go to glamorous premieres; and, third, as a friend of mine once remarked about Princess Diana, ‘It must be so great to have people be overcome by how great you are just because you’re civil to them.’ Furthermore, there’s all the press coverage that Middleton is going to receive. I know that many would see this as one of the disadvantages for her in this marriage. I also know that there are people who don’t, they claim, read their own press, but I simply don’t believe this; I can think of few things I would enjoy more than sitting down with my morning coffee and reading about myself for hours.
Getting back to local matters for a moment, Robyn Baillieu, who has the kind of wholesome good looks that make her look as though she’s actually the host of Better Homes and Gardens, will, thanks to recent events, continue to get press coverage for no real reason at all. Ms Baillieu is in the grand tradition of attractive brunettes who have married men who go on to lead the Liberal Party, having obviously done what’s known as ‘spotting the potential in the nerd’. Unfortunately, she seems determined to present herself in a maximally uninteresting way: no Jan Murray-style bipolar hi jinks for her, merely claims of having tried to live her life according to the tedious maxim ‘If you can’t be nice about someone, don’t say anything at all’.
I’ve certainly always been violently attracted to the concept of achieving fame and riches through minimal effort. The first time I really became aware that one could do this was back in the early nineteen eighties, when the Human League were riding the crest of the Dare wave, and I feasted my eyes on the band’s back-up singers, Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, who had famously been talent spotted as teenagers in a Sheffield nightclub. As a child, I had thought that the multi-talented nuttiness of Kate Bush was the bee’s roller skates, but Catherall and Sulley made it clear that you could be involved in music and not have to do any of the heavy lifting; they had it even easier than the fellows in the League who played the keyboard with only one hand. I was thirteen and having to put up with the enormous boringness of school, while these girls, who had barely attained their majority, were staying in posh hotels and having people fawning over them, even though, in terms of dancing ability, they weren’t exactly Leroy from Fame and, in terms of singing ability, they weren’t even Monty from Fame. What’s more, they always looked like they’d overthought their outfits, at least until they toned them down in order to address world affairs in the pensive ‘The Lebanon’.
And then there was the Thompson Twins’ Alannah Currie, who resembled a more flamboyant Linda McCartney. The Twins will always have a place in my heart, due to Tom Bailey declaring, hilariously, in ‘Lies’, ‘Cleopatra died for Egypt, what a waste of time’, but Currie’s sole talents seemed to be minimal xylophone playing and percussion work, and being able to wear a big hat over a big mop of hair. I recall once seeing footage of Currie backstage at a Twins’ concert, delivering a hysterical monologue about all the stress she was under, despite what I would describe as the minimal nature of the responsibilities she had as a part of the Thompson Twins machine.
But the thing is that usually Currie looked as if she were enjoying herself no end, as did the Human League girls as they thrashed around, their faces either touchingly serious, like those of six-year-old flower girls (eg, ‘The Sound of the Crowd’, Top of the Pops, April 1981); or, at least in Susanne’s case, all eyes and teeth, and a frightening level of animation (eg, the ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ video, 1983). The fame and riches that these women attained were less durable than Kate Middleton’s or even Mary Donaldson’s, but I still think their way was best, as if you marry into royalty or politics, you have to make small talk incessantly and go to boring functions, as well as doing enough charity work to shut everybody up.
However, when it comes to royal marriages, at least they usually last forever and the woman in question will get her arse kept. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of people getting their arses kept, but I can at least understand the appeal. These days, however, marriage is neither necessarily for life nor a means of arse keeping, so I simply cannot understand why so many women continue to ‘hanker after a ring’, as if getting one will make their life endless beer and skittles. And, I have to say I find it rich that after eight years of Kate’s hankering, Prince William didn’t even have to make a trip to Prouds.