For those not in the UK or indeed, London, there is a new phenomena which has threatened to make the national "key cities" distribution of Metro look like an era of comparative Guardian reading in comparison. Every evening as people rush to tube stations in order to flatten themselves in to any vehicle moving away from their workplace as fast as possible, they are assaulted at street level by desperate beggars, who plead, and thrust free copies of "London Lite" or "The London Paper" in the space under your armpit, or perhaps in to the carrier bag you're holding, before you can say no.
In Paddington these poor bastards aren't too bad, but I had the misfortune to run in to a couple at Leicester Square today and it felt like I was being mugged by a telephone saleman from Carphone Warehouse. No, no, get off me, I don't want your damned "newspaper"!
These papers that masquerade as actual 'news' carriers tend to focus on unverifiable lies about famous people, and paperazzi pictures of famous people. It doesn't actually matter to them what those people are famous for. Pop star, scientist, journalist, parent of a potentially murdered 3 year old... if you are known, for any reason, it seems, you are not just fair game but you are now a verifiable target of attack. Because that's what it feels like now. If you in any aspect of your job seek to gain the attention of the press, it seems that the editors of these loo paper alternatives have decided that it is their moral right to photograph every inanity of your life, and potentially drive you to the edge of your sanity whilst doing so. And fuck! That makes such grrrrrrreat newspaper coverage, we sure thank you kind people for letting us photomontage your breakdowns!
The McCanns (parents of the young child who went missing in Portugal, as if you didn't remember) have been subjected to a daily barrage of totally unverifiable gossip from Police "sources" stating as fact that for example, her body was dumped in the sea and will never be found; they drugged her and they've got the evidence to prove it, etc, etc - all front page headline news, interspersed with the revelations that 'Kate McCann is on the verge of cracking up'. Jaysus, is it any fucking wonder? Turns out there's no evidence to speak of, the Judges see no reason why they should be interviewed again and the Police are busy trying to find what happened to the poor child. The absence of actual news forced these god awful rags to actually make up the news and parade it as it it were true.
Now if they're talking about Amy Winehouse (who is frankly, un-newsworthy in any respect unless she wins an award some place - in which case a thing has happened, therefore there is some actual news associated with her), which they do, *daily*, they focus on the girl's supposed drug addiction, and alcoholic "binges" as if it was of any importance whatsoever. To anyone. To the extent that this somewhat slight woman, who has released 1 album, must be surrounded by photographers everywhere she ever goes. I ask the obvious question: is it any wonder that she's a bit freaked out by it all? I mean, wouldn't you be? Did she sign up to "Celebrity Big Brother"? Is attempting to forge a career as a serious singer of serious songs (look, I'm not that keen a listener by the way, but at least she's more interesting than American chart R&B) equivalent to hawking your miserable, talentless profile in order to talk about "Cake"? I mean you'd have to be a cold hearted bastard to somehow concoct a reality where that is true.
According to these new gospels, there is no difference *at all*. Well. I say that. There is a difference - it really helps if you're a woman. If you're a woman, and famous for anything at all that involves smiling (which actually means you might not ever have done anything worthy of note of any description, but you might have a famous Dad, for example) you can now never, ever become inebriated in public again. If you a man, please, go ahead and lead your perfectly average life when off duty from doing your potentially famous day job. You may be subjected to a single photographer politely taking your photo when you leave The Ivy, but unless you are a self confessed talentless moron, who is merely desperate to be famous (a la that Johnny Tourette object), or you make such a vile / violent arse of yourself it simply cannot be ignored, these free sheets will wave you past, whilst they wait to dog every single footstep of Kate Moss, Lily Allen, Girls Aloud, Amy "wino" (ho ho! D'you see what we did there!) Winehouse, Kelly Osbourne, the hapless teenage daughters of Bob Geldof....
... and so on. No one is that interesting!
I sometimes think about what it must be like for these people, because they are now in a rat trap from which they can't escape. Britney Spears now has no option but to retire, but where in the past, the likes of Tiffany, or Debbie Gibson, were allowed to leave the spotlight and live out their lives in a manner of their choosing, Britney's entire life seems to have become forfeit. The poor, stupid kid is so fucked she seems incapable of dragging herself away from the trainwreck. Will she be driven to a suicide attempt? it'll be great news if she does. Front page! How about Kate McCann? Look at these photos, she looks so strained... go on Kate. Do it. Do it for the boys in the press, eh?
...and I read them, along with every other fucker, when I've forgotten my book.