These are exciting, if confusing, times for us celebrity worshippers. As an adherent of the ecumenical wing of the movement, my faith embraces the pantheon all the way from Britney to Becks, taking in, en passant, Des Lynam, Richard and Judy, Carol Vorderman, Michael Fish, Camilla Parker Bowles (a schismatic, non-conformist devotion) and, as a form of ancestor worship, Frank Bough. To those who say these are false idols, I say some are indeed false, but only in part, and those parts are silicone, upfront and truly mystical.
A polytheism such as mine bestows new benefits almost daily. Only last week, for example, I read with excitement that Ian Botham and Bob Willis, two once mighty gods whom the passage of time has sadly relegated to minor deities, have had two Australian wines named after them. One is an “herbaceous” Cabernet Sauvignon, the other a “lightly oaked, melon and citrus” Chardonnay, both from the Australian wine maker Geoff Merrill.
Can you imagine the thrill of sipping a wine that you know is favoured by Ian Botham? One glass and in your mind’s eye you are strolling out to the middle in Headingly about to wreak such wonders as make the world stand still. One bottle and you are romping in a bed-busting frolic with Miss Jamaica. One case and you are on some Elysian plain simultaneously batting and bowling against an ethereal army of Australians, West Indians and Page Three lovelies. Such is the power of celebrity transubstantiation.
What is more, it is no illusion. “This is not like some other celebrity wine endorsements,” says Willis. “These are the wines we like to drink.” And if Bob Willis, a former fast bowler with an inordinately long run-up, likes a particular wine, that’s good enough for me.
One of the joys of celebrity worship is that when one door closes another opens. For instance, it was a blow when Coffee Republic, one of those places where the patient and vigilant believer might be rewarded by a brush with celebrity, decided to remove its sofas and transform itself into a deli. Now the whole point of an American-style coffee bar was to provide a place where one could hang out for hours at a time using a single drink as nothing more than a prop. The aim was either to be seen, or to be the seer. Henceforth no one who is anyone will use Coffee Republic. I mean, you can’t just stand there in the hope of catching a glimpse of Carole Caplin rushing in for a pastrami on rye.
But now for the good news. The Priory Clinic is opening its doors to the general public. For celebrity worshippers this is like dying and waking up in heaven. Rubber-necking at The Ivy cannot begin to compare with the opportunity to share a drug and rehabilitation ward with not just one celebrity, but dozens; and, what is more, to see them au naturel as it were: gibbering, neurotic, self-obsessed.
Karen Croft, the corporate communications manager of the Priory, says the campaign to attract new clients was about “reaching out to a mainstream audience who desperately need help”. And if that isn’t a description of us celebrity worshippers I don’t know what is. There are countless millions of us who without our daily fix of Geri Halliwell or that bald man who used to be in EastEnders suffer withdrawal symptoms that cannot be treated by something simple, such as Posh Spice. We crave a stronger snort. A Phil Tuffnell perhaps, or a Countess of Wessex.
The alert among you will have spotted a problem here. Since a common form of treatment for addiction is cold turkey, what use is it to put a celebrity junkie in a clinic full of celebrities? It’s the therapy known as “kill or cure”, or deep-end remedy. The theory is that brutal exposure to one’s demons can lead to aversion. It has been tried successfully with dogs that worry sheep. The miscreant canine is placed in a pen with a violent ram. A modest butting is all that is usually needed to put the dog off sheep for the rest of its life.
It’s not difficult to imagine that a celebrity botherer placed in close proximity to Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, Ronnie Wood, Michael Barrymore, and Paul Gascoigne would, after just a day or two, feel uncomfortable and ill at ease. After a week, he would be off his food. Left much longer, he would be pleading to be let out.
Not so with true worshippers such as I. In any case, I have a commercial proposition that might be of interest to celebs, both inside and out of the Priory. I have developed a painless surgical procedure, not dissimilar to body piercing or tattooing, whereby sunglasses are permanently stapled to the top of the patient’s head. Imagine, no more worrying about whether or not they are in place, no more having to remove them in the shower or when no one is looking. They can be worn, just as now, whatever the weather and whatever the time of day, inside and out of doors in complete comfort. It’s the biggest thing since the facelift and totally compatible with it. So when the facial skin is pulled back and tautened, the glasses rise higher over the dome of the head in a pleasing sort of way.