I came across a book by Pattie Boyd, and though the biogs of famous people aren’t really my thing, as is my habit I picked it up and began reading it. What struck me was how shallow were the lives of the characters she described. Very famous people lived the lives of indulged fifteen-year-olds, insulated by vast quantities of money, waited upon and serviced by acolytes desperate for reflected glory.
She found herself living in a gorgeous house with a successful, wealthy husband and, while she wanted to live a normal happily-married life, he was upstairs meditating for hours and hours, or being fawned upon by less-famous beings. She left him for an equally famous man who existed in an equally unpleasant haze of drugs and alcohol.
Their lifestyles reminded me a bit of schoolyard cliques. The popular kids, the less popular kids. The tough kids, the hangers on. The glorious, and the lesser who bathed in reflected glory.
I disliked it when I was a teenager. To read of adults behaving like that, and believing it was real, was laughable.
I think one of the by-products of the overwhelming growth of social media is the death of celebrity. Maybe it began a couple of decades ago with Big Brother, maybe it began with Twitter four years ago, or maybe the side column of the Daily Mail every day, but people just aren’t as impressed by fame as they one were.
I take that as a good thing.
One element of her story that came through was that, though she was a gorgeous girl from an affluent family, and though she was surrounded by famous people, all of them fabulously rich, all she wanted was a normal life. If her first husband had stopped with the drugs, the chanting and the groupies, or her second husband had stopped with the drugs, the brandy and the groupies, she’d have been more than content.
But they couldn’t. The venality on offer was impossible to refuse. It seems to me, reading the book, that the fame they enjoyed became a velvet cage. And saddest of all, it muted their creative output to a point that they never really recovered from.
To be fair, she did inspire two of the greatest love songs ever written. And a really schmaltzy song written by a drunk.