Ask me this but don't mention that

This week everybody's talking about press intrusiveness. Now it's famous Martin Amis, publicising his new novel and worrying about his privacy. Anne Treneman doesn't hear him

Martin Amis is dismayed over the invasion of his privacy about his failed marriage. How do I know this? The press release for the current issue of Esquire which carries an interview with Mr Amis tells me so. It does this because famous people being outraged over publicity is the kind of thing that makes news these days and so it made sense to highlight such outrage just in case anyone missed it.

The news - or is it publicity? - was duly carried in yesterday's papers along with a mention of Amis's new novel. Also in yesterday's papers was news of Harrison Ford and his fear over the invasion of his privacy. "There is an obsession with celebrity in today's culture that is, I think, unhealthy, unreasonable and unwarranted but I don't know what to do about it. I don't know specifically where the blame lies." This quote comes from an "exclusive" interview with Ford in The Express. It is not unrelated that Ford is starring in a new movie called Air Force One (the publicity for which is hardly low-key: "Harrison Ford is the President of the United States", it boasts).

There has been much hand-wringing about invasion of privacy since the Princess of Wales died but there are no easy answers in a celebrity-crazed world in which fame and publicity are inextricably intertwined. "The world takes you over a bit, annexes you," Amis complains in the Esquire interview. "When I was in the papers every day I hadn't done anything. I'd left my wife, but as anyone knows who's been through it, no one wants a marriage to break up."

But the fact is that Martin Amis had done something. The man who is often called Britain's greatest novelist - and whom the Telegraph at least has identified as its sexiest - is not exactly shy. In one of his many forays as a journalist he went to interview Madonna. In fact she wouldn't be interviewed. We know this because Amis told us because, of course, he did write the story of the non-interview anyway: "The reason she seemed to be giving was this: I was too famous. Madonna (I wanted to tell her), don't say another word. I completely understand."

It is no good doing everything you can to make news one day - whether it is aid of a new film or new book or even a non-interview - and then wondering why there might be a market for information about what else you might be doing. As Amis and Ford and countless others have discovered, it can be considerably more difficult to put the genie back into the bottle.

It is something that Amis's father knew too. Kingsley Amis also had a marriage that went wrong and attracted the interest of the press. "In those days all you got was the old-fashioned hypocrisy, some paragon of Fleet Street saying, you know, `He's an adulterer.' Now you get a crackle of schadenfreudian laughter, and scurrility that is gigglingly hurled in the pot." He adds: "If they wrote about you like that in France they'd go to prison."

I'm not sure that Brigitte Bardot would agree but such views make it clear that it is not the publicity, per se, that such stars object to. It is the fact that they cannot control it. There was an interesting moment this week when Sylvester Stallone showed up in Rome to launch another branch of Planet Hollywood. All must have seemed as normal as the photographers jostled each other to get the best position. But then, something happened. The photographers, angry over Stallone's recent anti-paparazzi remarks, decided to stage a mini-strike and lowered their cameras. Stallone ignored them and soon they were snapping away as normal but it did make you wonder what would happen if you gave a photo opportunity and no one came. Later at the press conference Stallone made a joke of it: "I love the press. It's what separates us from the animals." He later explained that it was only a section of the paparazzi that he was worried about.

Sylvester Stallone may indeed only be worried about one specially virulent strain of paparazzi. Most of us are, especially as we learn more and more of how Diana was hunted day and night. But perhaps, if he was honest, some of this is just an excuse to complain about press coverage in general and, in doing so, try to control it just a little bit more. After all, Stallone clearly does love the press on his terms: he was only in Rome to open Planet Hollywood (hardly anti-celebrity itself) because he happened to be in Venice promoting his latest film.

At heart most celebrities - and the Princess was among them - understand this. We know this because Tina Brown, celebrity editor of the star-studded New Yorker, wrote about a lunch she had had with Diana a few weeks ago. She says that Diana tried time and again to get the Royal Family to appoint a political strategist who would do for them what Peter Mandelson did for Tony Blair. She quotes Diana as saying: "They kept saying I was manipulative, but what's the alternative? To just sit there and have them make an image for you?"

And stars like Harrison Ford, for all his reticence, must see that they are not completely innocent. The man is no JD Salinger, after all. In this week's interview he tells an story about the small gold ring that he has taken to wearing in his left ear. Evidently, he first appeared wearing this thing on CNN's Larry King Live show. Ford says he was keen to play down the ensuing fuss (despite having worn it in the first place). "It's just an earring. A lot of people have them, a lot of people don't. But it does seem to be of spectacular interest." Perhaps someone should tell Mr Ford that he is not like a lot of people. After all, as his publicity tells us, he is the President of the United States.

There is one alternative that few ever really talk about. No publicity. This is something that the real president of the United States has managed to achieve for his daughter. He did this by demanding that the press lay off but also by never breaking his side of the bargain and seeking out any publicity. Chelsea does not give interviews, she does not have favourite journalists that she calls with the latest tip, she does not open restaurants or appear on Larry King Live wearing an earring.

But no publicity means, of course, not playing the game and not playing the game is perhaps the biggest risk of all. It can affect both career and income. Publicity generates interest and interest makes for more sales. Not everyone buys Amis's novels for their literary value alone. Many may read a gossipy bit or two - like the item in Peterborough that announced that his girlfriend was pregnant - and decide to give one of his books a go.

Perhaps Martin Amis would do well to look at another man with a genius for words named Thomas Pynchon who truly has shunned publicity. "He's always been an absence rather than a presence," Ron Rosenbaum comments in the Independent on Sunday. "He's been a stealth writer from the moment the publicity-industrial complex first tried to fix him on its radar screen." In 1963, when Pynchon discovered Time had found where he was living in Mexico and had sent someone to cover him. Upon hearing this news Pynchon did something very interesting indeed: he got on a bus and disappeared

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones