Surly Hurley and the muddle that is fame


Those of us who support women and hate the idea of fame often wonder if certain celebrities are getting an unfair press. When someone is quite pretty, and famous for nothing much, you read the adverse headlines and assume that jealousy is involved. Thanks, then, to Liz Hurley, for showing the world that she gets exactly the press she deserves.

Last week, at Perth airport, Hurley and Shane Warne were approached by a TV reporter, who asked them some fairly polite questions about the previous day's cricket match. Warne tactfully kept his mouth shut, but Hurley walked straight into the reporter, told her off for being in the way, and then leant close into her face and said, "I think that you should fuck off." As the reporter retired, looking astonished, Hurley and Warne were filmed smirking at each other, triumphantly. Doesn't she know that swearing at a reporter means seven years of bad press?

As a former reluctant gossip columnist, I know how the surprise celebrity attack can feel. I once went up to a well-known Tory grandee at the very swish opening of a new art gallery on the South Bank. "Excuse me, sir," I stammered. "Are you enjoying the exhibition?" He looked at me as if he had just caught me desecrating his grandmother's grave, and marched away, muttering "Oh, fack orf!" under his breath. Was it really that rude of me, to interrupt him drinking his free champagne and contemplating a giant picture of Tracey Emin's crotch?

A prize-winning, brilliant author, with whom, in less famous times, I once skipped arm-in-arm down Piccadilly, later took against me. Years later, I followed her into a ladies' loo, and tried to explain who I was, and that we used to get on. "I know who YOU are!" she spat. "You're Cassandra." I am not. That was another diarist. And a man.

Authors, perhaps, are sensitive types, and it is easy to understand why they might lash out after a series of harsh reviews. But their targets may not be the critics. A colleague once attended a writer's Sunday-evening event. "Congratulations," he told the author. "You must be very proud of this party that you've organised. I'm here to write something about it for tomorrow's paper." The author looked down her wine glass at him and gave him the full Liz Hurley.

Naturally, celebrities are tortured and conflicted, and many can't decide if they want to be famous. On a day off, an old friend and I had to leave a restaurant because a large comedian kept interrupting our conversation in a loud and desperate attempt to be recognised. When a colleague later tried to interview the same comic at a press conference about his new job, he became aggressive and shouty: "How do I feel? How do you think I feel? What's that supposed to mean?"

I shouldn't complain, having never been on the receiving end of press intrusion. Until recently, when two drunk trade journalists berated me on a train. They had mistaken me for Rebekah Brooks. I didn't swear… but I wanted to.

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