Alexei Sayle: Why you won't see me dead at fashionable parties

'I liked this feature, because occasionally I'd be in it if everyone else was out of town'
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The Independent Online

Here in London there is a magazine called ES which is given away free every Friday with the local paper, the Evening Standard. I still quite like it but when it was first launched it used to be the most extraordinary publication; before a revamp a couple of years ago ES was pretty much my perfect magazine.

However, sadly, after a new editor was brought in ES was redesigned and it became much more of a gossipy society magazine. For example near the front there is now a half-page feature called "Dish" in which two raddled old roués called Simon Mills and Nicky Haslam go on about all the parties they've been to during the week.

In this spirit one of the few spreads which was held over from the first incarnation of ES, and indeed has been given greater prominence, is a photo feature called "Party". This consists of photographs taken by a man called James Peltekian. At every after-film première party, every chi-chi restaurant opening, every self-indulgent charity event, this swarthy little man is there with his camera, getting you to pose for a few seconds so he can trap your image.

At first I used to quite like this feature, especially because I'd occasionally be in it if everybody else was out of town and there were no parties other than an after-show do for the avant-garde musical about pottery that I was attending.

However after a year or two I began to find something extremely compelling in a queasy way about "Party" because it began to appear to me that there is a quality in these pictures that makes everybody in them look dead.

Actually dead isn't the right word, maybe doomed is a better one since obviously all these celebrities are in fact still alive (apart from Stephen Fry that is, who is truly dead and whose body is being operated via radio remote control by the Burmese Junta for their own inscrutable ends).

Rather, somehow, there is a melancholy property that infuses these images, a feeling that you are looking at people who died 50 years ago: passengers having a last drink prior to boarding ill-fated airships; grinning cadavers partying while all the while under a table an anarchist bomb ticks; stiff and starchy regimental dinners captured on the eve of some First World War battle.

I don't know how James Peltekian achieves this effect, maybe it's the make of camera he's using, perhaps he's got some sort of X-ray camera that rather than seeing through to the bones and stuff of the person being photographed, in the usual way, instead sees right through to the soul of the sort of person who attends those parties.

This special camera looks into the heart of the Jordans, the Victoria Herveys, the Amanda Holdens, the Simon Le Bons, the Tarquin Southwells (no I don't know who he is either, I'm just copying his name out of this week's magazine), stares deep into their hearts and reveals that the ravening insecurity, the churning ambition, the boiling avariciousness, the falseness and the elitism of the party circuit has turned their souls to ice, has killed them inside, though they still walk, talk and eat tiny, delicious, little sausages, which a friend of mine who used to be involved in the Christmas hamper trade told me they called "party cocks".

Once it had started appearing to me that everybody around me was deceased I continued to attend the few openings I was invited to but my behaviour became so odd that I began to freak everybody else out, running around screaming and stuff, so that the public relations people stopped biking me over the invites. Now I have to pay to get into the cinema like everybody else, and if I want to eat a little honey-glazed sausage on a stick, I have to honey glaze it myself.

I do miss those film premières though, so that sometimes now when I go to the regular cinema I'll stand in the foyer afterwards with a glass of warm white wine and a platter of sausages that I've smuggled in with me, though I have to warn you that the danger of sitting down in the dark with a pocket full of party cocks means that I regularly have to go to casualty to have a load of toothpicks removed from my gullet. Finally in the cinema foyer I'll get somebody to take my photograph and when I get the print back from the photo place, I don't look dead.

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