So, poor old Hollywood's got its knickers in a twist about Twitter. The biggest, slickest marketing machine in the world can't keep its hands off a medium that's all about youth, and being plugged in, and being hip, that's also, like, instant, and, more importantly, free, which is totally cool, but there's just one little problem. The stars.
There they are, your precious commodity (they cost a freaking fortune!) and you're killing yourself trying to maintain their visibility, just the right amount, and get them out there, just the right amount, and you've told them that although Twittering isn't "mandatory", if they have a Twitter account, they should "tweet regularly", because they need, you need, we all need "buzz", and then they screw it up. They dribble out details about plots and contracts and endings when they shouldn't. They leak news of shows and films when they shouldn't. Worse of all, they just leak: "news" about what they're up to, pictures of their wife's bottom, reports of what they've eaten and what they've drunk, leaks, even, on taking a leak. Remember when stars wanted "to be alone"? Dream on, baby. These people want to "share" their thoughts with the world every minute of every day, and their thoughts, alas, aren't Einstein.
No wonder Disney and DreamWorks have both decided that the "talent" has to be kept on a tighter leash. Both studios have inserted clauses into employment contracts to ensure that clients can't "breach confidentiality" on "interactive media, interactive social network or personal blog". Quite whether "confidentiality" extends to details of their so-called private lives remains unclear, but it's surely a step in the right direction. Now can we please have a gagging clause on everyone else? On everyone else, that is, who thinks that the world needs more of their musings on their tea-breaks and trips to the toilet.
There was a time when film stars had real glamour. Most potently, of course, in the age of the silent movie, an age when stars – dressed, made up and lit to perfection – were, like the thing that gave them life and breath, blank screens on which to project a fantasy. In those days, even their cheek bones were managed. And their tongues, behind those cupid's bow lips, were safely silent.
Some very good actors are interesting. Some very good actors aren't. Just because you can do something well doesn't mean you can talk about it interestingly, and if you can't talk about what you do well interestingly, the odds are that you can't talk that interestingly about your trip to the toilet. Which, by the way, we don't want to hear about. Ever.
If you want mystique, as Greta Garbo could have told you, or J D Salinger, or – well, actually it's rather hard to think of anyone else – you should never speak publicly and never give interviews. The Queen has always done rather well on that front. Beyond a PhD in small talk, and some carefully scripted Christmas messages, she is very, very quiet. She doesn't mouth off about architecture, or the future of the planet, or the Tupperware on her breakfast table (though she did ask rather a pertinent question about the financial crisis). Even Kate Moss did rather well, until she started being filmed stuffing coke up her nose and singing tuneless duets with junkie rock stars.
What we're witnessing, rather amusingly, is the battle between two commodities: glamour, which is largely silent, and profile, which largely isn't. The hunger for one is slowly killing the other. When everyone wants to be famous all the time, you can only drown in the noise.
Nice frock, shame about the massive effort behind it
Samantha Cameron may be a very nice woman. It's not her fault that her background is embarrassingly posh for someone who aspires to a bit of street cred, or that her father's home "near Scunthorpe" is, in fact, a stately home set in 3,000 acres, or that it was her family connections that apparently got her the work experience at Smythson, the super-posh stationers, that led to her current job, designing handbags which cost about the same as a small car.
As the parent of a disabled child, and the parent of a disabled child who died, she has suffered enormous personal grief with great dignity, and nobody would want to minimise that. But the recent debacle over her choice of outfit for her husband's speech at the Tory conference does, I'm afraid, leave a pretty sour taste.
It was already irritating enough that a woman who is more usually seen in Prada and Vivienne Westwood, and who earned a £300,000 bonus in 2006, was carefully sporting a £65 frock from M&S. But the fact that she actually had to move heaven and earth to track it down, leaning on M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose to find one, which then (since it was two sizes too big) had to be tailor-made to fit her, suggests a steely determination to look like a woman of the people which is, to put it kindly, a little unseemly. I have no idea what this operation cost, but it seems to indicate a degree of cynicism in our (no doubt) future leader's wife, and her circle, which really doesn't bode well.
A mother's loving, moving pride
Prostitutes, according to numerous studies, are between 20 and 100 times more likely to be murdered than other women. When they are, nobody much seems to mourn. Their deaths either warrant a "news in brief" mention buried deep in a newspaper, or the sensational full monty, bursting with salacious tit-bits, and the implication that if the woman concerned hadn't actually earned her sad fate, it wasn't exactly a surprise.
It was, therefore, extremely unusual to read Sonia Waddell's comments on the death of her daughter, Andrea, who was found strangled last week in a burnt-out flat in Brighton. "Andrea was a wonderful daughter," she said, "and we are amazingly proud of her... She had," she added, "been through so much."
Andrea Waddell had indeed been through "so much". She was born Alexander, excelled academically, and in sport, at school, but suffered from fibromyalgia and severe curvature of the spine. While studying philosophy at Durham, she started the long, tortuous process of preparation for a sex change, which she finally had. Still beset by muscular pain, she studied massage in Thailand where, it seems, she somehow got involved with the sex industry. Her parents discovered that she was a prostitute at the same time they discovered that she was dead.
It's hard to imagine their pain – hard, too, to imagine the pain that drove her to such desperate measures. But this, clearly, is a family that knows what's what, that knows, in Larkin's words, that "what survives of us is love".