Mark Steel: You can't blame celebrities for what they've become

The Beckhams must have had friends in their pre-celebrity days and know people who aren't on TV
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The Independent Online

We should feel sorry for David Beckham. There must be a bit of him that wishes he could have a normal party instead of that celebrity nonsense that's going to be shown on ITV. Or maybe those guests were his genuine friends and it was a normal party; Patsy Kensit screaming, "Oh my GOD, we need a bandage, Lulu couldn't open the bottle so she smashed the end off and she's cut her lip and she's bleeding all down Damien Hirst's ice sculpture." While Sarah Ferguson was sick in the pond over the koi carp, Frankie Dettori had a fight with the neighbours and the police were called.

Except there was probably a rule that even if the police were called they'd have to be celebrity police, or they'd get Victoria screaming, "I told the Sergeant, either he sends Morse or I'm saying nothing."

Because once you accept that world it must be impossible to have real friends at all. The Beckhams must have had friends in their pre-celebrity days and must know people who aren't on the telly, but once you've agreed to put your social life on ITV they're not going to be invited, are they? The TV Times wouldn't be happy if the commentary went, "And who's this arriving? Wow, it's Terry and Jill and Les with a four-pack of Heineken."

ITV have probably had a meeting with Beckham, in which they said, "Now David, we've had excellent news about your Mum. You see, your old Mum was a bit D-list, so we've been bouncing around a few ideas and we've just got the nod that from now until the end of the World Cup your Mum's going to be Carol Vorderman! Isn't that fantastic?"

Apart from the England footballers themselves, no one at the party was there because of anything they've done, but because they're considered celebrities. Are the Beckhams really friendly with Jeremy Clarkson or Will Young? Perhaps no one is ever allowed into the house unless they're sufficiently high profile.

So Victoria will say, "We were having trouble with our boiler, but we didn't worry at first because we got all our plumbing done by the Corrs. But they were useless, frankly, 'cos they haven't had a number one for ages, so now we get anything like that done by the Black Eyed Peas."

And there were bound to be strops over celebrities that couldn't come, with one of them ringing the PR office and moaning, "Why haven't we heard back from al-Zarqawi? I mean, he's like miles more A-list than David Cameron and he's coming."

Instead they had P Diddy, and auctioned a weekend at his resort which went for £150,000. It's surprising that, to raise even more, they didn't auction a ride with P Diddy's crew to assassinate someone from the local village. If anyone had objected, they'd have said: "But the family will be thrilled because their loved one will have been murdered by a celebrity."

Maybe this illustration of celebrity culture is harmless twaddle, except that their party is a symbol of the way the whole country is being run. For the Prime Minister, a successful life means being wealthy and famous. Clearly he thinks there's a law of physics that if something hasn't got Balfour Beatty or Virgin making money out of it, the object will simply melt.

But while there is a twisted logic to his star-struck admiration for big businessmen such as Murdoch and Branson, what can possibly make him a fan of Cliff Richard? As a youth, when his mates were playing Led Zeppelin and Bowie, was he in his bedroom playing air guitar to "Congratulations"? It's possible, but more likely he just befriends Cliff because he's famous.

Fame means success. If that bloke who wanted to top himself on Big Brother had been allowed to do it, he'd have been hailed a star. A group would have been set up to rival the Samaritans, and when callers rang to grumble that life wasn't worth living, they'd be told, "Hold on and don't do anything stupid. Not until tomorrow when we can get you a top photographer, or a live webcast broadcast straight from the exhaust pipe throughout the internet."

You can't even blame the celebrities themselves. They're caught up in a culture that rewards living a celebrity lifestyle more than whatever might have made them famous in the first place. It wouldn't be surprising if the commentary for England's matches in the World Cup went: "While we're waiting for this corner to be taken, here's some expert comments from our analyser Alexander McQueen." "Well, for Lampard's shorts we felt a silky medium-length cut would accentuate those prime angular knees that are very much the strongest feature in his lower body. But surely it's time to change the formation and play Beckham in goal. Come on Sven, we need to see his hands grasping at the ball, saying I was, I am and I will be."

The encouraging side to this is that most people aren't as easily fooled as the celebrity industry thinks they are. For example, the Beckhams' popularity would have soared if David had said that instead of wasting a fortune on this party, he would donate the money to one of the many football schemes in the poorest areas, run by volunteers who, despite the billions now circulating in football, are more desperate for funds than ever.

And Posh Spice could have donated her half to community projects in which local disadvantaged kids are taken from the streets, and instead of drifting towards crime and drugs, are taught how to mime badly to other people's shitty songs.