Terence Blacker: In Celebrityville, even the fixers are famous now

Click to follow
The Independent Online

You have probably heard the hot new advice from Celebrityville concerning how to keep yourself in trim. Anne Robinson swears by a wheat-free cereal with soya milk for breakfast. Andrew Lloyd Webber retains his natural slimness with poached scallops cooked in a sauce made from cherry tomatoes. Michael Winner puts his lithe physique down to missing the occasional evening meal and eating an apple. Koo Stark likes to roast a chicken for two hours.

These and many other essential tips for healthy modern living are to be found in a new book, The Obvious Diet: Your Personal Way to Lose Weight Fast Without Changing Your Lifestyle, which has been written by Ed Victor, the literary agent, with a little help from his high-profile friends.

You know Ed, don't you? Surely you do. A tall American with a leonine, slightly self-important beard. He is a titan of the book world, the man who, probably more than anyone else, has made the business of representing authors – once something of a back-room trade, largely populated by the tweedy or the seedy – cool and fashionable. Today virtually every publishing editor, and probably a few authors, dream of one day becoming an agent, just like Ed.

His style is smooth, minimalist and highly effective. Publishers will return happily from lunch with him and remain unaware, sometimes for days, that they have somehow mislaid an arm and a leg. At the best parties, he is there, a still, calm centre of power and influence. If you are extremely important – a major Hollywood player, perhaps, or a theatrical knight or a prime minister – he might actually move in your direction. Otherwise all motion is towards or past him. The merest acknowledgement from him, a microscopically raised eyebrow, means that, professionally and socially, you are still just about alive.

Who could be surprised that, in 2001, the deal-makers have at last stepped out of the back office and become stars themselves? It is the great age of the go-between, the facilitator. Celebrityville is where the action is, where everyone wants to be, and agents – showbiz, theatrical, literary, PR – are its ambassadors to the world at large. They are intermediaries between the famous and the ordinary, ensuring that we see the best side of their clients, now and then easing some new would-be celebrity, a reality-TV hero, a rising chef, a bright young novelist, into a strange and glittering new world.

Once their role was quietly to attend to business matters. Now they fill the gap between the stars and their public. When, a few months ago, George Best fell off the wagon, it was an agent who told the world all about it. Managing the PR wing of the intimate lives of the famous, Max Clifford becomes a sort of celebrity himself in the process. For, however discreet they may be (and discretion is the main ingredient in a good agent's obvious diet), some of the reflected glitter will inevitably shine on them.

Ed Victor has had a clever marketing idea. He has recognised that the mere fact of someone being not just a person but a personality brings with it a sort of magical gift of wisdom about the practicalities of life. So Anne Robinson's breakfast habits or Lord Lloyd Webber's poached scallops are by their nature more interesting and helpful than those of others. It is a natural extension of the vogue among lesser newspapers for hiring someone vaguely well known – Vanessa Feltz, say, or Margaret Cook – as an advice columnist.

Now, if you are famous, you can be presumed to know almost anything about almost anything. The Obvious Etiquette Guide with Esther Rantzen, Tony Parsons and Gyles Brandreth; The Obvious Party Host, with Sir Trevor MacDonald, Sting and Charlotte Church; The Obvious Philosopher, with Mick Jagger, Christine Hamilton and Dale Winton: a new publishing craze could be on its way.