Terence Blacker: What were Julie's fans expecting?

Share
Related Topics

Julie Andrews is one of those public figures who, probably through no fault of her own, has become a larger-than-life representative of a range of contemporary clichés. For some, she is the wholesome, faintly sexless Englishwoman, a trilling, skipping optimist who embodies a lost age of virtue and kindness; for others, she is a ludicrous, old-fashioned goody-goody. For quite a few, she is a much-loved gay icon.

Now, unhappily, she has become a symbol of something altogether less glorious: the rip-off comeback. Critics and fans among the 14,000 people who paid between £61 and £106 to attend a one-off event at the O2 Arena called "An Evening with Julie Andrews" have said that it was misguided, cynical, perhaps even exploitative. They had expected, one assumes, a marvellous, uplifting trip into the past with that clear, beautifully bred soprano voice cutting through the spring air. What they got was the dame's presence and a few staged reminders of her past, but not much else.

Julie Andrews' voice is pretty much shot after an operation 13 years ago to remove a polyp from her vocal chords. As she told her audience, she could manage a passable version of "Ol' Man River", but anything more was a struggle. As a result of this drawback, the show consisted of songs made famous by Dame Julie being rendered by a chorus of singers, a staged version of a children's story she co-wrote, and precisely two songs from the star herself, not so much sung as spoken in the manner of Lee Marvin's "I Was Born Under a Wandering Star".

The fury of fans has given the hacks and headline writers a field day. The tills are alive with the sound of refunds, they have written. How do you solve a problem like getting your money back? A spoonful of sugar did not help this medicine go down.

It is all rather odd. Everyone in the arena will have known that their heroine is now unable to sing as she once did. The carefully entitled "An Evening with Julie Andrews" was simply a chance to celebrate a remarkable career in the presence of the star itself, admittedly at rather high expense.

We live, though, in a world of fantasy. A combination of the new technology and ever more sophisticated cosmetic surgery panders to a Peter Pan culture. Certain celebrities are expected, in some weird, unspoken way, not to grow old. Their young selves can be seen on a computer screen. When they do appear in public, the ageing stars often have shiny, scarily smooth skins and trim figures. Male oldsters – Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson – are allowed to wheeze and groan their way into their dotage, but stars like Julie Andrews are expected to remain as clear-voiced as they were 50 years ago.

By appearing as a real, ageing woman and innocently expecting to be treated and reviewed as such, Julie Andrews has broken one of the unwritten rules of the new showbusiness.





Whoever said saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent?



In literature as in life, reputations are difficult to shift once established. A cad – Arthur Koestler, say – will have his caddishness confirmed in the way a new biography of him is reviewed. When William Golding was found by John Carey to have recalled an incident of sexual misbehaviour in his teens, there were headlines on the news pages about the Nobel laureate having been a would-be rapist.

No such stories have been told about George Orwell, although his recent letters reveal a similar incident of attempted rape from his youth. There are also references to regular, well-planned infidelities during his marriage while, on the professional front, the author was cheerfully prepared to write reviews puffing his friends' books. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," he once wrote to Cyril Connolly. Admirers of the great writer need not worry that these insights will prompt lurid headlines. Unlike Koestler and Golding, Orwell is a bona fide literary saint whose lapses are quickly forgiven.





Send for 'Scoff' to beat the new puritans



The war on fatties is getting serious. The Food Standards Agency has proposed that, in the interests of the health of the nation (and, one suspects, making a few billion every year for the national exchequer), VAT should be extended to unhealthy foods, snacks and soft drinks.

This so-called "fat tax" will doubtless find supporters. Presumably the British Medical Association, who last year debated the idea of a tax on chocolate, will be in favour. One of those specious, unprovable statistics which will quickly harden into accepted fact has suggested that 3,000 lives a year would be saved by a fat VAT initiative. A quango called the National Obesity Forum has, unsurprisingly, welcomed the new proposal. Heart attacks, strokes and diabetes would be reduced at a stroke, says the NOF.

It is time, before our nannying culture sends the nation's fatties to the naughty step, to set up an organisation to counter the NOF and the rest of them. The Society for the Consumption of Fatty Foods, or "Scoff", will point out that once the state, urged on by trim, jogging quangoists, uses taxation to make us all healthier and more socially responsible, something distinctly dodgy is going on.

Who, it might be asked, will judge which foods are acceptable and which should be taxed? And, if over-eating can effectively be persecuted by government, why not other forms of inappropriate behaviour? We need Scoff to halt the march of the concerned and the disapproving, and to remind the world of the importance of individual choice.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor - Automotive

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary - Family Law

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing professional legal pr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Ancient Labour rivalries – Bevan versus Morrison

John Rentoul
Labour leadership hopefuls, from left, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC  

If you’re thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn, here are my promises to you

Andy Burnham
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935