The true confessions of Gazza and Clizza

Both have suffered from body image problems, having at one point been on the lardy side
Click to follow
The Independent Online

For every thing there is a season, and early summer is the season for the big, fat celebrity memoir. Timed right, the initial publicity explosion can carry sales into the holiday reading season and , with a decent following wind, the momentum should continue into the autumn, then on to those precious Books of the Year lists in late November in time for the Christmas sales bonanza.

For every thing there is a season, and early summer is the season for the big, fat celebrity memoir. Timed right, the initial publicity explosion can carry sales into the holiday reading season and , with a decent following wind, the momentum should continue into the autumn, then on to those precious Books of the Year lists in late November in time for the Christmas sales bonanza.

On the face of it, the two main contenders for this glorious parabola of public attention and royalties, both of whose books are about to be published, have little in common. One is a former president of the United States, the other a former midfield genius of English football. The story of one closes with departure from the White House while the other ends with its narrator sleeping in the spare room of his pal Jimmy "Five Bellies" Gardner and attending daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Yet a weird sort of composite picture emerges from the respective promotional campaigns of Paul Gascoigne and Bill Clinton, making them almost a double act of contemporary public maleness, a couple of flawed but charismatic brothers-in-arms, Gazza and Clizza. For anyone interested in the business of turning past mistakes to autobiographical advantage - would-be ghostwriters, perhaps, or students working in the burgeoning discipline of Celebrity Studies - there is much to learn from the way these two apparently different stories are presented.

Both Clizza and Gazza have confirmed, not for the first time, that it almost mandatory for a public figure to have had a sad or, preferably, tragic childhood. It is now an accepted part of the culture of celebrity that those who have enjoyed the fruits of fame should also have done their share of suffering in the past. It is as if we need to be reminded that, behind the grinning persona of every success, there quakes a small, vulnerable child.

Clizza has the edge over Gazza here. His real father died before he was born, leaving the future president with "an urgent sense to do everything I could in life as quickly as I could." His step-father was a violent drunk who used to beat up his mother but, as the memoir has it, "I'm sure daddy didn't mean to hurt her."

Gazza's version of childish dysfunction revolved around feelings of guilt for the death of a friend. "My mam made me go to the psychiatrist when I was ten but I didn't want to go back because he made me play with sand," Gazza has confessed in a recent interview. The tone of these insights is instructive: not only do both men tearfully confess to trauma in their early lives but, with their references to "daddy" and "my mam", but they actually seem to take on the personality of their childish selves.

In fact, the more one reads about Clizza and Gazza, the more similar they begin to seem. Both, fashionably enough, have suffered from body image problems, having at one point been on the lardy side. Gazza has apparently suffered from bulimia while chunky little Clizza - reach for that handkerchief again - was so "so slow that I was once the only kid at an Easter egg hunt who didn't get a single egg."

Both refer to unusual relationships that have helped them through the hard times. Clizza's Hillary stood by her man as the various Gennifers, Paulas and Monicas trooped in and out of her husband's life. Communication, he has discovered, is important in a marriage. As puts it (in a sentence that might have been better phrased under the circumstances), "You've been married a certain amount of time, your partner doesn't even have to open her mouth. You have to fix that."

Gazza was less fortunate in his marriage in that he used to beat up his wife - "I had a lot of shit in my head and sometimes I took it out on the person I loved" - but has a lifelong friend in Five Bellies. The boy who once offered his large, naked behind as a target for the young Gazza's airgun practice - almost the definitive act of male friendship - now takes care of him every day.

Lachrymose, sentimental, talented but always susceptible to what one, perhaps both, of them calls "inner demons", Clizza and Gazza have knocked about public life for long enough to have discovered that, in the great age of therapy, life's journey, however bumpy it may be, can only have one truly acceptable destination - back home, to the self. Remorse and confessions of weakness are only truly convincing if served up with a sugary coating of self-forgiveness, self-love, self-satisfaction.

So Bill, with a hint of smugness, concludes that he is more at peace with himself now than ever before while Gazza gushes the usual co-dependency guff. "Paul hasn't really been Paul since the day he was born. I started having problems when I was seven years old. Now I love myself. I didn't love myself for many, many years."

Both Gazza and Clizza, having found true love with themselves, are about to share it with the world. The joy that is in heaven over one sinner that repenteth has nothing beside the joy of the celebrity who has sinned, repented, forgiven himself - and is now profitably telling us all about it in the pages of his memoirs.

terblacker@aol.com

Comments