Oh, to be Zak, Toby or Eric

Share
Related Topics
I WISH I had been nearly famous. Not completely famous. That's too much of a hassle, autograph hunters, broken marriages and all. But nearly famous would have been nice.

To qualify as nearly famous you have to have one parent or a sibling who has achieved genuine fame. Grandparents count if you can get the word dynasty in somewhere (acting dynasty always sounds good, even if grandma just did a season in Rochdale). A cousin only counts if there is a striking facial resemblance and you share the same surname. But much can be done by deed poll and plastic surgery.

The nearly famous are a growing band. Indeed, many of them are in bands. The biggest explosion in nearly famous is among the children of the Sixties and Seventies pop stars. I saw one the other night. Ray Davies of The Kinks launched his autobiography by playing a few numbers at Ronnie Scott's club in London. Duetting with him was his daughter, Victoria.

'Victoria' was the title of a rather good Kinks song and I spent my time trying to work out Victoria Davies's age to determine whether the song was named after her, or she after the song. By the time I had done the mathematics she had resumed her place in the audience to be surrounded by photographers, presumably from agencies specialising in the nearly famous.

This is the trouble with watching the nearly famous. You become obsessed with looking to see if the jawline is the same as mum's or dad's, or whether they have inherited, studied, made huge efforts to drop, the inflection in the voice. There just isn't time to concentrate on whether there is any genuine talent there.

And they keep on coming. The Who could virtually start a new generation band. I have seen Miss Townshend on stage with her father Pete, master Daltrey on stage with his father, Roger. To confuse matters further, Ringo Starr's son, Zak, now plays with Daltrey senior in his new band. John Lennon's son, Julian, had a fledgling career in which every mannerism was scrutinised for reminders of his dad, though few can remember any of junior's songs. The daughter of Mick Jagger and Marsha Hunt has just directed mum in a play.

And smiling down serenely on all of these prodigies is the patron saint of the nearly famous, Linda McCartney, the star in the firmament of shared surnames.

In acting, the nearly famous achieve real fame more often. While Robert Stephens plays King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company, his son Toby plays Coriolanus for the same outfit. Kiefer Sutherland probably has as big a fan base as his dad, Donald; the Redgraves, of course, are the most striking example of a dynasty of talent.

But I'm happy to note that that profession too has thrown up a notable variation on the nearly famous. Eric Douglas, son of Kirk and brother of Michael, thus doubly a nearly man, achieved some notoriety at the Edinburgh Festival where he wanted to ply his trade as a stand- up comic, but none of the leading venues would hire him. One impresario was publicly scathing of him, saying she did not see anything funny in his opening line, 'I am an American'.

Eric signalled a radical shift in the art of being nearly famous. Be a performer like your famous relative, but do it really badly. The scope is enormous. Who would not pay to see a famous surname foul up? Better still, go in for image rejection. A Rolling Stone offspring specialising in Val Doonican covers.

But all relatives of the genuinely famous should study the most nearly famous man in Britain: Terry Major-Ball, the Prime Minister's brother. He has the essential attributes of looking and sounding like his sibling. Interviewed on Sky TV's The Book Programme recently, he was asked if he ever visited his brother in Downing Street. Quite often, he replied, but his brother was almost never there, so he just wandered around. This is the ultimate fate of the nearly famous. Given access to privileged places, then left to wander the corridors while all around get on with being really famous.

But he at least turned being nearly famous into an art form. Written a book, appeared on chat shows, been the subject of newspaper profiles. Terry Major-Ball, retired garden-gnome-maker, and Eric Douglas show the way forward for being nearly famous in the Nineties. Look the part to get people talking. Then, like Eric, choose a similar career and blow it. Or be even more subtle, like Terry. Use the famous surname, but only as part of your full name to show it's not that important to you. And choose a different career. When Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson eventually produce an heir, he or she should be guided firmly towards chartered acountancy.

With these ground rules, the sky's the limit. There are so many style and celebrity magazines, and only a finite number of the celebrated and stylish about whom to write. The focus now has to move on to the relations, the sons and daughters of the me generation, all desperately shouting 'Me too' into the spotlight.

Andy Warhol's maxim that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes may have been a little hopeful when he said it in the Sixties. But everyone nearly famous for five? That has to be achievable.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US