Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind

It’s an interesting thing how one person can have an idea for a column and find that someone else within our little band has done the same thing at more or less the same time. Witness Ian and Andrew both writing very interesting pieces about Douglas Adams within the last few days. Then there is me planning an article about my celebrity encounters and the humiliations which accompanied their writing names in books for my benefit and I come home and find an item from Ian about that very thing. There is an expression “great minds think alike” and I would be inclined to agree with it except that I am involved and so nature has already proved the cliché wrong.

The first celeb that I met was made of metal. It was the FA Cup back in 1985. It was in Debenham’s in Stockport and amidst the ladies clothing it was a strange sight. Ron “Big Ron” Atkinson was there too and I remember getting him to sign a receipt for me. But I was far less interested in the fat man with unconvincing hair than I was in a cup that had taken two tense hours for the team to win. Technically I played no part in the proceedings but if you’re going to be technical I’m going home.

Still on the Manchester United theme we must move forward to what, in my mind, is 1988 and a long queue outside a sports shop in Stockport. Mere seconds from the aforementioned Debenham’s. United’s new signings Steve Bruce and Brian “Chocky” McClair (so called because he leaned towards the chubby rather than him having any connection with the popular child drama of the same name) were scribbling on pictures for we fans. These were big stars. Dammit they cost nearly two million pounds between them. It is a crime against nature that Steve Bruce never played for England and what we wouldn’t give to have him in his prime today. But I digress. The only thing that I remember from this day is something that I didn’t remember – mother did. Bruce and McClair were at the club for a long time. And every time either one of them appeared on telly she would say “Was he the one wearing yellow socks?” I genuinely don’t remember which was wearing yellow socks but I’ve never forgotten it because I was never allowed to. The autographs have gone, the socks have most likely gone to the launderette in the sky but the memory of them lingers on, second hand, in my mind.

There was, for a couple of years, a sci fi shop in Manchester called K9 Books. Its only mention in print was a review of some event or other where the writer said “The owner could give even Jon Pertwee lessons in rudeness” or words to that effect. I wasn’t part of the scene in those days (and even today I’m only part of it vicariously) so I had no idea that Mr Pertwee had anything of a reputation. Said owner wanted his tiny shop to be the hub of local fandom. He built a Tardis clubhouse in the basement. A what? A Tardis clubhouse. A room with roundels on the wall. I chatted to him a few times but I never quite understood what he intended to do in there. He had those glasses which made his eyes bulge so he had a sinister air. “Come down into my clubhouse” was not an invitation I was planning on accepting should it ever come up. Part of his master plan was to get Elisabeth Sladen to visit for “An Afternoon With Elisabeth Sladen”. It is the only time in my life that I have experienced what others on this site know only too well – queuing outside a Dr Who shop and being starred at by passers by. You stand in line, for those unfamiliar with the experience, and are starred at by passers by. Drawing the public’s attention on this occasion was a K9 model and some other prop which entirely escapes me. It was enough to single us out as a bunch of losers at any rate and earn the slurred and incomprehensible remarks of those bitter at being unable to get into a football match of a Saturday afternoon.

In addition to it being my only queuing experience it was also my only experience of the paying and paying and paying phenomenon at such events. You pay to get access to the festivities. You then pay for a photograph, pay to stand in line for an autograph, pay to be let into the Q&A, pay for another photograph, pay to stand in another line… and so on. Every turn led to further expense and all to get close enough to a diminutive actress who used to be someone so you can blurt out some sycophantic compliment and inflate the ego of someone I have subsequently learned needs no such inflation. I think I told her she was my favourite companion or something. Nothing spectacular and it probably says more about my neuroses than it does about anything else that I am still ashamed ten years later. I shudder at being precisely the sort of person that we all tell ourselves we aren’t. Being a Dr Who aficionado is an irregular verb.

I am a fan

You are an obsessive

He/she/it is a sad loser

Or even

I buy what I actually want

You are a collector

He/she/it has bookmarked the Stamp Centre website

Hey – this was going to be a one off item but I seem to have reached my self imposed thousand words or thereabouts without even having reached the Waterstones Years where such diverse figures as Stephen Fry, Ian Hislop and Mrs Thatcher would cross my path. I guess I’ll have to write a sequel. Next time it’s personal. Or something sequelly.


23rd February 2004