Friday, 18 February 2011

Extracts from "Shooting Stars" - from "State of the Nation."




" They say we’re living in an age of Celebrity. Celebrity with a capital “C”, because it’s important, not just “celebrity” as in “being known”, but “Celebrity”, because that’s really the thing to strive for. Who cares about the chap who cures cancer or feeds Africa or brings peace to the Middle East? All that matters now is getting your smug face on the telly, filling up the column inches with your non-activities and non-achievements.
And I suppose in a way I’ve colluded with this, writing about the celebrities when they’re dead and buried, outlining the travails of their lives, their highs, their lows.
It used to be that I’d write obituaries about real people; people who deserved to have their lives celebrated. The kind of chap who at 21 had already earned a Victoria Cross for single-handedly storming a Nazi gun emplacement, before rowing the Atlantic at 23, becoming CEO of ICI by 25, then raising a handful of children and acting as a senior consultant to the likes of Wilson and Nixon in his twilight years. Yes, in those days “Celebrity” didn’t really exist. There were stars of course, but they had real glamour, and were few and far between - Monroe, Garbo, Bogie. Yes, those were the days. I remember as a younger man, reading about Buddy Holly’s dying. Ten lines it got. Ten lines. On page seven.
Now, the fact that Jodie Marsh can get out of a taxi without any knickers on is front page news.
Still, who can blame all the youngsters and slack-jaws for worshipping Celebrity. It pays, after all, and pays well.
Look at Dale Winton’s townhouse, for example. Three stories of marble, polished oak and Feng-Shuied designer interiors in the centre of Belgravia, and this the fruits of the labours of a man with no discernible talent, save that of looking uncomfortable on millions of television screens.
And of course, he let me straight in. I looked the part, blue overalls, a blue baseball cap with “Sunbeds of Knightsbridge” embroidered on it. And of course, despite decades of writing incisive summations of people’s lives and work for The Telegraph, he didn’t recognise me. After all, I’m not a Celebrity. I’m not on the telly.
So he let me in, and left me to my own devices. I had worried that I’d have to be particularly stealthy, but he just showed me the room and left me to it. I couldn’t believe how easy he was to fool; he swallowed my story of his sunbed needing a service hook line and sinker. After all, what does he know about real things, important things? What does he need to know? Probably too consumed with discussions with his PR people, his agents and the latest viewing figures.
So I went to work, and took my time about it. The latex gloves made it a bit more difficult, but it didn’t take long for me to remove the plastic base, and get to the workings of the sunbed itself. You see, all sunbeds have a timer mechanism on them. Normally around twenty minutes, but Winton had one of the new super-powerful ones with a six minute timer. All it took was a quick snip snip, and half the job was done. Once turned on, the sunbed could only be turned off by pulling the plug out of the socket, something which was impossible from the bed itself. Which brought me onto the second part of the operation, and the most problematic. I’d toyed with the idea of bunging up the hinges with plastic padding or silicon, but he would’ve noticed that as soon as he tried to shut it. Finally I settled on taking the hood off the bed, then filing two slots into both of the hinges. He’d be able to close the lid okay, but once it was fully closed the two bits of filed metal would catch on each other and the hinges would be locked, and he’d be stuck there, slowly frying under the never-ending UV light.
I suppose these deaths are a bit melodramatic, but perhaps that’s just the writer in me coming out.
But whatever, in thirty minutes I was done, the idiot paid me, and I was on the coach to Brighton within the hour, his obituary already half-written in my head.
Winton kicked the bucket that night, by which time I’d been booked into my hotel room for several hours. The obituary was already on my laptop, and by the time Marcus had tracked me down to commission it, I had the, “My God, that’s awful. Who could do such a thing?” act down pat.
But that’s one of the sad truths about celebrity. I was making more money writing about these microcephalic nobodies than I was writing about true heroes, people who made a difference, who actually did something. Because there wasn’t just the obituary itself. Oh no, for some reason these people merited multi-page feature pull-out sections, with colour photos. So I did those too, and was now making a pretty penny.
More than enough to buy a new car, anyway, although I had been waiting until I could sell my old one before I did that, something I couldn’t do until the heat had died down. I’d cleaned the blood and bits of torn cloth and tissue from the radiator and bumper, but what with everything they can do with forensic science nowadays, I didn’t want to take the risk of taking it to a garage.
And I suppose in some ways I’d formed a sentimental attachment to the thing. After all, it marked the beginning in my change of luck; it was responsible for the upswing in my mood and fortunes."


[...]



" Yet despite the successes of my new hobby, the iniquities of the world continued. A writer of my genius can write a novel in only a matter of weeks, yet my latest opus was rejected by every publisher I submitted it to. One even had a brief letter attached, a first for me. Hoping that it offered constructive criticism, I read it quickly and was disgusted to find that the talentless illiterate who had written it had had the temerity to tell me to stop submitting my “rubbish” to them. Once my rage had subsided I re-read the manuscript for the first time since I had finished writing it, and was amazed that it wasn’t really up to my usual standard.
I had to conclude that my true talent was for killing, and that my writing was actually interfering with this vocation. So then, I put all my creative juices into my new occupation and my reign of terror hit a Golden Age, as the number of immolations, explosions, vomit-chokings and anorexia-related deaths boomed across the Capital.
But now, as I sit here, I can see where I went wrong. With my full creative genius focused upon this one end, my assassinations had become increasingly complex, if not downright preposterous, and that was to prove to be my downfall.
I had managed to wangle a ticket to the launch party of Jordan’s new book, from one of the sniffing, red-eyed hacks who worked on the paper’s Showbiz pages. It was held at some outrageously overpriced watering-hole in the West End, and despite wearing my best suit from Saville Row and waving my VIP ticket at the gorillas on the door, they deliberately barred my entrance to the club for almost an hour. Meanwhile so-called celebrity chefs, ex-Big Brother contestants and a stream of mediocrities from the nation’s soap operas streamed past. Finally, they deigned to let me in, as they had had their power game and the importance of my ticket could be ignored no longer. However, as you can imagine my blood was boiling at this point, and every smug fake-tanned face that walked past me was like something from those old cartoons where the starving character would see their friend as a walking hot dog or chicken leg. One had a noose wrapped tightly around his neck: another a drugged orange shoved into her ever-yapping maw. One had overdosed on pharmaceutical grade Viagra, his tool tent-poling out of his trousers like an angry purple truncheon, and another had died from fright after an overdose of LSD and Angel Dust meant that the very sight of the public that they had spent so many years blindly courting led to an intense bout of paranoia and a fatal anxiety attack.
But then I was roused from my reverie by the sight of my target. Jordan was sitting at a table surrounded by an entourage of sycophants, while beyond this circle a large group of stupid-looking young men ogled her ridiculously inflated breasts and nudged their friends with stupid leers spread across their faces.
I fingered the metal pineapple in my pocket, an item of military hardware which had proven ridiculously easy to obtain, once you know which Eastend boozers to go to, and which Paddy’s throat to lubricate.
I moved behind Jordan’s table, and even I was impressed by the voluminous size of her jugs. Yet they made my job easier. Inside my pocket I eased the pin from the grenade.
Yes, soon she would get her wish. Soon her tits would get so big they would literally explode across the room. And her complaint of everyone wanting a piece of her would prove to be painfully true.
I moved closer to her, eyeing the bosom that would envelop my gift to her, and then suddenly, swiftly, I lobbed the grenade down her cleavage, then pushed my way through the throng towards the exit. But one of her companions, probably some media-whore who wanted to prove himself to her, came after me and rugby tackled me to the ground. I fought back desperately, still only a few yards away from her. I could see her groping around her cleavage where the grenade had slipped down.
But as I kicked and screamed and struggled to shift her idiot friend off me, I slowly realised that it was taking its sweet old time to go off. The seconds stretched on and on and painfully on, and it was then that I realised that I’d been ripped off.
Of course, as it transpired I hadn’t been. The Police would have let me off, if that was the case. Just some harmless old eccentric lobbing toys around. No, that bastard bog-trotter hadn’t ripped me off. It was a grenade alright. Just a dud one.
And because of that the Police had gotten me, bang to rights.
And I confess, as I waited to stand trial, I did rue my own ingeniousness. Why hadn’t I just gone around shooting them? A bullet in the back of the head would have been so swift, so final. Why did I have to act like some kind of Bond villain? I mean, a grenade in her cleavage? What was I thinking?"

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