I was down at the London Studios on the South Bank to film a small part in a film that a friend of mine is trying to put together on a shoestring. I keep telling him that it's better to try and display his work on a cinema screen or at least a TV, but he's convinced that the shoestring will be the next big entertainment format. He's dreaming.
Anyway I was to be playing an obnoxious advertising boss, which I was a bit too good at if anything. Perhaps in an alternate universe I put on a suit each morning, put on some fancy shoes that are both swanky and wanky and head to an office, high above the Thames, to shout and swear at subordinates who haven't done their brief properly. And who have maybe got me Johnny Rotten to advertise butter, rather than John McCrirrick, who was who I actually wanted.
It was all the more fun as I was shouting at my former Edinburgh flat mates Lucy Porter and Justin Edwards, who I am usually very polite to. I have always wanted to call Justin Edwards a cock, but he is really big and could crush me in one hand. But thanks to the magic of acting he had to just agree that he was a cock. Richard Herring 1 Justin Edwards 0. I have also wanted to make Lucy Porter do everything I tell her and now here she was, my subordinate lacky. Alas I was constrained by the script as to what I could actually make her do. I suggested that we workshop it and actually spend an hour or so just imagining the kind of things I would demand of her at other times in the day. But the director was keen for us to get on with it.
When we got to the studios there was a bit of excitement outside. This isn't that unusual. This Morning films here, along with many other shows, so there are usually a lot of stars milling around and a few photographers hoping that one of them will fall over and show their pants.
We wondered who the stars might be, but when we got there there seemed to be a lot of people standing around and some photos being taken, but there was no one immediately recognisable. It seemed, for a few minutes, like people had heard there would be celebrities there, had all rushed down there and now were standing there confused about who they were meant to be looking at. And the photographers, like some kind of malfunctioning automatons were just snapping anyone who happened to wander into frame.
Perhaps word had got out that the man who played Percy the shepherd in "Servants" was about to arrive. Or possibly it was for the blinky bloke from "The Thick of It". Or the receptionist from one episode of "Absolute Power".
If they were waiting for us they somehow managed to miss us passing. I noticed that a lot of the people hanging about were over made-up, orange faced, young women who were reasonably attractive. They seemed to be preening around a bit as if they thought they were something a bit special and I realised that most of the pictures were being taken of them.
But they just looked like the kind of girls you would see in any night club in the country on a Friday night (I expect - I haven't been to a night club for about 15 years) and though they were being treated like stars, they had unfamiliar faces and were just regular, if pretty and young, women. I guessed that they were probably contestants on some reality show and someone overheard that they were the girl bands from the X Factor. But to see such a fuss over people who were unfamiliar and relatively ordinary, made the whole thing seem like a sophisticated satire of celebrity. Like someone had decided that some random women would suddenly be massively important and worthy of this attention. Which in a way I suppose has happened. I am not sure if Simon Cowell is performing a sophisticated pastiche of the celebrity led media, like some kind of latter-day Henry Higgins, passing off nobodies as someones in order to win a bet. He has certainly made a lot of money from the ruse.
It reminded me of my encounter with (to me) unknown celebrity in Oslo
. When you see people who you don't know being treated like they are somehow special, the danger is that you might realise that actually there is nothing special about any so-called celebrity. And if everyone knew this and lost interest the whole cultural heart of our country would fall apart and have repercussions worse than any credit crunch.
So I'd better not act like the little boy pointing out that the emperor has no clothes on and just reassure you that I was very excited to see a load of orange faced girls who meant nothing to me.
Then to redress the balance, a bit later on Jamie Oliver walked passed me in the corridor. In real life. I've seen him on TV, so I was excited. Balance was restored. Celebrity is safe.