Sunday, June 26, 2005


A lot of young people want to be rich and famous. What they have in mind is not dedication to a career or profession or entrepreneurial endeavour where their achievements will earn them vast wealth and distinction.

Their goal is instant fame and blazing front page headlines which will get them pots of money and a bling bling lifestyle rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

This kind of fame is usually exploitive – to boost the number of television viewers or newspaper readers. With luck, its victims, if they have any sense, can take the money and gratefully disappear back into obscurity with no long term harm done.

But it can also be dangerously addictive and result in serious withdrawal symptoms and delusions of grandeur.

Haunted by the fear or no longer being famous, sufferers from instant fame addiction will go to almost any length to get it back and stay in the headlines.

People who could probably never act or sing in the first place stage phoney love affairs, breakups and makeups to keep themselves famous. Whether or not the stories are true, they give interviews about their unhappy childhoods, diet problems and depression to maintain their fame and stave off their sell by date.

Former Spice girl Victoria Beckham hurt her marriage with her attempts to stay famous in her own right and not just be Mrs Beckham, the wife of a famous man.

Faria Alam, an ambitious secretary who in an email admitted she wanted to be ‘very, very rich and successful,’ got her fifteen minutes and made a reputed £300,000 selling the story of how she briefly shared her bed with England football manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, and Football Association Chief Executive, Mark Palios, in the short time she was PA to the FA Executive Director, David Davies.

Unlike another footballer’s former fancy, Rebecca Loos, who maintained her fame with TV appearances since she sold the story of her fling with David Beckham, Ms Alam, who has been modelling cheap clothes for a catalogue, has hardly been heard of since – until last week.

Now the woman who sent her resignation letter from the office of the publicist Max Clifford, who brokered her story deal, is at a tribunal claiming £30,000 for sexual discrimination, constructive dismissal, breach of contract and unequal pay.

If she has looked after the money she got from her sad and sordid story, she hardly needs another £30,000.

So why is putting herself through an ordeal in which she has been branded a liar and a fantasist?

Is she really that desperate to be in the spotlight again? Is it revenge and the hope that Sven, with whom she admitted she fell in love and who the FA have declined to call as a witness, will be forced to appear before the tribunal? As she claims she is ‘still fond of him,’ does she hope he will see her on television and call her again? Or is her motive a genuine sense of injustice that she no longer has a job at the FA but her ex-lovers do?

When she posed for photographers in a white jacket over a black dress as she arrived on the opening day of the tribunal, she tried to assume the air of an A-list star arriving at premiere.

Though she broke down in tears and was led from the room dabbing her eyes and biting her lip after she requested a brief adjournment on Day Two, she maintained the mask in public — until Day Four when her former boss, whom she alleges sexually harassed her, described her as a ‘fantasist’ and she left the tribunal looking distinctly depressed.

Real fame is the by-product of genuine success. People who achieve it are aware that privacy, which after health is our most precious possession, needs to be guarded vigilantly.

The really rich and famous pay top public relations men and women high salaries to keep their names out of the media. The only headlines they want to make are in relation to their work – like J K Rowling, whose sole public appearance in connection with the new Harry Potter tome will be at midnight at Edinburgh castle on the day the book is published next month.

I suspect that Ms Alam is in such great psychological pain after her brief encounter with the really rich and famous and above all powerful, she is suffering the worst fate of the instant temporarily famous – the inability to move on afterwards. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2005 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Eleven miles south of Brussels people have been re-enacting the Battle of Waterloo this weekend.

As the last puffs of gun smoke rose from the battlefield in 1815 Napoleon had not only finally been defeated by the alliance of British, Prussian, Dutch and Belgian troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington and General Leberecht von Blucher but his dreams of turning Europe into a French empire lay in ruins.

Back in Brussels nearly two hundred years later French President Jacques Chirac, whose own dream of a united Europe dominated by France (with a little help from Germany), was smashed by his own people’s resounding ‘No’ to the constitution, has also been fighting a battle of long ago.

In shock and denial about his own massive referendum defeat, he has started re-enacting a battle over twenty years old about Britain’s £3 billion rebate as a net contributor to European Union funds while refusing to discuss the CAP which benefits small French farmers more than any other farmers in Europe. It is as if by ignoring the problem he hopes it will go away.

This is classic displacement activity. Just as the Queen decided her most important task was to feed the corgis when she didn’t want to think about the crisis over the breakup of Prince Charles’s marriage to Princess Diana, poor old Jacques is doing something else rather than face the reality of his situation.

In calling Britain ‘pathetic’ and ‘tragic’ he is also displaying another symptom of psychological disturbance – projecting his own faults and failings on to someone else.

After Waterloo Napoleon was finally exiled to the lonely South Atlantic island of St Helena where he had no chance of escape.

Alas, today there is no safe remote island left where Jacques can be safely exiled with no chance of escape and space travel is not well enough developed to banish him to Mars.

Alas too, for at least another two years Europe is stuck with him as well as France, where his Presidency has been a disaster which has turned the country into such an old-fashioned, stagnant place that Britons buy second homes there because it reminds them of how life was in the UK in the 1950s.

The worst thing is that his performance in Brussels was neither a one-off nor the end of Jacques fighting yesterday’s battle and refusing to move on. Until 2007 and particularly in the six next months when his bete noir, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is President of the EU, he will dedicate the rest of his political life to fighting yesterday’s battle.
Perhaps the best and safest place for him when he is finally forced out of office would be a rundown chateau, far from any Britons with holiday homes but close to the farmers he will have fought to the end to defend. Over the mantelpiece in his salon he could have a portrait of Napoleon, who declared ‘the British are the most powerful and constant of my enemies.’
With tears at the corners of his eyes, he might raise a glass of cognac and murmur ‘Et moi aussi, Boney.’
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2005 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 12, 2005


I am sick of the sight and sound of Bob Geldof, who has a new book and television series on Africa to promote.

I am even sicker that the powers that be in Edinburgh have not had the guts to tell this scruffy, foul-mouthed, bloody-minded, ageing former rock star to stay out of town – along with the million people he has urged to invade the city and join the Long Walk to Justice on 6 July to put pressure on the G8 meeting at Gleneagles.

Their mealy-mouthed response that Edinburgh welcomes visitors but they are ‘concerned’ about safety is utterly disgraceful. They seem afraid to speak up and tell it like it is and Geldof to keep out.

Instead, intimidated by celebrity, they are now skivvying around setting up a camp site surrounded by mesh wire for 15,000 people on the outskirts of Niddrie, a rundown council estate currently being refurbished on eastern fringe of the city. And while all police leave has been cancelled, the cry gone out for an extra 20,000 pints of blood to cope with accidents and emergencies, with helicopters at RAF Kinless on standby to ferry the injured to hospitals, and office workers are being told to dress casually so they are not mistaken for ‘lackeys of capitalism,’ they are adding to the predictable chaos by grovellingly allowing a pop concert at Murrayfield under the overseeing eye of Geldof’s pal, Midge Ure, on the same day as the Long Walk.

The truth is Edinburgh will be under siege and cannot cope if a million people invade the city en masse on the same day. It has no experience of the kind of policing which will be needed and by 6 July it will already be battered enough by the Make Poverty History and the Stop The War Coalition marches over the previous weekend.

The beautiful open leafy space known as The Meadows, where generations confined to tenement flats have enjoyed fresh air and the Long Walk begins and ends, is simply not big enough to accommodate a million people. Its green acres will be trampled to extinction. If it rains it will be turned into a sea of mud.

In addition to the extremely high risk that people will be killed and seriously injured, there is also a more than likely chance of vandalism and damage to property along historic streets on the route, like George IV Bridge, Princes Street and Lothian Road.

And what about the cost? Who’s going to pay for all the police and extra emergency services which will be needed?

It is a wry reflection of how the old order has been replaced by mob rule by mass media publicity and the bullying culture of celebrity that the Queen, who can have the streets of London blocked off for hours when she opens Parliament, has been forced to change her plans for her annual visit to Edinburgh and postpone the garden party in the grounds of her official Scottish residence, Holyrood House.

Most guests do not meet the Queen and the crush to get a cup of tea or iced coffee and a bun is akin to the rush hour on London Underground. But it means a lot to ordinary decent people who may not get any other kind of recognition for their public service. Most have probably made plans around the day. Why should these be disrupted by a million out of town marchers?

Twenty years ago Geldof and his group, the Boomtown Rats, were past their sell by by date and sliding out of the pop music charts into obscurity when he reinvented himself as the champion of Live Aid.

Though the concerts were a resounding success financially, Africa is worse off today than it was in 1985. Ethiopia, whose starving millions inspired it and whose government has just slaughtered twenty-six of its own people in Addis Abba, is once again on the brink of war.

The fact is that even if a million people pitch into Edinburgh, they are unlikely to make much impact on the world leaders skulking behind huge steel fences in the cosseted luxury of Gleneagles.

The bottom line is that the leaders’ prime concern is staying in power and they will do nothing abroad which might threaten their power or alienate their constituencies. US President George W Bush, who has nearly three hundred million people at home, muscular lobbies representing American big business and a powerful Congress who can block his budgets, is unlikely to be moved by one million foreigners on the hoof miles away from Gleneagles.

A smaller march, sans Geldof’s million, would make the point just as well without the risk to life and limb to those taking part as well as the people of Edinburgh forced to look on helplessly. It would also deny Geldof and his ilk some of the publicity they need to promote their careers and sales and keep themselves famous.

Copyright© Rebecca Hamilton All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Like Tony Blair in his long lost days of hope and glory, Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Union, looks like a decent ‘straightforward sort of a guy.’

Though his dark hair resembles a toupee, there’s nothing scary or alarming about his slightly squat face. In fact, he looks so ordinary he seems like a man you could easily run into in a supermarket helping his wife with the weekend family shopping.

But, as Britain has discovered with Blair, looks can be deceptive.

Despite stiff competition from massive political egos, Mr Barroso, a former Portuguese Prime Minister, is easily the most arrogant man in Europe.

His reaction to the French and Dutch No votes to the proposed European constitution is best summed up: the people have used their democratic right to vote but their verdict will not hamper his determination to get his way.

‘That’s your opinion,’ he retorts when challenged by journalists that the constitution, which needs to be ratified by all twenty-five member states, is dead in the water. And he even has the nerve to claim he ‘respects’ the people’s right.

But what else would you expect? Mr Barroso is simply the latest personification of the hubris and hauteur and contempt for ordinary people which has hallmarked the EU from the start. The unelected Commission decides, makes rules, issues Directives and rides roughshod over the virtually impotent European Parliament. The people can like it or lump it. What do they know? They can’t even vote the right way.

Mr Barroso, his predecessors and colleagues have always arrogantly asserted they know best. Otherwise no one would have asked that fake French aristocrat, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, to preside over drawing up the doomed constitution intended as a charter for the United States of Europe.

Now they have got what they deserve.

For decades they have chosen to ignore the tectonic plates rumbling away beneath them. The earthquake and consequent political tsunami now sweeping across Europe are the long overdue responses to their unbridled arrogance.

Right now Mr Barroso, like many European leaders, is in shock and desperately fumbling around over what to do next – and who to blame for the fiasco in France and Holland, both founder members of the EU.

The claim that the No votes were not really against the wretched constitution but just signals of domestic discontent is a bit like saying a person who suffers a heart attack has a bad dose of indigestion.
Though there is certainly unhappiness at home in both France and Holland, at least some of it is both the direct and indirect result of EU policies.
The arrogant Mr Barroso needs to go on a diet of humble pie. Instead of trying to scapegoat governments for not telling people enough about the European Project, he should get off his derriere in his plush executive suite in Brussels and tell them himself.
He has got a lot of explaining to do.
* * * * *
One of the biggest causes of sore eyes among television viewers is the number of unattractive men who hog the news because they run the world.
Despite eye and face lifts, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s podgy, pugnacious mug is still threatening enough to frighten children.
German leader Gerard Schroeder’s permanent heavy frown gives him a thuggish look. No sane person would want to meet him after dark, even on a brightly lit street.
With his barrelling gait and beer gut, Israeli PM Ariel looks like a drunken sailor.

Even with the contact lenses which have replaced his glasses, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is the epitome of old Soviet style drabness.

America’s balding Vice President Dick Cheney and wannabe UN ambassador, Saddam Hussain look-alike John Bolton, would do viewers a favour if they put their heads in bags before they appeared in front of the TV cameras.

So it’s a relief to see Dominique de Villepin back on the global news scene as France’s new Prime Minister. With his tall, elegant, graceful figure and silvered hair framing his handsome head, he is pure eye candy.

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton 2005 All Rights Reserved