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Sorry, starflakes: an entertainer complaining about fame is like a flasher complaining about voyeurs

Angelina Jolie has complained about 'scrutiny' and the difficulties of being famous
Angelina Jolie has complained about 'scrutiny' and the difficulties of being famous Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

I never had Angelina Jolie down as a snowflake star – a starflake! For one thing, she doesn’t need to virtue-signal. She’s actually put in the hard hours with refugees and war-wracked people, unlike the luvvies who rail against borders on-stage and then go home to their super-secure mansions. She even has a tattoo on her upper arm which cites the combative speech made by Winston Churchill – hardly an antifa pin-up – on the day he took office in 1940.

But posing last week on the red carpet to promote her film Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, she was asked what advice she would give to younger actresses, and she replied: “It’s so hard. There’s all this scrutiny and social media. I wouldn’t choose it.” It’s probably the one thing she and Jennifer Aniston have in common. The Human Haircut recently bleated to The Telegraph: “There are times when you don’t want anyone to see you, or you don’t want to be photographed, or even go out of the house.” 

I’ve heard these words many times before. People who have monetised their very being, and are living a life of which most people can only dream, warn “civilians” – as Liz Hurley memorably called non-entertainers – that it’s hard out here on the frontline of fame. The sillier ones use war metaphors: Gwyneth Paltrow claimed that reading nasty things about herself and her friends was “almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanising thing”. Kristen Stewart, meanwhile, compared being papped with being raped.

It’s odd how a bunch of woke liberals who are conscious of “white privilege” can be unconscious of having the greatest privilege of all – doing something they love for a handsome living.

Gwyneth Paltrow compared being famous to the 'dehumanising' experience of war Credit: Thibault Camus/AP

Before wokeness, the relationship between entertainers and real heroes was a healthier one. At the Hollywood Canteen, dreamed up by Bette Davis, film stars provided free food and entertainment to all Allied servicemen and women. The famous faces vied to wait tables, cook and clean up, but the real lure was the willingness of many female stars to dance with the soldiers. The millionth guest, one Sergeant Carl Bell, was escorted by Marlene Dietrich and kissed by Betty Grable.

Dietrich, the diva supreme, received the Légion d’honneur and the US Medal of Freedom for her extensive war-work, which she described as “the only important thing I’ve ever done”. Modest though this sounds, she was only speaking the truth; entertainment – and I include my own attention-seeking antics in this very newspaper – is not important.

Even Left-wing sympathisers such as Marilyn Monroe knew this, and easily put their politics to one side in order to fly to conflict zones – Korea, in her case – in order to cheer the fighting men. But when it comes to the serving of a nation’s freedom-preservers by that nation’s entertainers, in recent years only Joanna Lumley’s lobbying on behalf on the Gurkhas comes to mind. Why is this?

I believe that it’s because in the past, when the majority of actors and singers came from humble beginnings, they didn’t see themselves as superior to others – certainly not to the bravest people on earth who fight to uphold the freedom of nations. They knew they had cushy billets, which they had eagerly sought, and they were grateful to have got what they wanted. Unschooled they may have been, but they had the common sense to understand that an entertainer complaining about attention is like a flasher complaining about voyeurs. 

David Beckham (l) with (from left) Harper, Romeo, Cruz and Brooklyn, his children, at Victoria Beckham's fashion show in September 2018 Credit: Instagram

These days, now that show-business is no longer something scandalous, the young of all classes are attracted to it – and nepotism has run riot in the last field of employment where bright working-class kids could once earn big money doing something they enjoyed. The rise of the posh actor has been noted with regret by the small proportion of actors from proletarian backgrounds, but it goes further than that.

Models, once thought no better than tarts, have celebrity parents; reality TV shows are mired in the scions of great mercantile fortunes. And in the preponderance of the well-off flocking to showbiz, we see the truth that we always suspected, visible through a patina of piteousness: it’s not a hard life in the spotlight, but an extremely easy one.

Those who huff and puff the most about hating fame are usually the most hardcore. Keira Knightley, who claims to have suffered from PTSD after becoming a success at 22, apparently requested an agent at the age of three; you’d have thought that her parents, an actor and a playwright, would have directed their darling towards a less harrowing life.

Victoria Beckham – who once, hilariously, said “I don’t like to use the fame card” of her fashion-designing career – is already quite the stage mother, with a daughter at stage school and sons who are variously a photographer, a model and an aspiring musician. Funny how none of them crave the anonymity of the doctor’s white coat, or the fireman’s helmet! Elizabeth Hurley’s eerily lookalike son, meanwhile, will never know the simple pleasures of civilian life; he was a model in demand when he was still too young to vote.

In 2011, Rihanna rode the Tube to her own concert Credit: Splash

If fame didn’t lead to an extremely pleasurable life, the famous wouldn’t want it for their children. And yet they masquerade as sad, sensitive, bravely suffering and very special snowflakes, who fetched up doing a job they love, and hence never working a real day in their lives, purely by outrageous fortune.

Few of the famous give the game away, but when they do, they show up the hypocrisy of their highfalutin herd. Marilyn Monroe’s landline was in the phone directory. David Bowie laughed about how he could ride the New York subway in peace merely by reading a Greek newspaper, causing people to think “that Greek bloke looks like David Bowie” and leave him alone.

In 2011, Rihanna took the Tube to her own gig at the O2 Arena, sang “escalator-lator-lator” as she went up the moving staircase, and – miracle of miracles – she went about her business unharassed, stopping for selfies with fans along the way. She’s a woman of few words, but no one said it better than the teenage Kate Moss: “I don’t talk about money – it’s completely insensitive. [I] get paid ridiculous amounts of money for doing ridiculous things.”

If only the starflakes of today could admit that they are the luckiest of people, rather than the wretched of the earth, we mightn’t consider them self-serving liars, and we mightn’t keep voting for the exact opposite of the political causes they champion. By chance, and to illustrate this, the autobiography of Julie Andrews – now 84 years old – has recently been published.

Andrews started singing in her parents’ vaudeville act when she was ten; by the time she was a teenager, she was financially supporting them, forgoing her education. After adopting two Vietnamese orphans, she became a political activist and lobbied to allow the Asian-American children left behind by US servicemen to come to America.

She says of her remarkable life: “I just took the opportunities that were in front of me, and waded in.” Reading that, it struck me that “never complain, never explain” could be a maxim for plenty of professional show-offs today.