Last week, a 78-year-old man went unnoticed by the regulars at the Thirsty Beaver bar in North Carolina as he sucked down a lager on his Jack Jones. They were huddled in groups and eagerly nattering away about The Rolling Stones gig coming to town the next day. Yet it turns out he was none other than Mick ‘Point’n’Pout’ Jagger himself. “Out and about in Charlotte, NC,” the strutmaster general and legendary catcher of invisible mosquitos tweeted above a photo of himself out front of the bar.
Except he wasn’t completely unnoticed, was he? Someone who knew who he was took the photo, and it was first tweeted by Mick, which rather shifts the angle from, ‘Normal guy Mick chugs a cool one – totally normally, because he’s totally normal’ to ‘Look, Keef, I’m in a fackin’ pub!’. As the rest of us might were we ever to find ourselves in, say, the actual Tardis or Casa Amor.
The fact that the internet reacted to the photo as though it was akin to someone taking a selfie in a lion enclosure, sending it viral and enhancing it to try to work out what beer Mick was drinking, only added to the unreal nature of the event. Much like the photos that appeared a few days earlier of Eminem serving customers at the walk-up window of his new Detroit restaurant Mom’s Spaghetti, or Ed Sheeran’s recent tale of taking Taylor Swift to The Station pub in Framlington, Suffolk – where, he said, “no one really clocked who it was”.
Their sheer amazement at the total breakdown of the accepted celebrity culture process – star walks into a bar, gets mobbed, steals your girlfriend, escapes back to Monaco with the aid of security detail disguised as passing stag do – suggests that for A-list superstars, the real world we live in is like one big novelty theme park. Or, considering the risks of mass mauling inherent to their person, a daredevil photo opportunity, the uber-‘sleb version of taking a selfie while swinging from the top of the Burj Khalifa.
It’s tempting to think that such (non-)events are the result of the pandemic bringing everybody down to the same human level. That key workers and philanthropic footballers are our only pop culture heroes now and, faced with what really matters in life, we’ve lost interest in the shallow trappings of fame and success. I mean, these days Tom Cruise literally has to land his helicopter in someone’s garden in order to feed his lust for human attention.
You have to feel for them. Megastars pay top whack for exclusive club memberships, personal drivers, bodyguards, electrified fences and paparazzi tasers – all so they don’t have to feel constantly intruded upon. The least they should expect for their money is the odd weeping face crushed against a chain link fence crying their name when they venture out beyond the barriers of VIP civilisation into the scorched wasteland of phone shops and Wagamamas – otherwise known as as ‘The Pleb Zone’.
But perhaps, over the past 18 months, we’ve developed an unspoken sympathy for the rock stars stuck in their bubble. Sure, their bubble might well be in their second home amid the Campania vineyards, have impeccable landscape gardening, local mafia protection and a temperature-controlled cocaine cellar – but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
If, like me, you’ve ever smuggled yourself into a glittering rock star party or members’ club underneath an hor d’oeuvres trolley, you’ll know that celebs generally paying upwards of 12 quid a drink to get endlessly hassled by a slightly better class of social pest. Not gangs of boozehounds clamouring for selfies – y’know, the people who actually made them rich and famous in the first place – but lesser talents hoping to leech off their success: producers and media moguls trying to use their profile to boost their brand or potential investment partners slavering over what their millions might do if dumped wholesale into their floundering data harvesting start-up. Every air kiss an attempt to suck on their soul; no such thing as a free bump.
Celebrity culture only really serves to make everyone miserable. For the masses it’s the fount of a lifetime’s sense of inadequacy; for the stars it’s a perfectly appointed, vastly overpriced, 12-bedroom prison with optional jacuzzi. Maybe it would do us all some good to break it down a little; deconstruct the edifice. When one Twitter commenter told the Thirsty Beaver regulars to, “Turn around – Mick Jagger is having a beer behind you!”, how about we all do exactly the opposite?
If you happen to spot a world famous star in your local pub or restaurant, just leave them alone. Don’t even look around at them. No pictures, no, ‘I just have to say, “Hi”… No! You don’t! Talk your friends and other drinkers out of bothering them, too. Then maybe they’ll tell their famous friends about this great little place where no-one hassles them, your local will become the go-to spot for unpretentious A-listers and you’ll run into them just as you would any other ordinary neighbourhood piss-head.
In pubs across the land all these star/fan barriers could fall and the pretence of celebrity superiority crumble. Everybody wins! Mingling casually with household names, your ambitions would feel far more tangible and achievable. And they’d never have to sit in a members bar full of military grade networkers listening to a Radio 1 DJ sucking up to Gemma Collins over 15 quid Merlots ever again. And it could all come true with just three magic words: ‘The usual, Mick?’