Holding out for a hero (at arm’s length)

Now it is no secret that Perth is the most isolated capital city on the planet, and by now, if only through my efforts alone, I imagine that it is no secret that Perth is also something of a cultural desert.

To be fair, it has improved dramatically over the years. It now boasts its own arts festival, literary festival and even a fringe theatre festival. It loves a pop-up event (when did everything start having to pop-up?) and the authorities are forever closing off main roads so food vendors and craftspeople who seem to think that there is an endless market for hand-carved wooden platters can flog their wares.

One thing Perth has always been able to do is attract international acts. Sometimes the really big ones fly straight over us and head for the bigger venues and audiences on the east coast, but the nice ones drop in to see us, and for that I am always grateful. I think I have probably seen more live music/comedy acts over here than in the UK, because Perth is just down the road and you can nearly always get tickets.

So many years ago,  I saw Julian Clarey live, Hinge and Brackett doing The Importance of Being Earnest, Elton John – although I should possibly point out at this stage of the list that touring acts visiting our city are not always homosexual. I saw The Pretenders, Neil Young, Robbie Williams, and Neil Diamond – none of whom I would have ever seen if I had been in England.

More recently, I have seen Roger Waters, Dylan Moran, Alan Davies, Bill Bailey and QI live with Stephen Fry and Alan Davies and we have also had some big names touring as well that I have missed out on, David Attenborough being a notable one.

My latest ticket is to see Louis Theroux, who will be touring later this year and a colleague who goes to many more shows than me also sent me a link to Brian Cox and Robin Ince who will be here as well.

A recent trend I have noticed is the offer (the exclusive offer – available to very few – the pop-up offer??) of very expensive tickets, which allow you access to an after show glass of wine with the headline act. The cost is something like triple the ticket price, which suggests a huge glass of wine indeed.

I was talking about this with my colleague who had said he was almost tempted by the offer for David Attenborough.

‘But what,’ I asked him. ‘Would you have said to him?’

He replied, ‘I would have said: Oh

mygodIjusthavetoletyouknowhowimportantyouweretomegrowingupinthemiddleofnowhereandhowmuchIlovealltheprogrammesyoudo and then I would have spontaneously combusted.’

Which is probably not that rare (I mean being in awe not bursting into flames). I remember going to see Louden Wrainwright III in Brighton with a friend who was a massive fan and who fought to get to meet him after the gig, and when he finally did, just stood in front of him, grinning like an idiot, speechless. I am sure it was not the first time this had happened to a celebrity, and would not be the last but it makes me wonder why we seek to meet people, with whom we have little or not chance of any meaningful conversation.

I did meet Sandi Toksvig once, at a literary luncheon and as it happened I was doing a degree and had just read her book, so was able to have a half intelligent conversation with her about the business of creating fiction for about three minutes and then quit while I was ahead. The success of this tiny interaction in no small part, it should be said, because she was a generous listener and a very funny writer and speaker.

For my money, meeting the famous for a bit of after-show banter carries with it the same problems as long distance phones calls used to, before prices dropped and we got Skype. When you placed a long distance phone call, it was a big deal. You could hear your voice arriving at the other end of the line as you finished your sentence. It was expensive, both financially and emotionally, so you didn’t want to say anything too trivial, because it was a long distance phone call, for god’s sake, but then did not want to get into anything too big as bigger things were better suited to letters. You therefore ended up sort of strung somewhere in the middle, talking about the weather.

So now I am left with the feeling that even if I had the chance, I might not try to interact with a hero. Performers are at their most heroic as they perform and I am not sure that the forced small talk of an official meet could be anything other than a massive anti-climax. I would be worried that it would be deeply unpleasant for the celebrity in question or that I was asking stupid questions or the wrong questions, and that the encounter could never be the meeting of minds that many people, I think,  imagine it might be when meeting their idols. So for me, I will take and leave my heroes as I find them: on the page, on the stage, and therefore in their natural state, doing what they do best.

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