Friday, 14 April 2017

BECKHAM: THE BLAND LEADING THE BRAND




'Poor kid,' withered Piers Morgan. 'Brand it like Beckham,' sneered everyone else. 'It is unprecedented to trademark a five year-old,' admitted the UK Intellectual Property Office. But trademark her little girl is precisely what Victoria Beckham has gone and done. Not exclusively here, either, either, but right across the European Union. And not only Harper, but also her brothers Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz. The whole family is trademarked to the threaded eyebrows now. I'm guessing there's also an American deal in there somewhere. To be fair, eighteen year-old Brooklyn is already modelling, lucratively. Romeo, four years his junior, has been strutting the catwalk and the studio since the age of ten, and fronted Burberry's Christmas campaign in 2014. Cruz launched his 'pop career' with a charity Christmas single last year. What was it called, again?
It's a family affair. Not that it is going to help David's damage-limitation campaign, hastily launched after his bitter failed bid for a knighthood. This clan is worth some £500 million and counting. The media, as if they wouldn't, have gone for the throat. The Beckhams' excuse? 'Future-proofing'. So it prevents their baby from being exploited, right? Wrong. Stable door, horse, legging it. Her own parents got there first. There's already a Harper fashion blog (harperbeckhamfashion.blogspot.com/). Brace yourselves for Harper make-up, perfume, dolls, books, films, fashion, music and 'entertainment'. Whatever that means, in this context. Whatever it takes to spice up a rich girl's life.
Tiny stars pay the biggest price for fame. I've had a little first-hand experience of this. Some years ago, when the firstborn was a tot, I walked away from the chance of banking a million bucks. I wouldn't even have had to do very much for it: simply turn over my child to the system, sit back and watch the star-makers do what they do best.
I was sitting beside the pool of the Sunset Marquis, West Hollywood. Mia was playing with the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs. Bruce Springsteen was reading at a table nearby. Grace Jones was creaming her legs on a sun lounger. The usual. The studio casting director who approached me did not mince his words.
'Take my advice, baby,' he said. Not that I'd asked for it. 'Drop your typewriter in the toilet and get your ass out here on a permanent basis. You are sitting on a million dollars. I've seen cute, and that is as cute as cute gets. Believe me, we are talking Macaulay Culkin's little English cousin in 'Home Alone 3'. She is IT. we'd like her to do a screen test.'
Reader, I confess. I considered the offer. Until next morning, when I dialled him to decline. Could I imagine living with a Drew Barrymore in ten years' time? Whom stardom turned into an alcoholic, sex-crazed, narcotic-addicted teen whose own mother disowned her? I'll give it a swerve, thanks. His response: 
'You screw up the kid's life, you'll have the money to pay for the therapist.'
To get them off my back, I agreed to them 'at least' shooting some footage in the grounds of the hotel. Mia put on a floaty dress and my lipgloss, and skipped in and out of the flowerbeds. The director swooned. I stood imagining people asking her for her autograph in supermarkets. I felt a cringe coming on.
Oh sure, there are child stars who survive to well-adjusted adulthood. Shirley Temple, Jodie Foster and Brooke Shields spring to mind. Mara Wilson, the little girl in 'Matilda'. But for each of them, a Macaulay Culkin - who toppled off the rails in spectacular style, and divorced his parents. A Lindsay Lohan. A Miley Cyrus. A Gary Coleman. A Britney. A Justin. Sometimes, they recover and get a grip. Or they do a Michael Jackson. I'm betting Victoria Beckham has never heard of Bobby Driscoll. A movie star at six, an Oscar-winner at eleven. By the age of seventeen he was a junkie has-been, arrested countless times on robbery, forgery and drug charges. In 1968, his corpse was uncovered in an abandoned New York tenement. The body was not formally identified. The child star who had earned $60,000 a year was buried in a pauper's grave. 

Planet stardom is a precarious place. A parallel universe. Incomprehensible. It is inhabited by the desperate, which is what such folk are, no matter how much money they've got. They all become has-beens in the end. It is not a place for normal people. Thank your lucky stars that you're not them.

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