Famous people are seldom how we see them

by BardofEly

We all have our own images of what out favourite celebrities are like but in real life they are seldom really like the mental picture we have.

We all have favourite stars

All of us have actors and actresses, pop stars, rock singers, musicians, sports stars and other celebrities who we admire and maybe even idolise or think of as heroes and heroines but it often turns out that such people are nothing like how we imagine them to be. Sometimes they turn out to be wonderful people and the image we have of them is well justified but other times we may end up shocked by how a person we are a fan of turns out to be in real life.

Captain Beefheart

Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex

 I have met a lot of famous musicians and quite a few film stars too over the years and as a younger man I was very disappointed with how I found some people I was a fan of to actually be when I met them.

The interesting thing about it is although I may have been very disappointed with them as people I still continued to be just as much a fan of their music.

Two examples are Captain Beefheart and Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and T Rex fame.

Back in the 70s I had paid to see Captain Beefheart playing at the Student's Union in Cardiff. I had first discovered his unique brand of psychedelic and surreal blues and experimental rock on the late great John Peel's show and was a big fan of his music.

However, as it turned out the audience were kept waiting well over an hour and I discovered why. Captain Beefheart was sat in the passage that led to the toilets and he was autographing anything fans brought him. By anything I mean anything - clothes, tickets, hats, bodies even. He was just making a squiggle with a felt marker pen and then it was the next one's turn.

To my mind we had paid money to see him on stage not doing what he was doing and it annoyed me. I could see the queue was long and that the wait for him to actually perform was going to be a long one. I got in the queue and hatched a plan.

When it was finally my turn I brought out a cigarette and said "Please sign this and then I'm going to smoke it in protest!"

"You can't do that," a girl said, "not if the Captain writes on it."

"Just watch me," I responded and when he scrawled across it, I immediately lit up and started smoking. "I came to watch you play," I said, "and this is what I think of the show so far," I added as I stubbed out the cigarette.

"You c**t," was all Captain Beefheart said. I sold my ticket on the door and cleared off to another venue having registered my protest. I wouldn't have minded if he had been seeing fans after the show but keeping us waiting like that wasn't what I had paid my money for. I still love his music though.

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Marc Bolan

Meeting the star of T Rex

Marc Bolan was another act I had discovered on Peel's show and had most of his albums. Unicorn was one of my favourite records and I had come to think of Marc as being very much part of the '60s hippy alternative culture.

I loved the unique way he sang and his mystic Tolkienesque words and cosmic imagery. I was just as much a fan of his new electrified T Rex as the old acoustic Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Marc Bolan and T Rex were playing the Top Rank in Cardiff and of course I was there to watch him live.It was at the time of the album Beard of Stars with great songs like Ride A White Swan and By The Light of a Magical Moon.

I needed no encouragement to start dancing when Marc asked us to do so. As usual there were a lot of people standing or just sitting on the floor and in those days I often ended up being one of the first people dancing.

This time it all went very badly wrong because a bouncer grabbed me, pulled me up the stairs, punched me in the mouth and threw me out of an exit doorway.

I was hurt, bleeding, shocked and had lost my jacket, which I had left on a chair inside the venue. I made my way to the reception desk in the front and explained what had happened. I told the girl working there that I had only done what Marc Bolan had suggested we do and this was how I got treated. She wouldn't let me back in though until the gig had finished.

I found my coat and made my way up to the stage area where Marc was enjoying the attention of a large group of fans. I managed to get his attention eventually and complained about what had happened to me.

All he said was "Well, what the f*ck do you expect me to do?" and carried on chatting to some girls. There was no sympathy, and he didn't appear at all sorry. I thought he could have at least said how terrible it was, or got me my money back or something.

It was a far cry from his hippy songs and image. Perhaps that's all it was - an image?

Keith Allen and Bard of Ely in Rebecca's Daughters

On the film set
Actor Keith Allen with the Bard of Ely
Actor Keith Allen with the Bard of Ely

Joely Richardson with Bard of Ely

On the set of Rebecca's Daughters
Joely Richardson with the Bard of Ely
Joely Richardson with the Bard of Ely

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Keith Allen

Joely Richardson

Actor Keith Allen has been portrayed as "hell-raiser" but I found him very approachable and friendly. I was an extra in the Welsh comedy film Rebecca's Daughters, directed by Karl Francis, and Keith was playing the role of Davy, a man with a pet piglet. The story by Dylan Thomas was about the Rebecca Riots in which a group of villagers banded together in rebellion against the English landowners and unfair toll-gates. So they couldn't be identified the men blacked their faces and wore women's clothes. Keith was happy to pose for a photo with me on the set of Rebecca's Daughters with me dressed as a "daughter."

Besides being a very successful actor Keith has also had several hits including Vindaloo by Fat Les.

On the same film set I also got to meet Joely Richardson who was playing the heroine Rhiannon. Like Keith I found her to be happy to talk to me and she posed for a photo with me. I gave her a tape of some of my songs and she said she had been playing it in her car on the way back to London. She said her favourite was my song Always Look So Fine.

Gruff Rhys

Super Furry Animals singer

Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals I got to meet at a Neil Young tribute night in Cafe Calcio in Cardiff. I was impressed with how friendly he was. Gruff bought me a beer and I told him I had an EP out and that it was on sale in Spillers Records. Gruff said he would buy it when he was next in town and he did. That meant a lot to me. I have met Gruff at various local events in Cardiff - at gigs in Clwb Ifor Bach, or the "Welsh Club" as it is commonly known, and even at a final year student's art exhibition at a college in the city. That Gruff supports the local music scene and would spare the time to go and see a friend's art college work is something else that shows what a really great person he is.

In conclusion, I would add that we must remember that art and the artist are two separate things, and a famous star's public image is something else again. We cannot expect how we picture someone famous to be right based on their work and what we have read about them. We may well find that they are not as we thought they would be in real life but that is no reason not to appreciate what they create and are famous for.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.


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Updated: 01/03/2013, BardofEly
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BardofEly on 01/05/2013

Thank you for enjoying it!

Sheri_Oz on 01/05/2013

I love personal stories like this. Fun to read.

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