First, a joke: there can’t be many people left who haven’t heard the one about David Beckham, Sven Goran Erikssen and the pre-match press conference … The England soccer team is about to face up to some doughty foreign foe. As tension mounts, Erikssen introduces Beckham, then the iconic England captain, has a quick word in his ear, and the briefing gets under way. However, looks of rapt attention soon turn to confusion as Beckham proceeds: “Well, they’re very small, they’re white, they have a very minty flavour which I really like … Victoria keeps them in her purse all the time coz they’ve only one calorie each …” Whereupon a resigned-looking Erikssen leans across and can just be heard off-mic saying, “David! I said tac-tics!!!”
Which only goes to show that membership of the Jet Set doesn’t necessarily pre-suppose brains. Though it is certainly true that talent – no matter how limited its range – and physical beauty do make up for a lot. So does good humour, especially when it’s self-deprecating. Victoria Beckham, for instance, has regularly been excoriated in the tabloid press as the ultimate cash-splashing soccer wife. But she did herself no end of good when she was asked by Michael Parkinson if she’d learned any Spanish since David had moved to Real Madrid.
A few words, she said, with a straight face. Just enough to manage the everyday things … An example, asked Parkie? “Donde está Gucci?”, she replied, quick-as-a-flash … and a not-quite-onside audience collapsed in sympathetic laughter.
So here’s a poser: do Posh and Becks exemplify the Jet Set? Who exactly are this notional Jet Set anyway? What are the requirements for membership? In fact, to become even more metaphysical, I think we can legitimately ask: does the Jet Set really exist at all? These are difficult questions to tackle – especially without a glass or two of Bolly on board – but they certainly speak to the spirit of the times, so let’s have a go.
First off, is it about fame, is it about money, is it about talent – or is it about all three? Well, there are plenty of people with money who don’t court the limelight. In fact, quite the opposite. So it’s not just about “loads-a-money”, to use that great, impeccably-crass Harry Enfield phrase. And there are plenty of people with talent-to- burn in their various fields who’ll never be invited to take part in Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here. So it’s not just about being particularly good at something either.
Which means it’s got to be something else that makes someone with as much money as Sir Alan Sugar crave the TV cameras every year to lecture his wannabe-apprentices on how he started out in life with £15 in his pocket and a barrow full of dreams … and now has a “stinkpot” moored off the Costa del Sol. What is it that makes a chef with as much talent as Gordon Ramsey debase himself every year in a TV programme as depressing – nay, downright frightening – as Hell’s Kitchen USA? “F*** me!”, as he might say himself. Let me stress than nobody is a bigger fan of Sir Alan and Sir Gordon than I am. And if they’re not desperate for the money, then I’m afraid the answer to why they do it is sticking out a mile. It’s just got to be: EGO. You massage mine and I’ll massage yours.
Andy Warhol had it sussed. Life is short, then we die. And in the meantime we must make every clutching effort we can to achieve our 15 minutes of fame, no matter what the personal cost or how deep the public humiliation. Think ageing Janet Street Porter on Sir Gordon’s TV programme, The F-Word – in which the foul-mouthed chef feeds his Jet Set friends, most of them Essex boys and girls who wouldn’t know al dente from al-Jazeera. I’d don’t know why, but somehow the entire Jet Set milieu seems to me to be summed up perfectly not by Sir Alan, Sir Gordon or Dame Janet, but in the extraordinary public persona of Graham Norton, who’s fronted a series of vacuous BBC TV programmes promising fame and fortune to all-singing all-dancing youngsters if they scratch out the eyes of the competition, bless them.
Yes, Graham Norton makes me want to cry out: Is that all there is?! He makes me doubt the very value of life itself! Thank goodness for Bolly to blank him out … and Cristal …and Krug … and the OFF switch!
But perhaps I’m being too harsh! Most Jet Set carry-on is totally harmless, mindless even. It’s not to be taken seriously, except as a diversion. Tell-tale signs of infection include any of the following:
- Tipping off the paparazzi and then complaining that they’re camped outside your hotel or waiting at Palma Airport
- Getting caught by The News of the World sniffing cocaine and then checking into a high-profile anti-addiction clinic for 24 hours the following week
- Creating a rumpus at Heathrow Terminal Five and being sentenced to weeks and weeks of community service … all to revive flagging tabloid interest
- Hanging out with Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss, Pete Doherty or, for elderly folk, Michael Douglas or Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Pretending you’re intimate with Princes William and/or Harry
- Having Max Clifford as your publicist.
If you’ve achieved any four of these six requirements then beware: The Curse of Graham Norton has struck. You are fated to join all the other men who wear black silk shirts and too-large Rolexes, and all the other women whose hair is held back by Gucci sunglasses even in the depths of winter. You are a member of the Jet Set. You have plumbed the very depths. Your life has been cleansed of all meaning. Cheers!