27 September 2007

I've just finished reading Stephen Fry's essay on fame. I certainly found it a thought provoking read.

I often think there are a lot of similarities between being famous and being disabled.

Firstly, people will always remember meeting you. I can remember the exact date I first met Sharleen Spiteri. I remember sitting next to Matt Lucas on the tube and him pointing out that my jacket pocket was undone. I remember crossing a road in Regents Park in the opposite direction to Derren Brown. I remember that New Year's Eve spent at the same event as Hannah Martin from Neighbours. And I bet there are millions of people in this world that I had a brief chance encounter with who will also remember me for years, if not their whole lifetime. People whom I've met once often approach me and talk about the last time we met. "I'm sorry, my face recognition is appalling," is really all I can say back.

Secondly, people always either talk to you or avoid you because of who you are. I've been in bars where there has also been someone off the telly and hearing my friends go "I'm going to talk to X." Or alternatively "I can't talk to X... they're famous!" People react the same way to me. I either get people wanting to know "What happened to you then?" Or of course, people avoid me like I've got the plague because "I can't talk to her! She's in a wheelchair!" That last response is particularly pesky when they're serving at the bar and all you want to do is order a pint.

Thirdly, people think they have a licence to just come up and talk to me in the street/supermarket/other public place.

Stephen says:

There are days when try as I might I cannot go unnoticed. It’s as if I’m walking around with a neon sign over my head. Every cab driver, everyone I pass in the street, every shop assistant stops me and asks for an autograph or photo (of which more later). I can lower my head, concentrate on looking anonymous, but it’s no good.

OK. I don't get asked for autographs. Instead I get asked "Were you in an accident?"

Stephen summarises that paragraph by saying:

‘Weird, I’m really famous today,’ is how one might put it.

And I know exactly how he feels. Some days I seem (in the eyes of other people) to be more disabled than on other days.

Famous people are not allowed to be in a bad mood in the way that everyone else is.

Neither are disabled people. You may remember in this post I worried about giving "The Disabled" a bad name. Very often I just want to tell people to "fuck off," but know that I mustn't.

If I were to ask one thing of people in their interaction with the famous it is this: consider the companions. Imagine what it is like to be in the company of a well-known person, a person who could be your brother, sister, mother, life-partner, school-friend, client, patient. You’re chatting away and someone barges in on your conversation. They completely ignore you, indeed often literally elbow you out of the way, planting their back in your face.

Something else I can empathise with. It's amazing how many of my non-disabled friends get more bothered by the way "Ordinaries" talk to me and treat me than I do.


Robbie Williams can walk around Los Angeles without being recognised

Interestingly, I too can wander round LA without being harassed in the same way I am in the UK. Quite simply because LA is so brilliantly accessible, wheelchair users can get everywhere - so we are everywhere. In contrast, London with it's steps everywhere, it's almost totally inaccessible public transport system, etc disabled people are rarely seen or heard. Who'd of thunk me and Robbie would have something in common?

I'd like to be famous actually. As Stephen says, in many professions, fame is a measure of success. It would be nice to have people recognise me in the street because of something I'd accomplished, rather than just approaching me because I look different.

Trouble is, if I was "famous" - would I notice the difference?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:50 am

    Hi Lisa, I followed your link from Stephen Fry's blog.

    I think you make excellent points in this post. I used to work as a personal assistant to a wheelchair user and this kind of thing used to drive her up the wall. I got a real insight into the clueless way people act around disability. Incidentally, I have a hidden disability so I get things like women with pushchairs glowering at me for using lifts because I look able-bodied and obviously they're not to know that stairs are very difficult for me. We can't win!