Google+ A Tangled Rope: Wednesday Story: Self-Portrait

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Story: Self-Portrait

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I don’t know how much longer I can carry on with this. When I was younger, when I first began, it all seemed so much easier. It was almost effortless in a way. It seemed that every idea I had, every concept I constructed, would get me into the papers with another Brit-Art Bad Boy produces Another Piece Of Outrageous So-Called ‘Art’ story.

The mid-market tabloids were the easiest, of course, they always reliably respond in the time-honoured fashion with their ‘this so-called modern art’ rants. It’s almost like a ritual, or some other sort of formal arrangement, with them. The down-market tabloids, the red-tops always used to ignore me, of course. That is until they decided I’d become a celebrity, when I started turning up in their world with the obligatory latest model or actress hanging onto my arm and obligingly falling out of her dress right in front of their slavering cameras. That too was all part of the game.

The posh-lefty broadsheets, though, decided I had to be taken seriously. There is nothing their bourgeois little minds like better than a bit of anti-bourgeois pretence. If it outrages the Daily Mail, then in their eyes it must be good, because there is nothing they like more than safely conforming to the latest anti-conformity stance. It is sad, I know, but it’s given me a living, a very good living.

Again, it is all part of the game. It is all as formal, as organised, as strict, as one of those dances they do in the Jane Austen adaptations on the BBC. We all - us in the celebrity dance – know which step to do and when to do it, to keep the whole dance moving along while the music plays and the money comes tumbling in.

Of course, my greatest work of art, my greatest creation is myself, or rather the persona of Sebastian Stiles that I created. All of it as false as my working class accent, and the sex and drugs and footie and birds and ‘doing it large’, or whatever the current argot is. It is funny how the art world, the media, and all the luvvies that run them both want their heroes to be working class – ‘a bit of rough’ for them to fantasise over. It was a bit awkward, for a while anyway, when some smart-arsed reporter discovered I’d been to public school, the same one as the then – Labour, obviously - Prime Minister, as it happens. But I managed to ride that one out by pointing out my grandfather had been an iron foundry worker and I had ‘gone back to my roots’, or some sort of similar working class solidarity guff. The arty types in the media fell for it straight away, mainly because they wanted to – needed to – believe it. I was their bad boy and they needed me to remain that way. That was especially true of those posh birds who fancied a bit of rough, but a ‘safe’ bit of rough, if you know what I mean. Drop a few working class references, a few dialect words into the interview and they – in turn - can’t wait to drop their knickers for me. Trouble is, now I don’t want to, not any more. Even the easy, meaningless sex is… well… getting too meaningless and far too easy.

Another thing; I never used to get hangovers, back when I was younger. I’d be out clubbing, womanising, drugging, dancing and drinking until well into the following morning and all I’d sometimes have would be a bit of a sore head and a dry throat. Maybe I’d be a bit sharp with one of my assistants, but that was it. Nowadays, it seems, I can’t drink at all, and as for the drugs – well, I don’t seem to like them – and they don’t like me – not any more.

Trouble is, though, going out with people intent on getting off their faces, while you remain sober and straight is incredibly boring. People don’t realise – I certainly didn’t realise – just how tediously dull they are when they are getting wasted through drink, drugs or – more usually - both at the same time, even though they do believe - at the time - they are having a great time and they are the life and soul of the party. So, I seem to have given up going out.

Even the papers have noticed that I’m no longer the life and soul of the party, that I am no longer always where the best parties are, and they’ve started calling me a recluse. Not that I care that much, not now. Seeing your own face staring back at you from the pages of the newspaper soon becomes as boring for you yourself as it must be for all the other punters who have to wade through the endless photos of the tedious celebrity doings to get to the TV pages or the footie results. Well, it was for me anyway.

Although, there are some I know, including my last ‘girlfriend’, the ‘world famous supermodel model Oslo’ as she is known in tabloid-land, who seem to need their fix of publicity as much as their fix of whatever celebrity drug is the most fashionable nowadays. Oslo was a great one for heroin, herself. Luckily, for her, the heroin-chic look was all the rage at the time. Probably still is for all I know. She was lucky that way, with her work and her main interest in life coinciding like that.

Oslo is too famous to need a last name, which is good because I’ve forgotten it. That is if she ever told me it in the first place, I can’t remember now. She was – she pointed out to me – also too famous for me. She – her agent had told her – needed a higher-status boyfriend than me, possibly even a husband, for the next stage of her career-arc. So, she dumped me. Well, one of her assistants dumped me, for her - by text message.

Not that I cared – officially – at the time. My office responded immediately with a press release about my new-found friendship with Steve Boddington and his (ex-)pop star wife Penny. She used to be in that massive 80s girl-group, Pout - only the Spice Girls were bigger at the time. Nowadays, she is just famous for her fake tits, and her weirdly-named, essential fashion accessory kids: Marble, Transcendental and Surprise.

Actually, Bodds, as we all must – it seems – call him these days, just wanted me to fuck his airhead wife for a while, while he was off with his latest PA in some artificial jungle somewhere making a reality programme for TV. Seems she wanted someone ‘intyllecytual’, to shag her for some reason – I suppose in her position – top of the celebrity-tree, doing an Open University course and boffing the lecturer was out of the question. So one day I had the call from Bodds and next day I was on the plane out to Italy – where he was nominally playing his football in those days – and a taxi ride to his villa. Where Penny met me – standing stark naked in the cool marble hall of their massive hillside villa (apparently they conceived their first born in that marble hall too, hence his name).

Well, Bodds had bought several of my more expensive works – so I felt I sort of owed him a favour. Anyway, it turned out that Penny’s definition of intellectual seemed to consist of reading Jeffrey Archer novels – slowly, one syllable at a time, her lips moving, and watching the satellite celebrity news channels for sometimes as long as ten minutes, but only if they mentioned her name.

I tried, I really did try. But Penny (the tabloids still – it seems – call her Bad, even after all these years, that weirdly obviously contrived ’nick-name’ from her Pout days) did nothing at all for me. Considering the artifice of all the art I’ve created, it is odd, but fake tits just turn me right off, and that infamous body of hers. Yes, it turns out that - this time - the rumours of the inspiration for my piece Celebrity are true – those two moulded orange jellies sitting on an ironing board - were inspired by ‘Bad’ Penny.

Penny threw me out only one day later, well, her bodyguards threw me out for her, because she was too busy getting her PA to make an appointment with her plastic surgeon. Apparently, all the work she’d put into failing to get me to perform for her had damaged her famous pout and she needed it urgently repaired before she could be seen in public again.

Being dumped like that – twice, one after the other – somehow really depressed me - which was quite odd. I’d got used over the years to living this kind of life where you just floated over the surface of everything, not letting it touch you, being ‘cool’ about every fucking thing. Usually women came into my life, we came, and then they went without leaving even a shadow in my memory. At the time, I put it down to getting old. Maybe, I thought, I was looking for something a bit more meaningful. But I was the darling bad boy of Brit-Art what need had I for meaning, for worth? I was still the king of superficial mindless tat.

Then, suddenly, while I was still reeling from all this, the Credit Crunch appeared out of nowhere, and the bottom just fell out of the whole Brit-Art shtick. Seemingly, all at once, Brit-Art - and all us once fashionable art-world bad-boys and girls - were about as welcome in the celebrity haunts as a fart in a space suit. We’d known it would never last, of course, the world of celebrity, of fame, has its fads and fashions too: film stars, pop stars, TV people, comedians, ‘Reality’ stars, they have all been, gone, come back and gone again as the fickle finger of fate has grown tired of them and shifted on to point at some other fad of the moment. The problem is that the celebrity pool is a very shallow puddle and there is only so much stirring that the finger of fate can do with it, especially when that bright glare of excess rabid publicity begins to dry that puddle up, evaporating its edges.

So, yeah, it all just suddenly fell around me and I was left stumbling through the wreckage, of – when all is said and done – a pretty wasted life. Fair enough, I was actually wasted myself for a great deal of it. Still, I can’t help wishing I had a bit more to show for it than a few pieces of tat spread here and there through museums, art galleries and private collections, in those fashionable art places that have always had far more money than sense, or – even - far more money than taste.

The irony is though, now those infamous pieces of art I made, that made me all that money and fame, are all falling to bits, decomposing, rotting, as though they too know the party is over and they are returning to their constituent parts, or just rotting away to dust. It’s a bit like the clock has struck midnight, the fairy godmother’s spell has worn off and my vintage Porsche has turned back into the pumpkin and a bunch of mice.

Anyway, I dunno what I’m going to do now. Although, the Labour party in some act of desperation have offered me a set in the Lords – providing we can disguise my ‘donation’ is some suitably obscure way. Typical of politicians, of political parties, they wait so long for it to be safe to jump on a bandwagon, that by the time they’ve built up the courage to clamber aboard, everyone else has long got off, leaving it to career on down the road, leaving those poor unfortunates like politicians and other hangers-on to stumble free of the wreckage once it runs off the road for the final time.

So, I might give that a go. I quite fancy myself as a Lord, controlling, even though only in a peripheral way – for the moment – the fate of the nation. After al, I can’t screw it up any more that they already have, can I?

No, don’t answer that.

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