I may suffer from SHFAITPOFP. That's Spontaneous High Functioning Autism In The Presence Of Famous People.
It might have its roots with an incident with Mick Jagger when I was 11 years old. I was on my bicycle about to cross a road. A white Jag was coming towards me but I thought that if I was quick I'd get across Okay. I pressed down hard on the pedal, the chain snapped and I crashed down onto the crossbar. The Jag slowed and swerved to avoid me, Mick Jagger's head poked out of the window telling me to, "Get off the f**king road!" I couldn't respond, perhaps due to my testicles being pressed up against my diaphragm.
Years later, I was a volunteer helping out at the highly esteemed Questors Theatre in Ealing. (I'm beginning to wonder if it was actually unconscious aversion therapy.) Anyway, I crossed paths with many quite famous actors while carrying props to and fro. On one occasion I had to stand aside and let the gorgeous Judi Dench pass by. I bowed! Yes, bowed. I actually fricking bowed!
Also at Questors, I happened to glance up and come into eye contact with Simon MacCorkindale. I found myself doing a simultaneous eyebrow-bob-reverse-head-nod while one side of my mouth tried a cool smile and the other side went for nonchalance. I swear the poor guy started looking round for security personnel for protection.
A while ago I lived in West Hampstead and many times found myself fleeing from a friendly nod from the likes of Emma Thomson and the bald bloke from the Bronski Beat. One day I happened to find myself trapped in a small patisserie with Gordon Jackson who was ordering croissants as if he was projecting his enormous voice across Wembley Stadium. I commented, "Your voice doesn't curdle the cream so much as hurdle it, ha ha." To his credit, Mr Jackson seemed to recognise my SHFAITPOFP by doing the best possible thing in the circumstances and ignored me.
In the early 2000's, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair visited my company, turned to me and said, "So you're the brains behind all of this?" My response was, "Umm ferr pfeeble crufhh cucckle pfaah .. yes" so overwhelmed was I by his fame.
The exception was Simon Ward. Probably best known for Young Winston Churchill and All Creatures Great And Small. Around the mid 80's I think, he was sat opposite me on a tube. Some children further along the carriage were whispering and pointing at him saying, "It's the Winston Churchill bloke .. James Herriot .." Simon looked at me, smiled and rolled his eyes in a self-deprecating 'kids, what are they like?' kind of way. I smiled back like a normal person and carried on reading my Evening Standard. Weird that.
When I heard of Simon's death in 2012 I was deeply moved.
The only other celebrity whose death I was so moved by was Robert Shaw. He was my childhood hero in The Buccaneers, a TV show about pirates. His voice as he buckled his swash stays with me still. A man filled with so much life. How could that ever go away?
What brought on this post was a Tweet I just sent to Hugh Laurie. I was trying to agree with his observation that some English commentators speak in idioms when talking to none English speakers. I'd just been watching the Winter Olympics and had thought the exact same thing.
His example had been, "Mario, are you whistling in the dark? Or slaying dragons by giving a green light to the shot in the arm on the front foot?"
This is my tweet trying to register my agreement: "@hughlaurie IKR? A spontaneous and almost completely unsycophantic LOL (I'm shite with famous folk)"
What in heaven's name was I thinking?!
Of course, we unfamous-ones can never really know the famous ones. And being famous must be so incredibly difficult when it comes to new acquaintances. How do you separate the genuine from the sycophants? My tweet must have been very helpful. *sigh* I can only pray the dude never reads it.
If you're famous and reading this, "Hiya :) LOL I like real ale but not keen on beetroot."
*facepalm* Oh, Lord …