Sunday, 27 January 2013

The National Television Awards


I was lucky enough to attend the NTA on Wednesday as seat filler.  I took my daughter and her boyfriend along, as they are avid telly fans and wanted to rub shoulders with celebrities.  I don’t watch the box and haven’t a clue who anybody really is, but I love the thrill of being back stage with glamorous people, crew barking orders into microphone headsets, the atmosphere electric as you are chaperoned in, and dodging men shouldering massive cameras that trail snaking cable.
          I was a bit anxious about getting there.  Weather had been iffy with snow and ice.  So I booked a cab with plenty of time to spare.  My daughter emerged from the house wearing super long false eyelashes and evening gown.  She looked like a movie star crossed with a Walt Disney animal.  She’d certainly have given Daisy Duck a run for her money in the eyelash department.
          Our taxi driver bucketed along icy country lanes at hairy-miles-per-hour, one hand slung lazily across the top of the steering wheel.  This style of driving might be terribly laid back, and gosh-I’m-such-a-cool-driver, but it’s not for me.  As the car swung left to right and left again, motion sickness began to rear its ugly head.  I decided to man up and ask the driver to kindly put both hands on the wheel.  As I opened my mouth, I spotted he only had one arm.  Yes, really.  Too late, he’d noticed I’d been about to speak.  ‘Everything all right?’ he asked.  ‘Yes thanks,’ I chirruped and instead ferreted in my clutch bag for a peppermint, ‘just wondered if you’d like a mint?’  As soon as the words were out, I realised the foolishness of this on-the-spot improvisation.  He couldn’t take his one hand off the wheel to palm the sweet.  And I didn’t feel on close enough terms to say, ‘Open wide and I’ll pop it in.’ Fortunately he looked at my proffered packet of Polo mints and declined.
          When we arrived at the O2 Arena, a strong wind was blowing.  Normally my daughter would be clutching her locks and lamenting about a hair-do getting wrecked.  On this occasion she was clutching her eyeballs and shrieking about her eyelashes taking off.
          Inside the O2’s VIP area, I ushered my daughter into the lobby of a male and female shared restroom to attend to wind damaged falsies and ruffled tresses.  A gentleman burst in, gave a cheery hello, and disappeared behind the door.  As I applied lipstick, the sound of the man relieving himself was audible.  ‘Mum,’ my daughter whispered, ‘that’s–’ she broke off as the man dashed out doing up his flies.  ‘See ya,’ he gave a cheeky grin.  I paused in mid-lippy application and did the British response to a stranger…small smile crossed with a grimace…when Eleanor turned back to me and joyfully said, ‘That was Keith Lemon.  Oh my God, I’ve just seen my first celebrity.’  ‘I don’t care who he is,’ I retorted, ‘he didn’t wash his hands!’ But my daughter was already hitting her iPhone and accessing Facebook where she joyfully told her friends she’d not only seen Keith Lemon but heard him peeing too.
          In due course we filed into the celebrity section.  I peeled away from my daughter and her boyfriend and found a seat.  For the first half an hour I was left undisturbed and watched a stream of unfamiliar actors and actresses going up to collect awards.  Half an hour later though and somebody in my row had to go up on stage.  Musical chairs then took place.  I jumped up, went to the wing and waited for direction on where to sit next.  ‘Over there,’ said one of the crew giving me a little shove, ‘front row, and make it quick because one of the cameras is about to do a sweep.’  I took off at a sprint…not easy in six inch heels with a two inch platform…and nearly went flying.  I was aware of my stilettos connecting with something soft and squidgy.  I flung myself into the empty seat, then dared to look at what I’d trodden on.  A cameraman, lying on his tummy and all dressed in black so he blended with the shadows, was clutching at his calves and whimpering.  The woman on my left gave me a disdainful look.  I shrugged apologetically as Dermot O’Leary, the presenter, burst into his next round of patter.  I looked sideways at the woman next to me.  She looked familiar but…it evaded me…I looked sideways again and…dear God…now there was somebody I did know.  Just two seats away, and one of the ‘boys’ from boy band Take That.  Gary Barlow.  I nearly fell off my chair.  And who was that sitting on his left?  I was sure I’d seen her somewhere.  Daily Mail?  Yes…it was coming back to me… she was the cradle snatching wench who’d so upset my daughter by taking teenage sensation Harry Styles to her bed.  She was called…ah yes...Caroline Flack!  And good heavens…if she was 32 then I was 21.
          Suddenly there was an interval break.  Julian Fellowes (who I’d never heard of prior to Wednesday night) came along to talk to Gary Barlow.  The woman next to me looked pained.  I suddenly felt sorry for her.  I gave her a nudge and sympathetically whispered, ‘I guess you have to get used to Gary being monopolized when you’re married to him.’  She gave me a supercilious look.  ‘I’m not his wife,’ she said incredulously.  Oh Lord.  She was probably somebody really famous who I’d deeply offended by not recognizing.  Rule number one.  Don’t try and chat to celebrities when you are a nobody.  They might be part of the same human race as you, but they’ve forgotten this.  Rule number two, practice your own haughty looks so you can toss them back.  I later found out she was Karen Brady, current vice-chairman of West Ham United and Lord Sugar’s sidekick on TV’s The Apprentice.  Definitely not married to Gary Barlow then.
          I managed to stay seated in my front row’s coveted spot until Nicole Scherzinger came off stage and wanted to sit next to Gary, which meant more musical chairs.
          My next spot was sitting behind Pudsey the dancing dog.  Now as a long-time dog owner and lover of anything furry, I just couldn’t resist.  I leant forward and asked the girl who’d danced with Pudsey to Gangnam Style if I could stroke her pooch.  Pudsey was as soft as cotton wool and much nicer than Karen Brady.  Pudsey smiled (literally), gave a couple of woofs and tried to high five me.  I sat back down and joyfully engaged in conversation with a fellow seat filler.  We agreed that Pudsey was superbly behaved.  ‘I wish my dog behaved like that,’ I said wistfully.  ‘I wish my children behaved like that,’ she replied.
          But the moment I really experienced a frisson of excitement was when Marie and Donny Osmond came on stage.  What teenager of the Seventies didn’t want to look like Marie?  Or have a mega crush on Donny?  Back then it was either David Cassidy or Donny Osmond screaming girls swooned over.  My own bedroom bore testament to my teenage crushes.  One wall was covered in pony posters, the other a grinning Donny.  Those teeth!  And he still had them!  And later, back stage, they both walked straight past me.  I couldn’t resist.  To hell with not talking to celebrities.  I automatically found myself saying hello.  Unlike cold Brits, Americans are so warm.  ‘Hello, I love your dress!’ Marie gushed.  And she was off, chatting like I was some long lost friend.  What else did she say?  I haven’t a clue.  Too dazed to remember.  And then she took my hand in farewell.  Took my hand!  ‘Who were they?’ my daughter asked blankly.  Which just goes to show you how time changes things.
          Which reminds me.  Why do actors enjoy their work so much?  Because it’s all play…

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