DUNCAN BARKES So-called celebs take the shine off star status

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Comedian, actor and former addict Russell Brand addressed a group of MPs on the subject of addiction last week. He turned up in ripped clothing and enough bling to satisfy the keenest Elizabeth Duke devotee. He looked a mess. But it wasn’t just sartorial elegance that he lacked.

Despite his celebrity status he was missing something that today has virtually disappeared: star quality.

Where have all the stars gone? All we have now, mainly, are hundreds of so-called celebrities who have become famous (or infamous) as a result of sordid behaviour or, at best, for doing very little of any note.

These days you can be tagged a ‘celebrity’ for behaviour that only a few years ago would be classed as utterly shameful. We now have ‘celebrities’ whose only claim to fame is to have bedded a premiership footballer.

To become famous nowadays you simply need to appear on some dreadfully contrived reality TV programme and demonstrate your low IQ or general ignorance, or be generally obnoxious and unpleasant. Manage that and you’re on your tawdry way to becoming regular tabloid fodder.

It has all become so vapid and meaningless. None of these people could ever be called a star in the sense that I understand the word.

Off the top of my head Sir Roger Moore, Joan Collins, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Cliff Richard, Penelope Keith, Michael Ball, Sir Terry Wogan, Julie Walters, Fred Dinenage, Martin Clunes, Dame Judi Dench and Paul O’Grady are all stars.

Engelbert Humperdinck, the man behind the UK’s entry at the Eurovision Song Contest this month, oozes star quality, while still participating in what is arguably the naffest televisual treat of the year. It’s a great trick if you can pull it off; there’s an art to it.

There are some that are hard to call. Hugh Grant, for example, should by rights be labelled a star, but his time in the spotlight over his various dalliances and his campaign against press intrusion, have, in my view, downgraded him to mere celebrity status.

The definition of star quality is tricky. Obviously discernible talent is a prerequisite, but a sense of one’s own worth, keen wit and the ability not to take yourself too seriously are also key ingredients.

To be classed as a real star you have to keep something back; something that creates a certain intrigue.

Our society now demands a constant supply of information about those it deems famous, which, if satisfied, only seems to erode star status. Stars have the good judgement to know when to keep it zipped and to leave you guessing, which is altogether classier and more fascinating.

I long for a return to the days where those in the spotlight were real stars. But, sadly, I suspect that there’s about as much chance of that as there is of Dame Judi becoming Simon Cowell’s next X Factor judge.

** Fair is splendid way to support hospice

On Saturday, May 5, a rather splendid event will take place at Donnington church hall on Stockbridge Road.

From 2pm-4pm the St Wilfrid’s Hospice Spring Fair promises to be a splendiferous occasion, with stalls, fun, games and refreshments for all, including a children’s entertainer. Raising money for our amazing hospice, please do go along and show your support.

Email Duncan at duncanbarkes@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @DuncanBarkes