THIS ISLAND LIFE MOST journalists will tell you the actors and performers they happen upon during the course of their work rarely bear much resemblance to the image they present to the public.
The reason is simple. The job of these people is to entertain and to do this successfully entails sustained sessions of play-acting, at which they must be fairly accomplished or they wouldn’t be famous for it in the first place.
It means they are forced to endure a sort of professional schizophrenia, so it’s no surprise when a form of self-loathing takes over and they begin to hate themselves for having to be someone else in order to become popular.
It may also explain why, away from the spotlight, great entertainers such as Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams were taciturn, tortured souls who clearly felt they gave enough of themselves professionally and saw no need to do so privately.
I’m sorry to say, in my experience, very few who spend their lives in the public eye come into that blessed category of 'what you see is what you get’.
Patrick Moore, Michael Parkinson and Eric Sykes were golden exceptions to this rule and feminist comedian and writer, Rhona Cameron, with whom I once enjoyed a fascinating dinner, proved excellent company.
Sports stars often prove to be the biggest disappointment when you meet them face to face, because few are equipped to deal with the public side of fame and even fewer — certainly in the old days — received the training needed to cope with it.
This may explain why Jimmy Greaves, for example, proved to be sour-natured and monosyllabic; Malcolm Macdonald was stiflingly arrogant; while Mark Nicholas was so far up himself you could almost see his quiff appearing between his front teeth.
Which brings us to Mr John McCririck.
He spent most of last week attempting to convince an employment tribunal Channel 4 had displayed rampant ageism when they dispensed with his services after he had passed his 73rd birthday.
They, in turn, said he was losing credibility as a racing pundit because he had taken his self-confessed image of a loud, opinionated, sexist, bigot on to shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap.
But Big Mac (as he likes to be known) insisted the station encouraged his excesses because it helped viewing figures.
I can tell you from personal experience that very little encouragement would have been required.
A few years ago, as editor of the local paper, I attended a press lunch at Goodwood racecourse, which was held to launch the new flat racing season and, equestrianism not being my strong suit, the only person I recognised among the throng of racing journalists and broadcasters was McCririck. He was audible for some considerable time before he became visible, with his cackling, cawing, honking and snorting drowning out almost every other attempt at conversation.
When he eventually hove into view, it was like being confronted by a human goods train as he glittered, glinted, clinked, clanked and puffed his way to the table.
Mine was some distance away (thank God) but it didn’t really matter because, like everyone else in the room, I had no choice but to listen to every word he had to say — and they came in a relentless torrent.
I bow to no-one in my admiration for genuine characters; my life has been enormously enriched by many of them.
But McCririck does not come into this category, because he deliberately set about enhancing his less attractive qualities to fill a gap in the celebrity market.
Let us hope the void continues to remain unfilled.
New showcase for IW talent would be win-win
Vic Farrow has helped rejuvenate IW entertainment.
SHANKLIN Theatre — thanks to the work of a huge number of volunteers and the show-business contacts of Vic Farrow — has helped rejuvenate live entertainment on the Island.
The venue regularly presents an eclectic mix of well-known stars, performers of promise and several local productions.
However, having watched an exceptional Madonna tribute show called MDNA at Shanklin Conservative Club recently, it occurred to me there may be a small hole in the theatre’s schedules which has thus far gone unfulfilled.
Talented local performers such as MDNA, as opposed to local actors, do not feature very regularly at Shanklin Theatre and I wonder if the time has come for Vic to put this right.
Brian Sharpe once told me of the enormous number of gifted musicians and singers on the Island, whose talents continue to go relatively unappreciated in their own backyard.
There are also comedians living here who would probably relish the opportunity of honing their talents and showing the locals what they are missing.
If Vic could arrange a Sunday evening concert, initially for charity perhaps, the event could act as a showcase for IW talent, attract even more new faces to the stalls and give worthy causes on the Island (Chelsea’s Wishes is the one I have in mind) a welcome boost to funds.