25 May 2009

One for the good guys

“I defy you stars!” – Romeo and Juliet

At last month’s W.I. meeting, we were treated to a presentation from Deborah Brady, the first woman photographer to make it in Fleet Street. Deborah Brady is one formidable lady, and her talk, “A Female in Fleet Street,” gave us an insight into the trials and tribulations of being a photographer on a daily newspaper, one the funniest and most arduous being carrying around all that equipment.

Deborah told this amazing story of how she made her incredible debut in the 1980s, by being the one and only photographer in the nation to get a clear shot of Michael Jackson as he was arriving at Heathrow airport.

She was a rookie, and had been assigned the grunt work of photographing the MJ fans and look-a-likes that had gathered to greet their hero. A split second decision, a whim, a feeling in her gut made her turn left, instead of right, and she saw Jackson walking toward her on the tarmac. With that one photograph, her life changed.

I am in awe of moments such as this. How do they happen? Do we somehow engineer them? Is it a matter of just being open and available to whatever the universe has in store for you? Is it force of will? Desire?

Deborah’s own summation is the importance to trusting your instincts and taking risks. She also shared details of the rough treatment she has enduring by daring to be a member of the “boy’s club” that is photojournalism. She’s had to be plucky and a fighter to survive.

Last night, the D.E.B. were glued to our telly watching the semi-finals of “Britain’s Got Talent.” No surprises here, we are huge Susan Boyle fans. And I had the phone at the ready to cast our vote for her.

There has been a mountain of commentary on Boyle and her well-deserved rise to fame. Much of it rather weird and crude, I think, taking an “ugly duckling has her swansong” sort of angle.

For me, Susan Boyle’s story is so much more than that. Susan Boyle—like Deborah Brady—is another incredible example of defying the odds, and fighting for what you believe in.

The rarity of it all is the sheer force of blind faith in ones self and ones God given ability. In a pre-performance interview clip, Susan Boyle said: “I want to show that I’m not a worthless person.”

After hearing this, I turned to the D.E.B. and said: “I want to go and find all those people who told her she was worthless, and beat them up!” And I meant it. And I still do, in the bright light of morning.

I have no doubt that Susan Boyle was speaking the truth, that there were countless mean-spirited, petty, cruel people who did all they could to make her feel like an outsider, a reject, a “worthless person.”

I don’t find myself often wishing to quote Piers Morgan, but I must give him credit for his assessment of Boyle, suggesting that she gave people hope in a very dark time.

What inspires me the most Susan Boyle is her determined uniqueness. She is not striving to be like anyone else. And more than that, Susan Boyle is out there as “one for the good guys.” Someone who has achieved a level of success through sheer and unadulterated talent, and not, like so many “celebrities” today who have achieved their status through notoriety, with very little substance.

I shall probably offend when I say this, but for me Susan Boyle has been a welcome and health some antidote to the Jade Goody mania that swept through Britain a few months ago.

To be sure, Goody’s story was an extremely sad one: dreadful home life/upbringing, her battle with cancer, and the two little boys she left behind. However, during all the media hype, surrounding her impending demise, I found myself wondering where are the parades and daily press coverage for the countless other mothers, daughters, and sisters who have succumb to the horror that is cancer?

Goody mania reached such a fevered pitch here in Britain, that it seemed to me that anyone who dared to even raise such a question was fit for hanging! It was as if Goody had become the new “people’s princess”.

One writer in The Times dared to posit such a question, but even he did so from behind the safety of his daughter. He wrote: “My 8 year old recently asked, ‘Daddy, why is Jade Goody famous? What has she done?’”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Fame, it would seem, is quite a funny thing. In days of old, think Ancient Greece, fame was something a man could acquire through arduous and often perilous deeds, i.e., Hercules, Achilles and so forth. (Who can forget that scene at the start of the film Troy, when sexy Brad Pitt playing Achilles says to the cowardly messenger, who is afraid to fight: ‘That is why no one will ever remember your name.’)

Fame could also be earned through the might of mind or skill: Socrates, Brutus, Galileo, &etc.

My friend Christopher reckons that all of this changed in the early 19th c. with the likes of Lord Byron, who was “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.  Byron was a gifted artist, whose life was as scandalous and salacious, as his writing was remarkable.

So now, we live in a world of  “celebrities” who are famous for “being famous” and notorious: e.g., Paris Hilton, & etc. Hopefully, we are becoming more aware collectively, that notoriety is not talent. That beyond “appeal,” a talented individual should be able to bring the goods as it were.

And that is what makes Susan Boyle such a wonderful tonic.

1 comment:

Vicky said...

tomorrows the day, just wanted to wish you all the best... the weather's going to be perfect for you!