I am not a person who has many claims to fame. I have never done anything notorious nor have I met many very famous people. To be honest, I'm not that interested in meeting the rich and famous - the ones I have had a minor brush with have turned out to be a bit of a disappointment - they're always so much smaller than they look on screen and the tales that some of my TV and film industry friends tell are enough to make you think that success in those worlds is entirely based on a predisposition to massive fuckwittage.
Consequently, a phone call a couple of years ago from a harassed sounding PA with a heavy Russian accent requesting that I set up a meeting between her boss and mine didn't do much to ruffle my feathers. Although I'd heard of Boris Berezovsky and I was certainly curious at the prospect of coming face to face with one of Russia's most notorious ex-patriot oligarchs, here in deepest, darkest Surrey we are inured to the rich and famous and have a tendency to view them as a bit of a pain in the arse most of the time. But I had never witnessed wealth and status on this level.
|Boris Berezovsky - note the heavy in the background|
Three identical, blacked out limousines swept into the car park. A black Range Rover stationed itself outside the entrance. Out of each limousine sprang bodyguards straight out of central casting - close cropped hair, black suits, white shirts, black ties, mobile phones clamped to one ear and a large bulge under one armpit. They surveyed their surroundings before a series of grunts and nods passed between them and they opened the doors of the cars to let the occupants out. I introduced myself. Mr B was warm and twinkly and instructed me to call him Boris. He had that trick that some very successful people have perfected - that of looking intently at you, making sure that they use your name immediately and holding onto your hand for just a couple of seconds too long. So Boris exerted his not inconsiderable charm, introduced the people who had come with him and headed into his meeting. I learned later that he and his associates use separate limos to minimise the threat of kidnap.
It's another world - one which makes me ponder how you get to the level of Boris, Abramovich, Patarkatsishvili et al from their humble beginnings. I imagine the answer would be by ducking and diving and employing many none too savoury business methods - like arbitrage, for example. Coincidentally (ahem) this is the latest Richard Gere film and what I had intended to write about until Boris hijacked the headlines.
The Shah and I have seen Arbitrage and I find it pretty much impossible to review, given that I fell asleep in it twice, it was so riveting. As the Shah reported gleefully afterwards "you were snoring away at one point!"
Anyway, I have always been somewhat ambivalent about Mr G, never quite got it. American Gigolo? Meh. An Officer and a Gentleman? Mayo....NAISE. And don't start me on Pretty Woman - there's nothing I enjoy more than a movie that glorifies prostitution. However, I really didn't expect the level of self aggrandising nonsense that accompanied his recent appearance on the Graham Norton chat show here in the UK. Just watch the first minute or two of this...
Now Graham Norton is hugely successful over here and gets all the big names to appear on his show. Up until now, the majority of them have managed to give the appearance of being fairly reasonable human beings, if occasionally tired and emotional (I'm talking to YOU, Mark Wahlberg :)) Which begs the question, WTF did Richard Gere think he was doing tramping round the studio glad-handing the (largely torpid) audience? Probably I'm just too British and up myself but it made me (and those watching with me) cringe. If you can be arsed to watch the whole show, you will also be able to enjoy his attempts to make Norton look stupid by claiming not to understand straightforward questions and generally act as though he resides somewhere on the twat spectrum. All of which makes me think that my TV and film industry friends probably have a point...