PISH & DRECK: The East-Endering of British society...
by Martin Lewis
Written April 26, 2003


What was Stanley Matthews more excited about? Playing football or “being famous"?

What drove Dusty Springfield? The singing – or the shopping she could do with her royalties?

I ask these rhetorical questions – no answers are necessary – because of my disgust at the latest incarnation of slavish fandom in Britain – the deification of “Posh and Beck.”

What bothers me is the blind elevation of superficially glamorous competents into deities. Dull people with good looks hailed as demi-gods. Try imagining that similar performers from the 1960’s - say Barbara Windsor and Danny Blanchflower (!) - could become regarded as models of the same social import as the Duke & Duchess of Windsor.

I was thinking about this because of David Beckham's earnest yearning to "be famous" and Victoria Beckham’s shopgirl fantasy to be a character in “Fame” (not even the movie – just the TV spin-off!)

It is certainly not a purely British phenomenon. It is especially depressing because it’s an anglicized version of an American behavior. More particularly it’s a post-60’s generation phenomenon.

George Michael and Madonna suffer from the same disease. Stanley Matthews and Dusty Springfield didn't. They naively wanted to be the best football player or best singer - and took the fame that was accorded them as the aberrant by-product of that aspiration

What I have always been fascinated by (and I realize I sound like Malcolm Muggeridge here!) is the fact that people as profoundly naff (in the root of their personalities and aspirations) as David Beckham and Victoria Twat can have fame ITSELF as the goal that motivates them from childhood - and that their teenage fumblings are merely their search for the device or vehicle that will give them that fix RATHER than the fame being a pleasantly accidental by-product of their yearning to be the BEST at something that they genuinely love

Did the Beatles (as individuals) want fame and success and money and girls? Yes of course they did - especially Paul. But even then - that was not the PRIMARY departure point for a bunch of working class louts. They were joyously, naively, intoxicated by making music. They would have done it anyway... They didn't start out by saying... "'ere! I wanna be famous... 'ow can I do that? Oh I know - I'll give this pop music lark a go - see if that will be a device to give me ‘Fame’..."

They simply sought to avoid grown-up responsibility and work by pursuing their passion of music. Their fame was an improbable end-result - not the original goal.

It wasn't just the Beatles who were attracted to playing music for the passion of it - but also the legions of untalented artists too. Dave Clark Five and Freddie & The Dreamers take a bow.

The wanna-bees were driven to it by a naive passion - NOT primarily the lure of the loot.

And before them, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis had been the same in their white trash po' boy ways.

I LIKE that naive zeal in my entertainment and sports "heroes"

People - of whom "Pish & Dreck" are merely the latest bunch - whose childhood dream was to live out the lyrics of the song "Fame" are all together lamentable. American and British sub-culture is littered with them - and I wish the public was discerning enough to tell them to fuck off...

Britain is clearly the 51st state - and what a state. Present day UK has appropriated the worst aspects of US society (the scum-level celebrity culture) and missed the best parts (the obsessive customer-pleasing)

My ironic reference above to Barbara Windsor and Danny Blanchflower (a dourly stolid Irish football player who captained Tottenham Hotspur and Ireland) is to point out that in the 60's we LIKED such characters for what they WERE – in their case respectively a perky, busty 5th-rate vaudeville actress and a scowling soccer obsessive with zero social graces. (Though to the best of my knowledge they were not star-crossed lovers like Posh & Beck.) We didn't elevate such crass creatures into social ciphers for family values or the substitute royal family. They were just tat and schmutter low-level "showbiz" or "sports" PERSONALITIES.

When did such riff-raff become role models whose very social behavior would be looked at for the etiquette of a Duke & Duchess? I AM a snob... but Essex Man and Woman had NEVER been the aspirant goal. People tried to be BETTER than that. Now they simply want to emulate it...

Incidentally – the Brits have no ironic side to their present-day elevation of social riff-raff to the heights. They have simply become as undiscerning as Americans... The British unwashed are as clueless as their American trailer park cousins

Personally I always preferred Baby Spice. She looked like a REAL piece of bubblegum-blowing trash - without the Woolworths-Girl-At-Prada - aura of Posh Spice...

This disintegration of British society reminds me of the sentiment - (and far superior writing to my own!) of Alan Bennett at the end of his first play - "Forty Years On..." a fierce indictment about how tawdry Britain had become at the end of the 60's. There is a brilliant soliloquy in which a weary John Gielgud laments how "Sundays are now for washing the car and Carnation milk..."

Oh Britannia - dost thou lie so low....?!

Since the 1980's the people attracted to being pop entertainers and sports players - are drawn to their vocation for all the wrong reasons.

It started to change with Madonna and George Michael. You now had people who were entering pop purely because it was perceived as the swiftest conduit to “get famous.” That was a radical change from the naïve aspirants of the past.

When did we start to make common scrubbers into romanticized role models? The elevation of the Nouveau Gauche into icons of style…

It has been argued by some defenders that there is a difference between “true celebrities” and what could be called “the flotsam and jetsam of Hello magazine society”

But what are the flotsam and jetsam doing with that much money? What twittish, British impulse empowered them and enriched them beyond the level just of having the average pseudo Embassy-style detached residence in Hampstead Garden Suburb and an irritate-the-neighbors flashy Range Rover (the Ford Zephyr of the ‘90’s)?

The sponsorship deals with sneaker companies and after-shave manufacturers have elevated common riff-raff way beyond what should be their pay level.

The British masses are hopelessly crass. Like Americans without culture... (and that's saying something)

The British OUGHT to be smarter than Americans - and it turns out that they are even crasser.

Ultimately – Posh and Beck are like Wham - a fame-obsessed talent and a fame-obsessed no-talent - joined in an unholy alliance of thirst for limelight and nouveau riche-nesse.

Apostles of the New Materialism…

The council estate version of what Charles & Di should have been had that fairy tale not come to its inevitable denouement - rewarded by being given wealth beyond their Littlewoods dreams.

They are like dead-end shopgirls winning the pools and laying low the last few bastions of classiness with their awful East-Enders notion of taste...

(And no I’m NOT softened by the fact they apparently don’t have a nanny to maintain their hideously named offspring - Brooklyn and Romeo. How terribly real of them.)

Give me Roy of The Rovers over this idiot-coiffed schoolyard soccer genius and his poptart missus anyday.

Lower down into the gutter Britain goes.... a once proud literate nation now a vagabond Euro trailer trash park full of common muck... a nation that only Bruce Forsythe could be proud of...

Home | The Columns | The Bloggings

Copyright © 2004 Martin Lewis