My role


Desperately seeking unsullied celebrity

'Celebrity is the new herpes' according to Ruby Wax. As a men's health website we can't help but be interested in something as pernicious as that particular virus, writes Jim Pollard.

It's certainly clear from the torrent of reality TV shows that everyone wants to be a celebrity. Even little celebrities want to be bigger celebrities if 'I'm a C-lister, Get Me Out of Here' is anything to go by.

Here at the MHF, we've been considering celebrity. As you'll see elsewhere on this site, the Forum already has a phalanx of talented and distinguished academic and medical patrons. Some of us, me included, have been arguing we should add some household names too. But who do you choose?

Someone like England rugby hero Lawrence Dallaglio would have been an obvious choice but he's just signed up with a burger chain. Who wants the endorsement of man who is happy to promote the most unhealthy, fattening of diets just as the nation is teetering on the edge of an obesity epidemic? They say the poor lad's had to take a pay cut to continue his rugby career in the UK. It's breaking my heart but does he really need the money? We're talking about greed here in every sense of the word.

Perhaps we just get the celebrities we deserve. Football's no better. We'd rather wife-beaters pulled on England's famous three-lions shirt than risk losing the game. Politicians? Now you're being silly. Convicted perjurer Jonathan Aitken seriously appeared to believe that lying in court and forcing his daughter to do the same would not disbar him from returning to government!

And what were those 98 people who complained about John Lydon swearing on television doing? It's like complaining about Pavarotti bursting into song. Swearing on television is what Johnny's famous for. Where's Bill Grundy now? Remember him, the TV presenter who egged Lydon on to four-letter fame in 1977? If the show went out today he'd probably get not the boot but Alistair Campbell's old job at number 10. What a media triumph.

So why does the MHF need celebrity patrons at all?

Because when in Rome you need Euros. You might not like them but you won't get anywhere without them. In the UK, celebrity is the currency of publicity. I once asked Max Clifford how best to promote the cause of a voluntary organisation I was then working for. 'Get a celebrity,' he said. And he should know. But you need one who is not going to soil your brand. So, if you know of a suitable celebrity, unsullied by corporate greed, drugs allegations, rampant adultery, sexism and general smug stupidity, let us know. We'll sign them up. We won't give them a penny just the quiet satisfaction knowing that they're doing something useful.

Menawhile, here's a smart idea for improving the quality of our celebrities (and improving our chances of netting one). Make them take responsibility for what they do. Tobacco companies have been sued in the US for promoting dangerous products but what about the individuals who did the promoting for them. OK, so the Marlboro men are dead and it would be a tad unfair to put Ronald Reagan on the stand now that he has Alzheimer's. But what about the junk-food giants? Some overweight Americans are suing them for misleading them about the contents of their food. I say, get the celebrity endorsers up in the dock too. As it stands these people are raking in the money without taking any responsibility.

Herpes? Celebrity is worse than herpes. Herpes infection in the UK is up only 12% since 1996 whereas celebrity has reached pandemic proportions in the same period and it's not good for ours or our society's health.

The perfect patron? Let's get Ruby Wax, folks.

Jim Pollard is editor of the Forum's websites.

The views expressed in features on the MHF website do not necessarily reflect the views of the Forum. They are designed to provoke throught and discussion. We welcome your feedback.

Page created on February 12th, 2004

Page updated on December 1st, 2009