Bits and Pieces

Monday, December 06, 2004

Phoenix From the Ashes

I want to talk for a moment about celebrity ( and, since I'm typing on a laptop with a fiddly keypad after a few beers, a moment to read takes half an hour to type, so bear with me and ignore spelling errors).

Tonight in the UK we saw the final episode of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. If you're not familiar with the series, it's basically Survivor starring 10 or 11 'C' list celebrities vainly attempting to replace notoriety with fame. Every series one or two of them succeed, while the rest fade back into the middle pages of the tabloids, and prepare for an old age dotted with the occasional query of 'weren't you that guy from... (insert short-lived TV series/one-hit-wonder band here)?

This series saw a guy by the name of Paul Burrell. Burrell, as many of you will be aware, was the butler to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. After 21 years service to the royal family, he was awarded the Royal Victorian Medal by Queen Elizabeth.

From 1999 onwards, Burrell suffered at the hands of the British media. Since he accepted a book deal for Entertaining with Style and joining Channel 5 for a series named Open House, the media pounced on him for capitalising on his connection with the Princess.

To make matters worse, Burrell was arrested in 2001 on a charge of stealing 342 items belonging to the Prince and Princess of Wales while in their employ. The trial dragged on until November of 2002, when Burrell was acquitted on all charges.

Despite the acquittal, Burrell's reputation was destroyed. In the UK the public opinion of him was one of a thieving weasel who used his relationship with Diana for financial gain; a man hungry for fame. He was one of the most disliked people in the country.

After 17 days of reality television I am happy to say he is now one of the most loved.

I'm notorious for hating reality TV. The very thought of watching idiots prance around before the camera makes me leave the room. However, I'm a Celebrity... had me hooked. The 'C' listers are forced to endure Bushtucker Trials, tests of courage - and of the digestive system - in order to earn meals for the group. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite it makes for riveting TV.

Anway, back to the point. Paul Burrell did himself proud. Over the past 17 days he has shown himself to be one of the nicest, most genuine people ever to grace our screens. Anyone who had the pleasure of watching the show will know exactly what I mean. He's affable, hard-working, funny and self-deprecating (the last is a quality I value above all else - it doesn't pay to take yourself too seriously).

Paul survived the public vote until to a showdown between himself and comedian Joe Pasquale, a lovable helium-voiced scamp who was always a shoe-in to take the prize. Burrell was on the verge of tears at the last. You could tell exactly how much it meant to him that the public got behind him every night for almost 3 weeks, voting to keep him in the camp. In fact, you can't tell how much it meant to him. Only he knows what it must be like to suffer at the hands of a merciless media for years, haunted by the ghosts of the past, hounded at his every turn by ruthless hacks sniffing for a story.

After so many years in the shadows, Paul Burrell has finally emerged back into the light. Speaking as one of those who a month ago wouldn't have spat on him if he was on fire, I sincerely wish that he always stays there. I can't think of a single man more deserving. Diana would be proud.
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