Celebrities in Need (....of a Good Slapping)
Thousands of children are allowing their personal tales of heartache and grief to be exploited so that a bunch of smug, overpaid TV presenters, soap stars and reality show winners can be given the fame and attention they crave. The BBC’s annual Celebrities in Need night will turn the spotlight on these pathetic, insecure outcasts from society who have failed to find contentment in their lavish lifestyles and obscenely huge wage packets. Though cunningly disguised to make it look like it is the celebrities who are helping the underprivileged kids, it is the children from broken homes and tragic backgrounds who are selflessly helping massage the celebrities’ egos. By allowing their stories to be told, they will be helping desperate cases like the stars of Strictly Come Dancing get the kind of publicity that other celebrities can only dream of – the kind that comes with a generous sugar-coating of “being for a worthwhile cause”.
So Matthew, aged 12, doesn’t mind his parents’ alcoholism being used by Natasha Kaplinsky to bolster a CV that already reads: ballroom dancer, wife of an investment banker and accomplished autocue-reader. And nine-year-old Sammy can laugh off the beatings he received from his drug-dealing dad knowing that he is helping bring Fearne Cotton to a wider audience. “Thanks to the suffering of children like these, more people than ever now know exactly what it is that Fearne Cotton does,” a BBC spokesperson might have said.
Samantha, aged 15, turned to drugs after leaving home following the death of her mother. As her addiction grew worse, she was forced into prostitution to finance her habit. But after hearing that Jonathan Ross had selflessly agreed to make a guest appearance in his showbiz buddy David Walliams’ stage version of Little Britain, she now realises that all those nights without food, spent sleeping in shop doorways and being used and abused by punters were worth it.
Another bullying victim, 11-year-old Sam, said: "I used to be too scared to go to school. Kids used to say nasty things about me and took money off me. They also hit me and pushed me around.” But he takes consolation in the fact that if the bullies are watching tonight’s show, and endure it as far as Fiona Bruce and Dermot Murnaghan “presenting their unique tribute to James Bond” at 10.35pm, then he will truly have got his revenge.
Steven, now 14, was abused at the age of four by his grandmother's boyfriend. He also has cerebral palsy and finds it extremely difficult to communicate verbally. But thanks to the care and skills of trained counsellors and a modified computer, he is able to put his own torment to one side and let the cast of Bad Girls take centre stage to perform a Bananarama classic live in the studio.
But perhaps the most heart-warming moment tonight will involve a girl called Emma. She was only 11 when her milkman father and karate instructor mother divorced. For a while, little Emma’s life was in pieces. But she picked herself up, dusted herself down, and enrolled at the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Years of hardship and self-sacrifice followed as she pursued her dream of becoming a famous person who could have all her photographs airbrushed on demand. Finally, the day came when she was able to look at her mum through tear-stained eyes and say: “I’ve joined a group called the Spice Girls.” Tonight, thanks to the suffering of another little girl, eight-year-old Mary who has arthro-gydosis - which means she has no movement from her shoulders down, cannot play with her friends and has to be carried everywhere - Emma Bunton will get more of the fame and attention she has craved all her life, when she sings the official Celebrities in Need single.
Mary and the other brave youngsters can also take satisfaction from the fact that none of the celebrities will have to donate any money from their own massive salaries towards the charities that make the children’s lives more bearable. Last year, the public contributed £33 million to Celebrities in Need. That’s the equivalent of a state-of-the-art children’s hospital wing equipped with life-saving equipment. Or six kung-fu documentaries fronted by Jonathan Ross.
All the children recognise that so much money would never have been raised without the celebrities’ selfless acts of putting themselves in front of an adoring studio audience full of banner-waving grannies and people who still point at aeroplanes. They just wonder if a whip round in the BBC canteen might have raised just as much money and spared the rest of us six hours of televised celebrity self-love.
FOR MORE information on all the children mentioned above, and details of how to make a donation that doesn’t involve watching the cast of Two Pints of Lager And A Packet of Crisps pay tribute to Wham!, click here.
And don’t forget, the next big charity celebrity love-in will take place next March 16 2007, which has been renamed Celebrity Hand Relief Day.
© Jack Havana 2006. Reproduction in part or whole prohibited without a donation to a children’s charity of Jack’s choice.
This week, Jack Havana unsuccessfully applied for the job of……
……..Minister for Terror. Gordon Brown and John Reid are both playing the “terror” card in their bid to become Tony Blair’s successor, but not doing a very good job of it. Brown just wants to bang suspects up without charge for three months at a time, while Reid doesn’t appear to know what he’s talking about. When asked why no arrests had been made in connection with the 30 active terrorist plots revealed this week by MI5, he told Radio Four’s Today programme: “We have information that the plots are active, but no evidence.” Hmmm. Obviously this is a job for Jack Havana, as regular readers will know. (See Fear of Flying here)