Bubbly in both senses

Champagne book_Snapseed

I was taken by the recent news of a minor celebrity throwing his weight about when stopped by the police and uttering the line that nobody with sense should even think, let alone say: “Don’t you know who I am?” (You can insert the old joke now.)

It brought to mind so many examples of rampant ego that I and my colleagues in the media have encountered/borne/suffered over the years. After nearly 40 years in this trade, I can confirm that the old saw is more or less true: the higher they are, the nicer they are.

Actors, authors, entertainers and politicians who have reached the tops of their respective trees have no need to impress anyone, so they tend not to bother. It’s the ones who are still elbowing each other in the face as they try to clamber to the top of the greasy pole who are tiresome.

I won’t trouble you with the gory details, but there are several people I can’t watch on TV any more because of personal experience or indirect knowledge of their tantrums and staggering self-regard. Equally, there are those who turn out to be an absolute delight. In the interests of keeping you cheery, I propose to tell you a little tale of one of the absolute delights.

When a celebrity has a book to plug, the publisher sets up a number of signing tours of major bookstores nationwide. Once the store agrees, the publisher makes a number of requests on the celebrity’s behalf, usually along the lines of “somewhere private to change”, “a quick salad lunch”, “a car from the station”, and so on.

When the subject of our tale was invited to the Waterstones store in Aberdeen roughly 15 years ago, her publisher sent exactly such a list, but near the top was: “Three bottles of champagne. Luxury chocolates. High-quality four-ply napkins. Everything to be served on silver trays.”

The manager, and I know her well, felt her heart sinking. She knew she faced another afternoon of ego-massaging and running around like a parlourmaid.

The celebrity duly arrived in sparkle and furs and was feted appropriately. “Did you lay on my champagne and chocolates?” she asked the manager in the store office. The manager nodded. “Then let’s do it,” she said. They all strode towards the shop floor and the signing table.

Then came the surprise.

There followed, the manager told me later, a masterclass in how to charm the public. Far from being egotistical, the celebrity was an utter delight to her public and the bookshop staff. Whenever she spotted an old body looking weary, she would say: “You look like you could do with some bubbly, darlin,” and out would come a glass and a snifter of Veuve Cliquot would be poured. Then the customer would be offered a seat and get the pick of the chocolates.

The celebrity would chat and crack jokes with everyone, dispensing an occasional glass of bubbly where she felt it would do most good. The banter back and forth was apparently wondrous.

The manager had to scrounge more champagne flutes to keep up with the public-relations whirlwind that this celebrity turned out to be.

“There wasn’t a single customer leaving that shop who wasn’t smiling,” the manager told me later. “It almost turned into a party. We sold far more books than we expected. Even the customers who didn’t get champagne got a chocolate, and they were all absolutely blown over. It was one of the best signings we’ve ever done. None of the goodies had been for her. Everything had been for the public. She was just as delightful off the shop floor to everyone on the staff. We’d have had her back any time. She was an absolute marvel. A complete pro. Everybody loved her.”

And now you’re wondering who was this celebrity with such charm and the people’s touch.

So I’ll tell you.

Barbara Windsor.

Filed Under: AberdeenBooksFeaturedNews View


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  1. Ron Spence says:

    That sounds just like her.

  2. Margaret Young says:

    That was a really heartwarming story and I can’t say I’m surprised.

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