About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer and an artist who was made in Soho and thereafter born in the heart of London. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children and grandchildren whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life, has a degree in Film and Television, and has exhibited her artwork in several exhibition.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Fellini's Parmesan By Holly Searle

When I was growing up, my Mum would recount stories of her adventures in Soho. She had always wanted to be apart of something more exciting than that of the life she had in Surrey on the outskirts of London. So she headed into the city to see what she might find.

One of her jobs was working at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in Soho. Not the new one, but the old one. She'd make bacon sandwiches for the musicians in the morning and tend the bar during the evening when the club was open.

By then, she had had my brother and was carrying me. One of the tales we were told over the years, was of how Ella Fitzgerald had once sat my brother on her knee. How incredible is that?

During this period in their lives, my parents lived in the heart of Soho. My Dad was an editor at ITN who wanted to be an artist and who regularly courted the company of other artists of his generation.

When I voiced my amazement at how fantastic this must have been, my Mum just says it wasn't really, as it was just like any other place that you would live in with its shops and a community full of local characters.

In the late sixties, my Mum landed a job running a character model agency. In the post war years, there were no agencies like this one for the new wave of photographers like Terence Donovan and David Bailey to book models through. The world was still gazing at Dior type models that wore nice clothes that were being shot by the likes of John French. But times were changing and her agency found a niche in the market and plugged the gap with great success.

Through her job, Mum met and worked with lots of different well known people. As kids, we were not in the least bit interested. We were just children in a normal family trying to make ends meet like everyone else. We weren't ever wealthy, but we were privy too experiences that the other children we knew were not. As we grew we became involved in some aspects of her work, most notably as background artists on films and commercials and the like. We never thought about or sought out the realm of celebrity culture as it wasn't for us and all went on to lead relatively normal everyday lives and were better for it.

I am not telling you these stories because I want to impress you. I am telling you them as I have come to conclude that the value of celebrity in recent years (and in view of the Jimmy Savile Case) has become somewhat tainted by the lacklustre culture that surrounds it.

I recently saw a debate regarding the Savile incidents where someone drew the same conclusion and also upheld an opinion that my Mum had often voiced to us over the years which was this.

All of these people that we invite into our living rooms everyday and watch at the pictures in films are just doing a job like you and I. They are not super humans or deities to be worshipped, they are no different from your postman or that kind lady who gives up her spare time to work in the local charity shop that you often visit.

They are just playing a role in society like everyone else and nothing more.

I was glad my Mum told us this as I think that it coloured our perceptions in a positive way, rather than a deluded one. And probably because of this little bit of simple wisdom, I am not glamoured by fame at all.

But I will tell you what I am impressed by. I am impressed by the production of something tangible that has obviously been produced by an individual with real talent. It might be a book or a painting, or a fine performance in a role or the lyrics of a song, or a piece of music that just blows me away.

It is that that I am impressed by and it is that that makes me want to approach the person who produced it and shake their hand and say to them “ Fine job, well done.”

But, for the majority it doesn't work like that.

It made me think about Kenneth Angers series of Hollywood Babylon books, which concentrated their efforts on exposing the darker side of celebrity in the early years of Hollywood. They are quite nasty really, recounting the vices associated with various stars that were once pin ups and viable movers and shakers within the industry that they made money from (and in turn had made money out of them) who had fallen from grace due to one indiscretion or another.

They were just people, who were probably unable to cope with it all. Maybe it just wasn't a life fit for them or maybe it was one in which they were able to use and abuse the situations in which they found themselves in, until such a time that they were found out. Sound familiar?

Well, in light of this, I thought about the appalling over saturation on our TV's of these search for talent shows that are regularly churned out year in and year out that deliver more celebrities devoid of any real talent that choose to pursue this life (for reasons beyond those I can ever understand) in the limelight and the price they pay for their fifteen minutes of fame.

I couldn't imagine ever being prepared to give away my privacy just so I could be seen as someone in this culture, not even for those fifteen minutes as the price is just too high.

I do think that people need to rethink their own perceptions of fame and of the role it actually plays within their lives. I cannot abide those magazine or reality TV shows that perpetuate this culture as I find it at the best of times shallow and lacking in any form of nutritional brain value. It saddens me immensely more so because a percentage of society aspires to be just like those that they are tuning in to see, or being are entertained by. Definitely a stick of chewing gum for the mind that losses its favour very quickly.

But let me share with you the three times that I have been affected by fame in one sense or another.

Once was when my Mum sent me off to work on a commercial that featured Tony Curtis. Being a child that had grown up on a diet of films of the 1950's, I was literally star stuck to be several feet from away from him. Someone whom I was working with made their approach and asked him to sign something for them. He was gracious and amiable and smiled throughout and was happy to fulfil their request.

I just thought I shouldn't bother the man and I felt it was rude. I regret that as Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films and I would like to have told him so.

Then there was the time that I attended an exhibition of Lucian Freud's paintings at The Tate with my Dad. It was very quiet in the room as my Dad beckoned me over to him. He pointed to a painting of a group of children all sitting together on a seat and said to me “You see those children in this picture?” “Yes” I replied unsure of where this was leading. “Well” My Dad said “You used to play with them when you were small.”

And then there was that Parmesan cheese that appeared in our fridge at home when I was growing up. I asked my Mum what this alien thing was and she told me. But, it was only years later that she told me that during his visits to London Federico Fellini used to bring her this as a gift from Italy.

I am personally more impressed with these three episodes in my life, than with any reality TV show or celebrity that could ever grace our screens. They were all part of my own personal cultural history and making as I grew up, rather than those that I was spoon fed by the media that held no real value for me.

I am lucky, not only because of all the things I have been privy too, but because in doing so, I have be able to understand that quality is what really matters rather than quantity.

And maybe, that then explains why I never felt the need to write a letter to Jimmy Savile when I was younger asking him to fix something for me and for that I will be eternally grateful.

1 comment:

sue mcintosh said...

Another great read Holly. Cant tell you how jealous I am over the Tony Curtis bit. I fell completely in love with him during The Persuaders years and Some Like it Hot is also a firm fave of mine. xx