Herald Column

By Lorne Jackson

YOU could say that things just kept getting bigger for Simon Dee, the iconic 1960s chat show host. Especially when it came to the vehicles in which he motored round London.

Most famously there was the Aston Martin, driven along the King’s Road by his secretary, Simon in the passenger seat, chic as a Siamese cat.

Later came a London bus. Dee was no longer in the passenger seat. Now he was the driver.

It wasn’t only the vehicles that got larger. His debts increased, too. He ended up spending 28 days in Pentonville Prison for non-payment of rates on his Chelsea home.

One thing that didn’t get bigger was Dee’s career. After a brief period in the spotlight he sank without a trace. (Unless you were one of the passengers on his bus.)

Fame proved a fickle mistress. For one ecstatic afternoon she flirted coquettishly, gave Simon a glancing peck on the cheek, then sashayed off to find a more enticing beau to keep her company through the night.

The reason I find myself thinking about Simon Dee is that he must be one of the last people in Britain to find fame, then to lose it.

When people become famous nowadays, it sticks to them like chewing gum attached to the sole of a Manolo Blahnik heel.

Andy Warhol claimed that one day everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. The reality is far worse. We’re getting to a point of societal saturation, when nearly everyone will be famous… for ever.

In the last few weeks a fresh batch of non-entities evolved into entities, courtesy of ITV2 reality show, Love Island. The programme concluded on Sunday, but don’t expect any of the contestants to drive you into Glasgow city centre on a double-decker.

No, they’ll cling to the showbiz lifestyle with the tenacious desperation of a toupee hugging the contours of Frank Sinatra’s skull.

Big Brother, the granddaddy of reality shows, is being exhumed from its tomb, and returns to TV screens next year, supplying yet more talentless famous folk.

Meanwhile, the Kardashians, Rebekah Vardy, David Beckham – and way too many social influencers – continue desperately vying for non-famous people’s attention. But, alas, the non-famous people are too busy becoming famous to care.

The glut of meaningless glitz continues. Eventually there will only be one lonely person left in the UK who isn’t a celebrity.

As he waits in the self-service queue in ALDI, a mob of celebs will surround him, pleading with him to ‘like’ their Twitter feeds.

Breaking free of their needy clutches, he’ll race homewards with his shopping bags, the mob close behind, screeching: “Have you watched our latest podcast? Coming to our charity football match?”

With a sigh of relief he’ll slam, bolt and double-bolt his front door, locking out all that hideous glamour.

Safe! At last. Or so he thinks.

Then he hears a voice behind him: “Squawk!” shrieks his pet parrot from its diamond-encrusted cage, “I take it you’ll be wanting my autograph…”