Last night, I broke one of my core principles – a rule which I have lived by for probably all my life.
The evening started with meeting up with some friends and going to watch a recording of Have I Got News for You – hosted by Tom Baker along with Vince Cable MP and Chris Addison. This was a recording that I was really looking forward to, as Tom Baker is not just a wonderfully eccentric character, so the recording would be fun – but he was also my Dr Who as I grew up.
I am a fan of Dr Who, but unlike some people I know who seem to be obsessive about the show, I treat it as a bit of light entertainment and that is about it.
Nonetheless, Tom Baker = awesomeness.
Shortly after he left the role of Dr Who, he played the role of a lecherous priest in the TV dramatisation of The Life and Loves of a She Devil, which really broke my impression of him as “just” a sci-fi actor, and I am really glad he took that role.
Anyhow – back to last night.
We watched the show being recorded, and it is excellent. I suspect that the Friday evening broadcast will be the sanitized version for the main audience, and they will slip in some of the more edgy comments on the slightly longer Saturday version shown on BBC2. If you have a choice, I’d suggest watching the Saturday edition.
Recording over and what normally happens is that the presenters vanish off the set and we are let out of the studio. Last night though, Ian Hislop hung around on the floor for a while looking for someone and when he saw them – he signed their show tickets. This was somewhat prophetic of what was to happen later in the evening.
After getting out of the studio, we nipped across the road to a fairly nice pub for a couple of pints – as we usually do following a TV recording.
It was halfway though the second pint, that I noticed a tall chap was in the pub with his back to us and looked a bit like Tom Baker – and indeed, it turned out to be he.
At the table we debated whether we should ask for his autograph – and one of my friends had a nice notepad, but remembering the earlier incident in the studio, I suggested asking if he would sign our entry tickets, as it would be more relevant to have his signature on tickets to a show he had been in. A plain sheet of paper with a signature is nice, but having it on the ticket seemed more timely (and apt for a former Time Lord!).
Here is however, my core principle.
I am not a huge fan of modern celeb-culture and frankly wouldn’t recognise most so-called tabloid celebrities if they came up and slapped me in the face. I just don’t watch that much populist TV or read the tabloid newspapers – and the idea that there are magazines which print the private lives of people for others to ogle at completely confounds me.
I therefore have a certain regard for a person’s privacy and feel that even super famous people deserve to be able to pop out for a pint of milk without being hassled by fans – or go into a pub for a pint after work and not have to sign autographs. They deserve a day off work, just like the rest of us.
However, I was hit last night by the temptation and broke my rule about leaving people alone, so the four of us went over to see him.
Feeling very embarrassed about what I was about to do, I apologized for disturbing him and explained we had just been to see the recording and would he mind signing our tickets. I am pleased to say that he was perfectly delighted to do that – and as he signed our four tickets, we had a brief chat about whether we enjoyed the show (we did), and he commented on how impressed he was with Paul Merton’s improvisation skills, which are truly impressive to see in action.
After thanking him, we went back to our table and giggled like little school girls. Out came mobile phones to text friends and tell them what had just happened – and as we share friends who are the aforementioned Dr Who fanatics, much envy was expressed in the replies.
It was, despite how I broke my personal ethos, a really lovely way to end the evening and it was sweet of Tom Baker to be so polite about it.
Even the “minor delay” of a 25 minute wait at Waterloo station for the next train home didn’t dampen my spirits.
Maybe at last I finally understand just a little bit of the tabloid fascination with celebrity?