A lifetime of greasing up to celebs has honed my sycophancy skills to perfection
I've been greasing up to celebrities for the best part of 20 years. In the privacy of my own home, I'm the first person to quote Daniel Boorstin on the illusory nature of contemporary fame and join in scurrilous conversations about the overweening narcissism and dubious sexual orientation of anyone who has the gall to appear regularly on television. But it takes only the merest glimpse of Terry Wogan or Michael Parkinson or Anna Ford across a crowded room to send me into a sycophantic frenzy.
There was a time when this pathological desire to be liked by the famous led to some serious disappointments. I still recall the moment when I spotted David Frost and was so unable to contain my enthusiasm that within seconds I was shaking his understandably tentative hand and declaring my lifelong admiration for his televisual skills.
"Laurie Taylor. Laurie Taylor," I intoned as I pumped his famous flesh.
"Of course," he said. "So pleased to see you again. How are you these days?"
Back at home, I analysed that response. It was immensely flattering to learn that David Frost was "pleased to see me again", but it was difficult to imagine where he might have seen me before. There was always the possibility that, as a man of the media, he regularly watched television after midnight and had spotted me in my 1974 Open University programme on the limitations of Parsonian functionalism. But the more I considered the matter, the more difficult it was to avoid the conclusion that it was simply his accomplished way of dealing with the sort of schmuck who would normally be found clutching a well-chewed biro outside the artists' entrance at TV Centre.
Since that incident, my technique has come on in leaps and bounds. As soon as I spot Clive James, Angus Deayton or Chris Tarrant, I make my way to the outer circle of the surrounding group, listen to every word they utter and then, as soon as any phrase emerges that might possibly have an ironic nuance, I let out a deep, appreciative chuckle. On average it takes a dozen chuckles to capture my hero's attention. (I should mention a recent attempt to ingratiate myself with Tarrant that I was forced to abandon after 30 ironic chuckles had failed to disrupt his obsessively literal monologue.)
Once I've gained a modicum of attention and managed, by a series of intricate foot movements, to arrive in the front row of admirers, I switch tactics and feign a relative lack of interest in my cornered celebrity. Although I'm standing within inches of someone who is the cynosure of all eyes, I reduce my output of ironic chuckles and pretend that nothing absorbs me as much as my wine glass.
It works a treat. Within minutes the celebrity starts to direct a disproportionate number of remarks in my direction, and the other admirers, suspecting a close friendship, drift away in search of better prospects.
My moment has arrived. Looking up at Terry, Angus, Anna or Michael, I say, in a confidential voice, "Excuse me being so personal. But when is someone going to give you a programme that allows you to use your full intelligence?" It never fails. So much so, that at last week's NS summer party at the ICA I received vivid proof of Boorstin's hypothesis about fame accruing to those who know the famous. Even as I delivered my staid thoughts on Welsh devolution to a moderately sized group, there was a sudden noise from somewhere in the outer circle: the unmistakeable sound of a deep, ironic chuckle.