When they moved Joanna Lumley aside to get a shot of me, I was in heaven

After a whole month of being a celebrity, Big Brother's "Bubble" - or "the one who sticks his tongue out for the cameras", as you may know him - has said that going to film premieres and being recognised on the street "has been very hard, and there have been times when I've cried". This whinge is guaranteed to get even the most liberal among us thinking: "Get a life, pal."

Being an unexpected celeb is intensely exciting, and reveals a more vibrant, colourful and shallow life than these lucky sods had ever imagined existed. Such a lifestyle is also completely addictive. This is the crux of the problem for Bubble and his ilk: they have had a taste of millionaire status and can't stand the thought of going back to East Cheam and playing pool every night. And yet, deep down, each Big Brother contestant or Survivor sexpot knows that real life is waiting for them just around the corner.

When the cameras and diarists (briefly) turned their attention to me in 1997, I was in heaven. I'll never forget the first time that Joanna Lumley was moved to one side so that a tabloid photographer could get a shot of moi on the red carpet. I nearly died with embarrassment. Yeah right. Actually, I basked in the sheer ego-twisting joy of being made to feel important.

Perhaps most intoxicating of all is when my name is greeted with the words "Are you the Lauren Booth?" Being "the" anybody (even for a short while) is like being stroked and probed by the masseur of your dreams. Mmm, it's very nice, but when it stops you are left feeling a little tired and emotional.

Disaster strikes for the latest big thing when they realise that their new-found sexy life hinges on being talked about every day and making tabloid headlines. Each line of every press story becomes vital, essential to your survival. Day-to-day existence becomes a series of conversations starting with "Don't be angry, darling, it's all lies" and "What do you think I should do next?" Then comes the day you dread: the day nobody gives a damn whom you are dating or what you had for breakfast. The gravy train has finally arrived at Nowheresville; we hope you enjoyed the ride.

I thought such nonsense was behind me but, thanks to my innocently filling in a poxy, unnecessary form for a government office, my family and I have just had a weekend of intrusive and irritating calls from hacks pretending to work for the Inland Revenue. Here's how one went after the phone rang at my mother-in-law's house one Friday afternoon:

Caller: "Who is this?"

M-i-l (surprised): "Well, who's this?"

Caller: "Is Lauren Booth there? I want to speak to Lauren Booth."

M-i-l: "No, she's not here. Who shall I say called?"

Caller: "Well, who are you then?"

M-i-l: "This is my house."

Caller: "Does Lauren Booth live with you?"

M-i-l: "If you don't know that, why are you calling?"

I have made a formal complaint to the Inland Revenue because it appears likely that some little toady informed a tabloid that, according to my working families tax credit form, I was living with M-i-l and not my husband. This led to lurid speculation. Don't worry, though. Our new home is now fully renovated and I've moved out of M-i-l's and back in with my husband as planned.

As yet, Bubble has no idea about this side of "fame". He's upset because people seem to love him too much and girls want to have sex with him "for the wrong reasons". The little glottis-waggling idiot doesn't realise that he's on the best bit of the roller-coaster ride to oblivion: the climb. He should just let go of the handrail, wave his hands in the air, and very carefully invest any cash. A month from now, when his mail is being opened and his tax forms scrutinised by grubby little hacks, he may have something to feel aggrieved about.

This article first appeared in Ulster enters the endgame

2001-08-20