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Archive for August 5th, 2010

I’ve just finished reading Patti Smith’s memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids, and I miss the two of them. It’s a great read: all the energy of late 1960’s and early 1970’s New York; two youngsters finding each other by accident and uniting in art and hope. Both of them had an androgynous beauty; they came together and used that beauty, and their love of poetry and art, to forge a new, exciting life together. Away from her teenage pregnancy and giving up her baby for adoption; away from his strict Catholic upbringing.

The book fairly gallops through their search for fame, stopping as they go at the Chelsea Hotel and Max’s Kansas City, often desperately poor, always surrounded by the mavericks and stars of the time: Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs, Susan Sontag et al.

They sought patrons and through often accidental connections they became a rock-poet (Patti) and an avant-garde photographer (Robert). Throughout it all they maintained their friendship, which was based on a mutual quest for recognition as artists, their personal style, and a funny sort of love. Patti was the more sensible of the two, steering clear of drugs mostly and holding down book shop jobs, but Robert, once he acknowledged he was gay, was an avid drug-taker and, often, prostitute.

In a way, Patti glossed over the worst bits of Robert’s personality and choices – she adored him blindly – but throughout the book they certainly had an amazing bond and they supported each other hugely, through all sorts of odd relationships and hard times. They were each other’s muse, lover and friend over years and years, a thing that surely doesn’t happen much.

The memoir is thoughtfully written, beautiful in parts, but occasionally the poeticism gets out of hand and her endless references to Bob Dylan and Rimbaud got up my nose at times. Having said that, it’s a headlong, sparky and intimate read; a real snapshot of a turning point in American history. Highly recommended to anyone who loves poetry, rock and roll and/or bohemia.

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Like many of us, I sometimes take a random, and probably completely unfair, dislike to various celebrities. And then sometimes, I go the other way. Yes, perhaps because I would simply rather like people than hate them, I often find myself suddenly liking celebrities whom I previously regarded with either boredom or disdain. Which is why I could totally identify with Jessica of Go Fug Yourself in this recent post, where she said

I am SO EASILY talked into liking celebrities that I hitherto disliked. Seriously. I almost ALWAYS come around. I’m pretty sure this means I am super susceptible to Stockholm Syndrome, like if I were kidnapped by Colombian drug lords, I’d come back from my ordeal and be all, “You guys, I kind of miss Pablo.”

Sadly, I suspect I am the same.

Oh Kanye, you're so ridiculous.

Not only was I too strangely charmed by those images of the Hoff and his tribe, but over the years I have found myself developing a sort of affection for other stars I have previously just mocked or loathed, including Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Eva Mendes. And it doesn’t take much to win me over. I realised I kind of loved Kanye when he retweeted Aziz Ansari’s tweets parodying West’s OTT persona; I developed an affection for Gaga when she started talking about her newly awakened feminism (one of the reasons I’d previously found her annoying was an earlier interview in which she said she wasn’t a feminist because she didn’t hate men), and I realised I thought Mendes was basically a good egg this week, when she decided to give the frenzied Googling pervs want they want by releasing a very special sort of sex tape. But sometimes it’s not as concrete as that. Sometimes I just start thinking that someone is, as my younger sister (who is as easily charmed as I) and I used to say, “strangely likeable”. And sometimes I think it really is Stockholm Syndrome-esque.  In the early ’90s, my youngest sister was obsessed with Take That. I was a loathsome cooler-than-thou teenage indie snob, so of course I hated the That and all their works. And yet, somehow, after a solid year of seeing her Take That: The Party, Live At Wembley video on the telly almost every time I came into the sitting room, I was slowly but surely won over by their cheeky northern charm. To the extent that, when I reviewed their spectacular Circus tour in Croke Park last year, I was the only person in the row of sullen critics cheering like mad and indeed dancing along with my best mate (who had also witnessed the That’s hypnotic powers back when we were teens) to ‘Could It Be Magic’.

But generally a celebrity will win me over if they give a hint that they have a sense of humour, if they can take the piss out of both themselves and their detractors in a sharp and/or good humoured way, and if they can talk vaguely sensibly about feminism (seriously, once I find out any celeb calls themselves a feminist, I pretty much always like them a little bit more, even if, as in the case of Bill Bailey, I love them already).  So what previously loathed celebs have you developed a strange affection for? And what does it take to win you over?

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