International Writers Magazine:You
Can Become Unfamous
My names Gemira and Im a celebrity.
A chorus of hellos droned up from the circular continuum of equi-distant
set plastic chairs; the voices all rhinestones, hoop earrings, tight-fitting,
size-zero clothes, foundation, fake breasts and designer stubble.
on high, the bright-veneered smiles listed like a red carpet premiere:
every coloured-contact, every hair-weave and mirror-practised pout,
every tweezed-thin eyebrow raise; all of these recovering celebrities
had conquered the first obstacle by admitting to themselves that they
had a problem.
Fresh from prison for sleeping with a murdered footballer, Gemira had
vowed to quit the life. All the time she was inside, smeared across
the tabloids her fame finally realised her goal was to,
one day, get out and go clean. And, here she was.
A dingy school hall in a run down, inner-city council estate; this was
where they met once a fortnight, the twenty-second chapter of Celebrities
Anonymous. It brought them back down to earth; forced them all to realise
that this was where they came from literally. Gemira who used
to be Gemma who used to go to this school. And, in coming back here,
she had reached step three; she wanted to turn her life around.
They all wanted something; all these fading stars and underachievers;
burned out and disaffected, these has-beens had spent the majority of
their lives in search of the spotlight, only to get burned or forgotten.
Probably more than anyone here, Gemira could relate; burned, bruised
and left behind, she had no fight left in her.
The need and want of celebrity had started it all, had brought her to
the brink and beyond. What she had once done for the chance to be in
the tabloids now made her face fill with blood; queuing outside clubs
in the desperate hope of getting inside and snaring a celebrity; a footballer,
reality TV star, or soap actor. Showing as much skin without being indecent;
fighting with other wannabe-WAGs; sleeping with men because of who they
were; selling her stories to the press; living the high-life of a celebrity-wannabe;
famous for being famous.
Gemira took her seat to allow the other twelve-steppers to vent
their woes. Around the room, poor socialite after old page-three model
after washed-up reality TV star after shamed soap actor after pop idol
runner up after porn channel regular after shopping channel rejects
after divorced WAGs; everyone stood up to be counted; all of them here
for help; every celebrity, just a scared child inside wanting love and
Once the circle was complete, they would all hold hands and repeat the
C.A. mantra, fake tears and award-acceptance-speech-faces on; I
am a celebrity; it is a sickness; but, now I have admitted to myself
that I have a problem, I am no longer alone; we will help one another
get back the lives we have lost; to make amends, to the people we have
harmed or ignored; to admit we were wrong; and improve our minds; and
by doing so, help others.
The newcomers; they found it hard to look you in the eyes; they still
wore designer shades or pulled their baseball caps down low over their
eyes. As the mantra said, it was a sickness; it could take a newcomer
months to fully ingrain themselves into the new mind set; to fully remove
their character defects and shortcomings. Steps six and seven.
After the tears, the group would break so those that smoked to compensate
one addiction for another could go outside and be part of another minority
group, huddled against the masses and the cold. While, inside, caffeine-rich
drinks were poured into tiny cups so at least everyone could feel something
positive about themselves.
Gemira had a problem mixing; what with her infamous reputation and fading
good looks, nobody would approach her unless they were in a group. And,
as she was fairly new here, the cliques had already clicked so she was
left alone, not a part of the whispers. She badly needed a sponsor;
it was part of her rehabilitation and probation orders, but how was
she meant to get one if nobody would speak to her? And, without a sponsor,
she wouldnt budge past step five.
After prison, mingling wasnt easy; trust was all but gone as a
human quality. Like the open auditions shed endured for Big Brother
four, these wannabe celebrities treated their peers like inmates; competition
was fierce; the lengths that some people would go to get on TV were
extraordinary; she should know, Gemira had been there herself at the
lowest point in her life. Step four was to take a moral inventory. Prison
had been low, but being a kiss-and-tell sex siren for her ex-publicist,
Charles Cyphers, had fallen beneath that; scraping her knees in a trendy
nightclub car park while footballers took turns to use her was the pit
of her moral life so far.
She forced a smile and went for a coffee refill, immersing herself into
the low mutterings of past lives; of bad memories and name-dropping
situations. Once you were in the mindset it was difficult to get out.
A hand reached for the pot alongside her own; another recovering celebrity;
another helpless soul craving attention and forgiveness.
They both breathed their apologies, leaving the way clear; not wanting
to make eye contact but having to; it was the only way forward.
You go. An old face; one Gemira had seen and noticed in
the previous groups; a male face that evaded easy recognition but not
Thanks. She took the heated pot and first poured his before
her own, replacing it on the warmer with a tired, unpractised smile.
Thank you. A gravelly voice that jabbed her lungs with familiarity,
summoning the strength to make eye contact. But, his face refused to
Following him to a seat across the hall, breathing in the scent of teenage
pheromones, damp athletic equipment and floor polish, while outside
cigarette smoke clouded the empty night air like exhausted central heating
How long have you been coming? The weakest but easiest of
questions to jump-start a conversation.
The man took a sip of warm, strong coffee and allowed his eyes to change
direction in order to count the days hed been clean. It was a
number that always changed; a number you could taste on the insides
of your mouth, just like your age: One-hundred and sixty-six days.
Letting it out with a tired smile, like it had taken him that long to
Wow! Not quite a gush but, close enough for her to find
He smiled again, to let her know they were all friends here.
Fifty-six days. An exhale of sounds; Not including
when I was, you know, inside.
It was like a footnote; a disclaimer to every comment because time stood
still in there. It was out here that being celebrity-free mattered.
In prison there were no distractions; no real temptations; no chance
of falling off the wagon. But, out here, in the real world, the media
was everywhere; newspapers were free to your homes, on public transport,
in restaurants; billboards on every inch of free space; radios blared
from every passing car, office block, building site, newsstand, café,
MP3 player; magazines and advertisements flooded the post as junk mail;
buses; roundabouts; emails; internet pop-ups; nowhere was safe
But, the hardest part wasnt ignoring it; the hardest part was
filling the void without it; of finding something else to occupy the
time instead of TV or reading magazines. Sitting in a doctors or dentists
waiting room, any other person would grab a magazine and read but, to
them, it was like having a bar in there for the alcoholics while they
waited or a prostitute in the window for the sex addicts. Nobody understood
that theirs was an illness, too. An addiction.
Will you be my sponsor? It was out; free of her chest and
it weighed less, now, her body and soul.
The mans eyes looked about as if to find and suggest to her an
alternative. And, Gemira felt that weight she had just lost, climb back
upon her shoulders.
Im not really the
Its okay; I understand. Cutting him off like all those
bouncers had done during her celebrity stakeouts all those years ago;
getting up from the seat and moment theyd shared to find her own
place within the celebrity circle elsewhere in the middle of the room.
Head down, she flipped open her spiral notepad she kept in her pocket;
not so much a diary, but a reminder of where she was in her life, like
a plaster cast or scar. Although, she couldnt officially move
from step four without having a sponsor, emotionally she was on to step
eight; making amends to those she had hurt. Her list had spawned a second
page of names; people who, in some way or another, she had to apologise
to for some miss-deed perpetrated while being famous.
Top of the list was her best friend, Roxy and the baby. Not long after
Gemira was arrested, shed learned that Roxy was wanted for kidnapping
the kid; some orphan baby another celebrity had adopted and Roxys
sister had decided to steal for her own. The last thing she heard was
Roxy was awaiting trial, like her, for something she didnt do.
And, now she was out, Gemira wanted to find her and make amends for
bringing her into this life; the celebrity life of wanting to be everywhere,
to be noticed; the celebrity life that brought on her eating disorders
and panic attacks; and the fact that she couldnt be there for
her when she needed it the most; that if it wasnt for her, Roxy
wouldnt be a celebrity.
Daniel Freeman was next on her list; the pop idol finalist she slept
with and ruined his career with the kiss-and-tell story she sold to
the tabloids. He was her first celebrity snare; the first of many and,
because of what shed done to him for her own ends, she needed
to make amends.
Her parents were down, too. As were the other members of her family
that had tried to talk to her during the lads mag covers and porn channel
cameos; the car shows, bikini scratching the paintwork and porn sites.
She only hoped that the other celebrities who wronged her would, one
day, apologise for their mistakes: the panel show team captains that
took the piss on TV; the breakfast show DJs that commented on her body
after promising the world on the red carpet; those footballers that
took advantage of her, night after night.
Everyone ready to continue? Hayleigh, their group leader,
squeezed back into the celebrity circle and took her seat.
Gemira pocketed her notebook and wiped a hand across her skin.
The group leader looked around the room with a smile that always seemed
to find the best in everyone, no matter what the situation. She wasnt
like them; Hayleigh wasnt a celebrity, recovering or current but
she had survived a past to be present and offer others help and strength.
As an outsider, she could see their suffering. And, thats exactly
what everyone in this room needed; what every recovering celebrity craved,
deep down, was not to be recognised or idolised. They just wanted to
be normal like everybody else.
Before we continue, I just want you all to know that every single
individual sitting here in this circle is making excellent progress.
If you are here, it means that you want to change your life. And, with
each others help, you will succeed. A group round of applause
followed, as it always did; you can take the celebrity out of the person
but not the person out of the celebrity. As some of you are probably
aware, one or two of our members here are onto step nine; making amends.
Old, turned down, faces watched the floor and nodded slowly. Hayleigh
looked to each side of her and smiled again. And, they have asked
to stand up here tonight and apologise to those they have wronged in
All eyes reached up to the old man with the gravelly voice, Gemira shared
coffee with earlier; silence in the room. Who had this man wronged?
And, how hard was it to do what he was about to do? Gemira felt sick
for asking him to be her sponsor when he was obviously too preoccupied
with what he was about to do. Their eyes met and she gave him an encouraging
smile. But, his eyes shied away.
Reading from a card: My names Alan and, maybe, some of you
dont know who I used to be? Around the room, people nodded.
As Hayleigh said, Ive reached step nine, making amends;
something I never would have done without her help. A round of
applause. A red-faced smile from Hayleigh. Back when I was a celebrity,
I did a lot of things Im not proud of. Nods from around
the group. To people, I probably wont ever get the chance
to apologise to. More nodding; everyone felt the same. Everyone
in this room. But, when I started coming here and putting my life
back together, the group got bigger and I started seeing people from
my past; people Id all but forgotten existed; people, who I couldnt
bring myself to look in the eye. Alans voice wavered; he
took a breath.
From beneath the spotlight, Hayleighs hand reached up to his.
Its okay, Alan; youre doing great.
Head back, eyes closed; deep breath; Terrible things Ive
done; Im so sorry
A mulched mess of saliva sounds,
tears all but eradicating any real sense. Bodies flooded the inner-circle
to comfort Alan, but Gemira stayed still. Something wasnt right;
she had wronged another celebrity while famous, the worst she had done
was ruin their careers; it wasnt excusable but wouldve happened
sooner or later anyway; fame was so fickle, nobodys fifteen minutes
People shifted in their seats; others were thinking the same things
as her. Celebrity was blind, but not blind enough to forgive or forget.
Someone in this room shared Alans secret; someone in this room
was his victim.
Her name made her body cold; caused her breath to expire; forced her
insides to clench; left her skin shivering.
All eyes, but hers, were fixed on Gemira; the shell that used to be
a celebrity that used to be Gemma that used to go to this school, that
used to be enough.
Im not really the best person to be your sponsor; Im
sorry. Alans difficult words, exhaled and gone.
That was it?
Joni; I should have let you have that space, last week.
And, on they went; his feeble little apologies that were as mundane
as him; apologising for things that nobody really gave a shit about;
lifes little inconveniences that went away with the rubbish bins
or recycling collections.
What about the real mistakes; the important trespasses? When would he
make amends for them?
Before she realised it, Gemira was on her feet, to the attention of
the group. What about me?! The recovering celebrities fell
silent. You want step nine; them apologise to me! Eyes flashed
from her to him; Hayleighs face stricken; Alans shoulders
knotted toward his ears.
In his face; in the eyes of everyone present and God above; Gemira suddenly
convinced that this man was an ex-footballer; one of the many footballers
who had done things to her when she was desperate and willing, all those
And, in the quiet circle of friends, Gemira, one-time celebrity, broke
down. Nothing would ever change that. Nobody could ever make her past
go away. From the scrap books at home and faces inside she studied,
slowly crossing off the names she sought. From her publicist, who lay
dead and undiscovered in the boot of his car, securely parked in a long
stay airport multi-storey; to the dwindling list of ex-footballers she
had been photographed leaving trendy nightclubs with; trawling the internet
for their current whereabouts; football grounds; holiday resorts; and,
Celebrity Anonymous chapters that were springing up around the country
headed by her friend and lover Hayleigh.
Together, they would rid the world of fallen celebrities; those people
that had wronged; every single person that had crossed her.
© Mark Robinson June 2008
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