6 May

ASK any youngster what they most want most when they grow up and there’s a good chance the words ‘’to be famous’’ will be near the top of the list. And sadly, reality TV rubbish like ‘Big Brother’ has made that dream easier to achieve than ever before.

The problem is that talent and fame no longer go together. These days it’s a case of the bigger and louder the idiot, the better the chance of hitting the headlines.

Only in the world of 21st century television can moronic lunatics locked away in bizarre goldfish bowl become the idols of millions of brain-dead couch potatoes. And for what? Being able to say the F-word more times than anyone else? I despair.

There used to be a time when fame was a natural development for those blessed with a special talent. Were you not remarkably gifted, your only chance of achieving celebrity status would be to take the notoriety route. And anonymity has always been a much better option than spending a lifetime in prison.


It mystifies me why today’s ‘celebrities’ are worshipped like gods. Particularly those who have achieved that celebrity via the reality TV route. Perhaps it is the fact that the average person’s 15 minutes of fame amounts to the time they were pulled from the sea by a lifeguard at Clacton after swallowing a lump of seaweed in two feet of water.

Anyone who actually KNOWS a celebrity (a real one, not a Big Brother berk) will be aware that they are as human as the rest of us.

They eat, sleep, breathe, laugh, cry, have families, age…and ultimately they die. Just like the rest of us. Unless they are themselves the children of celebrities, they also begin life as nobodies. They go to school, they grow up…and NOBODY ever asks for their autograph.

During my youth, I knew at least two nobodies who later became somebodies in a big way. Today their names are instantly recognisable but when I was 19, they were simply men trying to build careers in their chosen professions. Both were ambitious, so was I. But while I went on to be relatively successful as a writer and editor, these two guys reached for the stars….and grabbed them with both hands.

Tommy and Linda Woodward as I remember them in 1962.

The guys I am talking about are Sir Tom Jones and the BBC’s John Humphrys. Tom – then plain Tommy Woodward – would wander into the Pontypridd Observer office almost daily to tell me about his latest attempt to break into the big time. His work ethic regarding anything but singing was, shall we say, questionable.

But he clearly had talent … and was happy to provide me with some decent stories about his latest vocal exploits for my weekly pop column. He had lots of rough edges as a person – but with a voice like his, it was only a matter of time before his career took off and my personal name-dropping list got its first illustrious entry.

Humph was a classmate at the National Council for the Training of Journalists day release course in Cardiff each Friday.

Then working as a reporter for the Western Mail, John was a quiet, even shy guy…the last person you would pick out as a future BBC foreign correspondent, news presenter and Mastermind chairman. But like TJ, he clearly had a special talent which the BBC soon recognised.

The rise and rise of both sons of Wales taught me one huge lesson which today’s hero worshippers simply cannot identify with For all the glitz and glamour, celebrities are just ordinary people.


  1. Eileen x May 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    But Tom Jones changed BECAUSE of celebrity! He has freely admitted he has had numerous affairs, cheated on Linda, and seems quite proud of his antics! If he had remained plain old Tommy Woodward, I doubt if he would have boasted about his exploits.

    • donna773 May 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Eileen, the only way Tom Jones changed from his Tommy Woodward days regarding extra-marital activity was the ‘quality’ of the women he bedded. I have always marvelled at the loyalty Linda has shown (some would say stupidity) in staying with him – but then, how many celebrities in his position have remained married to the same spouse for 55 years?

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