Week two: from Madonna to Liam Gallagher, it’s soap suds for sense
Week two in the Big Bother house and famous people are succumbing to Covid-19 cabin fever. Just like us unwashed civilians, they’re staying at home – albeit in spacious properties with squishy L-shaped sofas and kitchens the size of Suffolk – while going slightly mad.
Professional hard man Ant “not Dec’s mate” Middleton – former military sniper, adventurer and frontman of TV willy-waving contest SAS: Who Dares Wins – provided much mirth on Friday with his heavily tattooed, tight black T-shirted idiocy. He posted a lengthy Instagram video telling people to “calm the f**k down” about the outbreak, insisting the coronavirus “doesn’t bother’” him because he is “strong and able and it has no benefit or positive impact on my life.” Yeah, I’m not sure that’s how it works, mate.
But wait, there was more. “Am I still out travelling the world?” continued this living embodiment of brawn-not-brains. “Yes. Am I still shaking hands? Yes. Am I still cuddling fans at the airport? Yes. Has my life changed? No. Get out there, don’t change, f**k Covid-19!” Where to start? Well, “hugging fans at airports” frankly sounds more like a hate crime than a courageous act of defiance. It was all so Alan Partridge, presumably long-suffering PA Lynn was the one wielding the camera.
After widespread derision and accusations of irresponsibility – plus doubtless a panicked phone call from his agent –Middleton furiously backpedalled with an apology video in which he made that awful “praying hands” gesture and pleaded that he was “not fully aware of the scale of the crisis”. "I am not a doctor, I am not a scientist,” he added. You don’t say, Sherlock. A textbook story arc and a parable for the coronavirus era.
(Middleton could learn a lesson from that other renowned dumbbell enthusiast, dear old Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governator Arnie’s approach to lockdown, of course, isn’t macho posturing but staying at home and cuddling his pet donkeys. Better.)
Elsewhere on the modern-day nuthouse that is Instagram, stripper-turned-rap star Cardi B (full name: Cardigan Buttons) ranted to her 60m followers about the lack of information and action from the US government. Brilliantly, she issued a call for any of her fans who happened to work at the Pentagon to give her a briefing on the pandemic. “I don’t know if you can tell but I’m losing my f***ing mind,” she growled. “I want to put on my f***ing expensive outfits and go out.”
Cardi ended her inspirational missive by shouting “Coronavirus! S**t is real!” which an enterprising Brooklyn DJ called iMarkkeyz (me neither) promptly sampled and turned into a viral dance track which is currently working its way up the iTunes charts. It's joined in the new pantheon of “pandemic pop” by Detroit rapper Gmac Cash and Florida hip-hop artist Smokepurpp. See? Shakespeare wrote King Lear in plague quarantine. We have this.
Other musical titans have been busy adapting their hit lyrics into public health pronouncements. Swaggering into this genre has come former Oasis foghorn Liam Gallagher, who is treating fans to kitchen sink reworkings of his old band's beery anthems, such as “Soap-ersonic”, “Wonderwash” and “Champagne Soap-ernova", while he scrubs up - still clad in bucket hat and sunglasses, naturally. Our Kid really ought to wash his mouth out too, as most of them come with a generous side order of effing and jeffing. Liam also posted a video wearing a colander on his head while singing Eighties advertising slogan "For mash, get Smash”. Who would have predicted such an eventuality a few short weeks ago?
Similarly crooning health-and-safety directives has been 79-year-old ledge™ Neil Diamond, who offered up a fireside remix of his karaoke classic Sweet Caroline, which went: “Hands / Washing hands / Reaching out / Don't touch me / I won't touch you”. His golden retriever looked on proudly. If only that dog could talk, dude. The tales it could tell.
I know what you’re thinking. What has Madonna got to say about this unfolding health crisis? Well, you’re in luck. Despite nowadays resembling a blurry photograph of herself that’s been faxed to your local newsagents, the Queen of Pop has been delivering deep and meaningful speeches from her candle-lit bathtub, with her “modesty“ protected by strategically strewn rose petals. "That's the thing about Covid-19,” pontificated the Hanky Panky hitmaker (nothing like a good spanky indeed), over a soundtrack of tinkly piano. “It doesn't care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are, what amazing stories you can tell. It's the great equaliser and what's terrible about it is what's great about it.”
Not convinced there’s anything particularly great about a deadly pandemic which has killed 17,000 people worldwide and counting, Your Madgesty, which I guess is why you have now deleted the video.
Non-binary singer Sam Smith posted a video of himself/herself/themselves/whateverwe’reboundtogetitwrong, weeping with boredom in his £12m Hampstead mansion after a mere two days of self-isolation, wailing: “I hate reading!” Put that in your pipe and smoke it, so-called “literature”.
Popstrel Miley Cyrus has been hosting daily, hour-long “self-care” broadcasts, branded with the deeply awkward acronym BRIGHT MINDS. It stands for (deep breath) Blessings and curses of social media, Reliable sources, Immune boosters, Getting active, Healthy anxiety, Thoughts, attention and toxins, Memories, Inflammation, Negative thoughts, Dedicating 15 minutes to something new and Sleep. Hard to know where to start unravelling that particular stream of psychobabble, although I’ll certainly be turning in for the Inflammation episode.
Most of her fellow famouses, by contrast, have been whiling away their lockdown time by participating in pointless Instagram Live Q&A sessions, answering such pressing enquiries as “pizza or pasta?” and “kitten or puppy?”. I’m assuming the latter are pets and not pizza toppings. During an apocalypse, it's hard to tell.
Meanwhile in the business world, it’s a four-way race between billionaire werewolf Richard Branson, jeggings mogul Philip Green, lionine publican Tim Martin and shellsuit merchant Mike Ashley to settle for once and for all who is the UK’s most punchable tycoon. These are momentous times, people. Batten down the hatches, buckle up your hazmat onesie and enjoy.
Week one: why, Wonder Woman, why?
There are two things that can be relied upon in times of national crisis: the great British public will frantically stockpile loo roll for no logical reason (I blame that adorable Andrex puppy, rather than a fixation with hygiene) and celebrities will make thundering idiots of themselves.
They might misjudge the mood, make it all about them, attempt to clumsily cash in or just generally be dim. Still, at least they inadvertently provide some point-and-laugh entertainment for a population in lockdown. For this, perhaps we should be grateful.
Former model Caprice Bourret was first out of the blocks on Monday’s edition of The Jeremy Vine Show, arguing with Dr Sarah Jarvis on live TV that she knew better than the experts how to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Who would you trust more? An experienced GP and the clinical director of the health information service Patient? Or the one-time star of Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, who’s a former Wonderbra spokesmodel and thinks that the acronym for the World Health Organisation is pronounced “Whooooo”? Open your minds, sheeple.
Also on Monday, another renowned amateur epidemiologist broke rank to share her hard-won wisdom. High School Musical alumna Vanessa Hudgens told fans in an Instagram video: “I’m sorry, but like, it’s a virus? I get it, I respect it but at the same time I’m like, even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible but like, inevitable?”
A powerfully eloquent argument, I think you’ll agree. Hudgens also expressed doubt that the quarantine period could last until July, saying such predictions “sound like a bunch of bulls---”. She later apologised for seeming to question the seriousness of the pandemic, describing the backlash as a “huge wake-up call”.
By Tuesday, it was time to wheel out the big guns – not literally big, you understand – in the 5ft 5in shape of perennially pompous U2 singer Bono. He was accused of cynically using the Covid-19 outbreak as a promotional opportunity.
Bono Vox (real name: the rather less rock ’n’ roll Paul Hewson) released the sludgy piano ballad Let Your Love Be Known, his first new music since 2017, as “a St Patrick’s Day gift” to quarantined Italians crooning to each other from balconies.
The frontman modestly urged them to “sing it from the rooftops”. Haven’t they suffered enough?
Neither has the heir to Bono’s white-saviour crown (ego size: XXL) been silent. Over-opinionated Matty Healy, frontman of electro-poppers The 1975 – and, arguably more interestingly, the offspring of Loose Women’s Denise Welch and Auf Wiedersehen Pet’s Tim Healy – has insisted he’s “not sorry” for a controversial tweet about fellow musicians affected by the pandemic. You know, despite bravely deleting it.
In response to indie bands and struggling artists being forced to cancel gigs, Healy Jr’s “joke” read: “Stop telling people to support you, we don’t want your EP and zine bundle right now, Laura, we’re going to die.”
Fans immediately accused Healy – a 30-year-old showbiz princeling with an estimated net worth of £12m – of being privileged and out-of-touch, arrogantly dismissing the sad fact that music-industry jobs will be lost and some acts won’t survive the loss of tour revenue and merchandise sales. Healy has since issued a textbook non-apology.
Elsewhere in Covid-19’s own velvet-roped VIP area, West End doyenne Elaine Paige shared her domestic cleaning advice on Twitter, belting out lines from Evita as she scrubbed a tiled wall, and Derrick “Mr Motivator” Evans dusted off his garish Lycra unitard to give home exercise tips on Radio 4’s Today programme. It wouldn’t have happened in John Humphrys’s day.
Across the so-called pond, a clutch of caterwauling actors including Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Will Ferrell and, well, many more we don’t recognise have filmed a viral video of them massacring John Lennon’s Imagine while in quarantine. See what we’re subjected to when luvvies are unable to work? They start doing unsolicited auditions for musical theatre.
Semi-retired pop himbo Peter Andre was forced to ban “fans” (read: confused shoppers) from hugging him at a Southampton meet ’n’ greet session.
By stark contrast, Hollywood hippy Jared Leto just emerged from a 12-day meditation retreat in the desert and claims to have been totally oblivious to the dystopian outbreak that's been raging worldwide. Who says celebrities live on a different planet? Don’t worry, though. Now that Leto is abreast of matters, he has sent his fans “positive energy”.
Meanwhile, self-appointed man-of-the-people Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan – if “the people” have a perma-furious Twitter account and an eagerness to shout over invited TV guests – is refusing to stay home and self-isolate, despite his co-host Susanna Reid being unable to go into work because her son is displaying symptoms. Why so stubborn? Because the truth warrior is determined to keep the public informed. Mainly about his own views.
Who will be the next celebrity to fall victim to the curse of corona-induced stupidity? The smart money is on Simon Cowell building a (flop) talent-show format around it, or Gwyneth Paltrow claiming that it can be cured with vaginal steaming and a diet of alfalfa sprouts.
Don’t be surprised if Gwynnie’s UK equivalent, the self-styled super-diva Gemma “The GC” Collins – an intellectual thoroughbred from the renowned TOWIE stable – soon has her “say”.
Thus far, these pop-cultural boffins have been uncharacteristically quiet. Give them time, fellow self-isolators. An expectant nation sits, wipe its backside on its stockpile of Cushelle Ultra-Quilted, washes its hands – and waits.