Darlings, have you thought about what you are going to wear for the social event of the year — your Covid jab appointment? Over the past few weeks, many celebrities clearly have thought of little else.
Sean Penn did it sockless, while Ian McKellen did it in a rainbow-knitted scarf. Anthony Hopkins did it in a scary mask, but sadly not his Hannibal Lecter one. Jane Fonda did it in glam retro sunglasses,
Samuel L. Jackson kept his baseball cap on, Ruth Langsford was wearing a LOVE T-shirt and Dame Joan Collins did it in a floral mask to match her floral dress, saucily mentioning that she did it on the same day as the Queen. No prizes for guessing who was most regal.
Dame Joan Collins was given her vaccine dose it in a floral mask to match her dress, saucily mentioning in her Instagram post (pictured) that she did it on the same day as the Queen
I did it in my jeans on a wintry Saturday morning and experienced the same unexpected burst of euphoria as the stars did; the same overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude, the same impulse to share my good news with the world.
Only, unlike them, I didn’t think to seize the photo opportunity and take a picture of myself during the process.
That’s the difference between Joan and me, along with the husbands, the considerable age gap and the even larger financial divide.
But are we truly ready for this new kind of Vax Factor, with our senior citizen celebrities racing to their social media platforms to upload footage of their ancient flesh receiving their jabs before even the plaster has been stripped into place over the puncture wound?
Is this the latest status symbol, a form of medical one-upmanship that involves giving it your best shot while getting the best shot?
Arnold Schwarzenegger was snapped doing it in his car while Bake Off star Prue Leith did it in a statement necklace and a here’s-one-I-baked-earlier short-sleeved T-shirt.
You don’t get to be a Bake Off star like Prue without knowing how to frost your cookies, how to rinse your avocados in water to stop them from browning and how to efficiently prepare for a vaccination. ‘Who wouldn’t want immunity from Covid-19 with a painless jab?’ she wrote on her Instagram post, while slipping back into her cosy cardigan.
Who, indeed? One unfortunate element of The Vax Factor seems to suggest that it cannot be a pandemic unless it is a celebrity pandemic; that the threat of Covid-19 cannot really exist without Jeff Goldblum slinking into the spotlight to thank frontline health workers in California, or Michael Caine baring his arm and encouraging others to get their jab, too.
Pictured: Sir Michael Caine baring his arm and encouraging others to get their jab in an advert for the NHS
And after notice of his vaccination arrived, actor Billy Crystal told for the first time of his ‘pre-existing, underlying condition — which is terror’.
Yet for once I am calling an amnesty on the kind of fame-hungry stars who make every national or global event about themselves. Instead, we should be grateful to every one of them for rolling up their sleeve and getting stuck in.
For once there is a serious message behind their shameless camera-mugging; theirs is an earnest attempt to persuade the wary and the worried to get their jab, along with the more problematic loony anti-vaxxers and vaccine refuseniks.
Even my lovely jabber asked me to spread the word about the painless process, and he didn’t know I was a journalist: he was saying it to everyone.
So thank you, Prue and Co. — every little helps. We truly are all in this together, which is why it is so infuriating when instant experts and Those Who Know Best won’t be vaccinated under any circumstances.
Why not? Why would you refuse this health-giving kryptonite and take your chances with a killer disease instead?
‘You don’t know what is in it,’ they say of the vaccines. That is their chief excuse.
Pictured: Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith, 80, receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Well, you could say the same thing about hamburgers (no ham), custard creams (not much custard), ginseng supplements (who knows) and marshmallows (don’t ask). But that doesn’t stop any of these things being wolfed down in their millions, probably by these very same people.
You’ve got to wonder what mindset gets you to a place where you think you know better than every health expert in the world.
I have a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists, which is that they are scared of anything they don’t understand, but are too supercilious to put the effort into learning anything new. In addition, there is still so much anger out there about who has had the vaccine and who has not.
But I fear it is less of a pick-and-mix government plot than just simply different metrics and pressures in different parts of the country.
I got mine early because my GP surgery was efficiently filling up vacant slots at the last minute — could I make it to a health centre in Chelsea in less than 24 hours? I most certainly could.
There I found the good cheer of the volunteers, the efficiency of all involved and the miracle itself — the little glass phial of AstraZeneca vaccine — all rather overwhelming.
The mundane marvel of it all was gasping; from first lockdown to this merciful release, we have come a long way.
So thank you to all the scientists and doctors, and even to our selfless Vax Factor golden oldies.
We should be grateful for their zest and good cheer in pushing the vaccines and encouraging participation in a world-beating national endeavour that means it will soon be available to all.
And also for their restraint. This first generation of vaxxers has been fine.
Oh my God, just wait until the influencers get here…
Dancing On Ice celebs have really slipped up
Denise Van Outen (pictured) withdrew from Dancing on Ice after dislocating her shoulder during training
A terrible curse has befallen this year’s Dancing On Ice (ITV). One shouldn’t titter but by last weekend so many of the celebrities had been injured or caught Covid, that the show could not be produced for the first time in its history.
Now it won’t be back until February 28.
The slebs have fallen like skittles, victims of the pandemic, yes, but mostly of their own inept icecapades.
Emmerdale actor Joe-Warren Plant left last week after he tested positive for Covid-19. Jason Donovan has hobbled off after injuring his back.
Rufus Hound quit after another positive Covid test. Denise Van Outen withdrew after dislocating her shoulder during training. Reality TV star Billie Shepherd was injured in a fall.
And professional skater Hamish Gaman left the other day after ‘injuring his finger while putting on a sock’.
Getting dressed can be a hazardous affair, I’m sure we all agree.
But are the fates trying to tell these ice stars something?
Anne Robinson is the new host of Countdown, and not before time. The 76-year-old jokes that she is too busy for another facelift, but never mind that.
What I think about Anne is that she should be the new host of Mastermind, too. She’s got the sneer all ready to deal with contestants trying it on with ridiculous specialist subjects such as the television show Friends, which featured last week. Anne would terrify the life out of everyone, instead of wasting time trying to put them at their ease. Good.
The BBC’s own Samira Ahmed seems to be the hot favourite and far rather her than — God forbid — a Coren or a Johnson.
Or even pet head girl Fiona Bruce, who seems to get all the best jobs.
I’d love someone crisp, forbidding and old school, like Robinson or Michael Buerk or Moira Stuart.
But they are not — I’ve started so I’ll finish — the correct demographic, so forget it.
Poor Harry is elbowed out
Frightening news that British and Californian mutant viruses have merged into one.
I’ll say! It is called the RoyalSussexo strain, it is incredibly sickly and contagious and it is thriving on a television station near you.
Pause for a deep curtsey and to say that, of course, I am thrilled that Meghan and Harry are about to give birth to a television documentary telling the world how wonderful they are — and am very much looking forward to their bouncing Oprah special.
However, isn’t it interesting that the interview will be chiefly with Meghan, with only a walk-on part for Harry? Why is this? Is it because Meghan is the better performer (yes) and has the more interesting Cinderella-Victim backstory to tell?
You bet your last glass slipper, sister.
If Harry makes only a fleeting appearance, perhaps he thinks it will be less disrespectful and damaging to the House of Windsor. Or is he past caring? Answers on a postcard please.
Meanwhile, rumours suggest Prince Harry will have at least one important line in the new documentary: ‘Do you take milk and sugar, Oprah?’
Bruce Springsteen has managed over 50 years of superstardom without embarrassment or scandal, but now the 71-year-old has been charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence).
What? Springsteen was riding his motorbike in a federal park in New Jersey, when fans urged him to stop for some photographs and offered him a shot of tequila — which he accepted.
Police officers who saw it took a dim view — and now he faces a video court appearance. This seems a very Bruce kind of offence — he was just being obliging, and when tested he wasn’t even over the limit. I am biased of course — I love Bruce — but he is not known to be a drinker and drugs have been banned in his band since day one.
Bruce Springsteen has managed over 50 years of superstardom without embarrassment or scandal, but now the 71-year-old has been charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
This all very unusual, but he is a very unusual rock star; no busts, no brawling, no excruciating exes, credibility intacto and heart still in the right place after all these decades in the business. One supposes his biggest crime to some has been his outspoken criticism of Donald Trump.
Back in 2017 the prescient Springsteen even predicted Trump would not go quietly into the dark night. ‘I think he is going to make as big a mess as he can,’ he said, describing The Donald as a ‘such a flagrant, toxic narcissist that he wants to take down the entire democratic system with him if he goes’.
Is this trumped-up charge some kind of revenge? It’s almost as if the cops finally busted Madam Marie, for telling fortunes better than they do. Before the end of the month a judge will put it all to rest, and we will know the truth.
Nicola — fifty shades of misery
The actress Nicola Walker has a beautiful, expressive face, no question. In all her roles she effortlessly portrays women who have been through something, women who have suffered, women who have thrived, women who are on the brink.
But what she does best is 50 shades of total misery.
Whether as Hannah the glum lawyer in The Split — back soon for a third and final series on BBC1 — or Cassie the moaning copper in Unforgotten (back next week on ITV) Nicola always looks as if someone has stolen the jam out of her last doughnut.
Has anyone ever captured prolonged gloom and doom with quite the same devotion?
Pictured: Nicola Walker (right) as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as CI Sunny Khan in ‘Unforgotten’
Not even Wilfrid Brambell as Albert Steptoe, who lived in Oil Drum Lane for seven years and barely cracked a smile.
Nicola makes Eeyore look like a party animal; she makes wretchedness an art form. No matter which show, whenever she appears we are braced for those features wreathed in the usual hard-boiled despair.
Can we expect the same in the new series of Unforgotten? Yes, for Cassie is upset because she’s been refused permission to retire early from the police force.
Oh, woe is me already.