Stars and their Dogs

Disney perhaps wishing he was owned by J.Depp

Disney perhaps wishing he was owned by J.Depp

The whims of famous people may seem as fickle as the seasons, but in one or two things, they are constant. Travelling with animals, for example. As the peerless photograph of Liz Taylor on a yacht moored by Tower Bridge with her dogs reveals, you are not a grade A lister until you have a couple of four leggers in  your entourage. I once had the fortune to interview the great Gregory Peck at a film festival in Cognac. The interview took place on a bench outside a magnificent chateau. After I had finished, we stood up. Towering over me, Peck waved magisterially at a maid in full uniform who came trotting over the perfect sward towards us. At her side trotted two tiny Pekinese dogs, the fur on their heads tied into matching beribboned bunches. He patted them fondly. This was when I realised that Peck took Hollywood with him wherever he was on the globe.

Today’s stars are no different, as evinced by Jonny Depp, who it seems also needs to travel with small furry animals for company. Last month, he arrived in Australia with two Yorkshire terriers; his beloved pets Pistol and Boo. Without a thought to Australia’s strict quarantine regulations, it seems as if Depp flew into Brisbane airport in order to film Pirates of the Caribbean (5) without the necessary canine paperwork. All was well until Pistol and Boo blew their cover when foolishly making a visit to Happy Dogz, a Brisbane grooming salon. They should have stayed scruffy; the Australian authorities took a pretty dim view of this and declared that the dogs need to be off Oz soil within 72 hours, or it’s pistols for Pistol. And the other one too. “Mr Depp has to take his dogs [back] to California or we are going to have to euthanize them,” growled Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Boo-hoo!

Quite right too. This what a lot of intelligent and sane people around the world will be thinking. Indeed, intelligent and sane friends of mine already are. Why should these stars, whose lives are already full of astonishing indulgence and privilege, be even more indulged and privileged by not having to go through the dull old paperwork that we civilians have to? It’s certainly a view that Mr Joyce upholds. “Just because he is Jonny Depp, aka Jack Sparrow (thanks for the reminder, Mr Joyce), does not mean he is exempt from Australian law.”

Except it so often does. Thanks to our grovelling adulation of stars and the business of being a star, we have organised a world for them in which bothersome issues such as quarantine (or in some cases, the regular payment of Income Tax,) are, quite frankly, irrelevant. Of course Depp didn’t think about quarantine. He has probably never had to bother himself with such dull bureaucracy before, because he has ‘people’ who look after all the boring bits of life  ranging from train tickets and car insurance to house purchasing and getting a new ironing board. Such is the world that the A lister inhabits. It is a world that we have all conspired to build.

It is quite helpful  that Yorkigate is happening, (or yappening) in Cannes week, for the International Film Festival is an handy annual reminder of the gilded cage in which we have incarcerated the ultra famous. I had the pleasure of covering Cannes for the BBC for about a decade, and never ceased to be amazed by how the super-famous were treated. They would arrive at a set time, stepping out of giant black limousines onto the requisite red carpet where they would run the gamut of about two thousand photographers in the equally requisite black tie. Nobody was allowed to carry a camera without the double accessory of bowtie and dinner jacket. Nobody was allowed to ask the celebrity any questions. Other than shouting “Over here! Over here! Over here!” as the celebrity wheeled and grinned and gurned on the steps of the Palais. Their hair was fixed, their makeup perfect, their borrowed clothes immaculate. They reminded me of toys, kept in a box all year round, and only brought out to play with on special occasions. After the screening, they would attend the so-called ‘press conference’, during which they would answer fawning, pre-selected questions with a rictus smile and processed answers. Every year either a journalist, a director or one of the stars would electrify everyone by saying something off-script. This was treated as a major news incident.

After the press conference, the celebrity is herded off out of the back of the building into a waiting limousine while the next one up fields the two thousand flash guns out at the front. Our celebrity is then driven to a giant hotel near a beautiful beach where he or she sits for eight hours before a poster advertising their film, in a room with no windows. A procession of staff will come in to redo hair and makeup and ask exactly what sort of quinoa salad is required, and what type of avocado pear,  and whether scales should be used to measure out the food required (this is not fiction), while a procession of journalists queues up to ask identical questions of the celebrity at strict four-minute intervals.

When the quinoa salad is being eaten, (for celebrities, even the thin ones, must eat sometimes), the journalists must back off. The celebrity must not be seen eating. Or drinking. Or doing anything normal and human. Indeed, they are not treated as human beings. Some brave celebrities balk at all of this and insist on being given their lives back. Many do not.

Is it therefore any wonder that Johnny Depp took his dogs into Brisbane Airport without any notion of how the real world lives? How silly the Australian authorities are for throwing the book at him. They should just use a bit of common sense, thank the Lord that Depp and Depp’s ‘people’ are paying millions to use Australia as the backdrop for his latest movie, and throw Pistol and Boo a boomerang.

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