I was ambling through Soho one rainy winter 2004 day when I bumped into a photographer, Bert, who was on his way to do some shots at the premier of the Starsky and Hutch movie. Did I want to come along? I wasn't interested in seeing Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson in the flesh but Snoop Dogg was in the cast so I thought I'd go see if he showed up.
Bert didn't have accreditation; he was just going on spec with a view to standing in the crowd and using his zoom. I'm not much of a standing in the crowd type but I'd never seen a movie premier before and, hey, Snoop! So we positioned ourselves at the railings outside the Leicester Square Odeon surrounded by the Piss Poor Protoplazm white trash who read movie magazines and can tell you about the lives of movie stars. There was also a gaggle of cute teenage homies, there for the same reason as me.
The PPP, a visibly disenfranchised National Enquirer-reading Princess Diana-adoring societal subdivision, cheered wildly like the Hogarthian scum that they are as a motley and mottled crew of soap stars, classic rock DJs, reality TV "personalities", putative pedophiles, boy band members, DIY show presenters, gayboys, old cabaret dogs, and David Soul arrived.
Stiller and Wilson showed up but Snoop had the common sense to stay in LA - where the sunshine was. Exit me and disappointed homies.
Movies have always been a real broad canvas, lowest common denominator, art form. They started life as a series of visual tricks designed to thrill and amaze. Post-Welles, post-Brando, post all three Fondas, Hollywood has returned to its purely attention-grabbing gimmicky roots. Mainstream film is now just more digital stuff for the scarcely literate lumpen masses who go out and elect our governments or cheer on our dictators.
Last week I found myself standing in the drizzle once more in Leicester Square for the premier of Casino Royale. This time I'd been at home all day writing and I needed to pick up some West End groceries and also to get out of the house for a while. When I heard on the TV that they were about to stage the James Bond world premier in an hour's time, a twenty minute bus journey away from my front door, I was out the door in a hoodie and on that bus
There was no question of getting near the railings this time; the crowds were generally about fifteen thick, well corralled away from the action. I adopted about three different vantage points but the most of what I saw, like everybody else, was the back of the heads of the people standing in front of me. This time there were no cute black boys, just inferior PPP in alarming numbers.
At one stage, when he was interviewing Daniel Craig, the MC said that they'd have to curtail their conversation because 'We can't keep the queen waiting.' I thought he was referring to Elton John or Helen Mirren but I was in for a surprise in the royalty department.
Even so we were soon treated to regal entrances by Elton John, Sharon Osborne, and that other horrible old cunt, Dame Judy Dench. That wasn't sufficient nasty right wing showbizness bullshit for the masses. Onto the Odeon's damp red carpet stepped atrocious loser Chris Connell, singer with Soundgarden and Audioslave. The producers have gotten Connell to do the Casino Royale theme song, which somewhat undermines their spin that the film delivers a more hard edged back-to-basics Bond. Come back Shirley Bassey, Wings, Carly Simon or even Duran Duran - all is forgiven.
The crowds were starting to thin out, all the C division tabloid stars that the PPP could want to see having arrived, so I was in a good spot when I heard the bozos around me start to mutter "Ooh, the Queen! Ooh the Queen is coming!" And indeed she was. A vast Rolls Royce limousine, which seemed to float just above the ground like a hovercraft, purred into view, ground to a halt in front of me, and out she stepped - the real empress of a real axis of evil. Sprightly for an octogenarian and positively glowing with wealth and authentic fame.
Then it was all over. The klieg lights got turned off. French exchange students ambled off into the night in search of cheap pizza. The PPP went to do some late night shopping at Lidl. The guy who'd been trying to pick my pocket for the last ten minutes gave up.
I strolled towards Trafalgar Square, on down Whitehall, and past Downing Street where a faltering emperor - having ignored every piece of advice he'd been given by the real James Bonds - sat in his bolthole putting the finishing touches to the final Queen's Speech which she would deliver for him the next day.
Right then she was up the road watching Daniel Craig walking out of the sea with his schlong protruding.
Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.
The Review of the Year of Things #1: Jason Lewis surveys the years' great albums and noting so many, compartmentalized, as men do. So, here, albums by those so profoundly impacted by Death