Authors: Russell Brand
Tags: #Non-Fiction, #Humor, #Biography, #Memoir
For Katy. This is my past. You are my future.
Anybody, providing he knows how to be amusing, has the right to talk about himself
- Charles Baudelaire.
Have faith in Allah but always tie your camel up.
- John Noel
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly
- Franz Kafka.
If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically
- Jean-Paul Sartre
Like a Rolling Stone
Fame was bequeathed to me by the lips of an angel. After all my years of rancid endeavour, I was granted fame by Kate Moss’s kiss.
I was born to be famous, but it took decades for me to convey this entitlement to an indifferent world and suspicious job centres – both presumed me a nitwit, possibly with good reason as I was brilliantly disguised as a scruff-bag. Being anonymous was an inconvenience to me.
My well-meaning chum John Rogers would offer kindly, useless consolations – “Do you think you’ll like fame? You won’t be able to go to supermarkets.”
“Oh, please!” I mockingly responded. “No more supermarkets? Next you’ll be telling me I’ll be incessantly pestered by sex-thirsty harlots yearning to massage me out of my agony. That vainglorious sycophants will clamour to yawp odes of awe and wonder into my wealthy fizzog while fertile accolades and praise will avalanche the fields of my barren esteem, where now only bedraggled ravens hungrily drum the wretched dirt.” I really wanted recognition.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse signify oncoming Armageddon, which must be awful for their confidence – everywhere those dread riders canter they’ll be greeted with shrieks and condemnation. Not even the most generous spinster will welcome Famine with a piece of Battenberg and a cuppa. No rosy-faced little match girl will leap into Pestilence’s ragged arms, and Death will go to his grave (sent by whom, we’ll have to ponder) without ever tasting the kiss of a willing debutante. Yet, like the Royals, the Horsemen continue their grim duty as living signs, harbingers. Harbinging like there’s no tomorrow – and once they turn up there won’t be.
The harbingers of my fame were far more glamorous and perhaps yet more iconic. These were the signifiers that my life sentence in the penitentiary of anonymity was, at last, coming to an end. The first Horseman was Jonathan Ross, a moniker he’ll welcome as it subtly alludes to his truly equine cockleberry. My appearance on the chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in 2006 flung me into the orbit of celebrity from where I could gather momentum. It was also the commencement of my most notorious public friendship. For just three years later Jonathan and I were to become the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of broadcasting when, accidentally, we nearly destroyed the greatest public service institution on Earth, the BBC. When reflecting on monumental, life-defining events I marvel at the ineluctable journey that led to them. From the moment Jonathan and I met we were destined to share this extraordinary experience, so retrospectively the preceding events garner additional significance. Perhaps the scandal that we inadvertently conjured wasn’t predestined.
That’s the thing about destiny, you can question it but you cannot undo it once it has occurred. That’s what that lunatic Schrödinger was up to with his cat – a scientist, of all things, in analysing the nature of the known, put a cat into a sealed box with a poisoned tin of food, arguing that until the box was reopened two potential realities existed simultaneously; one where the cat was alive and another where it had eaten the food and died. What a bastard. He could’ve made the same point with a mouse and a Tic Tac. I think the real question is, what is this grudge that Schrödinger has against cats? What’s his next experiment? Schrödinger’s electric litter tray? Schrödinger’s ball of wool in a shark-infested swamp? I may conduct an experiment named Russell’s pointy boot in which I repeatedly kick Schrödinger in the nuts to examine whether his scrotum could be used to shine shoes. Regardless, perhaps there is an alternate reality in which Jonathan and I didn’t leave Manuel from Fawlty Towers a message that very nearly destroyed the corporation that created that wonderful show. Later we will examine that barmy event with the cruel scrutiny of that swine-hunt Schrödinger, but first I will tell you what it’s like to be plucked from a life of hard drugs and petty crime and rocketed into the snugly carcinogenic glare of celebrity.
I was nervous before going on that Jonathan Ross show. As it turned out, some people said – and they weren’t entirely impartial observers, not folk stood passive on the sidelines with pads and pens peering over half-moon specs, in fact it wasn’t even “people”, it was a person – my dad. He said it was as significant as when Billy Connolly went on Parky, becoming in that instant a national star – as you know Connolly has never descended from that firmament. Television doesn’t have the same ubiquitous potency now, which is another of the inconveniences that I’ve been stuck with: the availability of technology means that any prat can nick a Mac, record their voice, broadcast it and become an internet sensation before getting their own TV and radio show. Well, in my day TV and radio shows were hard won. More than ever I understand the phrase “I’m alright, Jack, pull the ladder up” – if we can’t get the ladder up simply shatter the rungs so these techno-johnny-come-latelys get splinters in their grasping palms. Now that would be ungracious – fame should be available to all who crave its dubious kiss. Let’s have a fame democracy where fame is available to all. I don’t think for a full Warholian fifteen minutes, that’s excessive. Just a highlights package.
I often query the significance of sexuality in my pursuit of success. Is the reappropriation of biological drive the engine of ambition? Is that what’s compelling me forward? What’s getting me out of bed in the morning? Back into bed at night? Is that what’s keeping me in bed hour after hour with strangers, exchanging the baton of my lust as they pass beneath the sheets in the relay of my needs? Olympic promiscuity. The carnal flame forever burning.
I encountered Kate Moss for the first time as a result of my appearance on Jonathan Ross. Sadie Frost, a long-time friend and a very sweet, beautiful woman, informed me of the development that even as it was issued seemed to have strayed into my mind as a fanciful refugee discarded from romantic fiction for implausibility.
“Oh, I was talking to Kate the other day and she’d like to meet you.”
I was not yet the kind of person to hear the words “Kate wants to meet you” and immediately assume “Well, that must be Kate Moss.” I would just think someone called Kate, like one of the thousand Kates one might bump into walking down Croydon High Street. Not canonised Kate, not the Kate who can only be squinted at lest her radiance shreds your mortal retinas, not the Kate who’d had God present at her conception, ushering through the holy sperm to the sainted ovum, where the orgasmic cries of her parents harmonised with the salutations of the choiring cherubim.
Obviously you remember the prettiest girl in your school. Her sweeping majesty, her ethereal glow, how the playground floor did not dare besmirch her gentle feet with its lowly asphalt touch but instead protectively hummed so she might hover above you, above me, above us – for she was never meant to walk among such as we but was sent that we might know that there are higher things. Kate Moss is the prettiest girl in all our schools. Like they imposed an involuntary global pageant. Behold our queen, but don’t look at her directly or all else you gaze upon till death brings down your lids will be as shadows compared to her beauty.
“Kate would like to meet you,” says Sadie Frost again.
“Oh really, Kate who?”
“I was talking to Kate and Liam …” Naturally, I don’t assume Liam Gallagher but, of course, it was. “I was with Kate and Liam the other day and Kate wants to meet you.”
“Oh really, Kate who?” I repeated.
There follows a sort of a silence which I vulgarly interrupt with the sound of my own swallowing, which makes more noise than it usually would. I try and stifle it and just do a normal swallow. “I’ll just do a normal swallow,” I think, a quiet unobtrusive swallow. But my body interprets that as “Hey let’s do a ridiculous cartoon parody of a swallow that advertises your huge discomfort with this situation.” A pornographically inappropriate gulp echoes through my oesophagus.
“Kate Moss? Really?”
“Yeah, yeah, she’d like to meet you, she saw you on Jonathan and thought you were fantastic.” Clearly in this situation I cannot afford to do anything so brazen as be myself, I must quickly construct an edifice of studied coolness, like barely a day passes when my life isn’t kicked on its arse by staggering beauty. I must say something normal and cool.
“Oh, right, well I’ve got a gig on Monday so perhaps she should come.”
The gig was at the Hen and Chickens on Highbury Corner in Islington, a fifty-seater venue above a pub, small and drab, where Edinburgh Fringe shows go to practise, where faded stand-ups go to die. The idea of Kate Moss turning up there is like attending a church fête in Dorset to find that the raffle winners are being announced by Christ.
When the night comes, I arrive typically late and notice the place seems to have been dusted in majesty. Glamour. Whatever it is, that unknowable, unnamable quality that these people bestow upon a place or a conversation or a clothing range was present at the Hen and Chickens. As I attempt my unflustered entrance I cannot help but notice the static explosion of her perfection. A Geiger counter unhelpfully chirps within me as I see her deifying the bar with her elbow from the scorched corner of my reluctant eye.
Beyond the dreams of Pharaohs and Nazis there is an inaccessible gold that shimmers like a halo above Kate Moss. Is it her hair? Her aura? Her hair’s aura? Her aura’s hair? I try to drift past her nonchalantly, ignoring my own cacophonous swallows and ticks. A recalcitrant orchestra of discordant twitches. It’s like meeting an angel of my own devising – and perhaps that’s all angels ever are. Maybe celestial beings are only in the heavens because that’s where we look for redemption. Be normal.
“Hello Kate, nice to meet you,” I burp. I can make it up with a gesture, I reason to myself. I try a gentle backhanded greeting, a slow subtle sweep such as one might make when introducing a new range of lawnmowers in an Argos commercial. She nods and smiles and seems impressed enough – kindly neither she nor Sadie remark on the gin and tonic I sent hurtling from her hand, so a partial triumph. “I go to up der stairs now Mate Koss,” I suavely announce, then step on a guide dog and make my way cautiously to the tinpot theatre up the rickety staircase.
It’s a warm-up show for the Edinburgh Festival and I’m obliged to do a performance. “OK,” I think, “there’s going to be fifty people in this room, and one of ’em’s Kate Moss” – she’s going to be there, a beacon of beauty, a universally accepted sign of goodness as close to truth and glory as one could ever be without uttering a word.
Towards the end of the set, which is mostly funny, if a little more self-conscious than usual due to her proximity in the tiny room – I might as well be performing on her shoe – I make a comment about coercive sex, obviously not an endorsement of the concept but some musing on the topic. At that point Kate Moss gets up and walks out and goes downstairs.
Now if Kate Moss walks out of a packed Wembley fucking Stadium you’re going to notice it, because she’s Kate Moss and she’s wearing a constant ermine robe of beauty and a crown of charisma. So when she saunters out of the upstairs room of the Hen and Chickens in Islington our tiny world stops. I try and continue the gig for about three more seconds before I have to address the forty-nine remaining people – fifty minus Kate Moss, but if you were to take the value of their collective presence, ninety-nine per cent of the room just walked out. There’s a terrible moment of post-Kate silence. I look at the audience and they look at me and we ponder the same question together. “Do you think she walked out then because I was talking about rape?” and they laugh reassuringly. “No, no, that was very sensitively handled and comedically justified. Don’t you dare reproach yourself, you brilliant man,” says someone on the front row. Suddenly the forty-nine that remain are my chaperones, my indulgent aunties, my wing men.
I carry on as best I can, focusing on a job in which I’ve been unwittingly relegated from protagonist to extra – like Rosa Parks’s bus driver, one eye forever on the door, and eventually Kate Moss blessedly returns from her inexplicable and disruptive sojourn, having missed a good bit of stand-up. Drat. I finish, bow and go backstage, like normal.
When I come off stage, regardless of its dimensions, I’m in a fragile, volatile state. The most natural thing to do, it seems to me, is to take heroin. This is no longer an option, so I generally like to have sex. Sex is usually quite captivating and distracting and, unlike the other option that people frequently suggest – a brisk jog – it ends in orgasm. The moment of climax is like pulling a rip-cord that helps me to parachute down to earth after my on-stage “Mr Fahrenheit” excursion. The Queen song to which I refer, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, is by all accounts Freddie Mercury’s elated description of a night in Rio de Janeiro where his tour manager sweetly lined up eighty rent boys for Freddie to back-door diddle while coked up to the ’tache.