Musing Whilst Flying – Part Two. The Rich, Famous and Successful

Last week I was sitting in the lounge at Prague Airport listening to a very loud American guy dictating to his much younger assistant, who was rattling away on his laptop, looking completely terrified. It was so irritating that in the end I moved and then got lost in my book. When I got to the plane and went to my seat (it was one of the business class flights mentioned in my last musing!) I was surprised to see the American sitting by the window and the young guy in my aisle seat still being dictated to and still rattling away. He immediately leapt to his feet and apologized, saying that he was just sitting there until I arrived. And then he got up and moved to economy, telling the boss he will see him the other side.

I pondered all of this whilst we made our short flight to Zurich (and was also pleased that the American didn’t look at me, a mere woman, and ask me to take some dictation along the way too… he looked the type). First, how odd it was to see someone dictating nowadays, rather than simply typing for himself. Second how strange to see someone who was obviously successful (and rich?) drinking three double vodkas on a relatively early and short flight (another story), and third, whether, should I ever need to have an assistant travel with me, I would book myself into business but expect them to sit up the back – and I would like to think that I would not!!

Sitting on a plane, though, is a good place to watch human behavior (even one’s own!). A few years ago we were swept into an entourage leaving Malaga business club lounge to go to the plane, and when we suddenly got surrounded by a load of cameras, realized that they weren’t for us, but that we had somehow got included in a group that included Julio Iglesias! Now that was pretty exciting! And how charming and easy going he was to everyone; we sat behind him on the plane and he couldn’t have been more normal.

A few weeks later, again from Malaga to Paris, we watched a famous opera singer sit herself down in the first row, with her assistant sitting immediately behind her. No sooner had the plane started taxiing than the singer required her assistant to get up and find her scarf as she was cold (the stewardess allowed her to do that in sympathy, I think), and so it continued throughout the whole flight. On reflection, perhaps that particular assistant would have liked to have sat up the back away from her prima donna boss.

Over the years, especially since I started doing a bit of ‘talent management’, I have thought a lot about the effect that becoming rich and famous/successful has on people; some of my sports people are or have been very famous, and in the course of our PR business we have worked with many celebrities/politicians/well known business people, and how they deal with their fame/success seems to vary from person to person – but pretty much without fail, it always has a weird effect.

One of my sports people complains about being hassled wherever we go, but insists on always meeting in one of the most popular ‘places to be seen’ in the city, and sitting bang in the middle of the room. Another, who we worked with a lot before he became famous, was determined that he would ‘make it one day’ and behaved ‘famous’ from day one – whenever he visited, he would arrive in our office dressed in an ankle-length white fur coat and dark glasses, even though no-one had a clue who he was. They do now! And of course he doesn’t like it anymore. Funny thing fame.

What is even stranger, is that some of the most ‘famous people’ in the world are sports people that, really, haven’t done an awful lot (sorry… I am, of course, sports mad and love loads of them, but it is true!)… in the scheme of things, whacking a ball, saving a puck, skiing very fast or whatever over what is a relatively short time span really isn’t that earth shattering. I think a lot of them would prefer that this wasn’t the case (apart from the money that comes with it!). My very famous ice hockey friend laments the fact that he finds it difficult to have a meaningful relationship as he is never sure if the ladies are interested only in him/his body/his money (surely not?!) or whether they actually like him as a person. I have told him to move to the UK where no-one will know him, and then he will find out!

Which leads me, I think, to our dinner with the completely wonderful Sir Bob Geldof. To us Brits of a certain age, the person that most deserves to be famous, rich, adored. And yet when I went into my office the morning after our dinner (yes, sorry, got to mention that again) and told my Czech team, they all said ‘yer, who is he?’…