Fame: It's Not For Me!
Over the years I have had the pleasure of discovering more than my fair share of famous, and even infamous, relatives that now populate my family tree. With each new discovery of a new person who has achieved some sort of fame, whether i
t be for their singing talent, brilliant business ideas, acting abilities, political savvy, bravery in battles, outspoken ideas or rising through the ranks of nobility to rule countries, the sheet number of historically important family members in my paternal lineage is shocking. Even when I think that I have reached the end of finding famous relatives, another one pops up!
The current British Royal Family is no exception and I am related to Queen Elizabeth, each of her children (and therefor their children) as well as the late Princess Diana. While I am only a 19th cousin, once removed to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, I am the 18th cousin to her grandsons, Prince William and Prince Harry - my relationship to Princess Diana was as her 17th cousin, once removed which is why I am more closely related to the princes than to the Queen. Again, it's important to note that I have NOT met any of my distant Royal Family cousins; just to be clear on that point. I only know the Royal Family as everyone else does - through history, media, etc.
Last night I watched Oprah Winfrey (not a relative - at least from what I have currently discovered!) interview Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, along with millions of other TV viewers in North America. I watched the interview more out of curiosity than anything, but also because I knew that today would bring a flood of opinions both for and against the Duke & Duchess of Sussex and I wanted the chance to form my own opinion before I was accidentally influenced by other people's comments.
The dialogue at this point has only been from Harry and Meghan, and I don't anticipate a direct response from The Queen, the Prince of Wales, nor from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but it is clear that all is not well in the House of Windsor. Hopefully this rift in the Royal Family can be closed, and the wounds on both sides healed before things get worse. Family difficulties happen to everyone, but fortunately for most of us, our differences remain private. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to have all of your dirty laundry hung out for the whole world to see.
Watching last night's interview got me to thinking again about how fortunate I am NOT to have been born into Royalty. Even though I am descended from a number of Kings, Queens and other noble families (waaaay back, just to be clear!), my immediate paternal family's claim to any thrones ended hundreds of years ago, for which I am more or less grateful. Sure, it would be nice to have the perks of being a Royal, or a noble for that matter, but the downside of being a public figure is simply too great, at least to me. If the past year dealing with isolation and lockdowns has taught us anything, it's that no matter how nice your surroundings may be, there is no greater pleasure in life than simply being able to leave your home and go out in this great big world. If you are a member of the Royal Family, you can never really just go somewhere to wander about, go shopping, take a trip or even have a meal without a security team and without being recognized. You give up your freedom.
Maybe I wouldn't want to be part of the Royal Family, but how about being famous for some other reason? I have a number of distant cousins who are famous singers, song-writers, authors, business people, politicians, actors, etc. Would I want the same fame and success that they have? Although these celebrity cousins may not be as heavily scrutinized as my Royal cousins, I still don't think I would want to be recognized and possibly surrounded by adoring fans each time that I left my house. A few years ago when I was visiting London, I saw for the first time just how crazy fans could be. The hotel that I was staying at - The Corinthian - was also playing host to the cast of "The Expendables 3. The hotel is a beautiful old hotel located close to Westminster and is one of my favorite hotels in the world. On my first night at the hotel, while having cocktails in the lounge, Sylvester Stallone and his family came through - smiling and waving at everyone. Next up was Wesley Snipes and then 2 other celebrities who, unfortunately, I didn't recognize. It was exciting to see several celebrities in real life, but I, and the rest of my party, refrained from taking photos, asking for autographs, etc. Sylvester Stallone was a real gentleman though, taking time to wave to everyone in the lounge, which I thought was pretty cool. My only complaint was that Stallone had booked the Italian restaurant at the hotel for his family and, I assume, some other cast members, so we had to eat at the other restaurant (which was excellent, by the way!).
A few hours later, after we had finished dinner, I stepped out the back of the hotel to have a smoke (Yes, I smoke and yes, I know it's bad for me) with another friend who is also a smoker. As we stood there, a Mercedes-Benz S Class pulled up. I noticed the car because we had booked that car from the airport, only to end up with a smaller Jaguar (I know, it's a rough life, right?). As the Benz waited at the curb, I heard the door behind me open and suddenly I was standing face to face with Anotonio Banderas, who I recognized immediately. Antonio obviously didn't expect anyone to be waiting outside and he seemed to hesitate for a moment, a look of apprehension on his face. I nodded and said "Hello." and he said "Hello" back. He then rushed over to the waiting car and left. I turned to my companion and said "I guess that's why I couldn't get the Mercedes I ordered - all the celebs had the cars booked!"
That was my excitement for the night. The next day however, proved to be much more exciting, but for all the wrong reasons!
After breakfast, I decided to go for a walk around the area. I love London, and it's one of the few places in the world that I don't mind walking (usually I drive everywhere). As I was returning to the hotel, I noticed a group of expensive S-Class Mercedes, Jaguars and one conspicuously BIG SUV sitting at the curb. Being a car enthusiast, and not making the immediate correlation between the expensive cars and the celebs that were staying at my hotel, I managed to put myself in the middle of what can best be described as a stampede!
As I walked past the line of cars, I noticed the hoards of fans that were kept behind barricades just past the hotel steps. As I walked toward the steps, the crowd suddenly became very loud and they started running past the barricades and down the sidewalk. It was honestly terrifying and I quickly jumped out of the way and up onto a ledge on the hotel. As the herd stormed past, I then noticed that Stallone, his family, Wesley Snipes and other celebrities were being rushed into the waiting vehicles. When the crowd finally passed, I walked back to the hotel steps where the polite doorman greeted me and said; "That was a close call, Mr. Taylor!" It was a typical British understatement if ever there was one!
Why did I mention this weird even in London? Well, it's for the same reason that I mentioned the Royal Family - celebrities often exchange their freedom for the fame and fortune they obtain from their hard work. I had never before, and have not since, feared being trampled by a crazy mob, but I almost was that day. They may have been adoring fans, but in that moment I truly saw what celebrities must see quite often - an out of control mob of fanatics.
I'll welcome the fortune, should it come, but as far as fame goes, you can have it!