Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster! By Emily Smart
The urban myth, or legend as it is sometimes called, has been occupying my thoughts this week. We all love a good story, be it true or fictious, particularly if it’s about celebrities. Who can forget the tale of Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and that Mars Bar? Or Richard Gere and his alleged fondness for small furry rodents? Then there’s the ones that have been circulating for years; John Travolta might be gay (massage anyone?), Jamie Lee Curtis was supposedly born a hermaphrodite, and the singer Marc Almond, after collapsing on stage, needed his stomach pumped and, supposedly the paramedics found a pint of dog semen (seems a lot for a dog). And where do I start with the British royal family? Phil the Greek (Prince Philip to you or me) apparently has a black London Hackney cab that he uses to curb crawl and pick up the ladies. It’s suggested that Andy is not his son, and that Harry was fathered by that ‘cad’ James Hewitt. I could write a whole thesis about the late Princess Margaret, but I don’t want to speak ill of the dead or mix fact and fiction.
Outrageous, salacious, defamatory and all very entertaining. We’ll probably never know if any of the above contains a modicum of truth, but that’s not really the point of myth is it? So what is? According to http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/glossary/g/urban_legend.htm the definition of an urban myth is as follows:
“An apocryphal, second-hand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.”
It’s hard to believe, in this day and age, that urban myths – particularly about celebrities – can exist. Because of the World Wide Web, with its up to the second news and gossip sites, Joe Public now has access to the private lives of others 24/7, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, simply by logging on or signing in. Paparazzi photos and covert mobile phone pictures or film recordings can now travel the world at frightening speed, thus catching the politician, football player, pop star, model, musician (you get the point), red-handed. Boom, there goes the urban myth, replaced by hard fact.
Which brings me on to a different type of urban myth: a rumour, a suspicion, some tittle-tattle, but the sort of stuff that can gather momentum and become big news, albeit at a local level. Last week I arrived home to an answer phone message from a good friend asking me to call back as she had some news. Never one to miss out on the latest gossip, I dutifully returned the call with my listening ear well and truly pinned back. Allegedly – yes just had a quick chat with my lawyer and I am aware that I need to cover my not insignificant backside – a, let’s just call it a local school, had a fundraiser quiz night recently, which by the sounds of things turned into something out of Sodom and Gomorrah (talking of urban myths). Everyone got absolutely shit-faced, cocaine was rampant and there was a used condom found in the children’s toilets! But this is nothing compared to one of the school mums who apparently performed tricks with her genitalia. Wow, clothed or unclothed I demanded to know. What tricks? Pulling a rabbit from a hat kind of tricks or firing out ping pong ball kind of tricks?
“Well, what do you think of that?” my mate asked, brimming with a mixture of mock outrage, horror and just a little bit of smugness at having spread the news. What did I think? “Why the bloody hell wasn’t I invited?”
We then talked at length about how ridiculously drunk parents get when they are allowed out for a rare night of frivolity and how embarrassed the poor mum who shared her unique talent with the whole school would have felt the next day at the gate dropping off her kids.
Was any of it true? Probably, but as neither of us had been there, we cannot confirm which bits. And this I realised is how the urban myth is created. No doubt, by the time I have retold this story for the umpteenth time, the head teacher would have been pole dancing naked, the chair of the PTA would have started a massive fight, glassing one of the parents from class 1 in the face, and a large group of parents would have been dropping their car keys in a bowl and hoping to go home with someone else’s partner.
Is the urban myth a harmless bit of mischief and a good yarn to tell over a cuppa or a pint? I’m not sure what the answer is, but you can put my name down for next year’s school quiz night!