It was as my neck cricked while being told by an agitated director to lurch into Russell Howard’s groin for the twelth time that I thought “I’m beginning to suspect this job isn’t as glamorous as I thought.” I tried to shake it off so I could get the take right, but it was hard – because now I was aware that the liquid glycerine sprayed on to make me look ‘clammy’ was now running into my eyeballs and stinging like a wasp stuck in a tent.
I know several teenage girls who would disagree with me and think that having any sort of proximity to this man and his bits would be the height of glamour, (the scene was loosely based on the ‘scientific discovery’ that oral sex cures morning sickness – I’m guessing the scientist was a man…) but the truth is I mostly just stared at the Diesel tag on his jeans pocket and thought “I like that font.” In between takes Russ would continue a story of when he was delirious in hospital and tried to buy the male nurses for his premiership football team, while I laughed and repositioned my pregnancy suit which was permanently on the wonk and make me look like more like the elephant man that an expectant mother.
Later, I sat eating a jacket potato in the dark and thought about the nature of glamour. I’d switched the light off because the dressing-room bulb was blinking. There was no natural light and no air because we were deep in the bowels of the studios, shooting in the labyrinthine halls of an old hospital set. The tap dripped, and I wondered if this is what prison feels like after lights-out. It was quite meditative actually, eating a potato in the dark. The dressing room walls were as thin as paper, and to my left I could hear the producer briefing an old lady how to be a Jamaican gangster, and to my right the costume lady talking a ‘glamour model’ through the lacing procedure of an all-body thong. I was glad I wasn’t old and being made to practice how to say “WAGWAAAN” – and that I had started saying no to all the excruciating ‘sexy’ scenes which always made me want to die. I never thought I’d be glad to just do a simple hospital bed fellatio scene.
So if doing glamorous things like telly isn’t glamorous, what is? Beautiful clothes, illustrious parties, rich successful people swanking off with each other? I’ve been to lots of parties that are supposed to have been glamorous, but when you get talking to people, they’re all just ordinary dudes wearing stuff they don’t normally wear, feeling uncomfortable, on display (or invisible), or worst of all – bored. Or they’re cretins who truly believe that wearing an expensive jacket and walking past someone famous while holding a martini glass negates every suspicion they’ve ever had that actually, they’re just ‘ordinary’. Mostly, these parties just feel like work – which surely must be the antithesis of glamour. Lots of secret politics and connived networking and faux-modest gloating and bitching. Bleurgh.
Perhaps glamour doesn’t really exist; perhaps it’s only ever an illusion. Perhaps it’s the unattainable; the worlds we’ll never be invited into, the people we’ll never be. Our perception of glamour in others never lasts when we see that they are real; once we’re inside the worlds and see how they work, they’re not magical anymore. And those who are seen as icons of glamour know the truth inside and are troubled by it; they still look in the mirror and see the nose they’ll always hate and the gathering crow’s feet and the mean thing they did to someone that didn’t deserve it.
I tried to remember when I first was aware of the notion of glamour. I was transported back to sitting on my mother’s bed, aged seven, watching her get ready to go out. I was transfixed by her hair and make-up and clothes, the smell of her Avon creams and her Chanel Number 5. I couldn’t imagine ever being grown up enough to wear heels or nice underwear, or having enough stuff to warrant a handbag. She was a goddess to me; the most beautiful luscious thing I’d ever seen. That was glamour – because I was too young to see that it wasn’t real; that actually, underneath it all, she was sad at the time. That glamour was the cloak of something beautiful, pulled over something ordinary and frail.
“OK, CAN WE HAVE SADIE FOR THE SPEAKING TOILET SCENE PLEASE?”
I stopped pondering, finished my potato, and shuffled down the hall to make-up, where they bronzed my feet for a knicker-dropping scene in a toilet cubicle. I did that, then took a handful of mini-Crunchies and some baby wipes for the train home. And that felt good, because it was the opposite of glamour.