To be printed 7/10/10.
"I want to be famous," my flatmate Rose has just announced. "Then I want to be less famous, then I want to go on Strictly Come Dancing."
It's as viable a career plan as any these days, where 'judges houses' is more or less akin to 'secretarial college' thirty years ago as a stepping stone to professional success. When I was young, we had three real options for quick and easy fame: 1. Become a Newsround Presspacker (boring, and you had to like news), 2. Go to stage school like the kids from The Biz (expensive, and involved a lot of dancing in canteens) or 3. Settle for getting your picture in the local paper, and bask in the resulting attention from your Grandmother (no comment).
Nowadays though, the tricky part of the plan isn't the fame (when all other avenues have been exhausted, we have a camera and a YouTube account) but the 'getting less famous' bit. There's an art to procuring exactly the right amount of fame. Most of you readers, being sensible, educated people who only use 'at the end of the day' to denote things happening in the evening, would never say that you wanted to be famous. It's tacky and over-obvious, like saying you like white bread better than brown, or that Cheryl's your favourite Girls Aloud.
But if pushed, you might admit that you'd like to be 'well known'. Or 'eminent'. Or 'respected in your field'*. Think of it as Good-Famous and Bad-Famous, if you like. Basically you want to be famous enough to go on Desert Island Discs, but not so famous you get doorstepped by paparazzi.
Famous enough to get to go to the gifting tent awards ceremonies, but not famous enough to have people slagging off your outfit in Heat. Famous enough that maybe, just maybe, they'll put a blue plaque up on your parents' house one day. But not so famous that you ever need to have David Guest at your wedding.
Maintaining your chosen level of fame is like trying to keep two milk pails balanced on your shoulders while dancing a frantic jig. After years of observing celebrity careers the way other people watch birds, I've come to have a special kind of respect for those personalities who manage to go years and years without becoming any more or less famous. Terry Wogan, say, or Linda Bellingham, or Uncle Ben from the rice adverts.
Should you achieve this elusive, cosy, lower rung of fame, that's when the good stuff starts rolling in. You'll get to go to book launches, and charity things in the back of Hello, maybe a little interview in a Sunday supplement from time to time. And if you're super lucky, you get to tan up and shimmy your way through three months of Bruce Forsyth gags, safe in the knowledge that even if you win, you won't really be any more famous at the end of it.
So when Rose reaches the ballroom, which no doubt she absolutely will, I plan to be the token person in the 'YAY ROSE' t-shirt who they interview about her amazing journey. Which is a different brand of fame altogether.
*The natural option for fame-hungry farmers.