Stumbling across an A-lister outside of their natural habitat will always raise eyebrows
If you were in London and dining at, say, The Ivy, Chiltern Firehouse or Sexy Fish then you might not be surprised to find yourself eating next to Sienna Miller or bumping into a Beckham en route to the loos. However, if you had swung by your local Spoons for a pint of lager and a Curry Club Ruby then you would be shocked if a bona fide Hollywood star was enjoying a drink and a chicken tikka massala at the table opposite.
This is more or less what happened recently at The Romany Rye in Norfolk’s Dereham. Regulars were somewhat taken aback when John Travolta sashayed into the Wetherspoon pub on the town’s Church Street. Apparently, having ordered a burger, the Saturday Night Fever star was happy to chat to regulars.
It is possibly a matter for regret that Wetherspoon pubs never have piped music. Or indeed a jukebox. Who would not want to see Norfolk’s answer to Uma Thurman cueing up Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell before slinking over to Travolta and asking if he would care to recreate the famous dance scene from Pulp Fiction?
This is no red carpet
There has not been so much celeb-in-an-unlikely-place excitement since Tom ‘Double Dopiaza’ Cruise ate two curries, one after the other at an Indian restaurant in Birmingham last August. On that occasion, The Guardian excelled itself with the headline ‘A few good massaman’. Referring to the Norfolk Travolta event, The Times headline writer was less kind but no less witty with the line ‘Grease is the word as John Travolta tucks in at Norfolk Wetherspoons’.
Obviously, famous actors, musicians and sports people need to eat just like the rest of us. But they tend to choose places where the staff are trained to be discreet and the restaurant manager always has a table, if not a private dining room, which is tucked away from the gaze and the phone cameras of the hoi polloi.
People who know that their career depends on their looks do not want to be pictured stuffing a hotdog in their cakehole. As Ed Milliband discovered to his cost, something as trivial as wrestling with a bacon buttie can be seriously damaging to your brand if it is splashed across multiple front pages.
We have all had our messy moments with potentially tricky-to-eat foods such as ramen, spaghetti or a particularly fiddly canapé. However, for us civilians, inelegantly gnawing on a corn cob is just not as newsworthy as, say, a celeb having a mouth malfunction while swallowing an oyster. Having said that, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here has, so far, got 21 series out of making the famous eat things that a pig might turn up its snout at.
Price of fame
According to reports, John Travolta gladly posed for selfies with drinkers at the Norfolk Spoons. The ubiquity of the phone camera means that slebs have had to adapt to being accosted for a pic by the public. It is perfectly normal for a famous to tell a paparazzi to shove their long lens where the sun don’t shine but very bad optics to say the same to a fan.
Some stars take better to this new accessibility than others. To be fair to the FaceOff star, Travolta is all genuine smiles in his Spoons selfies. Heart-warming as that is, some of us still have a soft spot for the days when restaurants would put slightly disconcerting pics of visiting celebrity diners in their windows as a sort of guarantee of quality. The underlying message was ‘Our food must be good. Look! Even Elton John/Jeremy Clarkson/anon from Love Island once ate here’.
For those of us with a cold heart, there was always something very enjoyable about a badly-lit snap of an uncomfortable celebrity surrounded by happily grinning waiting staff. It is all to do with the juxtaposition of the celeb’s mouth smiling while their eyes scream, ‘This is beginning to feel a bit kidnappy. Send help!’