From the Hip – Joanne Hichens faces the cameras
Editing a collection of crime short stories has its tough sides. One of those is the television interview. In her column this month Joanne Hichens gets into the hot glare of publicity.
A Friday afternoon, late, six pm, sometime around the Cape Town Book Fair I’m sitting in a Muizenberg hair salon, getting my hair coloured. Chemicals in silver-paper bleaching streaks, the roots getting retouched. I’m checking over a Heat Magazine special on the best – and worst – bums in showbiz. Not the kind of bum layabout in the street. I’m examining close-ups of women celebrity ‘arses’ – exposed cheeks and curves, taut glutes in Calvin Klein briefs, and sloppy flesh hanging outta g-stings, you name it, the paparazzi got the shots.
There’s Beyonce in the running for Best Butt. Not for nothing she inspired the phrase ‘booty-licious’, turning a nice bizness around her ‘toosh-tastic’ arse, but her sister Solange, with Beyonce’s genes, is a hot contender. Pink, snapped on some beach, in a skimpy bikini bottom, a close up of pretty bows tattooed on the backs of her toned thighs, is a favourite. As is Kim Kardashian, under whose basically bare butt the caption reads, ‘no clothes on the planet could make her badonkadonk look any smaller!’
Ex-Girls from the Playboy Mansion star Kendra Wilkinson ain’t famous for her brains, but her butt now is pretty cute, in panties with hearts on them, and testament to countless lunges and squats to keep that perky shape. ‘But who just lunges for the jam donuts?’ the copy provocatively asks. There’s more than a coupla hungry butts exposed, some with ‘a side of saddle bags,’ but in case I get sued over a pound of flesh, I’ll abstain from naming and shaming.
What’s getting my hair done and checking out bums have to do with crime fiction?
Writing or editing a novel or short story collection is one thing – the ride doesn’t end there – marketing and selling are quite another. Some might even go as far as to say publishing has little to do with the eventual quality of writing, and with bidding wars going on for those as yet unwritten ‘debut’ manuscripts publishers are hoping will make a heap, there’s truth in creating ‘hype’ around selling.
You gotta do what it takes to promote. So bearing marketing in mind, when Pan Macmillan publicist Nina asked if I’d make myself available for a Saturday morning interview on Weekend Live to talk crime fiction, I said, ‘Of course, I’ll do what I can to prolong the shelf life of Bad Company!’ Then completely forgot about the interview till the Friday, when I called Nina to confirm details.
‘Hey, Nina, what time exactly did you say the radio station’d be calling tomorrow morning?’ I’d beg the ball-and-chain to kick me out of bed, maybe he’d rustle me a cup of instant coffee to warm my sorry arse as I sat in the cold, waiting to chat to the deejay.
‘Er, Jo, this is a TV interview,’ said Nina.
‘You’re gonna be on Weekend Live. Like in live television.’
‘My God, people’re gonna look at me? What’ll I do about my hair?’
I paid my mother’s hairdresser overtime to touch up my roots, give me a blow-dry. Bereft of preferred reading matter, like Exhibit A, or A Deadly Trade, I had Heat. I left the salon looking like Helen Zille on a bad day, my hair solid with spray, petrified into the kind of golden bob Lin Sampson’s railed against in the past as the hair-lot of women of ‘a certain age’. I’d be exposed on National TV looking like I needed one of those ‘How to Look Ten Years Younger’ make-overs. At least the grey spirals like steel wool at my parting were gone, the bonus was I’d learned all about celebrity derrieres. I reckoned the useless information might come in handy some day.
The interview was set for seven in the morning, the dress code smart casual: no stripes, no solid white. I wore a leather jacket which made my shoulders look like Bakkies Botha (especially when the camera added ten kilos). Getting base palette-knifed on my face, I chatted with the make-up artist about the sorry state of SABC. ‘No one’s getting their pay,’ she said, ‘everyone’s on strike.’ No wonder the place had the feel of a movie set about to be packed away.
‘You did great,’ said the camera-man, once I’d had my at least five minutes of fame (during the time most sane people’re asleep on a Saturday morning), and I think he meant it, about what I’d said, talking crime-writing, saying it’s a fantasy, a fictional dream, people like escapism.
‘Now I can unglue my tongue from the roof of my mouth…’ I said.
‘Now you can be a news reader,’ he quipped.
‘At least I’ll have the words in front of me, and look’s like you may well need some staff around here…’
It was American artist Andy Warhol who coined the term in 1968 ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ – referring to the fleeting condition of celebrity which passes to some new object or star (or butt) as soon as people’s attention spans are exhausted.
Of course over the years Warhol playfully adapted his phrase: “In future fifteen people will be famous” and “in fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.” Read more about it on Wikipedia, how it’s assured we’ll ALL be famous (maybe even our butts will be, but not mine!) – or obscure – for fifteen minutes, or in fifteen minutes, or to fifteen people – especially with reality TV (interviews too, I reckon) and blogs, and even books.
Joanne Hichens is the editor of the crime fiction anthology, Bad Company, and wrote the perlemoen krimi Out to Score (with Mike Nicol).