Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

I was stirred not shaken by Connery's celebrity baggage

Sean Connery

A few years ago, in Berlin airport, I noticed a figure standing across the baggage carousel. The rugged good looks and grey hair were familiar, but I was running late and got on with the job of looking for my luggage.

A travelling companion nudged my elbow: "Check out who's over there waiting for his suitcase."

I looked again and the penny dropped. Sean Connery; wearing a leather jacket, black polo neck and an uncomfortable air. "Oh aye - interesting," says I, and resumed scanning the empty carousel for my case.

I don't 'do' celebrities and find the adulation they receive more than mildly nauseating. And, to be honest, embarrassing as well. By this stage, word had spread of 'James Bond's' presence at the carousel. People were pointing and nudging each other all over the place. A couple of the more forward ones approached him for an autograph.

Personally, I was more interested in why one of the world's most famous men was standing with economy-class passengers at an empty carousel, waiting for his bags.

Maybe the Germans don't do celebrities either, expecting them to slum it with the public. But I doubt it.

Either Sean bravely travels economy class, or there was some kind of mix-up with the bags. Probably the latter.

Whatever. Still the carousel clattered round, devoid of any cases. Sean and two travelling companions were beginning to look uncomfortable with the attention, but, to be fair, remained stoical.

Events now started to take a more invasive turn. Phones appeared from pockets and people took videos and photos of Connery and his acquaintances.

People began to get bolder and several actually walked up and filmed Connery in what I felt was a rude and intrusive manner. Practically in his face.

By this stage, I was getting embarrassed by proceedings. Thankfully, his luggage soon appeared and the party vanished faster than you can say From Russia With Love.

I tell the story not because of its shock value. There was no drama, or hysteria, and I'm quite sure it lies at the mildest end of Sean Connery's experiences.

However, the overwhelming nature of public interest in celebrities was laid starkly obvious. A prurient curiosity that extends even to a bloke just waiting to pick up a suitcase at a humdrum airport carousel.

Add in the profit motive and brutal newspaper circulation wars and you'll begin to understand why the tabloids are in the dock at the Leveson inquiry.

And what a difficult job it will be to change their culture.

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