Doris shows that real stars aren't just like the rest of us
As soon as you heard the voice - a smattering of sunshine, so fresh, the familiar lilt - you knew it could only be her: Doris Day. And though at 87 she was giving a rare radio interview about her new album (yes, really!), it was in every way a sound from another era, ringing out from a lost time when stars were exactly that: remote, ablaze, other worldly.
Do you travel much? she was asked. Oh no, Doris replied. When she wanted to go some place else she just went to another part of her huge Californian estate. The revelation was made with easy charm, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. It sure beats standing at your front window, watching your neighbour put the bin out. It's like something out of the movies. It's Hollywood. Yes, we live in an age of nostalgia. But, really, what we hanker for most, is just a little shot of escapism, like that window open onto Doris's life. Instead, we find ourselves with supposed A listers polluting public beaches everywhere. They strip off to their bikinis and shorts and slather on suntan lotion as the paparazzi - and we - look on. But it's not the gawp of people mesmerised by the stunning good fortune of the fabulously wealthy, prodigiously talented and stunningly beautiful.
Instead it's a long look of dismay mixed with bewilderment. There is no airbrush or body-double on the beach. The goddesses just 'hang out' the way everybody else does. And in doing so they break the first clause of the implicit contract between the star and their audience: You are not to be like us.
We give you millions and you give us ... what exactly? Love handles and broken veins. Remember the grainy shots of Princess Margaret on Mustique? Only the glint of Caribbean sun on her glass of Famous Grouse, the huge shades and the tip of her cigarette, gave away her identity. But what a life! If you won the big one, that's what you'd do. Buy an island.
Elizabeth Taylor did everything with style - and in full make-up - including lounging on the beach or at the poolside. Marilyn Monroe never looked less than a goddess, frolicking in the surf in her impossibly engineered swimsuit. These mythical creatures were never caught off-guard, in trackie bottoms or hair in a scrunchie. Incognito meant being seen in huge dark glasses after surgery or broken love affairs. Intrigue, speculation, gossip. Let me entertain you.
Being a star was what they did, 24/7. Elizabeth Taylor once said it was important she was seen buying jewels in foreign cities so that housewives trapped in suburban kitchens could be reassured that at least one woman somewhere was having a wonderful time. She knew it was about dreams, hope and escapism.
Take that most ridiculed couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, with the brood of their own children augmented by a collection of those of the world's poor. For all their humanitarian credentials - and they are many and sincere, something usually fatal for the credibility of bona fide 'stars' - Brangelina still have the decency to do the Hollywood thing the old-fashioned way. Last month, they spent $40,000 hiring an entire train simply to take their family from London Euston to Glasgow where Brad was filming.
Why not? They have the cash to do what most of us would want to do - plant a child in a carriage of its own with nannies on hand until the journey was over. No 'are we there yet?' chorus disrupting the happy couple's karma.
They are not 'like us' because they have the money, the status and the style not to be. That's what we expect.
Doris Day is still keeping her side of that contract, shining brightly in a darkening firmament where nearly all the stars have burnt out.
Reese, Heidi, Julia and a thousand others much less glittery grow ever more desperate to show us that they are 'girls next door'; just like us. Without ever realising that that's precisely their problem.