DURING my journalism career so far I have been accidentally collecting interviews with famous people’s relations. Those who, no matter how fascinating their own life stories, cannot help but be overshadowed by the celebrities in their lives.
Some years apart, I interviewed Elvis Presley’s half brother, David E Stanley, and John Lennon’s half sister, Julia Baird, in the same Albert Dock bar. Their appearances raised not an eyebrow from the bar staff, when their siblings’ mere presence used to cause a domino rally of fainting girls.
And, as you can see on p4-5 of this very supplement, I had an interesting phone conversation with Paul McCartney’s stepmother Angie just last week.
To some extent we are all defined by who we’re related to. It doesn’t matter how well I get to know my sister’s friends – in fact, as I’ve known many of them since childhood they have been in my lives longer than many of my own – to them I will always be “Anna’s sister Laura”, as if I vanish into the ether when she’s not around to identify me.
And that’s perfectly fine by me. It’s exactly the same for her when she is described by my friends and besides, as she has a streak of devilment that I’ve always envied, I secretly suspect our association revs up my image a little.
What it would be like if my sister were a platinum selling popstar or had skipped off to Hollywood to star in a string of blockbusters I’m not sure.
I like to think that I wouldn’t begrudge her success, particularly as I aspire to neither of those careers and the thought of being papped while trotting along with my skirt stuck in my knickers/shoving a supersize hotdog down my throat/ wearing a burkini (things I never do now but that people seemed compelled to start up once they become famous) makes me want to retire from day-to-day life and move into the cupboard under the stairs.
I am certain however, that no matter how proud and thrilled I would be for her success, no matter how exciting it would be to have a sister who could score you Top Of The Pops tickets (yeah I know it’s long cancelled but as this scenario is imaginary just go with it) and no matter how much I would leap at her rejected awards night goody bag loot, I would deep down resent my identity being hijacked by hers.
How frustrating it would be to get asked the same question over and over like “What would you say to people who believe your brother is still alive somewhere?” (yes really did ask David E Stanley that, but I sort of had to – and as he was actually the one to find the King’s lifeless body in 1977 you can imagine he gives the whole Elvis Lives crew short shrift).
How exhaustingly predictable, despite being in your 80s and having lived a colourful life in three different continents, to find most people are mostly interested in a stepson that was a byproduct of a marriage that tragically ended when you were widowed more than three decades ago.
But perhaps those who have experienced being related to a celebrity would disagree and certainly the three people I’ve mentioned here all seem to have coped well with fame by association.
I suppose it gives you a good few yarns to tell in the pub when the conversation has turned to traffic congestion on the M62, and, most importantly, to the people closest to me, I would always remain simply “Laura”.