I don't know what it is about celebrities that makes them so fascinating for us mere mortals, but I was lucky enough – if that's the right word – to be working at October's Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi where there were stars aplenty for us to hobnob with and to have our pictures taken with so we could send them off to our friends with a "guess who I was with last night" type of eMail.
But it got me thinking of how our expectations rarely seem to live up to reality. Take Antonio Banderas, for instance, who turned up with his wife Melanie Griffith on his arm. There was a long queue of females waiting for what must have been ages in the hot sunshine with their tongues virtually hanging out waiting for the sex bomb to arrive, only to put their tongues pretty fast back in when he did finally turn up (one and a half hours late), as it looked as if the swashbuckling Zorro had been bathing in olive oil. Yuk.
Jane Fonda was an unexpected surprise. I simply hadn't realised she is now 71 years old. There she was looking drop dead gorgeous – sexier than many women half her age. Sure, no photographs were allowed to be taken until her makeup artist had dabbed little blobs of paint here and there, and her silicon implants were doing their job admirably – perhaps a little too admirably for her advanced years, but she looked a million dollars, there was no denying. I asked her if, looking back at her starring role of Barbarella and given the feminist causes she now espouses, if she regretted having taken on the role. Was it because she was so young when she did it? What d'ya mean young, she asked. Well, everything is relative, said I – and later discovered the woman was 31 when she made the film with ex-husband Roger Vadim. No, there is no doubt the woman has always worn well.
Which unfortunately can't be said of my next interviewee – Susan Sarandon. Just like Ms Fonda, she was charming; and though she must have fielded every question available in her time, I think even she was taken aback by one question lobbed at her from an over enthusiastic Lebanese hack. "Ms Fonda she is so gorgeous. But you, you have so many wrinkles. Are you happy with your face as it is?" Sharp intake of breath from all present! Well, she smiled graciously and made some answer about beauty starting from within, which relieved the tension in the air. To lessen it further, I asked her if instead of living in New York as she does, whether if she had lived in Hollywood she would have ended up as a California babe with a permanent smile stitched into her scalp. That certainly gave her food for thought!
Next on my list of celebs was Carole Bouquet. Who? I hear you asking? You mean you don't recognise the ex-face of Chanel? Or even the Bond girl from For Your Eyes Only? OK, well I have to admit I didn't either, and as she had just come in from a swim in the Arabian Gulf, and had no make up on, she banned all the photographers with an imperial wave of her hand.
Meg Ryan looked lovely on the red carpet, but forgot what her speech was about and had to read it verbatim, typos and all! Catherine Deneuve was worthy; whilst a bevy of Egyptian and Lebanese actresses had male hearts all a-flutter throughout the festival.
But the thing that really got me was the amount of toadies and hangers-on that were to be seen everywhere, together with the name-droppers who bored the pants off you with whom they had been seen with. I mean how shallow is that? As if anyone could possibly be interested in who you have been seen with! Don't you just hate people like that? By the way did I tell you about my brush with Jessica Alba?.....