How Sean Connery and Kim Kardashian's ideas about humility and fame were so very different – Aidan Smith
Kim Kardashian’s problem, though she’s highly unlikely to regard it as such, is that she wasn’t born in a tenement in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge, didn’t sleep in a drawer right through toddlerhood and, entering the world of work, didn’t rise at 5am, scowl at a Co-operative Society beast of burden and ready Dobbin for another clip-clop across the cobbles, delivering milk in the pre-Clean Air Act gloom and dankness.
This of course was Sean Connery’s early life. Without him ever really broadcasting the fact or making a tremendous deal of it, his beginnings were humble. Kardashian, though, interprets that word differently.
Last week the reality TV monstress gushed about being “humbled” by having the chance to charter an 88-seat Boeing 777 to fly her “closest inner circle” to a private island in Tahiti for Covid-proof celebrations of her 40th birthday – there to forget about 1,000 deaths a day back home in America and “pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time”.
It’s strange, too, when Kardashian uses a word like normal. What does the most frivolous person on the planet mean there? And come to think of it, what do I mean speculating on the circumstances of how she’d joined “the world of work”? Has she actually done this yet?
A ubiquitous figure
“It annoys me when someone says, ‘What do you actually do?’” The bold Kim spluttered this once. “All I think is, ‘How are you so ignorant that you don’t know?’” Well, to some extent I am that innocent and uninformed cave-dweller because I’ve never seen the sex-tape which launched her career, nor a single second of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the series following the lives, bikini fittings and landing-strip waxings of the five alliterative sisters.
Ah, but I don’t have to be familiar with the Kardashian oeuvre to know who she is. She’s everywhere, her very own global pandemic. No one really knows how she got here but you’d be a fool to pretend that she didn’t exist, wasn’t insidious and could somehow be avoided, just because no one you knew had watched Keeping Up … either.
It’s all so different, so very different, from the home life of our own dear Sean. Thanks to James Bond, fame hit Big Tam like a crosstown tram colliding with his milk-cart and, right from the start, he didn’t like it one little bit.
As early as Goldfinger, he was refusing to jump through promotional hoops for the 007 producers – this after an especially demented Bond groupie jumped through the window of his Aston Martin as he drove it down Champs-Elysees to the Paris premiere.
Breaking the internet
After Thunderball he was rejecting the vast bulk of interview requests, his reasoning being a profound distaste for those magazine profiles where “the actors utter these inanities, then go to some movie set and pose for pictures in a mock-up kitchen. The article would then read: ‘Here’s Sean Connery, a real homebody, frying eggs in his own kitchen’”.
You can see Kardashian in that kitchen, can’t you? Photos of her island whoop-it-up – running into the surf in a £10,000 chain-mail dress, swimming with whales – resulted in her breaking the internet (again). In London, Connery was greatly inconvenienced by living near a builders’ yard because fans would often nick ladders to try and peek into his bedroom. Kardashian saves her followers that trouble by letting it all hang out for dubious delectation.
The academic Peter Conrad, profiling the Kardashians for the Radio 4 series 21st Century Mythologies, noted how the cameras accompany the dreaded sisterhood everywhere – “recording their business meetings, spending binges, photoshoots, love-making marathons, pregnancy tests and the birthing of their babies”.
Contrast that with what Connery – in a rare interview – told Playboy magazine in 1965: “I find that fame tends to turn one from an actor and a human being into a piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well, I don’t intend to undergo that metamorphosis. This is why I fight so tenaciously to protect my privacy … to fend off prying photographers who want to follow me round and publicise my every step and breath.”
‘Fancy rescuing me again?’
Now, Connery could be irascible. He wanted to be viewed in a more serious light than the cartoonish thrills of Bond allowed. He could be accused of biting the hand that feeds. And surely every actor has an ego which they like to be occasionally massaged – and surely he must have been smiling, not grumpy, when that world’s-sexiest-man honour was conferred on him.
Perhaps, but on the only occasion I was ever in the same room as the great man, he looked like he would rather be once again strapped to a table, legs akimbo, with a laser about to zap his goolies. He was among his ain folk at the National Gallery and, this being an Edinburgh Festival shindig, you’d have thought a polite and refined bunch.
Not a bit. There were women of a certain age behaving like teenyboppers. “You used to deliver my milk,” he was breathlessly told. “I’ve got a knitting pattern where you’re modelling a Fair Isle jumper and that middle-distance gaze still causes me palpitations.” “You were the lifeguard when I pretended to get into difficulties at the Portobello lido. I’ve squeezed my bunions into these ridiculous heels tonight – fancy rescuing me again?”
Here was celebrity and it was Connery who was drowning. At that moment I understood perfectly his disaffection for fame. As Bond he’d simply been too sensational. Kardashian – no bimbo – knows she has nothing of Connery’s solid gold easy action and so must exploit everything else about herself. She thinks those holiday snaps from Double-K island will help us through lockdown 2.0 when what we really want is be whisked to Dr No’s island for a Big Tam Christmas TV megamix.
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