It's the war of the Geminis. With Macca and Prince (both with June birthdays, recent Camden surprise gigs and new albums to promote) seemingly both determined to show who's the boss when it comes to circumventing the UK 'hater' media (both of them are subjects regularly treated with quote critical unquote derision), the latest upping of the promotional ante comes via News International (The Sun and The Times):
The Sun broke the story but here's a more extended riff in The Times:
Big Brother’s purple reign
After one housemate is expelled, rumours abound that Prince is about to be enter the Big Brother house. Our correspondent wonders if this is just a libidinous opportunity to dive into a gaggle of sex-starved women
When Prince is not in the charts, which these days is most of the time, he’s still great for unlikely news headlines. Two years ago there were tales of his new role as a Jehovah’s Witness, going door to door to spread the word. Now he may be knocking on a different door, down in Elstree, Hertfordshire. Rumours abound that the multi-platinum pop phenomenon and inspiration to countless musicians, who recently sold 140,000 London concert tickets in 20 minutes, is going into the Big Brother house – and there’s certainly room for one more after Emily’s explusion yesterday.
Despite sounding like the invention of a drug-crazed publicist, it seems that there may be truth in the story. A spokeswoman for Prince confirmed that “there has been a lot of talk between the two parties. Certainly Prince is intrigued. They approached him, and he’s taking the offer seriously. He watches the show.” In the usual course of these things it’s a case of flat denials until something actually happens, so these are encouraging words.
From celebrity spins on established formats to the masterclass (album-plugging) sessions offered by well-known artists of the Lionel Richie variety on shows such as Fame Academy or The X-Factor, rock-star appearances have become commonplace on reality television, especially in Britain, where opportunities to plug music on television continue to dwindle. But they’re rare on reality shows of Big Brother’s pressure-cooker nature, and even rarer when the guest stars are of Prince’s stature.
If Prince’s Big Brother appearance does come off, it will be the latest triumph in his perfectly stage-managed assault on Britain. In recent weeks we’ve had secret, low-key live appearances; well-placed endorsements of Amy Winehouse to show that he’s still down with the kids, and concert tickets that were not only reasonably priced but also came with a copy of his new album for each buyer.
It’s been a masterclass in PR, diverting attention from Prince’s dwindling commercial status and targeting instead, with pinpoint accuracy, a place in the collective psyche of a generation whose gig-going habits are, in 2007, more fierce than ever before. Despite Prince’s low profile in the charts, there is still a voice in the heads of many that says: “Hello. My name is Prince again and I was at one point funky. You have not played my CDs in over five years but you know I am quite good live. How about we spend the night together?”
As a keen Big Brotherviewer Prince will no doubt have been intrigued by the sight, two evenings ago, of the housemate known as Ziggy. He was once one fifth of Northern Line, a forgotten boyband so terrible that their legacy extends no further than Andy “Binman” Abraham from The X-Factorcovering one of their songs.
Ziggy’s the sort of guy who in the outside world would seem attractive only after 800 tequilas but he’s also the only man in a house of ten women. So Prince, sitting in his purple armchair with his hand rattling around in a tube of Pringles, would have seen Ziggy being chased around the house by a stampeding horde of sex-crazed young women, attempting to wrestle him to the ground and remove his shorts. Perhaps he mused on the fact that if such a flurry can be prompted by a former singer so devoid of celebrity status that he fails to qualify for Celebrity Big Brother, what hysteria could Prince – millions of records sold, 1,000 songs in his back catalogue – inspire?
Maybe Prince has also noted the euphoria experienced on Norway’s Big Brother a few years ago, when the housemates discovering Status Quo banging out a greatest-hits medley in their back garden. The footage, mercifully preserved on youtube, shows that while most of us would of course be surprised to see Francis Rossi on the back lawn, everything in a Big Brother house is thrown out of proportion.
The appearance of real celebrities on Big Brother works so well because the confined environment – where an argument about hair straighteners can prompt the Third World War – means that the significance of any event is amplified. Perfect for Prince.
A word of warning however. Thoughts turn to Jimmy Savile’s brief surprise appearance in last year’s Celebrity Big Brother. The response of the assembled celebrities instantly defined a huge generation gap. Savile was immediately recognisable to George Galloway and Pete Burns. Young Chantelle Houghton, however, was mystified by this strange man, a terrifying shell-suited blur of candyfloss hair and dark glasses.
Considering that this year’s Big Brother house is full of Chantelles more likely to lose control at the sight of any former member of Blue than this multimillion-selling rock legend, things could backfire rather embarrassingly.
Luckily for Prince, they’ll probably try to get his purple shorts off anyway.