107. Stalkers

Tapehead no 107 

The thing about fame is that it does not replace loneliness; does not compensate for your lack of love. 

For several of the subjects in Channel 4’s new series The Fame Factor, the only effect the bright lights of fame ever had on their unhappiness was to highlight it.

An expert on stalkers emphasises their loneliness, lack of intimacy and the emptiness of their existence, but as the most pertinent and poignant moments of The Vanishing Of Richey Manic make clear he could just as easily have been talking about the recipients of the stalkers’ adoration.

The facts of Richey’s disappearance are needlessly interspersed with perspectives on fame from the likes of Boy George and Shaun Ryder (now fully mutated into something out of Rainbow) but they are mostly interested in talking about themselves more than Richey.

There is nothing of the Manics’ music, and not much of an insight into Richey’s state of mind, save an MTV interview in which he reduces life to growing more depressing the older you become: 

“Your energy dies. Your friends die. Your dog dies.”

True but what can you do ? 

The boys and girls who worshipped him for his services to self-mutilation, anorexia and badly applied make-up techniques still wait for him, as does the taxi driver who dropped him off near the Severn Bridge services.

You can cling to the ambivalence of his disappearance, but the tone of this film will not leave you in much doubt about what happened to him.

“Fame,” ex-Coronation Street star Lynne Perrie assures us with authority, “is like taking drugs: the more you get, the more you want.”

“The story of a woman who lost herself in the search for stardom,” The Ghost Of Ivy Tilsley begins with Perrie musing on the “years of adulation and wealth” and her lost identity, while sitting under a hair–dryer seemingly infested with fleas.

When Lynne was “not feeling quite right,” Perrie gushes. “Ivy was always there to rely on and take over. But in the end, Ivy couldn’t handle the troubles that Lynne had.”

Flicking through scrapbooks, watching old re-runs of Gail’s scary hairdos. Perrie is beset with regret. She could have been a film star. Men, apparently, slept with her because of who she was.

“I’m happier now, since I’ve left the Street,” she confides to strangers, queuing up to meet her during celebrity appearances at bingo, where she is still billed as Ivy Tilsely. She says it over and over, presumably in the hope that if she says it often enough it might be true.

Ivy has stalked Lynne Perrie far more effetely than anyone on I’m Your Number One Fan. Dr Klaus Wagner, Lady Di’s notorious admirer, has clearly ruined his own wife’s life far more than Diana’s. He is convinced that Diana is being destroyed by her Majesty the Beast (E-lizard-beast II), as predicted in the Book of Revelations, a theory that certainly convinced Tapehead. 

DJ Mike Read’s stalker (Blue Tulip Rose Read) has a history of mental problems, and it’s hard to see how her inclusion here is going to help – him or her.

Like the heroine of Jane Campion’s firm Sweetie, Blue Tulip needs someone to look after her, and has convinced herself it is going to be Mike, as her T-shirt with the words “my husband Mike Read” illustrates.

“I want to marry you, Mike,” she howls, sobbing desperately. “If I’ve caused a bit of harm I’ve not meant it.”

Read’s assistant holds up a photo Blue Tulip sent in of her washing machine.

“On the back she’s written, “This picture proves I have a washing machine. I have called it Mike Read.”

Scenes of her in her room, wearing a feather boa, dancing and barking like a dog to classical music, or sitting naked at the typewriter, are truly disturbing/disturbed.

It’s hard not to conclude that Channel 4 have tormented and exploited her in a way worse than any stalker.


The Ghost Of Ivy Tilsley: Sat, 8pm, C4

I’m Your Number One Fan: Sat, 9pm, C4

The Vanishing of Richey Manic: Sat, 10pm, C4