[preliminary note: this is a personal rather than a political or social blog post, though it does touch on both of those aspects of life]
It is hardly original to say that fame often tends to be fleeting, but indulge me. I was thinking about this matter recently in the context of hearing about a number of persons and their life-trajectories. In particular, in the past 6-7 years I have observed the meteoric rise of a Jewish Zionist lawyer (solicitor) to fame; he rose to public prominence (after years of provincial obscurity and a slide into near-madness) on the basis of one type of notorious case, only to slowly deflate ever since. That person’s fate, still unfolding (or should that be “unravelling”?) gave rise to other, connected, thoughts.
I was on holiday in Hammamet, Tunisia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammamet] in 1994 when my then girlfriend and I met with a young Englishman and his girlfriend. They were both struggling or at least very junior young journalists, twenty-somethings. The young man explained that they had been in a not very pleasant hotel and so had upgraded to the one in which I was staying, the Phoenicia, one of the best in the resort, all marble and staff wearing white uniforms topped by a fez.
The young journalist said that his name was Jasper Gerard (the girlfriend’s name I forget). We had lunch and the odd drink in the succeeding days and they were in the grounds of the hotel when they noticed someone nearly get killed when his parascending canopy collapsed at altitude. Yes, that was me (I pulled too hard on one side to descend) and apparently Gerard cried out “isn’t that Ian?!” as I appeared to be about to fall, mortally wounded, to the beach. However, I survived with nothing worse than a minor story to tell.
I kept in touch with Jasper. I invited him, not long after, to dinner at Lincoln’s Inn (of which I was then a member). He attended not with the Tunisia holiday girlfriend but with a pleasant, very quiet young lady who (judging by more recent Press photos) was probably his later wife. A week or two later, in the English way, he invited me to dinner at his club, a members-only but non-traditional place in Mayfair called Green Street. The sort of place full of young or youngish people who were probably pop stars whom I would probably not have recognized even by name. At dinner, the next table was occupied by a lady and her two guests. She was, Gerard whispered, the journalist Marie Colvin, already noted but who became rather famous later on, after she lost an eye and took to wearing a dashing eye-patch. She was killed in Homs, Syria, in 2012, making Gerard’s dinner comment to the effect that connections had helped her into her job seem in retrospect even more envious than it did at the time.
After that, I did not see Jasper Gerard for nearly three years, during which time he had become the head of the Diary column in The Times. After I finished a year working in Kazakhstan, I called him and suggested a drink. He suggested lunch at El Vino, not the original wine bar but the branch at the foot of Ludgate Hill. He failed to turn up and when I called to ask whether a problem had arisen, did not even apologize but got some underling to say that “something had come up”. That was discourteous, but personal loyalty is important to me, so I agreed to a second lunch date. This time, Gerard did turn up, but the pleasant, rather hesitant young man had become a blase, vain fellow obviously very much spoiled by his career uplift and hugely full of himself. He scarcely bothered to talk, obviously found me not famous enough to waste even the lunch break on, then did not offer to pay, or even to pay half the bill, but waited until I did before saying “do you mind if I take the cash and pay, so that I can claim it back”! With such a brazen attitude, it is not surprising that the bastard later tried to be elected as an MP!
I did not meet with Jasper Gerard after that, though I noticed that he was later to be found in the Sunday Times as chief interviewer. He lasted for some years before being removed. He then became restaurant critic in The Observer for a year or two, until 2008. He was even mentioned (once) in celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s memoirs.
Gerard fell into obscurity after that, though he came second in the Maidstone and The Weald constituency in the 2015 General Election, standing as a LibDem (well, after all, the LibDems are now the last resort of the scoundrel!).
The last I heard of Jasper Gerard, in 2016, he had become the Head of Press for the LibDems. Whether he still is, I have no idea.; and his last tweet to the public was in 2015…
The above is just one reminiscence about, mainly, one person. I suppose that the moral of my brief story is that some people really cannot handle fame or even minor celebrity and that obscurity often beckons.
Update, 29 December 2020
I saw that there were recently a few hits on this rather obscure blog post, so am updating it.
The Maidstone and the Weald election results: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maidstone_and_The_Weald_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2010s.
Jasper Gerard’s 2015 vote share of 24.1%, though far below that of the 36% attained by the LibDem in 2010, was still better than that garnered by the LibDems of 2017 and 2019 (16.4% in both cases). Gerard was the last LibDem to get a second place at Maidstone and the Weald; Labour has come second since 2015: 22.1% in 2017, 18.3% in 2019.
As for Gerard himself, it turns out that his full surname is Gerard-Sharp, and that his sister is also a journalist, with a Twitter account: [https://twitter.com/LisaGerardSharp] and a personal website [https://www.lisagerardsharp.com/].
“In the soup for playing down the Lord Rennard scandal (‘It’s hardly Jimmy Savile’) Liberal Democrat candidate Jasper Gerard stands accused of playing down his poshness. Colleagues at Durham University remember him as Jasper Gerard-Sharp. Once he secured the post of head of the university’s Lib Dem society he morphed into plain Jasper Sharp. But by the time he arrived at The Times as a trainee journalist, he reverted to Jasper Gerard. Keep up at the back!” [Daily Mail, in 2013] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2285672/Is-boastful-Vince-Cable-ready-new-challenge.html
Professionally, and politically, Jasper Gerard —or Gerard-Sharp— now seems to have vanished without trace. He may well have retired early; he would now be 53, must have been extremely well-paid when he was Chief Interviewer for the Sunday Times, and there may well be some family money, despite his grammar school secondary education.