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Six degrees

Rachael Barker

 

Blur will be wowing the girls and boys of Hong Kong with a gig at the AsiaWorld-Expo on May 6. The Britpop alumni teetered at the top of the charts a generation ago: in less than a year they went from being “the very best that ‘95 Britpop has to offer” to an “inauthentic middle-class pop band”, but that’s the British press for you. Always up for a new challenge, in 1997, singer Damon Albarn (right, with bass player Alex James, who now presides over a cheese-making empire in the Cotswolds) donned his thespian hat, starring in gritty crime film Face, alongside Robert Carlyle ...

The Scottish actor glassed his way onto the world stage as the loveable psychopath Francis Begbie in the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting. Later, both actor and author “outed” the character as being gay. After bearing all in The Full Monty, Carlyle stuck his teeth into roles such as Hitler, James Bond villain and Dracula. Most recently, he has appeared on our TV screens in fantasy-meets-reality series Once Upon a Time, as another loveable psychopath: Rumpelstiltskin ...

Most versions of the dark fairy tale paint Rumpelstiltskin as an imp who encounters a miller’s daughter imprisoned until she can spin a bale of hay into gold. In exchange for her first-born child, he does the job for her but with a get-out clause involving her having to guess his name. No sooner has she left the royal maternity ward than up he shows and out she blurts “Rumpelstiltskin!” Enraged, he stamps his foot into the ground so hard his leg goes in up to his waist and, in what must top the bizarre-suicide list, grabs his visible foot, yanks it up and tears himself in two. Scenes from Rumpelstiltskin were set to music in the Marchenbilder, by Robert Schumann …

The 19th-century German composer spent the latter part of his 46 years “buried alive” in an insane asylum after a heavenly chorus chimed up in his head. Theories surrounding his sad demise include mercury poisoning caused by treatment for syphilis and frustration over the fact that his pianist wife, Clara, the breadwinner for their family of 10, was by far the more famous of the couple. Their relationship became the subject of 1947 Hollywood biopic Song of Love, with Robert played by Paul Henreid and Clara by Katharine Hepburn …

The holder of a record four best actress Oscars had curious opinions on her big-screen colleagues, deriding Meryl Streep (the only woman to have surpassed her 12 nominations) and Woody Allen, yet lauding the talents of Melanie Griffith and John Travolta. Following her death, in 2003, at the ripe old age of 96, much of Hepburn’s estate was sold off, with Sotheby’s drawing a bid of US$2,400 – nearly five times the estimate – for a lot of 15 first-edition books, among them Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger …

Having given voice to the fledgling cultural notion of the teenager with his only full novel, The Catcher in the Rye, first published in 1951, it is debatable whether the late reclusive writer has any relevance to the over-exposed and over-dissected youth of today. Salinger’s short stories documented the moral tribulations of the middle-class Glass family, the eldest child of which, Seymour, provided the name for a 1990s student band, who, when instructed to do so by their record company, changed their name to Blur.

 

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