There is a difference between celebrity and recognition. Celebrities are recognized in the street, but usually because of who they are, or who they are supposed to be. To achieve recognition, however, is to be recognized in a different way. It is to be known for what you have done, and quite often the person who knows what you have done has no idea of what you look like. When I say that I've had enough of celebrity status, I don't mean that I am sick of the very idea. As it happens, I think that the mass-psychotic passion for celebrity — this enormous talking point for those who do not really talk — is one of the luxurious diseases that Western liberal democracy will have to find a cure for in the long run, but the cure will have to be self-willed. I don't think that it can be imposed, and certainly not from the outside. I didn't much like Madonna's last television appearance in Britain. Billed as the height of sophisticated sexiness, it featured Madonna wearing high heels, a trench coat and a beret. She crouched like a pygmy prizefighter while snarling into the microphone as if anyone listening might be insufficiently intelligent to understand her message — a hard audience to find, in my view.
Read the rest of Clive James on the meaning of recognition.