Dear Bert and Gert: I'm quite famous and people keep asking me to go to the opening of an envelope

Dear Bert and Gert

I have been quite successful in my chosen field and so people recognise me and want to associate with me. I'm not famous for being famous, or for starring in a sex tape that a publicist has made sure is circulated widely before we start to sound indignant. I've never been found drugged and unconscious on a lavatory floor nor had strings of spouses and divorces that shore up press coverage as popularity wanes.

I get lots of invitations to all kinds of events, most of which, honestly, I don't have any interest in at all. My publicist and agent tell me that I need to be seen so that my popularity remains high enough for advertisers (which they insists on calling "sponsors) give me stuff and pay me to wear their clothes.

My question is simple: do I really have to do this stuff when I'd rather be sitting at home, by a log fire, my labrador's head being stroked while I sip a cup of tea?

Bert says: If they give you free stuff and wine and dine you and as a result you get to keep all your income, there's a benefit, obviously, even if it winds you up.

But the real reason for doing it isn't what you might at first think: your publicist and agent and all the entourage that run your life often earn a percentage of what you earn. So if you don't go out, you don't earn appearance money. Your agent won't get his share of money that is now spent on someone else: like it or not, you are a commodity and you are just one of many. Organisers are lazy: if someone always says yes, they will choose that person first, even though they are adding to the fuel of demand that increases that person's price.

If you are viewed as "difficult," then organisers will soon stop asking and your agent and publicist will soon get fed up, and they will promote others who are easier to market. They, too, are likely to want to adopt the line where the least effort generates the most reward: that's not lazy, it's business.

The chances are that your usual activity produces, in itself, a small part of your overall income. It's that advertising and appearance money that generates the income that lifts you from someone who loves what they do but has to sleep on the sofa in a friend's flat to someone who can afford a nice house, car and, even, a labrador and someone to look after him while you are travelling.

Gert says: you might not know it but Bert was a bit of a star in his heyday. But he always hid his light under a bushel and never capitalised on what could have been recognition and revenue (nowhere near fame and fortune, but everyone has to start somewhere). I always nagged at him for being too modest but it was no good: he simply didn't want people to know what a contribution he made to the lives of so many. So I can completely understand what it is that you are saying. It's ironic the he is now explaining to you all the things I tried to explain to him, more or less.

He's right: you cannot hide away and expect to get the benefits of "profile" without actually developing a profile. But you don't have to be miserable and you don't have to take every opportunity: you are not a politician. If you don't like kissing babies, don't kiss babies; if you don't like a particular form of music, don't go to those concerts; if you don't like cars, don't cut the ribbon at a showroom, or whatever it is. Also, don't allow yourself to be booked onto e.g. talk shows where you might be ridiculed or made to look stupid (e.g. by dancing) in order to show that you are a good sport, or whatever. Choose what interests you, and to which you'd go anyway, and do those. If you get paid, so much the better; if you are seen at such events, then organisers of them will come to you and offer to pay you. Don't wear a baseball cap just because someone pays you, but do wear something you like, logo or not, if you like it.

In short, be dignified, be available for the things you might enjoy and not for those you will have to force a smile for.

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