A-listers have a habit of thinking they are gifted at everything – and not always to other people’s benefit

I recently met a well-known actor at a party, and we talked, as one often does with successful actors, about his work. Eventually he asked me what I did, so I told him. “Journalist, eh? I’ve always thought I’d be rather good at that,” he replied. And maybe he would be because, let’s be honest, the kind of journalism I do is not brain surgery. But even if it were, he probably would have made a similar response: “Brain surgeon, huh? I fancy I’d be a dab hand at that.” I have great admiration for people who make sharp left turns in their career – an actor one day, a firebrand politician the next, like the mighty Glenda Jackson – rather than staying in the same job for ever, out of fear they can’t do anything else. But the only people who casually tell me they could do my job, or indeed any job, are celebrities.

Famous people have a habit of believing they are gifted at, well, everything, and not always to other people’s benefit, as anyone who ever found themselves in an Ibizan club on one of Paris Hilton’s DJ nights knows well. This is what happens when an enormous ego is inflated further by wealth and sycophants. Princess Margaret, in the misguided belief she was a gifted singer, famously once regaled obediently enthusiastic guests with Cole Porter tunes. Francis Bacon, drunk to the eyeballs, booed loudly, and the princess, astonished, ran off in humiliation. “Her singing really was too awful. Someone had to stop her,” Bacon later said.

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