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Private Ephemera Detective at Your Service

Thursday, 24th May, 2001

In a lot of ways, society doesn't just progress but goes full circle.

Back in Victorian days, for instance, if you wanted a book published badly enough you just paid for it. Vanity publishing hadn't been invented, but the concept is very similar. If you wanted to see a performance of this play or that musical group, you paid them to come along to the house and do their thing. It all put behind closed doors something that we usually understand as being open to the masses.

It could be argued that it never went away, as people like Michael Jackson still has the opportunity and the inclination to hire out the entirity of Disneyland for the day; the Sultan of Brunei can hire who he likes to perform at his private parties.

I think, though, it died out for a while as the world did everything on a big public scale, but I keep seeing new examples of its return in strange and unusual ways, newly applicable to everyday folk like you and I.

Take Christine Envall for instance.

Christine is a rather muscular Australian. You can imagine what she looks like by simply realising that there isn't an ounce of fat on her body, yet at only 5'3" tall she weighs in at up to 190 lbs. Ask her for her vital statistics and she'll give you bicep measurements (16" if you're that interested).

She's a bodybuilder and is one of the most successful women at it in the world. She has been world champion a number of times, at the very peak of her profession. You'd expect her to be spending her time working out in preparation for the next upcoming championship, but she has other sidelines too.

You see, she hires herself out for private wrestling bouts.

John (or even Jane) Doe, private citizen in one of a number of countries, decides to pay Christine to fly over and flex for him in private. Christine is quite happy to do so and the session, along with a few others, pays her way to Italy or Brazil or Spain, giving her the chance to see the world.

Sounds like a strange request to make, doesn't it? Well, this is nothing sexual. She and the other muscular ladies who do this sort of work aren't prostitutes; they offer no sexual service whatsoever. Other than that, they're pretty flexible. Private flexing, demonstrating poses, private wrestling.

Yes, she'll come and wrestle you in the privacy of your own home, for a mere fee. Glory be to the gods of capitalism.

On a little less specialist note, Guy N Smith, veteran novelist with over a hundred books behind him, reports that he's been asked to do a similar thing.

No, not private wrestling, but private writing. He doesn't have to turn up to someone's house and write for them in private, which would be such a bizarre scenario it should probably be turned into fiction itself, but rather fashion a custom story for a client.

This client is an veteran fan of Guy's; he has read and loved his work for many years. Now he decides that he wants to read a Guy N Smith story with himself as a character. Not just any character but a main character at that. He wants this location, that scenario, and to be killed off in this particular way. Guy thought about this one, but was happy to oblige. It's not that difficult a job for him, the pay was good and a fan gets to fulfil a dream.

For my part, I wonder how far this could go.

If I rang up Steven Spielberg and offered him enough money, would he be amenable to making me the star of his next film? OK, it wouldn't open on screens all around the country, it would be a private video sat in my video cabinet, but what a talking point!

'Yeah, mum, I have the video back from this year's holidays. Oh, I'm in this one for a change, I got Steven Spielberg to shoot it.'

'I wasn't that keen on 'Jurassic Park'. I mean it looked good but the effects took over everything else. Oh, yes, I'm a fan generally. I still think his best movie was the one he did for me. You didn't know? Let me find it.'

'That's me with Cameron Diaz. Yeah, Steven Spielberg filmed it for us but I got Francis Ford Coppola to do the Making Of video.'

It could all get rather silly. How many artists are really going to pander to the whim of the public in this way? How far is the entertainment industry willing to prostitute itself for the benefit of those with the right fee?

If he wasn't held back by the fact of his being dead, would Pablo Picasso paint my Christmas cards for me? Maybe Stephen King could write them for me too, but then I'd need much larger Christmas cards. I could think of a hundred and one opportunities here. I could get James Earl Jones to record my answerphone message.

One problem would be to make collecting an even more difficult occupation. Say you're a Ridley Scott fan and you loved 'Gladiator' so much that you want to collect all his work. He works with the speed of Kubrick, so it shouldn't be too difficult - after all, there's only thirteen movies with his name as director.

But hang on a second, what's this? IMDb lists another one. He directed the Cohen's Bar Mitzvah? How do you get hold of that one? I seriously doubt Amazon will stock that on DVD, let alone the soundtrack.

In turn it could create a whole new industry: private ephemera detective to private collectors worldwide. You want to complete your Rolling Stones collection but can't find the song they recorded for Bert and Betty's wedding? Hire someone to track down their phone number, hassle them into doing a copy and produce your bill. It's only two hundred bucks a day plus expenses, but it beats being a security guard on nights.

'The Antiques Roadshow' would get even more interesting too, if artists branch out along these veins. Along with experts on Sung dynasty earthenware and 14th century Italian grand masters, they would need another expert on private contributions by public artists.

'Yes, that's the genuine article. I recognise Joe Smith's handwriting on the cassette cover - he did fourteen copies for the immediate family. There's also quite a lot of sobbing on this one, but if you listen hard you can still hear the artist formerly known as Prince doing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' in the background. He only did private funerals for about six years back in the 2010s, so this is a pretty rare find. How did your mother get hold of this one?'

'Oh, now this one is an incredible find. The voice you hear on the tape is Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, moonlighting from his job as Governor of Minnesota to reprise his old job of wrestling commentator. If I'm not very much mistaken, that's Stone Cold Steve Austin in a private bout with Fred Johnson of Grand Rapids, MI. The matchup lasted about four seconds but then Austin played with him for a while.'

So, where will it end? Will it ever end? Fame is fleeting and last week's show stealer becomes this week's show and tell.

Now, when is Tanya Roberts going to start hiring herself out for private sex films? Erm, I have a friend who's interested. Honest.

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