It’s not just Dustin Hoffman who’s prepared to save the world. There’s a whole host of would-be celebrity superheroes out there
Welcome, civilians! Welcome, and take your seats for the news-o-tainment blockbuster A-List Assemble, in which a diverse team of celebrities is recruited to the cause of performing their basic civic duty if they encounter a human in a life-threatening situation.
Its full-spectrum dominance means you will already be familiar with the tale of Dustin Hoffman, who saw a jogger collapse in London’s Hyde Park and dialled an ambulance in a performance critics are already calling his finest since Rain Man. “He was the perfect bystander,” gushed one of the paramedics of the technique Dustin brings to his emergency services interactions. “He gave us a great history when we arrived but then didn’t get in the way afterwards, you know, he was totally calm, collected throughout, stayed for the whole resuscitation which lasted for about 20 minutes and, as we said, congratulated us as we were loading the patient and getting him to hospital …”
Has London ever looked smaller? There’s an awful lot more in a similar vein, though disappointingly this newspaper only devoted an article, a poll and a leader to the matter of the actor dialling 999. Still, the hailing of Hoffman as a “hero” has been virtually unanimous across the board – and I’m afraid it is difficult to think of a more open slur on him and, by extension, the entire celebrity community.
Just as the praise lavished upon the White Hart Lane crowd for not chanting abuse as Fabrice Muamba received CPR was really the most monstrous insult to them – reflecting, as it did, the assumption that their showing basic humanity was somehow remarkable – so the hailing of Hoffman as a hero reveals the most pathetically misplaced gratitude. After all, what was the alternative? Observing a man collapse and opting to walk on by? NOT calling an ambulance? In what warped universe can an action be defined as heroism when the failure to perform it would be psychopathy?
The answer, needless to say, is this one. Who knows precisely when celebrities were formally excused from conforming to the same moral codes as the rest of us, but the astounded and admiring reaction whenever they do suggests the schism happened some time ago.
None of which is meant to imply even the slightest criticism of Hoffman. To make it crystal-clear, Lost in Showbiz is crazy for Dustin, who has neither sought such plaudits nor reacted to them, and very likely finds them deeply preposterous. No, it is not the fault of celebrities that the making of a 999 call is splashed across the papers and airwaves with the sort of reverence that might be reserved for the life-and- limb-risking wartime rescue of 1,000 children. It’s not them; it’s us.
Still, Dustin is officially inducted into a plucky band of celebrity superheroes. He joins Black Swan star Mila Kunis – superhero name: Ambulance-Calling Woman – who last week reportedly turned her employee’s head to one side when he suffered a seizure and instructed a friend to call 911. Then there’s Ryan Gosling, who stopped someone accidentally stepping into traffic to enormous acclaim. There’s Grey’s Anatomy Patrick Dempsey – lucky to make the cut of a troupe with A-list in the title, admittedly – who helped a teenager whose car had flipped over outside his Malibu home.
And, of course, there’s Kate Winslet, who subjected Richard Branson’s mother to a somewhat unwelcome rescue attempt when the house on the Virgin tycoon’s Caribbean island caught fire last year. “Many thanks to Kate Winslet,” the ever-publicity-minded Richard Branson told reporters, “for helping to carry my 90-year-old mum out of the main house to safety – she was wondering when a director was going to shout ‘Cut!'” Or, as Branson’s mother preferred it: “I am not 90 … I would have got down those stairs all right on my own, but it was dark and slippery, and I didn’t have my contact lenses in. Kate was coming down behind me. I think she was worried that I was holding up her children, so she picked me up and carried me.”
Mm. As for Lost in Showbiz’s all-time favourite celebrity superhero … Well, on the one hand, it’s Tony Blair, who in 1999 “rescued” what his spin machine classed as a man drowning off the Seychelles who turned out not to have been drowning at all. Of his decision to accept a lift back to shore on Blair’s yacht, this Danish tourist explained: “I am just a lazy man.”
But on the other hand, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow, who in the course of promoting a recent movie recalled driving in New York early on the morning of 11 September 2001. “A girl was jaywalking across the street and we kind of both stopped at the same time and waited a really long time,” said Gwyneth, adding that they did “this stop-start thing” for a while. “Ten years later, I got a letter from her saying that she had been late for work, and we had that thing, and she went down to the Christopher Street station to catch her train to go down to the World Trade Centre where she worked on the 77th floor of the south tower, and the train was just pulling out.”
“So had we not had that interaction she feels like her life would’ve taken a much different course,” Gwyneth explained. “She saw it was me so she was able to get me a message, but I think a lot of fates were changed that day, obviously, and I am very humbly happy to be a part in her story.”
Bless her. In fact, don’t stop there. HERO-WORSHIP HER.