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Published: Friday, 4/22/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Fairy-tale life? Yeah, not so much

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

Marrying a prince is the dream, right? Certainly that's what Disney -- not to mention the countless fairy tales before that -- has sold young girls for decades.

So why is it that a recent Reuters poll of British women suggests otherwise?

Asked how much they envied Prince William's fiancee [Kate Middleton], 86 percent of women polled by YouGov said they did not feel jealous at all, according to a Reuters story.

"The main reason why most women did not want to swap fortunes with Middleton was her perceived inability to lead a normal life after she and the second in line to the British throne tie the knot on April 29, said MyDaily.co.uk, a women's Web site that commissioned the poll.

"'Most women realize Catherine has an unenviable task ahead of her, having her every move, not to mention every outfit, picked apart by the press,' said Carla Bevan, editor-in-chief of MyDaily.co.uk. 'The public clearly feel it's going to be no fairy tale for Kate.'"

My, how things have changed.

I don't have the poll numbers to prove it, but my suspicion is that considerably more than 14 percent of British women envied Diana Spencer when she married Prince Charles nearly 30 years ago on July 29, 1981. Their fairy-tale wedding captured the attention and hearts of millions worldwide. Then again, that was a different era, when the press was more forgiving and respectful of royalty and celebrity.

Once upon a time there was an understanding between well-known public figures and those who covered them for a living in newspapers, radio, and television about what was and was not off limits for public consumption. That buffer usually included the family -- especially children -- and most anything that wasn't a public appearance. Decades ago Hollywood studios kept close guard over their stars and made sure the press, though not always accurate in their reporting, was respectful to the actors and stayed away from covering controversies including extramarital affairs and alcohol and drug binges.

The same wink-wink policy applied to politicians as well.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who suffered from paralysis from the waist down after an illness in his late 30s, made sure the press never photographed or filmed him in a wheelchair. Is that even thinkable now?

Despite all the glamour and fortune that walks hand-in-hand with celebrity, those elite perks are often overshadowed by the oft-ignored downsides: A pitiless tabloid press, for one. This persistent, unscrupulous lot subsists on the mistakes and misfortunes of the rich and famous -- and often naive -- selling a photograph of an actress without makeup while running errands, for example, or writing about an actor's wild night out according to people who were in the bar with him.

That got me to thinking on a recent morning of errands. While wearing sweat pants, a goofy T-shirt, and ball cap, I imagined, briefly, what it would be like if photographers were following me, snapping away less-than-glamorous photos of me in my Saturday worst, as I shopped for household products like paper towels and toothpaste. How would I react? Even worse, living in such a fish bowl for years, decades, possibly the rest of my life -- what kind of mental toll would that take on me and my family? Is being famous really worth the price of forfeiting normalcy? I don't think so.

A majority of British women seem to agree. They remember what being a beloved celebrity got Princess Diana: killed in a car accident while being chased by a legion of paparazzi.

Perhaps their dream of being famous died along with her.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734. Follow him on his blog, toledoblade.com/cultureshock, or on Twitter, @bladepopculture.



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