The other night somebody tweeted “RIP Grace Jones” and my heart sank. I scrambled quickly to find a news source with one part of me sick that one of pop’s enduring nonpareils had passed on, but also with the other part of me wondering how I could spin a 600 word article out of the untimely demise of an icon and make £50 out of it. And I thought this must be how the mind of the grim reaper of celebrity eulogy Paul Gambaccini works every time another glittering eidolon is called to the heavens, as he sinks his arse cheeks into the familiar comfy studio sofa at BBC Breakfast Time donning the proverbial black hat of doom. (Probably the less said about Yewtree here the better).
It wasn’t Grace Jones, singer, actress, model and goddess who’d boarded the Stygian ferry, it was a 113-year-old woman from Bermondsey with the same name, who, though still an immensely impressive figure, had never recorded anything as badman as Nightclubbing. Phew, what a relief it was just some old woman, I thought.
Personally I’m planning to live to be 200, which is achievable now I’ve given up smoking crack. Only kidding, just smoking cigarettes. I’m not still smoking crack, that was just a joke; Christ, this is how rumours start. Anyway, today marks one whole year smoke free and I’d like to feel smug about it but I still miss those little cylindrical buggers. That’s right, hold your applause, because I still don’t feel like I’m out of the woods yet and that’s something I guess I’m just going to have to put up with for a while.
It’s not a constant longing, don’t get me wrong, and I know I only yearn for certain aspects of the habit without the side effects and the expense and the bullshit, and it was all those other aspects that made me knock it on the head in the first place, plus the threat of cancer, amputation and death, but I would love love love a fucking good chug on a fag even right now.
In Paris smoking is an art form. It’s certainly a cliché and it’s a cliché for good reason. It looks and it smells delicious and I often wish I could join in when I’m down wind of a cigar or I see beautiful people chuffing elegantly outside a café, and I have to look on enviously and smoke vicariously through strangers. For some reason I still associate smoking in Paris with chicness, whereas in London I imagine a man stood outside in the rain, cursing and shivering with a Racing Post under his arm. Like most images associated with cigarettes, it’s a complete fucking nonsense, just ask Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays.
But still, sooner the freezing old geezer than what goes on in LA. When I was there a few years ago I felt like I was going to get arrested each time I lit up. On three occasions I was approached by fetishistic perverts who asked me each for cigarettes. Okay, well maybe not perverts, but their behaviour was weird and I couldn’t believe the creepy way in which they all approached me. I handed one over each time and these people didn’t want to light it, they just wanted to walk with it and look at it and wonder at it and stroke it, like it was some exotic relic from a bygone age, which there of course it now is. So anyway, despite my bleating, it doesn’t make it any less the right thing to do giving up. I’m happy not to be the guy who comes in from the cold.