Don't Libyan protesters care about r'n'b stars?
Like everyone, Lost in Showbiz has spent this week looking aghast at events in Libya: the violence, the bloodshed – and Gaddafi's insistence that everyone taking part in the demonstrations is on "hallucination pills", as if the whole thing is being orchestrated by Hawkwind. And, with every news report that arrives, the same unanswered question presents itself. Will these people not think at all of the careers of Lionel Richie, Beyoncé and ? Standing up and courageously fighting for freedom, human rights and democracy in the face of almost unimaginable horror is all well and good, but what about the human right of the world's leading r'n'b stars to make vast sums by performing at the behest of a tyrannical dictator and his family?
If the Gaddafi regime falls, who will bankroll enormous gigs of the kind played by Richie in the grounds of the Bab al-Azizia barracks in 2006? Wouldn't it be a terrible pity if his son were too distracted by political events to arrange the annual New Year's Eve gig on St Barts that in 2009 paid a reported $2m for five songs and the year before played host to Carey and Timbaland?
Let's have a little perspective here! Lost in Showbiz looks the Libyan protesters sternly in the eye and asks: Are you sure your struggle to free yourself from the yoke of tyranny is worth disrupting Beyoncé's schedule for? Perhaps you should ruminate on the recently expressed opinion of noted political philosopher Jim Davidson and reconsider: "Once people start protesting in those kind of numbers the politicians have to listen. What I can't get my head around is everyone saying democracy is the way forward. I don't think it is. Look at us. I lived in Dubai. They have a ruling family and all's well. Giving the people a right to choose who governs them is a stupid thing to do." You see? You're screwing everything up for Carey in pursuit of something the greatest socio-political mind of our epoch thinks is stupid!
Lost in Showbiz is well aware of the carping voices that suggest Richie, Beyoncé et al should have thought twice about associating themselves with the Gaddafi regime in the first place. To them, it can only say: the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Perhaps it's worth reminding yourself that Richie's Tripoli gig – a concert that ended with a group of children dressed as angels singing We Are The World – took place five years ago, an era when there was no sign that the Brother Leader might be the kind of crazed despot who would bomb his own people, unless you count the website set up that year that listed 343 victims of murder and political assassination under Gaddafi, the ongoing imprisonment of the late democracy campaigner Fathi el-Jahmi and the Human Rights Watch report that detailed "the continued arrests and incarceration of political prisoners, some of them 'disappeared'; the absence of a free press; the ban on independent organisations; violations of the rights of women and foreigners; and the torture of detainees".
Come on! You think Richie's got time to read every human rights report in the world? He's got a busy touring schedule – it's not just genocidal autocrats who are gagging for a fix of Dancin' On the Ceiling – and those Walkers crisps don't advertise themselves! "The hospitality in is unbelievable," he told a press conference, which is certainly one way of describing a country where the regime's methods of torture allegedly include "clubbing; applying electric shock; applying corkscrews to the back; pouring lemon juice in open wounds; breaking fingers and allowing the joints to heal without medical care; suffocating with plastic bags and hanging by the wrists". But why dwell on the whole corkscrews-to-the-back/lemon-juice-in-open-wounds aspect of Gaddafi? He liked Say You, Say Me, and that's the important thing!
And in the case of Beyoncé and Carey, it wasn't even Gaddafi himself who organised the gig: it was his sons, most notably the delectable Hannibal Gaddafi, who has put some clear blue water between himself and his father by rigorously avoiding behaving like the violent, spoilt son of a dictator. In 2001, he was arrested for attacking three Italian policemen with a fire extinguisher, then demanded diplomatic immunity. In 2005, his then-girlfriend Aline Skaf filed an assault lawsuit against him for punching her: he then allegedly brandished a 9mm handgun and went on a furniture-smashing rampage in his hotel suite. In 2009, after screams were heard from their London hotel room, police discovered Skaf, now his wife, with facial injuries including a broken nose, which she claimed she had sustained in a fall: three of his security staff were arrested for obstruction. A year previously, the pair had been held for two days in Switzerland after allegedly beating their servants. In what you have to say is a fairly unique approach to the business of parenting, his father responded by shutting down local subsidiaries of Swiss companies, cancelling most commercial flights between the two countries, announcing that if he had nuclear weapons he would "wipe Switzerland off the map", then submitting a proposal to the UN that the country be dissolved and partitioned between Italy, France and Germany.
Lost in Showbiz has a positive message for the performers involved: nil desperandum! The Gaddafi family might not be organising any high-paying gigs for the foreseeable future, but there's plenty more music-loving murderous dictators in the sea! Robert Mugabe is famously a fan of Cliff Richard. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likes Chris de Burgh. Come on Beyoncé! Sort out a cover of Congratulations and get yourself over to Harare!