A little bit of Britain

What a difference a week makes. Previously, I had written that my brushes with fame at the checkout have largely been confined to ageing ex-rockers and fame in the second degree. This week, I am pleased to announce, I served a former Australian Idol finalist and watched on as a guy from the BBC show Little Britain filmed a segment at my supermarket.

Firstly, the Idol contestant. When I first noticed her in my queue I had a vague suspicion that she was from Australian Idol. She didn’t quite match her TV simulacra, however. No, she wasn’t shorter in real life; she was prettier and had bigger breasts.

As I served the person before her and finally the Idol-lookalike herself, I drew up a list of signs hinting at her identity.

Yes, she was the girl from Aus Idol:
– She was married (wedding band on ring finger)
– The physical resemblance (minus the boobs)
– Her voice

No, she wasn’t:
– Lack of children’s products. When she was on the show, I remembered, she had a small child and was constantly talking about him/her on air.
– The boobs
– The fact that she was in Perth. I could have sworn that she lived over East or in Melbourne or somewhere.

When I processed her items, I debated with myself whether I should come right out and ask her if she was on Idol. It was only towards the end that I scraped up the courage to speak up.

‘You know,’ I said casually, ‘You look a bit like a girl who was on Australian Idol a year ago.’

‘Heh,’ she replied, the faintest of smiles crossing her face.

The mystery was wrapped up when she paid. Luckily, she paid using credit, or else I might have never had her identity confirmed. When I compared the credit slip she signed with her credit card, I exclaimed, ‘Emelia. So it is you.’

Another wary smile. ‘Yeah.’

I desisted from any other gushing about her celebrity and didn’t ask for her autograph. When she was gone, however, I couldn’t help but smile smugly. I had written about when I would meet someone famous at the checkout. Now, and sooner than I’d thought, I had. It was yet another event to write about, and it came in a none too untimely fashion.

After meeting a celebrity, one might be tempted to brag about one’s fortuity. Not me, however. I resisted the temptation.

Well, I resisted for three customers following the encounter, at least.

The fourth customer was a young, friendly woman. She seemed open to conversation, so I asked her, ‘Have you watched the show Australian Idol before?’

My question came out of the blue, and she responded with surprise. ‘Sorry? Oh, I haven’t been here for very long and I’m not sure what that is.’

It figures that the only person I ask would be from another country, I thought. ‘Where are you from?’


‘Don’t you have a Croatian equivalent of Australian Idol? Like, Croatian Idol or something… Australian Idol is a singing contest.’

She brightened. ‘Oh, yeah, we have something similar to it.’

‘Well, I just met someone who was on our version of Idol a year or so back.’


Following the incident with the friendly Croatian, I didn’t tell anyone else about my encounter with the former Idol contestant. Well, maybe I told one other customer. And Boyfriend. And Insider. But that was it.

So, Little Britain Down Under, at my supermarket. It all started when a group of people passed through the checkouts and entered the store. One of the people had a professional camera mounted on his right shoulder. Another was holding a fluffy uni-directional microphone on a pole. Another was black with chiselled features and he wasn’t holding anything. Flanked by them was a man of average height, lumpy stature, and skin as white as vanilla marshmallows. He was wearing a red shirt and his high forehead was obscured by a baseball cap. A fifth man followed them, who turned out to be the person in charge of the whole group.

From the moment they walked in they drew curious looks and followers. When the camera started rolling, the onlookers kept at a respectful distance and watched on as the guy from Little Britain (the stout, alabaster one) strolled down aisles and made commentary on items, adding some to his shopping basket.

At my checkout, my view was constantly obscured by a thick pole at the front of the next checkout along. Also, the bodies and heads of the crowd surrounding the film crew also blocked my view. I chatted with customers about the unexpected distraction and willed someone to tell me to close up so I could join the onlookers and watch the filming myself.

Most of the people I served seemed disinterested in the filming. One man, however, said that he’d watched the show a couple of times and noticed the crew in action.

‘I can’t really see anything from here,’ I said. ‘Is he [guy from Little Britain] as ugly in real life as he is on television?’

‘Oh, he’s even uglier, I think,’ he responded.

When I finished my shift I joined the masses of people watching Little Britain being filmed. At one point, I was squished into a shelf of biscuits as the crew passed through the aisle. I had been standing nearby and hadn’t realized that they were moving along in my direction.

As far as broadcast entertainment goes, Little Britain in action wasn’t particularly exciting. It was kind of like watching the Queen on the can, a famous person doing something completely ordinary. For all the people gathered there, you’d think that the Little Britain guy was reciting the Gettysburg address. Instead, he was pointing out biscuits and saying things like, ‘Oh, these are Pods. They’re like cereal. These are Snickers ones, with caramel and things. You can’t get these in Britain.’ (Pods go into the basket).

By the conclusion of the filming, the guy had collated two baskets’ worth of confectionary, biscuits, and other snacks. He proceeded to the checkout where an amused checkout girl eyed the guy as he upturned the two baskets and dumped his wares on her counter, items spilling freely onto the floor. I was thinking that if I were on camera (the checkout scene was being filmed), I would treat the incident with less derision, and offer the actor a big customer service smile as though everything was perfectly normal.

The confectionary, biscuits, and snacks collected by the Little Britain crew came to over $150. And yes, they did pay for it and leave holding three plastic bags stuffed with the goods.

As for the reason behind their presence at the supermarket, as it turned out it was something organised by head management. Block mount posters of Little Britain were on hand for the cast member to sign, ‘To be sold on eBay for charity,’ the store manager stated.

The horde of people who had consistently followed the film crew throughout their half-hour long misadventure mostly consisted of supermarket employees, a couple of whom were holding Little Britain DVDs to be autographed. I considered buying a Little Britain DVD for the actor to sign, which I would also sell on eBay, but decided that that would be sinking to new levels of immoral behaviour. While the other items to be signed were either done out of love for the show or to benefit charity, my intentions were strictly self-serving. So I decided to take no action.

A form of indisputable proof is the photo, and many photographs of the event were taken. A group of supermarket employees gathered around the Little Britain actor for a photo, and another female from the cash office who had already taken almost a dozen photos of the actor stood next to him for a private photo session of her own. I’m also visible in one or two of the snaps, but not as an intended subject. I’ve never seen Little Britain, so I’m not a fan. Plus I’m not all that tight with the other employees so I didn’t see a reason for me to pose with all the others.

Like most people I am intrigued by fame. Recent brushes with celebrities seem to indicate, however, that I’m more of a quiet spectator then a squealing fangirl. Or, in the case of a collective of fans, perhaps the quiet spectator who gets trampled by a starstruck mob. Still, I do wish I’d had my camera handy when Little Britain came to town.


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