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By Paul Ainsworth

THE Titanic, in case you aren’t aware, was a big ship that was built in Belfast. However, not only was it the world’s biggest seafaring flop, it was also a fitting metaphor for the British class system.

Top decks were for the aristos who couldn’t chow down on roasted swan without the aid of at least seven pewter knives and forks each, while the lowly working class were hoarded into the bowels of the beast so their grime didn’t infect the top hat and ridiculous bonnet-wearing “well-to-do” sorts who strode the first class walkways.

Of course, icebergs and the freezing Atlantic don’t differentiate between rich and poor, and so once passengers hit the water, everyone could be described as blue-blooded (as well as blue-lipped), aristocratic or not.

Although the class system has largely changed, so that we no longer have moustachioed Earls and Counts whipping their servants for spilling the caviar, it seems some think the Titanic’s legacy of the haves and have-nots remains in some form.

A  recent visit to the new Titanic Belfast museum by two pop stars caused a row as they were allowed to pose alongside a replica ‘grand’ staircase based on the one now in Davy Jones’ Locker.

As it turns out, this stairway – the most famous interior image of the Titanic – is off limits to us mere plebs, and is only available to those booking expensive conferences, or as these members of mime-troupe JLS and hen party-on-helium The Saturday’s  proved, ‘celebrities’.

Apart from putting many off coughing up the hefty entry fee to the building, this denial of ordinary people from enjoying their own Jack and Rose romantic moment is a pathetic testament to the slavish attention paid to ‘slebs’ in the North today.

Probably a Troubles legacy to be fair, as in days gone by the closest thing to celebrity action in Belfast was May McFettridge’s hideous gurning.

Now it seems any old Z-lister can come to Belfast and be fawned over by certain aspects of our media, such as “showbiz” columnists and pretty much any hairgelled commercial radio DJ.

Even worse is the desire to create slebs all of our own, and lets be honest, they’re usually female. See, for instance, the former teacher whose pupils found “revealing” pics of her, causing a bit of a scandal in the English school where she worked.

Having caused a bit of a furore in the British tabloids, this woman – who shall remain nameless as I don’t want to give her any more attention – returned home to “Our Wee Country” where she was promptly given a presenting slot on a BBC NI lifestyle show. Never mind the ability to actually present without autocue eye rolling that would give Stevie Wonder a run for his money….have a nice smile and a bit of “fame” – or in her case infamy – and you can land a plum media job.

Then there is the ex-girlfriend of a certain Holywood golfer, who has carved out a career as…well…I don’t know what she is, but the media darlings seem to think she now deserves the ‘sleb’ title, simply because of who she used to go out with.

Now enjoying all the benefits of the VIP areas in Belfast’s tackiest nightclubs, and lapping up the attention, she’s even appeared on an Irish version of ‘Celebrity Come Dine With Me’.

At this rate she’ll be presenting BBC Newsline at Six, all because she was dumped for a tennis player.

What happened to being famous for actually having a talent? I can juggle, burp the alphabet, and eat a Vindaloo without breaking a sweat, but the BBC wouldn’t so much as give me a job polishing Zoe Salmon’s dressing room brass nameplate.

Take heed local slebs, if you wish to be as famous as the Titanic itself, you best learn to swim in the talent pool, otherwise one day you’ll end up like the ship itself – sinking without a trace.


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