Celebrities: there’s a subject that could fill several ‘Confessions’ columns. I have many scars from dealing with ‘slebs’, so to spare you the same fate, here are some golden rules.
First, do try to get a celebrity that people have actually heard of. If there were Newton’s Laws of Celebrities, one would state that a celeb’s fame and availability are inversely proportionate. And therein lies a major headache for charities.
My Z-list nadir was minding a non-running celeb at a marathon. She thrust herself upon the winner, deluding herself that this poor breathless Portuguese athlete’s first wish on crossing the line was to meet a long-forgotten ex-EastEnders star.
And what if your celeb doesn’t show up? Simply grab one who has. At one early morning event I attended, our star failed to get out of bed in time. So I commandeered another who was there – the boxer Frank Bruno – and, although bemused at being manhandled in this way, he was brilliant and I appreciated his kindness. For the record, don’t make a habit of manhandling heavyweight champion boxers – like all gambling streaks, your luck won’t last.
And while you’re at it, don’t let the celebs try to get off with your staff. From the ex-Blue Peter presenter who pursued my colleague (she declined, very wisely as it turned out), to the old charming sportscaster who made a beeline for my girlfriend – it’s always a recipe for disaster.
Equally, don’t try to match the celebrity at lunchtime drinking. I made this mistake once and ended up challenging the sportscaster to an arm wrestling competition. It certainly didn’t do much to enhance my professionalism.
Another rule to stick to is never to pay your celeb – you shouldn’t have to. It’s only okay if your sponsor is the one paying, but even then things can go wrong, such as the time when the Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs was promoting a youth training scheme that I worked for. A rumour spread among the youngsters that Giggs had been paid big money to appear. One lad then decided to call him "Brian" for the rest of the event, which everyone else found rather funny.
Finally, if you are struggling to get a celeb, here’s a tip: ask. And ask nicely, of course. Ask for appropriate support. Because if you do, it’s surprising how often they agree.
Martin Edwards is chief executive of the children’s hospice Julia’s House