Friday, October 05, 2007

Stephen Fry – National Treasure.

Aside

We’re having a bit of a Fry Fest here in the UK at present to celebrate his 50th Birthday. I have had to revise my – less than charitable - view of Stephen formed mainly as a Pavlovian reaction to his stint in prison and his deserting a new play which then failed. I last wrote about him to give an account of his brilliant and intensely personal TV programme ‘Secret Life of a Manic Depressive’, for friends who were unable to watch it. After such a searingly honest account one couldn’t fail to be more compassionate and understanding.
The programme itself was a ray of light shining on the hidden murky depths that mental illness is regularly consigned to and gave comfort to thousands of sufferers who previously felt shunned and stigmatised.

Now he is doing the same for HIV sufferers – honest as ever about his gay status and turning a critical but compassionate eye on them. Stephen’s first love at Cambridge, Kim Harris is now almost blind and is HIV positive through his partner who has now died.

‘Of all the ways to leave a party – it’s one of the most agonising.’ said Kim

One of the saddest cases was a teen-age girl who contracted HIV in the womb and is now dying of Aids
Stephen himself had to have a blood test 23 years ago before he could buy a property.
There are now three times more cases of HIV positive than there were ten years ago. I couldn’t help reflecting that it is ten year since Diana died – another shiner of light on murky depths. New infections in heterosexuals outnumber those in homosexuals and there is almost a Russian roulette attitude adopted by members of both gay and straight members of society. There are 70,000 cases of people infected with HIV in the UK. Some of the attitudes were frightening: safe sex was the exception rather than the rule, two out of five didn’t use condoms when drunk and no-one asked if each other had been tested.

Stephen travelled to the townships of South Africa where 346,000 died of Aids last year. 90% could be saved with access to drugs but the government don’t believe that HIV leads to Aids and there is an absence of a strong public message. There is to be a second programme of ‘HIV and me’ and one can only hope it has the same salutary effect as his documentary on mental illness.

Stephen has also taken part recently in ‘Who do you think you are?’ where celebrities discover their forebears and roots. Typically, instead of the usual back up of experts, Stephen appeared to do it all himself with the help of his lap-top. This involved him travelling to Vienna, where he discovered a woman who had installed a plaque commemorating his Austrian family, in the building where they had lived before being murdered during the holocaust and when he saw it he wept. It was very moving to see this great bear of a man showing his tiny mother the garden in Norfolk where she had played as a child. As usual Stephen was frank and open about his Jewishness.

‘Fifty – not out’ was the programme that finally demolished any remaining prejudice. Friends as diverse as Prince Charles and Jonathan Ross and including luminaries of stage and screen such as Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thomson, Imelda Staunton – too many to name - and many who had known him since Cambridge speak of him with awe and affection. When Hugh Laurie (playing the lead in ‘House’ in the US) spoke of his old partner in the Bertie Wooster series it was plain to see his love for his old friend.

Stephen Fry – actor, writer, comic, wit, raconteur and brilliant interviewer you are a national treasure. Imagine what it must be like to have him as a friend; one would never have to Google again. Below is a small taste of his comic talent.




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35 comments:

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I wish I could see these programmes over here. Growing up watching a Bit of Fry and Laurie I was not a little in love with him and Hugh Laurie. I've read everything he's written and think he has one of the most beautiful, funny, shiny minds on the planet. National treasure with bells on, and very possibly a false moustache but even better when he's just being himself. If it's still possible to be a British icon, he'd be my choice. It is still possible to have personal heroes and he's very near the top of my list. We're all the better for having him around.

Happy birthday Mr. Fry,
love, a gushy, smitten smittee (where you are the smitter, see)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Stopping by before I toddle off to Slumber-Land....
I LOVE Stephen Fry...I think he us brilliantly talented and brilliant, in general, and has a HUGE Heart. I have always loved seeing The BAFTA Awards, when they telvise them here because for many years, as you know, he has been the MC....And a fantastic one, always...! There is a picture that has played here a lot, "Peter's Friends" i think it is called Hugh Laurie, Emelda Staunton, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branaugh and Rita Rudner...Mr. Fry I believe wrote it and stars in it too, along with this fantastic group of actors...It is a lovely, funny and touching film....
Anyway, I'm glad you came around, my dear!

Dandelion said...

Oh, pi, thank you for doing this. I missed the HIV one and the 50 Not Out. Was hoping you'd do a re-cap for us.

I love Stephen Fry because there is something very comforting about him if you feel sad. Like the way he showed his mother the garden.

Fianna said...

I am not familiar with Stephen Fry, but after reading this, am heading to Youtube to see what I can find. Great informational post.

BTW, Michele sent me.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

AND he's just started a BLOG!!! http://stephenfry.com/blog/

PI said...

Sam: Zinnia has just told me he has started a blog. http://stephenfry.com/blog/
Be prepared - it's a very long post. I tried to leave a comment but it doesn't recognise my User name - I only know my Google one. Bugger it!

Naomi: the programme '50 not out!' was like Peter's friends all over again - they were all there. He is enormously popular and could run for president if we had one.

Dandelion: happy to oblige. I'm so glad I've got over my thing and can really fully appreciate him now

Zinnia: fantastic! Even though he has a million comments I tried to leave one - as I've just written about him but my User name is wrong! At least the Google one is.

PI said...

Fianna : I'm sure you'll have fun:)

indigo said...

Hello Pi...here from Michelle!

I love Stephen Fry - fell in love with him in the PG Wodehouse series, with Hugh Laurie. He's a comic genius! I love that YouTube vid you have below here - hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

Have a good weekend!

Moogie said...

pi..I'm not familiar with him at all but I loved your recap and am now off to check his blog. It's great to "see you" again. It's been a couple of weeks since my last visit. We are busy with birthdays (new TEEN!..which I wrote about in my blog and today is the hubby's bday. Have a great weekend!

PI said...

Indigo: I think he was born to play Jeeves. Glad you enjoyed it.

Moogie: Happy birthday to hubby and I'm glad you found Stephen. He's a one off.

JoeinVegas said...

He's Jeeves to Wooster for me. And Blackadder, haven't seen much recent in the US, though Laurie has his own doctor series on TV.

Eryl Shields said...

I've always thought Stephen Fry was hilarious. I don't have a T.V. so I no longer get to see any of these things. I read about them though and my admiration for him grows; he uses his celebrity in a positive way at every turn. We need more like him really.

PI said...

Joe: they are two very gifted people. It's incredible what Hugh has done with House when you think of his silly ass Bertie.

PI said...

eryl: after the manic depression programmes I felt really worried for him. He has these attacks about three times a year when he just feels suicidal, Fingers crossed he survives to a ripe old age. There aren't enough around.

carli said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm not too familiar with Mr. Fry's work, although I thought Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story was hilarious.

I think too many young people are complacent about AIDS because they don't remember or weren't even alive during the 80's, when AIDS was an automatic death sentence. Now, they think, I'll pop some pills, I'll be okay, not realizing that the cocktail doesn't work forever and that it has drastic side effects. The program you mention definitely sounds interesting.

PI said...

Carli: thank you. There is a second follow up programme and I can only hope it stems the flow of this dread disease by increasing awareness.

WendyWings said...

They just aired the programme on Stephens manic depression here. I have been a long time fan, funnily enough I posted a little picture of Hugh Laurie in my post today.
I absolutly love the show Who do you think you are, I saw Jeremy Irons episode just a couple of nights ago.
michele sent me today but I really should stop by more often.

savannah said...

thank you, sugar! a friend sent me the youtube link for his program...most impressive! he's an an credible actor and citizen of the world! now to see his blog!

PI said...

Hi Wendy: I must come and have a look. You're always welcome here.

Welcome Savannah! I'm glad you are a Fry fan. His post is quite long but well worth the read.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Michele sent me back once again my dear....And another film that I LOVED Stephen Fry in is Le Divorce...! It's a Merchant-Ivory film, and he plays a wonderful character who is an appraiser-authenticater of Fine Art, who has a wonderful nose-in-the-air-with a heart, kind of guy...He was, as always, superb!!!! It's a film that I particularly enjoy---Great Cast, too!

PI said...

Thank you Naomi! I had never heard of that. I'll look out for it. I've enjoyed the Merchant-Ivory films.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There has been a lot of Fry programmes on lately, due to his 50th birthday.

Michele sent me.

PI said...

Jean-luc: a Fry Fest as I like to call it. That's why I wrote the post:)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Sounds like he's not what he seemed at first glance -- and that we need more people like him.

Thanks for enlightening me, Pat. Those AIDS stats are scary -- and sad.

Michele sent me!

rashbre said...

I agree with your positive comments towards Stephen Fry. In my case, even the period when he seemed to implode was one where I felt it was a genuine thing and not some kind of 'show-biz dahling' moment.

And its good to see someone who takes on some difficult programming as well as his lighter content. One gets the feeling that even on QI he is exhibiting his real knowledge of the subjects rather than a partially scripted prompter which I know some of the show biz folk use.

So all, in all, a good fellow!

PI said...

Thanks Susan: I'm glad I delved a little deeper.

Rashbre:you were more perceptive than I was but I got there in the end. His general knowledge is awesome and if by any chance there is something he doesn't know he willfind out in double quick time. So diligent.

Carmi said...

What a remarkably gifted man! I'm always touched by celebrities who use their celebrity for good. Mr. Fry clearly learned that lesson early on. My respect for him has only deepened now that I've read this entry, Pat.

I'm glad Michele sent me over the water to see you this morning.

PI said...

Carmi: I'm glad you came too:)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

In response to your comment on my blog, dear Pat....Ted Danson looks FABULOUS with his White-Silvery Hair....It is a partial toupem byt it is GREAT looking, and his face is very young...In fact, in a way, I think he is even MORE attratice now....(Maybe it;s because I am older...lol)

And, I went to Stephen Fry's blog....It is fascinating---What a WONDERFUL writer he is.....I thought his very long post n "FAME" was absolutely inspired----Funny, and truthful, and "spot on"....He is so wonderfully talented, My Lord!

craziequeen said...

I have always been a huge fan of Stephen Fry's. Even when he was at his lowest ebb, I was sure he would do the right thing.

I would reccommend his books - he's a wonderful writer.

Michele sent me to see your post, which was good, 'cos I missed 50 Not Out.

cq

PI said...

Naomi: I went over to his blog also and found it fascinating. the link about Fatty Arbuckle interested me as I remember the case and it's sad that though apparently innocent, the mud stuck and he died under a cloud.
I tried to leave a comment but couldn't get my user name accepted for some reason.

CQ: of course i didn't mention his books. What hasn't he done? Glad you found it interesting.

apprentice said...

I love Stephen too. His mind is as big and exoansive as his frame.

The HIV programme was very good indeed. The young girl infected in the womb had more wisdom than people three times her age, which is actually rather sad as she's never been able to be a child.

I lost my only brother the AIDS in Nov 1990. He died at 32 and there's not a day that I don't miss him. He endured a lot before he died in Mildmay hospice in London.It's an amazing place. I remember sprad toast for a former BbC producer who could no longer lift a knife.
http://www.mildmay.org/mildmay.aspx?pg=mildmay-home

PI said...

Anna: that is so tragic. I am so sorry. Thank you for the link and I am glad you feel the same about Stephen. it would be great if his programme really made a difference.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Charlie's image was greatly improved by his revelation that he admired Stephen Fry, especially with the generation who don't remember him sitting in a dustbin and doing his Bluebottle voice. Charles, not Stephen. Diana was a fag hag, but I think Stephen would have found her a bit thick.

PI said...

Daphne: yes he was mad about the Goons too. I think Stephen would find a great many people thick but would be too polite to point it out. The streams of consciousness that just pour from his mouth are awesome.
I think he'd vomit aphorisms.