Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Camp Cupcake

Last night at 10pm the result of the Michael Jackson trial was announced in Santa Maria to a pensive audience of social misfits, the mentally subnormal, and people with doves. The timing of the decision was spooky, as it immediately followed the broadcast of 'Martha & Me' on BBC2, a documentary about another American multi-millionaire jailbird with freaky fans: Martha Stewart.

Martha (think Delia Smith without the drunken outbursts on football pitches) was investigated last year for insider share dealing, and accused of lying to the FBI, but unlike Michael, who was clearly not guilty all along, and has been sleeping naked with young boys for twenty years in a purely innocent way, Martha was found guilty and sent daaaaan for five months. At which point film-maker Jamie Campbell, who'd previously been seen on Channel 4 posing as the novelist Alex Garland, and trying to rig the BARB viewing figures, arrived to cover the story.

Martha was sentenced to a stretch at 'Camp Cupcake', which sounds like Barbara Windsor's pet name for Dale Winton, but is actually a prison in Alderson, West Virginia, a small town of taxidermists, trailer trash, and rabbits on strings. Jamie Campbell fit right in, setting himself up in a trailer park a stone's throw from the prison, and decorating his static home the Martha Stewart way (all cock clocks and hors d'oeuvres), whilst seeking out some of the woman's more dedicated admirers.

Admirers such as Linda Smith, the proud owner of a 'Save Martha' hat, who had recently been to New York to protest. Protest about the way the police insist on arresting criminals, I presume. It's outrageous. She hadn't actually met her heroine, "other than when I was outside the court house and she waved", but when asked if she felt there could be something 'almost spiritual' about the woman, Linda replied "Yes". It sounds unlikely to me. Anyone who watched 'Judging Michael Jackson' on the same channel last week will know that he, not Martha Stewart, is the true creator of mankind. Something I'm sure Martha would be the first to admit. When previously asked on national TV about the possibility of her receiving a custodial sentence, the endlessly humble Martha had replied "There are many other people who have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela".

So it's official - Michael Jackson may be God, but Martha Stewart is the new Nelson Mandela.

Although it's an analogy lost on some of Martha's fans. A fellow resident of the Alderson trailer park was unimpressed with Nelson's contribution to the twentieth century, feeling that despite her law-breaking, Martha had done more to create jobs. Though on that basis, the Mafia should be getting a government grant. But the bottom line, as Jamie Campbell pointed out, was that "Mandela didn't make household products". The man agreed, adding "No, I really don't know what Mandela did, to be honest with you".

Me neither. But I do know more about Martha Stewart now. Apparently she saw a gap in the market thirty years ago, when she realised that "people don't even know how carrots grow... they don't know how a fig grows", and set about rectifying the problem. Personally I don't give a fig about carrots, but enough people did. They bought her videos, her magazines and her best-selling books about throwing cocktail parties for three hundred, making Martha a billionaire in the process. Let's face it, this was a woman well prepared to do a bit of porridge. Which, judging from the clip of her old TV show, she'd have served in the garden on an old wooden cart.

She was also a good woman, stating that "dishonesty bothers me a lot", as does "a distinct lack of morals", though she clearly doesn't have a problem with hypocrisy. One of her oldest friends, meanwhile, was happy to go on camera to describe Martha as "greedy, prideful, righteous, indignant, snobby, unkind, mean..." Oh, and "tremendously talented". Before going on to call her "a worthless piece of shit". Which is the kind of glowing recommendation I get from all my friends.

Martha's fan club, however, were slightly less subjective, stating categorically that "if she'd been a man, there's no way she'd be in jail now". Yeah, and if Michael Jackson had been black, he'd have been found guilty too. But them's the breaks.

Ex head teacher, and self-confessed Martha fan, Michael Wright added "I am in no way comparing Martha to the Queen of England" - oh go on, she's already the new Nelson Mandela - "but it's that feeling you get when you know the Queen or a member of the royal family's coming down the road". I'm not sure what road he lives on. Probably The Mall.

But in the words of a female protester outside the court house, who happened to mention, in passing, that her banner ('Seattle Supports Martha Stewart') was made from a Martha Stewart sheet with a 240 thread count, in periwinkle gingham with a delicate white flower (not that her fans are odd at all), "She's the American dream come true".

Yep, she made a fortune, went loopy, and ended up in prison. You can't get more American than that.