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How famous is that?
can't resist, I've tried; really, I've tried. Finally though it had too happen, I just have to write about this set. Before I do though think about your book collection for a moment. They're all books but unless you are organised or even more single minded than me, it is a pretty eclectic stuff, forget all that business orientated stuff concentrate on the fun stuff for a moment. Most of us have a primary religious source in the house, for the western world this tends to be the Bible. Then a great many of us have the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Catcher in the Rye should be there too, or at least you think it should be and if the blurb is too be believed then we all should have two copies of To Kill a Mockingbird.
So far so good, some of these books will even have fingerprints in the dust of the dust covers. Unlikely War and Peace has too many fingerprints but like me, you'll read it one day, well, past page ten anyway.
It is a good collection though. But most of us would not be putting it forward as a national treasure.
Imagine you had to put forward 48 books as not just national treasures but global ones. Tricky.
Famous though? It is getting close to the famous in your own lunch time stuff.
Its a variation on a theme, people love compiling lists, top ten, top hundred, the hundred best albums of all time. Great fun, and you can imagine, totally irresistible too someone how finds collecting a series of numbered bits of card as fascinating as I do. The top one hundred albums had a depressing number of albums that had only recently been in the charts. I am not sure if this is because they really do represent the pinnacle of musical accomplishment refined over the centuries or whether the teenagers that voted haven't heard anything else. I don't mind, I like Radiohead, but where was Deep Purple?
Lyons Maid, Famous People  has just that feel about it. It could be I am being a little harsh on the set, it does not say, the most famous people of all time, and it cannot possibly pretend to be. It is more the sort of collection of people you would accumulate and put on bookshelves over a period of time, eclectic heroes.
Charles Dickens is in the set as is Sir James Barrie. Barrie is the writer of many famous plays (name three) your starter for ten, Peter Pan. Well it is the only one I know. William Shakespeare is also in the set although he looks less like William than any previous example I have ever seen, but it could be the perfect likeness for all anyone knows. George Bernard Shaw is there, looking suitably bearded and great. The reverse of the card mentions his most famous play is 'St Joan'.
Gilbert & Sullivan get a mention too. Sensibly Tolstoy does not seem to get a mention.
Sir Winston Churchill actually kicks the set off, 'considered the greatest statesman and leader of our day.' It also notes he has held more ministerial posts than any other politician. 'Learning all the time' as Benny Hill would have said (in bad Japanese accent.) The set has quite a military bent to it, Lord Montgomery gets a mention. Lord Nelson keeps the naval tradition afloat. Happily though this is not one of those, 'British is best' sets which forget the rest of the planet exists. So we also have Franklin D Roosevelt, the reverse of the card mentions he led the allies to victory along with Winston Churchill and Stalin. 'Uncle Joe' did not qualify as a famous person mind, having become something of a non-person by this stage. General Eisenhower appears as does General De Gaulle.
Fine, if you are going to name some of the more famous warriors and statesmen then this is a good start but not much sign of the ancient greats should of been space for them surely?
There does seem to be some sort of attempt at categorisation within the set, or at least I am doing that job. This brings us to the question of what path you would wish to take to attain 'fame'. Are you looking for that brief moment of popular music fame which once the music stops you do voice overs for commercials. Or perhaps you want the lasting fame of scholarly pursuit or that of the artist more famous after death than before. Mind you in the words of the song, 'Fayyyyma, I'm gonna live forever.' Well, sort of, but it is not the sort of living where you breathe a lot.
Bertrand Russell might well have been able to answer some of these questions (if they were not too meaningless for his great mind). The next question would be, could one understand his answer. That said, this is the man that later admitted he had all but burnt his brain out proving one plus one was two. How bright is that? Still he appears on card 36, worthy stuff.
The cards do not have any pop stars and just possibly 1966 would be the last date in which 48 cards could be put together for young children not including a pop star or two. 'Yesterday' it would have been the Spice Girls, 36 hours ago unknowns, 24 hours ago, they were at the height of their fame. Now... well, now you can check them out on the web, a huge repository of decaying information. Although I did see a Ginger Spice look a like on advert the other day.
Instead of Pop Stars though we are treated to, Sir Malcolm Sargent, very popular conductor of the Promenade Concerts at the Albert Hall and chief conductor of the Royal Choral Society. Sir Thomas Beecham gets in the set as well, for waving the baton. He founded the 'famous London Philharmonic Orchestra.'
Those youngsters which were not swaying to the music of massed violins could take shelter in card 12, Dame Margot Fonteyn, 'regarded as one of the finest ballerinas of our age.'
But what is this? Card 38, for all you swinging cats out there, 'Satchmo' or 'Ambassador with a trumpet.' Or one cool hipster who can blow a crazy horn man. No Beatles yet though. No Elvis. But if you were Russian you could be arrested for listening to his subversive Jazz (something about Western idolaters I think).
The silver screen is better served with popular stars, Charlie Chaplin gets a likeness (although I am not sure it is his) on card 13. I have actually been totally immune to the charms of this comic genius all my life and I doubt things are going to change. I am a Buster Keaton fan, he smiled less, was a stunt pioneer and was fighting more demons than Chaplin knew existed for my money. Keaton died in 1966 as well, so sympathy vote would have been all right.
Danny Kaye appears on card 23. I am not a fan of that sort of cheerfulness, very wearing just to watch it. Probably does not help that most of the films I ever see him in are in that enhanced colour process technicolour which gives his toothy grin the sort of searchlight quality which would make driving at night without lights all too easy. However I commend the card for pointing out the fact he raised lots of money and awareness for young victims of leprosy and polio. You can forgive a fellow a lot of white teeth for that sort of work.
Famous though? It is getting close to the famous in your own lunch time stuff.
It is all wretchedly subjective because what have we hear, Tony [that's a whole armful] Hancock, card 27. Comic genius, innovator, cult classic. If you do not laugh when you watch 'The Rebel' get yourself to the undertakers quick. Of course that is just my opinion. Hopeless depressive and a drinking habit which made his final years a total rambling nonsense. His pitiful last months before his eventual suicide being the sort of thing that should happen to nobody let alone be self-inflicted. That's comic genius for you.
Finally though the set drops into farce with the inclusion of Eamonn Andrews. I've nothing against the bloke, never meet him, never thought about meeting him, never actually considered him. Can this really be a recommendation for inclusion on a set of cards called, Famous People. Surely he could have made room for someone else, perhaps a token royal; there aren't any in the set.
It is a moot point, is Picasso more famous before or after death. He appears on card 46. Again I am going to fall out with the choice of Picasso, for me Dali is the greatest exponent of artistic self-parody (I cannot imagine he was taking himself seriously), tortured genius locked into a romantic relationship which made him want to tear out his heart and hurl into onto the canvas, still beating, bleeding, a statement of love. Okay so a bit of artistic licence creeping in there but step aside Picasso with your lack of hair, dodgy stare and peculiar little dog. Actually he sounds a lot like me but with artistic ability, no wonder I dislike him. Also a lot of learned sources quote him as being 'the most outstanding artist of the 20th century.' So I am on a loser basically, remember I never said I was right. Either way they can both move over for VV Gogh, though this lunatic genius does not appear as a Famous person.
One of the traditional ways of becoming famous is to invent something and there are a number of inventors within the set. Well, if they did not actually invent it, they popularised it. George Stephenson is in the set as is Gugliemo Marconi. Wot no Edison?
Brunel appears and so he should a great engineer who had to invent things as he went along, otherwise he would not have been able to make anything.
The set does focus on medical matters with many a healer shown. Florence Nightingale is there. Albert Schweitzer appears who seems to be an all round good-egg, music, philosopher, medicine, missionary and number 4 of Famous People by Lyons Maid. Sir Alexander Fleming and Marie Curie, rub shoulders at numbers 15 & 16 respectively.
Of course the set also includes a number of explorers with the tales of derring-do just the sort of thing to be reading about as you scoff your ice-cream. Hilary, John Bunyan, Captain Scott and Sir John Hunt appear. Also, Armand and Michaela Denis (well, they are in the set). I should add to this list, Louis Bleriot and Yuri Gagarin (the last card in the series).
Although the set was probably aimed at a younger audience most would have known who these people were by the time they could read the backs of the cards and however much I huff and puff about the nature of fame this must be a good a measure as any.
As for a set, I've disagreed with it, I've agreed with it. It has made me think about the nature of fame and those that attain it and those that strive for it. So I must accept it is a very good set of cards.