Sunday Times Column: Always Meet Your Heros



They say never meet your heroes, which is convenient because most of my heroes are dead. Otherwise, “they” are totally wrong. Although it depends who your heroes are, and why you chose them.

The supposedly cool thing about being a journalist is you get to meet loads of famous people. I’ve interviewed Dolly Parton (sweary), Naomi Campbell (nightmare), Brad Pitt (hot), Lily Allen (drunk), Amy Winehouse (the best). But interviewing people isn’t the same as going out drinking with them. And famous people aren’t always the ones you admire.

My real heroes are people who make my world worth living in. Like whoever invented tinsel. And cronuts. And mash-ups. Who inspire me to be braver, better, do more. Like Inna Shevchenko from Femen. Oprah. Tina Turner. And a hedonistic 23-year-old called Oozing Gloop, somehow scraping a living as a green-faced drag queen.

My hero du jour is an American journalist, Gene Weingarten, who has twice won a Pulitzer prize for his features, including a brilliant portrait of a violinist in a subway station. I love him because he sees the world in a way I want to: clear, yet complex. His stories are precise, yet filled with intricate details and unanswered questions. (And since my other favourite writer, the novelist David Foster Wallace, is gone, he’s all I have left.) It occurs to me several times during the tweeting, the emailing and on the 407-mile, six-hour round trip, which costs me £400 to get from New York to Washington to meet Gene, that perhaps I’ve gone mad.

But that’s cool. I probably have.

We meet in a bar. He turns up and orders a beer, although it’s 11am….



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