Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fame Hungry or Money Hungry?! The motive behind the autobiography!

Maybe the race for the Christmas stocking filler has begun earlier than anticipated this year, but one thing’s for sure, a plethora of celebrities are lining the shelves of bookstores with their autobiographies, from Cheryl Cole, David McWilliams, to Tulisa Contostavlos, we will definitely not be short of some light reading this Christmas. I’m the first to pick up nonfiction, but I can’t quite see how reading about Cheryl Cole and the likes is an interesting read, nor why they feel the need to pen their life stories whilst under the age of 30 – maybe they are reliant on book deal number two to cover the later stages of their lives. To me, autobiographies by those with true talent, who aren’t exactly media crazed people are the best reads – Andre Agassi’s Open is one of the most honest insights into the life of a sportsman I have yet to read, Steve Jobs biography, Dean Karnazes, Aung San Suu Kyi they offer a glimmer into an extremely interesting life, and can inspire so many by sharing their stories. The same can hardly be said for Cheryl Cole’s brawl with a bathroom attendant in a night club eh?!
But the latest, and possibly most bizarre autobiography of all, is the memoirs of Melanie Verwoerd, the former director of Unicef Ireland. Melanie was well accustomed to being in the public eye, having married the grandson of the South African Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd. She wasn’t solely known for this however; she was successful in her own right as an anti-apartheid activist and was also one of the youngest MPs representing Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. Given this profile, one would expect her memoirs; entitled ‘When We Dance’ to be an interesting read. Instead half the book is devoted to a two year relationship she had with the late RTE presenter, Gerry Ryan.
The untimely death of Gerry Ryan shocked the nation in 2010; however his family have kept a dignified silence since then. Not his partner though, Melanie has decided to utilise her autobiography as a ‘tell all’ book about her relationship with the star. She details what seems like every minute detail of their relationship from their first date in his Ballsbridge apartment, to their first holiday together staying with U2 manager, a close of friend of Gerry’s, Paul McGuiuness in the South of France, to the financial duress he felt in the lead up to his death, spending €30,000 a month, how RTE shunned him for the top gig of Late Late Show presenter in favour of Ryan Tubridy, and she continued to divulge these stories, up until and including the moment where she found the late Gerry dead on the floor of his apartment. Ms Verwoerd is even brash enough to detail Gerry’s devastation at the time his marriage collapsed with Morah.
On Wednesday the book was due to go on sale, but was temporarily taken off book shelves, as an injunction was made by Dave Kavanagh, a friend of Gerry’s, objecting to certain passages in the book. A hearing is due to take place later in the month, which has now delayed the publication of this book. Let’s hope the judge takes it off the shelves for good!
It seems however that others are coming forward to discuss their feelings on this book. In speaking with the Irish Independent, Pat Kenny, said that ‘he was deeply saddened that Ms Verwoerd had decided to reveal details about Ryan’s private life – including his personal finances’, and also how ‘Gerry wrote his own book and he had a chance to share all of this. But he chose to share none of his difficulties and he didn't intend for any of them to be in the public domain... So I don't know why Melanie has decided to do this. And I think it's very sad that she has.’
Ms Verwoerd even accused Pat of not being ‘truly close to Gerry’ and not being ‘around him in the last two years as his friend’ to which Pat Kenny denied, stating that they met several times a week, and often went for lunch and a chat, and had done so on the Wednesday before he died. Pat Kenny’s statements are laden with veracity in saying that Gerry had the opportunity to divulge his personal difficulties but chose not to. It also appears that maybe Melanie did not know Gerry quite as well as she claims to, as Pat details the close friendship he did in fact share with Gerry. Are Melanie’s claims an attempt to grab some headlines? Or possibly to create a media storm surrounding her memoirs to ensure good book sales? It seems likely.
Also, in the Late Late Show tribute to Gerry Ryan Melanie also said that she was extremely hurt not to be mentioned and that it was as if their relationship had never existed. The truth is that tribute was to Gerry Ryan the broadcaster, not to celebrate their 2 year relationship. The fact that she was hurt shows a degree of immaturity and again a constant need to be in the limelight.
His family never felt the need to be mentioned; instead they wanted to celebrate his career as a broadcaster and what he meant to his listeners. Since his death, his family have continued to keep a dignified silence, they have not chosen to pen his every move, his traits as a husband, as a father, as a friend... instead they’ve chosen to cherish those memories in the way Gerry would have wanted.
I can’t quite decide the reasoning behind Melanie Verwoerd’s decision to release her autobiography, which for the most part is focused on her 2 year relationship with the later RTE broadcaster, Gerry Ryan, which she claims he wanted told.
Intimate moments are those generally shared between two people, Gerry Ryan had the national airwaves to broadcast these moments, his financial worries, his most private feelings, but he chose not to. He had the perfect medium, had he wanted to share. He clearly didn’t. The lady, who claims to have been the closest to him in the run up to his death defies all this, by publicising his inner most thoughts.
Fame hungry or money hungry?! I may not be able to establish Ms Verwoerd’s motive, but the remaining salient feature of her decision to pen these memoirs, is an obvious lack of respect, for the one person she apparently loved.
The Ryan Line closed 2 years ago Melanie.... and let’s leave it like that, let Gerry Rest in Peace. 
The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 14 October 2012