This week’s revelations from Spice World could almost make you think the girls are intent on extreme self-sabotage
Joel Golby – The Guardian
Of all the Spice Girls news revelations this week – and there are a number of them, so strap in – the most baffling and unbelievable for me is still Mel B’s pathological reluctance to lose even one molecule of her native Leeds accent. Consider this: Mel B – or, to be more formal, Melanie Brown – has been famous for about 24 years now, far exceeding the 19-or-so years she spent being unfamous in West Yorkshire. She has spent a number of those years doing healthy living in Los Angeles, among drawls so infectious they turn even the most cut-glass English accent nasally transatlantic within minutes of landing. She was married to an American and has a number of American children.
Yet, on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories this week, she still fundamentally sounded like she had just got a lifetime ban from a Yates bar in Leeds city centre for chanting too loudly about breadcakes. At this point, you feel Mel B’s accent could survive a nuclear blast, as though she could crawl out of the white-hot fury of an A-bomb dropped directly on her throat and still shout “EYUP” so loudly some car alarms go off in Headingley.
We are of course here to talk about Mel B And Geri Horner Having Sex Once, the main Spice Girl revelation of the week, an admission made by Mel B on the previously mentioned Life Stories format. Before we go too deep into this one, a warning: I don’t know how passionately you feel about having sex, but if you ever want to have it again, I would advise against watching the video clip in question. In it, Piers Morgan – shirt unbuttoned to the chest in a manner I can only describe as “man w/ new Porsche attempts first affair before being bowled out by 10 consecutive PR girls” – says: “There were rumours that you and Geri were more than good friends … that you’d had a little dabble.” Those last four words – delivered with his usual “toad inexplicably elected to position of head boy wins the other Eton sixth formers over with rousing end-of-term speech” elan – made my sex organs shrivel up inside me so much that they will have to be coaxed out by doctors with special long tongs. Anyway, your funeral.
Since quietly nodding “Yes, I shagged Geri in the 90s. If you had had the chance, you would have done too” on Life Stories, Mel B has been consigned to the inevitable apology tour circuit. She has appeared on as many radio shows as possible to confirm that, yes, it sort of happened, and no, it’s not that big a deal. She bears all the traits of someone who has just had to listen to an extremely long bollocking from Geri on their answer machine. “I just admitted we had a little bit of a thing back in the day at one time, and that’s it,” she told 2DayFM Breakfast with Grant, Ed & Ash. “It wasn’t a big deal. We’ve known each other for 20-plus years. It was just one of those things that happened one night. If you actually read my transcript, I just said it was like a little thing and we giggled about it the next day and that’s that. It’s the press have taken it on to a whole new level.” Well, yes, but then which of us has a 13-date arena tour to promote?
Are we surprised that this happened? I was quite young in the 90s, but my most vivid memory of the decade was Mel B and Geri Halliwell (as she then was) rubbing themselves on every available surface like they were trying to scrub marks out of a suede sofa with a wet wipe, before flirting so hard with Prince Charles that the Queen resolved to stay alive another 40 years just to spite him out of ever ascending to the throne. Surely it would be weirder if they didn’t have sex, no? I’m not going to speculate who in the Spice Girls – or other girl bands from the same era – may or may not have had sex with each other during the boom years. Here’s a modest proposal that would make these things easier and quicker in the future: let’s just assume that everyone in the 90s had sex with each other and the few who didn’t can call a press conference to announce that they didn’t. In fact, just get Dane Bowers on Life Stories and we can do the whole thing out in one 45-minute chunk.
Far more interesting for me this week is the revelation that not only are Kerry Katona and Victoria Beckham friends, but also that Beckham provided the former with quiet counsel and unending support when her four-year marriage to Brian McFadden dissolved in 2004. “When Brian and I split, she called me to wish me luck,” Kerry wrote in her column in New! magazine, bafflingly. “The Rebecca Loos scandal had just happened, yet she got my number and made that gesture. It was a sweet thing to do. I’m not sure she’d remember it now, but I still have a lot of respect for her.” That “I’m not sure she’d remember it now” addendum feels like it’s doing a lot of heavy lifting, doesn’t it?
Not to give you too much of a peek at how the sausage is made, but celebrity columnists very rarely, well, actually write their celebrity columns. That task instead falls to a put-upon editorial assistant who calls them up every Monday morning, listens to them burble on for a few minutes about whatever they can think of while they’re on speakerphone trying to eat a yoghurt while driving the kids to school, then types it up into a vague approximation of a column. This is how things such as “that time Danny Dyer blithely advocated for domestic violence” happen: a 23-year-old with six jobs and half a salary does it instead of having a lunch break, and no one really checks. You do rather feel like someone at New! magazine this week has had to be dragged into a very panicked department-head meeting to explain how “Victoria Beckham calling Kerry Katona after the McFadden thing” might be in any way believable and made to sort out the fashion cupboard as punishment.
So it didn’t happen, but that hasn’t stopped me thinking near constantly about the world we might be living in if it had. In a way, Beckham and Katona are cut from similar cloth – former girl band members who had a blond husband in the mid-00s, both have back tattoos and children. But then that’s like saying the Queen might call up a tower-block nan and offer to be friends because they both live in subsidised housing and have one too many dogs. The idea of them nattering on the phone – Kerry slowly stewing a pot of chicken nuggets up in a casserole dish, Victoria backgrounded by the hiss of a spray tan – fills me with a certain dark joy. It soothes me.
But the real question this week is: do the Spice Girls still want this? Judging by nearly every second of their collective behaviour so far in 2019, it feels as if they all want to self-sabotage the group, so that they will never again be forced into a reunion: that comeback video, the human rights violations, the time Geri called Winston Churchill “the original Spice Girl”. They’ve all got stuff going on right now – Emma is doing radio; Geri is doing baking; Mel B has had a piece of flesh surgically removed from her rib cage – and it seems like a reunion tour is just getting in the way of them doing that.
Consider it from their point of view. You’ve worked hard for years. You’ve carved a career out all of your own, and made millions doing it. Some of you have even covered the Cameo song Word Up. You have kids and mansions and perfect hair. You have fashion lines and presenting gigs and Kerry Katona’s home phone number. And someone says: “Do you want to stand on top of a taxi and do the peace sign again to an arena full of mums?” They say: “Can you go to Coventry and say ‘zig-a-zig-ah’, the one-millionth time you have said that in your life?” No, you think. Of course not. Go on Piers Morgan and blow the whole thing up with squibs. You don’t need this energy in your life any more.