When I was sixteen, I kicked a taxi so hard the rear wheel arch fell off, along with my shoe, into the gutter outside of my house. Yes, I was drunk, but the taxi driver was an idiot  - he had tried to take my shoes as payment for an over-inflated fair. So, I wedged my shoe in the back panel of his car. Fair? I thought my actions were morally justified. When the police were called, they were relatively sympathetic to my plight, even if they did fine me heavily and tell my dad. Telling my dad was definitely the worst part.


I learned an important lesson that night: don’t shit on your own doorstep (I can’t believe I didn’t know this already). Pretty embarrassing. If there was one saving grace to all of this, it was that my stupidity was not caught on camera and beamed out to millions. I was allowed to make my mistakes in private, even though my parents will never allow me to forget. I think they filmed it with their minds.

Celebrities aren’t so lucky, especially now YouTube means everyone can be a full time Nelson Muntz. Bad luck, stupid famous people. We can point and laugh all we want and there’s more than plenty of opportunity to do just that. As the recent onstage Wavves brain meltdown at Primavera has reminded us, mixing copious amounts of drugs and drink with increasing fame anxiety and a large audience, results in serious public displays of losing it. But Nathan Williams’ spazzout is hardly unique. It fits pretty neatly in that heady pantheon of celebrities who have lost their minds in public, usually on live TV to an audience of millions while their loved ones silently sit watching, slowly dying inside.

Sinead O’Connor on Saturday Night Live

Performing a version of Bob Marley’s “War” on Saturday Night Live in October 1992, Sinead O’Connor decided it was a perfect opportunity to protest against child abuse in the Catholic church by defiantly tearing up a picture of the Pope. Bad move. Just like when I kicked to death the back of a Hackney Carriage, she learned a very important lesson that night: Do not fuck with America’s God, otherwise they will fuck you. Her records were burned and radio stations refused to play her songs. At a Bob Dylan tribute concert two weeks later she was roundly booed by an unruly mob of thousands, only finding comfort in the arms of Kris Kristofferson as she wept at the side of the stage. Depressing. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Robert de Niro got a bit pissy later in that same series of SNL and retaliated by doing the same thing to a picture of the Irish firebrand. And I thought you were cool, Bobby D! I think this helps explain Analyze That. And really, America seriously needs to pour cold water on it’s hard-on for organised religion.

Oliver Reed whenever he appeared in public

To know Oliver Reed is to realise that he never spent a day sober. To then combine this with TV cameras, a plumy accent and a willingness to use words like ‘todger’ as if it’s no big deal, means a search of his name in YouTube produces a goldmine of absolute and utter public embarrassment/genius. He’s the reason the acronym ‘lol’ was invented and actually brings an element of raw class to the art of losing it.

David Blaine on GMTV

David Blaine is not normal. In fact, he’s a bit date rape creepy and the sort of guy you expect to find on the Glastonbury site 6 days after its finished looking for leigh lines and a missing part of his mind. I don’t think anyone would dispute that claim. I’m not even sure he’s a magician. Locking himself in glass boxes, burying himself alive and standing on columns for weeks at a time are dumb spectacles that are more Takeshi’s Castle than David Copperfield. But while he’s a cartoon most of the time, he’s also a bona fide weirdo that I wouldn’t leave alone with children. When he appeared on GMTV with an eye painted on the inside of his hand, with a flustering Eamonn Holmes (who I also wouldn’t leave alone with children) desperately trying to stop him from scaring to death the nation’s housewives, the UK was given all the excuse it needed to pelt that suspended glass cage over the south bank with eggs and golf balls. Judging from this performance, I don’t think he ever did find his mind lost in those Somerset fields.

Tracey Emin on Channel 4

Unlike unfathomably famous idiots such as Kerry Katona and Heather Mills who have lost their minds on TV but somehow managed to remain both incredibly boring and just a little tragic, Tracey Emin is an altogether more interesting proposition. Appearing on a Channel 4 discussion show in 1997 about that year’s Turner Prize, she slurred and insulted her way through her entire appearance, before leaving to “phone her mum”. No doubt the whole ordeal would have proven a little embarrassing for her in the cold harsh light of the morning, but through her drunken haze she somehow managed to talk more sense than any of the other pseudo-intellectual word-wankers populating the room. Just like Ollie Reed, she’s got class and passion, even if she is behaving like Dumbo in a barrel of wine.