The PR Mark Borkowski gives sensible advice to Heather Mills McCartney in today's Guardian after shaking his head at her TV antics of last week. He even tries to explain to her the "emotional roles" celebrities play in the wretched lives of the public. First, stars provide a "mythical narrative that the fan can follow and identify with" (very true, as my studies of Spacey fans have revealed). Second, stars can "function as an empty screen on to which fans can project their dreams." He adds: "The slightest deviation from these prescribed roles provokes enormous rage." In other words, she should have just put up with the press shit because, let's face it, we want her to be Cruella.
Mr Borkowski is one of our shrewder PRs - Madame Arcati might yet put him on a retainer! But there is one way in which a celebrity can tear away the binds of media central casting. It's called self-parody. Send yourself up - surprise your public with a display of comic self-knowingness - and a whole new life may await you.
The trick is to get yourself on a show where you can be mercilessly sent up, thereby burying the old myth. The show has to be pretty hot - ie very cool - to achieve image conversion. Until recently anything associated with Ricky Gervais might have done the trick - ask Les Dennis who has not looked back since he appeared in Gervais' Extras in a piece of self-crucifying irony. The Simpsons is also a great place to shape-shift the PR: get yourself cartoonised, have yourself slotted into a zeitgeist narrative animation, and the public will look upon you with eyes afresh (except it didn't really work for Blair - he was too far gone by the time of his 'tooning).
Talk shows may help, but you have to be careful. A spot on Graham Norton might just do the trick if you can withstand his porno theatre of cruelty. Jonathan Ross is a better bet since he still cleverly sides with the stars while taking the gentle piss, loudly. If Heather could be persuaded to swallow the bitter pills of his scabrous humour - "So, Heather, what was it about a pop icon billionaire that appealed to you," etc etc - and if she could just hold her face together in a pose of amused tolerance, well, perhaps even the Sun might lay off. Eventually.