After the serialisation of David Walliams’ Camp David in the Sun and more unofficially The Daily Mail, all I wanted was to read the book for myself. Mainly because I felt that the papers were focussing too much on one issue of the book and left out bits that were just as and maybe far more important then the ones the editors picked out.
Reading the book I was proven correct, in a way I was surprised at just how much was ignored by the media in the promotion of the book.
Naturally you cannot reveal everything in a serialisation, as it would take away the need of actually buying the book. But in this case it would have been nice to have seen a bit more shade and light.
The idea the media gave off was that Camp David was some dark journey through the mind of a manic depressive littered with suicide attempts left, right and centre.
It is not. It is the journey of a talented man, desperate to show the world his talent, bravely trying to keep his dark moods away and is for the most very warm and entertaining as if a close friend is telling you about their life and gossiping about people you know. It includes many funny anecdotes about his childhood and rise to fame and the celebrities he met along the way.
The book is certainly a must for Whovians with several Doctors (Tom Baker, Peter Davidson) and major players from Who history including The Brigadier Nicholas Courtney popping up throughout the story. David reveals what it was like to work with them and gives us some of the Who stories they told him. It also tells of David’s friendship with Who writers including close friend Mark Gatiss. A funny tale of their fandom that led to their famous Who sketches and Mark becoming a Who writer. It also has some wonderful pictures.
A very interesting part is how he became friends with Robbie Williams and subsequently ended up in Russia in the singers hotel room. Their intimate discussion, drawn from the actors diary at the time is extraordinarily moving. The first meeting with other bandmate Gary Barlow was quite different.
There are the meetings with his comedy icons (alive and sadly deceased) Frankie Howerd, Kenny Everett, Rowan Atkinson and Dame Edna star Barry Humphries.
His first excruciating run in with Simon Cowell. Seeing the torso of Daniel Craig at the NTY.
Working with his heroes: Richard Wilson, Graham Linehan, Vic and Bob and Steve Coogan, The League of Gentleman. Dating Caroline Aherne and their awkward meeting with Michael Barrymore And his deep friendship with Rob Brydon.
The most shocking part of the book is his relationship with Matt Lucas. It is hard to read how careless Matt was of David’s feelings to the point of being downright rude. Sometimes it appeared Matt was actually bullying. Still David feels the need to stick up for him throughout the book, almost telling us Matt was allowed to treat him this way because of his talent. David thinks he should tell us again and again that Matt is more talented then he is, where acting is concerned. Having seen David move from comedy to serious drama and back again, I can’t say I agree with this. David takes the same attitude with his lovers – despite the way they treat him, he stands up to them and thinks he is unworthy because of their beauty and talent.
Still, this is a recurring theme in David’s book, time after time there are people he thinks are more talented, superior, prettier. David comes out of the book as suffering from quite low self esteem. He is so self deprecating that you just want to either slap him or hug him and tell him: ‘Stop it!! You are talented and can do so much more with yourself.
He is also unfairly judgemental about his earlier work with Matt: Many people still love Rock Profile, there were some great episodes of Mash and Peas and even Sir Bernard’s Stately homes wasn’t THAT bad.
What struck me is how delightfully defensive David is of the gay community and his knowledge of it. If he hadn’t been so detailed about his female lovers the book could have been written by a gay man. Standing up to his racist and homophobic father, talking about the first years of the AIDS epidemic, helping Matt come out and a heartbreaking account on gay actor Peter Wyngard who lost his status as an actor after being arrested in a public toilet in 1975. David just the gayest straight men in the world. A true treasure. Surely next years Attitude Award for honorary gay should be rightfully his?
Written in the fresh, crisp style we’ve come to know from his children’s books, this biography should be essential reading for anyone wanting to make it as an actor, writer, comedian or anyone with a dream, really . As it shows how much you can do if you work hard and stay focussed despite what live throws at you. It’s no surprise this man beat the Thames.
Come on, there must be something wrong with it? Well, not really, at a push: my only gripe is the last page. Really? Yup, the last page seems strangely tagged on, like it doesn’t belong to the rest of the book. It was as if David had neatly finished the book, and someone asked him to write just one more bit for the sake of it. Really strange, but a minor irritation in what’s otherwise a delightful read.
In short: A wonderful book that should be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year.
This post was written by guest blogger and reality TV showbiz observer Daniel Cohen. Catch up with him on Twitter here!