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Date: 9 Jul 1995 21:50:41 +0200
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On alien territory; 10 ways to spot Pod people
Times of London
Sunday, July 2, 1995
By Christa D'Souza
John Redwood, above, is not the only extraterrestrial among us, it seems.
Christa D'Souza, below, has 10 ways to spot Pod people.
It was only a matter of time before an alien went for Britain's top
political job. The former Welsh secretary, John "Vulcan" Redwood, has been
waiting patiently, pod-like, in the wings. Now his time has come.
It was a very otherworldly spectacle, the launch last week of his
leadership campaign, his gargoyle-ish team of vote-snatchers behind him.
As noted by Matthew Parris of The Times, the writer who started the whole
Vulcan theme, Redwood was hardly alone in not quite resembling a human
being. As individuals, they had been able to slip into the parliamentary
crowd unnoticed. Now, as a group, the giveaway signs were all too
apparent: in some cases, the slightly bulbous facial features or curious
bodily proportions;in others, bizarrely inappropriate dress such as Tony
Marlow's Molesworth-style striped blazer.
That's the thing about aliens and don't for a moment think that they are
confined to the world of politics; look closely, and you will discover
them in all walks of life there is always a clue to their true
Here are 10 sure-fire ways to spot an alien, with names of well-known
people whose masks have slipped. One day soon you may need to know. For,
as all the best sci-fi stories have long predicted, and the
materialisation of the Redwood camp has finally made clear, we are most
assuredly not alone...
1. FAILURE OF DRESS SENSE: Brian Harvey
Back on Planet Pod, the ETs have endless training in earth-wear. It is
less easy once you beam down. Fashion moves fast, and one garment can look
confusingly similar to another: at the Redwood press conference, for
example, the MP Tony Marlow had evidently called up on his memory banks
the need for pinstripes but, short-circuiting perhaps in the sudden hot
weather, had donned by mistake a boating blazer. There are many aliens in
the world of pop music, finding easy camouflage in its characteristically
exotic clothing. Even here, some do not manage to integrate. Take East 17:
they aimed, plausibly enough, for the baggy-trousered south Bronx rapper
image. Just a bit too baggy, however, to the extent that the band's legs
look positively stumpy. And their singer, Brian Harvey, has a suspiciously
glassy-eyed stare. (See 3, below.)
2. ODD BODILY PROPORTIONS: Nadja Auermann
Often aliens will have one body part that is slightly off kilter, and
which singles them out, albeit discreetly, from human beings. Prince
Charles's ears are certainly cause for concern.
There is a whole tribe of immaculately dressed, helmet-hairdo-ed female
aliens with heads too big for their bodies and necks like flower stalks,
whom you know, if you spied on them from behind the shrubbery at some
unearthly hour, would have little keys in their backs. Nancy Reagan, for
example. At the other end of the scale are the pin-head aliens, girls with
heads too small for their bodies. Catherine Bailey may be one, for the
modelling industry has always been a haven for the freakishly proportioned
alien. The best known is Nadja Auermann (main picture), the 6ft-plus
Austrian model with legs longer than the height of the average man. I
wonder if the poor thing has actually found enough water for her planet
3. STRANGE STARING EYES: Anna Wintour
This is the most obvious giveaway, and the one that first led to the
outing as an alien of John Redwood, with his piercing, greeny-blue stare.
ETs tend to have intense eyes that, paradoxically, have no passion.
Some cynics have cited Patrick Moore, doubtless misled by his expertise in
astronomy. Just because you watch the heavens doesn't mean that you want
to go home. More likely is the friend who perpetually wears sunglasses,
even indoors, even at night-time, even at the risk of looking naff or
stuck-up. The magazine industry and film business are their natural
sanctuary. You may suggest the inscrutable editor of American Vogue, Anna
Wintour, but I couldn't possibly comment.
4. FAILURE OF EMPATHY:Robert Kilroy-Silk
The media business, and television in particular, is generously flecked
with aliens. They feel at home with all those bits of flex protruding from
their clothes, and with the need for a certain controlled demeanour. There
is certainly more than one extraterrestrial newsreader the sports
reporters at the end of news programmes also seem suspect.
Human-interest chat shows, with their need for hosts to "relate" to
individuals in the audience, are not a safe bet. Take the inhumanly
good-looking Robert Kilroy-Silk, who, however enthusiastically he scales
those studio stairs with his microphone, has an uncanny ability to look
completely distanced from the poor souls whom he beards each weekday
morning about their brutish husbands or the way they are discriminated
against by airlines because they can't fit into the seat.
Beware of the friend who is making a career in television presenting.
Although it would seem that it by definition requires that very human
quality, empathy, in fact the business seems hellbent on employing those
who have exactly the opposite: zero rapport with their audience and looks
so symmetrical they hardly seem real, for example, Anthea Turner.
5. NO SENSE OF HUMOUR: Kevin Costner
This is probably the clearest indication that you are not dealing with an
entirely human entity: somebody who systematically does not get your
extremely funny jokes. A sense of humour is the thing even the most
sophisticated alien cannot get its digits round. That is the most poignant
thing about having come into the world as an alien. Hollywood is full of
Pod people busily disguising their humour malfunction as a sort of luvvie
self-regard. See Kevin Costner (nostalgically playing a web-fingered
semi-amphibian in Waterworld), who recently failed to see how funny it was
when he asked journalists wishing to interview him to first fill in a
lengthy questionnaire. We have our doubts about Jeremy Irons.
6. BOUNDLESS ENERGY: Jeffrey Archer
Redwood et al are the uber people of the planet, congenitally lacking in
time-consuming human traits such as tiredness, heart disease, depression,
temper tantrums or self-doubt. In fact, so ebulliently optimistic is the
alien about life in general, his eyes shining even in his sleep, he can
sometimes seem a little naive to mere mortals. Interestingly, aliens are
much harder to spot in a place such as Los Angeles. The nearest an alien
gets to depression is SAD (seasonal affective disorder), quickly remedied
by sticking his or her head in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
He certainly never gets tired, and generally only needs three or four
hours a night to recharge, running round like a Duracell bunny on speed
while everybody else catches flu and has hangovers. In that respect
Margaret Thatcher almost qualified as an alien until she was caught crying
in the back of the car on the day of her downfall. Aliens rust if they
cry. Jeffrey Archer is far more worrying.
7. SHORT-CIRCUITS UNDER MILD PRESSURE: Stephen Fry
At the beginning of the movie Blade Runner, the replicant was caught out
during an intense human-empathy test. In real life, it is the silliest
things that trip them up. But when they do trip up, they tend to
short-circuit, like poor Daryl Hannah in the same film. The most obvious
recent example is the footage of John Redwood singing in public.
As he found himself joining in with the Welsh national anthem it
immediately became apparent that this simple human task was not part of
his internal software: his head went into spasm, his limbs and eyes
twitched uncontrollably. One wonders about Salman Rushdie and his dancing;
also about Stephen Fry and his sudden withdrawal from the scene after a
London stage role that was hardly onerous, and who, of course, is mad
about the Internet. (See 8.)
8. AFFINITY FOR ANYTHING ELECTRICAL: Bill Gates
Aliens have a kind of unconditional love of technology, the way humans do
for their parents. Not unrelatedly, they run themselves like clockwork and
never use alarm clocks, waking up at 6.30am every morning, no matter what,
like human Teasmades. One indication you are in the presence of an alien
is a sudden cacophony of car alarms going off outside.
Aliens often work in high-tech industries, where their unco-ordinated
sartorial style raises no eyebrows, and they can indulge in their love of
mechanical jargon. Examples include Bill Gates and Clive Sinclair.
9. THE SCIENTOLOGY CONNECTION: Nicole Kidman
Aliens have always gravitated towards Scientology; it gives them a
rationale for their sometimes slightly superhuman personae. Lisa Marie
Jackson is a Scientologist, as is Nicole Kidman, recently described in
Vanity Fair as "breathtakingly determined...she has pursued her career
with the relentlessness of a heat-seeking missile". Kidman for whom,
apparently, her husband Tom Cruise has to bake chocolate-chip cookies when
she is filming, to keep her weight up decided she wanted to be famous when
she was three. It is a wonder that Ms Kidman's British counterpart, Mrs
Will Carling, is not also a Scientologist.
10. CATS LIKE THEM, DOGS DON'T: Martyn Lewis
As in that scene in Terminator II when the impostor comes home pretending
to be the loving husband, dogs always sense anything that is not quite
right. If your dog's hackles start rising before your dinner guest has
even rung the bell, be on your guard. Interestingly, cats bond with
aliens. Interestingly, Redwood has two of them. Other cat-lovers include
Martyn Lewis. (See 4, newsreaders.)