August 14, 2008

Ain’t Life Grand When You’re a Starr?

By Alice Wyllie

THUMB through any glossy magazine and before long you'll be confronted by an array of expensively dressed - and often expansively drunk - bright young things. Actor or model, musician or socialite, they're always publicity-hungry, usually beautiful and occasionally truly talented.

Nepotism has always fed the pages of the glossy magazines, where the jeunesse d'oree are constantly name-checked, with or without reference to their famous parents. Think Nicole Richie (adopted daughter of Lionel), Richard Branson's children Sam and Holly, or any of the offspring of the Rolling Stones.

Increasingly, young people in the public eye have had a significant leg-up from their famous parents, be it the unremarkable Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce and Demi Moore) or the dull Peaches Geldof, who's tried her hand at everything from journalism to DJing, and has now even done the tacky Vegas wedding routine, but still insists it's talent, not nepotism, that landed her a newspaper column at 14 and a role as a TV presenter at 17.

But what about the wave of bright young things enjoying their time in the public eye thanks not so much to a famous parent, but a celebrated grandparent? The latest of these "aristobrats" is 22- year-old Tatia Starkey (stage name Veronica Avant) - the granddaughter of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr - and the guitarist in her fledgling band Belakiss.

Starkey joins a long list of luvvies blagging their way into the world's most exclusive parties and best jobs thanks to their successful grandparents. Jostling with Agyness Deyn for the title of Brit model of the moment is 20-year-old Alice Dellal, the new "face" of Agent Provocateur lingerie. What made her stand out from the hundreds of other beauties desperate for such a lucrative contract? Well, her grandfather is the enigmatic property tycoon 'Black' Jack Dellal, worth an estimated GBP 600m.

And how do you land a gig opening Dolce & Gabbana's catwalk show at the tender age of 14? Well, it helps if your grandfather was the king of rock'n'roll. Elvis Presley's granddaughter, Riley Keough, has enjoyed success as a model and now, at the ripe old age of 19, wants to become a photographer.

Another rising star in the modelling world is Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann, whose enviable genes have dealt her milky skin and a willowy figure. The granddaughter of director Roberto Rossellini and actress Ingrid Bergman (and daughter of Isabella Rossellini), presumably her life isn't that of a typically struggling ingenue model rushing between castings. She's posed for French Vogue and, like her mother before her, now models for Lancme.

And then there's Lydia Hearst: she is the 23-year-old great- granddaughter of American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, daughter of Patti Hearst and heiress to the family's vast publishing fortune. She's currently playing the challenging role of a beautiful, spoiled heiress on the hit US teen drama Gossip Girl.

But it's not just the model/DJ/heiress crowd who are living it up on a grandparent's meal ticket. Name a Hollywood A-lister and the chances are they're not the first generation of their family to grace the silver screen. Think Bridget Fonda, granddaughter of Henry, or Cameron Douglas, grandson of Kirk. Even Daniel Day-Lewis, for all his undoubted talent, cannot have been hindered by being the grandson of Michael Balcon, one of the legendary producers of British cinema.

From Ingrid Bergman to Ringo Starr, it's hard to believe not only that the icons of not-so-long-ago are now grandparents, but that their grandchildren are shaping up as the stars of tomorrow. Suddenly, those we once idolised as hip youths are mortal, human and - worst of all - old. It's now their grandchildren's turn to be idolised by a new generation, who will perhaps grow to know Ringo Starr as "Tatia Starkey's grandfather". If ever there was a reminder of our own mortality, it's the fact that Ringo has a granddaughter who is the same age he was when he joined The Beatles.

Perhaps those whose powerful connections go back more than just the one generation are the real power players. Would Sophie Dahl really have triumphed as a model and author had her grandfather - the late, great children's writer Roald Dahl - not paved the way? Would Drew Barrymore have enjoyed such huge success as an actress since childhood were she not the granddaughter of the legendary Hollywood actor John Barrymore?

Probably not. Sadly, family connections make the world go round, and in showbiz, while a famous parent might give you a boost, a famous grandparent can propel you to superstardom.

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