Someone called a little while ago to tell me a story. He doesn’t generally care about gossip, but felt this was good enough to share with me.
Last night he was talking to a friend whose neighbour hired out a suite in a hotel in Sandwich, Kent this weekend for his wedding anniversary. He booked it ages ago, before the dates were announced for the 2011 Golf Open Championships.
A couple of weeks ago he received a phone call from the hotel. The conversation went like this:
“Thank you for booking with us, are the plans going alright?”
“Very good. It’s the Opens during the weekend of your booking, and we have someone who is very keen to use the suite you have booked. Would you be willing to alter your arrangements?”
“The other party really is very keen, and is willing to compensate you.”
“Oh really? How much?”
“They have offered £10,000.”
“Er… blimey. That’s really generous, but no. It’s my anniversary, it’s been booked for ages, and my life wouldn’t be worth living if I started messing about with things.”
“Can I ask how much it would take for you to cancel your reservation?”
“(Laughing) Well, I have £42,000 left on my mortgage, if they really want it that badly, they can pay off my house.”
Four days later, a cheque for £42,000 arrived from Victoria Beckham.
Turns out her dad is a big golf fan and she wanted him to stay somewhere nice while he enjoyed the Open.
And that’s the end.
Now, obviously it’s nonsense, and I imagine you have come across this tale before. In fact, I talked to a journalist from The Sun earlier today we discussed this ‘story’.
Excited members of the public have called The Sun with this exclusive a number of times in the last few days, and versions of it have been kicking around forever, but the ones The Sun are contacted with always involve the Beckhams. The details might change, but the payoff is always David or Victoria Beckham clearing someone’s mortgage so one of their immediate family can do something or go somewhere. Naturally, the name of the person it happened to is never known, they are a few steps removed from the source, and other details are thin on the ground, but it involves the Beckhams, and they’re rich and a bit daft, so it must be true!
It’s the staying power of this story that elevates it above mere celebrity gossip and into the realm of urban myth. And like the very best urban myths, this one has a life of its own and adapts to fit contemporary news (Wimbledon/World Cup/etc). The real power is in being just believable enough to suck in otherwise intelligent people, but outrageous enough to stick in the mind and make the listener want to tell other folk.
So there we go. Pass it on or keep it in your back pocket for a while. Either way, we’ll be seeing a mutated version rear its head next summer when the Olympics hit London.