Britain’s Got Talent, “the UK’s biggest television talent competition”, where ‘acts’ compete in a series of shows to win the chance to perform for the Queen at the Royal Variety Show, has played on our TV screens for some 10 years now. An old-fashioned variety show, it was cleverly revamped by Simon Cowell in 2007 to become the glitzy, glamorous, summer rollercoaster we’ve come to expect at this time of year. Big theatre staging, audience participation and huge eliminator signs – are all preceded over by the 4 stately judges.
King Simon, Queen Amanda Holden, Princess Aleisha Dixon and naughty Prince David Walliams are the current line-up of judges. A combination chosen to ‘represent’ British talent and for their current celebrity cachet. Like Brugmansia, the crowd-pleasing trumpet flowers who come out smelling sweetly in the evening; showy, shimmery, attention-seeking.
It’s Amanda Holden though whose been spotlight-stealing this week. Her choice of evening outfits, aimed to provoke (the audience) and promote (herself), have dressed the front pages everyday this week. Reportedly she’s “desperate for Ofcom complaints”; “she is ‘hoping to’ spark complaints from viewers with the racy wardrobe she has lined up for Britain’s Got Talent’s live shows. She joked,
‘Will people be complaining to Ofcom? I hope so, I really do.”
‘I haven’t done my job if they aren’t!’
A woman who’s looks have paid her back handsomely over the years, Amanda is now 46. Her desire for headlines reflecting her appearance, (not her thoughts or deeds), suggest someone afraid for the future. She says she considers her choices; ‘very flattering’ and ‘very feminine’. The viewers have likened her to “a stripper”.
(Whilst Amanda has done a bit of acting, a bit of presenting, and a bit of writing, it’s her youthful love life she’s likely to be remembered for by her peers. A seemingly odd choice of first husband, the comedian Les Dennis, 20 years her senior and then a press-frenzy around an alleged affair with Neil Morrissey in 2003.)
Amanda says she’s enjoying the limelight, but her hogging of the headlines is starting to look a bit desperate. Her face is more often commented on, not for it’s beauty but for it’s frozen features. Is this fear and/or covering up? Aleisha Dixon, the other female judge, has wisely decided not to compete. A former singer and dancer, she dresses more effortlessly, more gracefully and often looks more fabulous…
Brugmansia suaveolens is a semi-woody shrub or small tree, native to tropical countries. Its pendulous trumpet-shaped flowers, in white, cream, yellow, pale orange, and pale pink are highly distinctive. Shaped like trumpets, about 30cm long, the flowers are sweetly fragrant and remarkably beautiful. And hence often associated with fame.
In containers, or an overhanging bower, or as a dramatic backdrop in a mixed border; they always cause a stir. Fragrant through the evening, and with white or very light coloured petals, they shine in the night garden. The star of evening garden parties or romantic al fresco dinners. They practically shout, “WOW!”
But as fame can be fickle, so are these plants.
A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), and closely related to the weed, Datura stramonium (whose trumpet flowers point upwards), Brugmansia is highly toxic. Strong enough, it’s said, to take away “free will” and even life.
“Ingestion of Angel’s Trumpet flowers or a tea brewed from them results in an alkaloid-induced central nervous system anticholinergic syndrome characterized by symptoms such as fever, delirium, hallucinations, agitation, and persistent memory disturbances. Severe intoxication may cause flaccid paralysis, convulsions, and death.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/842711
Myths, and religiosity, and cultural traditions have become all bound up with the hallucinogenic and aphrodisiac effect of trumpet flowers. One legend says the plant has a fragrance so strong that it can induce sleep in those who inhale the aroma, and that those who sleep under this tree will have strange and erotic dreams. The Jivaro Indians of eastern Ecuador and Peru used Brugmansia, in an enema taken by warriors, ‘to gain power and foretell the future’.
On the Indian subcontinent and Russia it was known as “knockout drops”, which thieves and prostitutes used to knock out their victims. (As commented by Christoval Acosta, in 1578, when he wrote that Hindu prostitutes gave it to their punters; ‘these mundane ladies are such mistresses and adepts in the use of the seed that they gave it in doses corresponding to as many hours as they wish their poor victims to be unconscious or transported’.
Today trumpet flowers continue to be valued in South America for their psychoactive properties and ornamental value — particularly by shamans with special knowledge of their botany and pharmacology.
This link to hallucination is thought to be helpful for those in transition and moving toward a new awareness and consciousness. And because of their size and unusual shape, the angel’s trumpet represents vivacity and vibrancy in art.
As fakery is more frequently used to perpetuate the fame of TV stars, like Amanda, so we might find an artificial Brugmansia more agreeable than the real thing. But then that would take all the fun out of real life.