The Guardian has an excellent story from Jon Ronson (author of The Men Who Stare At Goats) about pop star Robbie Williams’ interest in ufology. After mentions of this story in more ‘sensational’ form from the British tabloids, it’s great to have this detailed account from Ronson, who certainly has credentials in investigating strange topics.
On December 18 2006, Robbie Williams played the last of 59 stadium shows in a row, announced he was going to spend Christmas at his home in Los Angeles, and then basically disappeared. He was hardly seen at all in 2007. He briefly checked into rehab. He spent quite a bit of time hiking and playing football (he owns a football pitch on Mulholland Drive). Then he stopped hiking and playing football. His record company, EMI, announced he had no plans to release an album in 2008. Today he unexpectedly calls me to ask if I want to go with him to the desert in Nevada to meet UFO abductees.
“I’ve been spending so much time at home on the internet on sites like AboveTopSecret.com,” he says. “I want to do something. I want to go out there and meet these people. I want to be a part of this. I want to do something other than sit in my bed and watch the news. And it starts with the UFO conference in Laughlin, Nevada, on Thursday.
Rather than painting Williams as having descended into some sort of madness (although the beard, seemingly unlimited bank account and enthusiastic embrace of a fringe topic do give off a great Howard Hughes vibe), Ronson instead takes time to get inside the former Take That member’s head – and shows instead a genuinely inquisitive (if perhaps slightly credulous) soul who wants to understand more about these strange occurrences, not much different to most TDG readers.
Coming on the back of his recent excellent (and unfavourable) profile of Sylvia Browne, and book about the history of the U.S. Army’s “psychic spies” The Men Who Stare At Goats (Amazon US and UK) – see also the documentary based on the book – Jon Ronson is certainly developing into perhaps the public face of journalism into the strange topics we like to cover. Someone to keep an eye on.