Julian is out!
Julian Clary has been speaking out about his time in the Big Brother house - I enjoyed this interview in the Express
THE first thing Julian Clary’s mother Brenda said to him when he spoke to her on the phone after getting out of the house was: “Don’t let it go to your head.”
For her part she thought the third-placed ex-EastEnder Martin Kemp would win and she even forgot to vote for her son. But he reckons she’s enormously proud of him really which is just as well because he regards her as his best friend after his boyfriend Ian and he himself is overjoyed.
“I know it’s just a TV show but winning really does mean something to me,” the 53-year-old comic and novelist tells me the morning after his victory in Celebrity Big Brother.
“It’s not like winning something instant like a race. It was a great feeling being one of the last ones in. You would see them leaving the house one by one and start to get excited and you’d wonder when your turn would come. But I genuinely didn’t think I would last more than a few days and then I thought I’d be off. And then I won and it still hasn’t really sunk in yet. It is such a strange environment because you go from this quiet little house out into fireworks and music and crowds cheering.”
Clary, who made his name in the Eighties with an act called The Joan Collins Fan Club and then almost destroyed his career with an illjudged quip about an unmentionable act involving Tory politician Norman Lamont, turned out to be a surprisingly restrained contestant. Despite his outrageous persona he was essentially a quiet housemate who put on his best performances in the Diary Room or when indulging in high camperie with former Coronation Street star Julie Goodyear as the two of them bitched about the other housemates.
“My plan for life in general is to avoid confrontation and that’s what I tried to do in there,” he says.
“I joked about The Situation [US reality TV star Mike Sorrentino] being a bit dim, calling him The Occasional Table. But I’ve discovered there is something interesting about everybody if you are prepared to get to know them.”
He could certainly be barbed. He said taking to the floor with glamour model Danica Thrall was like “dancing with a shopping trolley” and nominated Eurotrash royal Prince Lorenzo Borghese for eviction because “he’s got something contagious called dullness and I wouldn’t want anyone else catching it”.
But he also showed his caring side with Goodyear, who is registered disabled. He always made sure she had everything she needed and often brought her tea and meals. He also stuck up for her when the rest of the house had turned against her.
“Julie sees things differently and I love that about her,” he says.
“She is a difficult creature but that’s what makes her so interesting. I am quite good at handling people and bringing out the best in them. It hurt when she left the house as there was no one left who could see things from a camp point of view with me. I was a bit lost and bereft.”
The pair have exchanged contact details and he is looking forward to entertaining her to tea at the 16thcentury farmhouse in Kent – once home to Noël Coward – which his friend and neighbour Paul O’Grady persuaded him to buy six years ago.
He could even foresee working with Goodyear. “If someone offered me a Julie and Julian show? Just you try and stop me,” he says.
He has fond memories of other housemates too, including runner-up Coleen Nolan – although he says he will be careful not to have her and Goodyear over to tea at the same time after their Big Brother bust-ups. He says his most unlikely friendship was with Olympic judo athlete Ashley McKenzie.
“He is just very sweet and funny. He said he and Harvey [MC Harvey of the group So Solid Crew] will come and see my tour when it arrives in London.”
His biggest anxiety about taking part was his fear of being locked in.
“I suffer from claustrophobia and the idea of being shut into places fills me with fear,” he says.
“In fact I can’t understand how anyone hasn’t got claustrophobia. In the house you are locked in a lot in different ways. At bedtime, they put the window shutters down and then they lock the bedroom door. One day I even got very claustrophobic in the garden. Although it’s outside you are completely closed in and it’s very clear there is no way out.”
He had several chats with producers about these fears and they delegated someone from the production team to watch him sleeping in case he panicked and needed to get out.
“It was reassuring. They promised they would unlock the doors for me any time I needed and I actually put it to the test a couple of times, once when I had a bit of a stomach ache and wanted to go to the kitchen,” he says.
Otherwise his chief concern was the obvious one about the 24/7 cameras which did not turn out to be as bad as he expected.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand not having any privacy and I might end up walking out because it drove me mad. But funnily enough it’s not the things you think are going to bother you that are the problem in there because in the end you are all in it together,” he says.
“The serious part of being a housemate is the fact that you can’t control your own emotions in the house. For example Big Brother will throw a party and everyone is happy and upbeat. But then the party will finish abruptly and you will be called to the living room and asked to nominate each other face to face. Then suddenly the emotions change to fear . I cannot even think how the civilian Big Brother contestants cope when they are in there for 13 weeks. I really admire them now.”
He thought Ashley or Coleen would win and his tears when his victory was announced were a mark of his shock, he says.
“I was the last man standing. I don’t carry on like that emotionally more than once a decade but it just came out.”
He says his agent is delighted with his victory and they are both hoping it will bring in a younger audience to his UK tour, which begins on Friday and runs until the end of November. After that he is looking forward to returning to what he claims are the four ghosts at his atmospheric old house, where he has a cleaner and gardener but is proud that he does his own shopping.
“I like to feel up my own apples and oranges,” he says.
His aim in taking part was to show the nation he could behave normally and doesn’t talk entirely in double entendres.
“People have a perception of me that it’s just a constant stream of filth but I thought it would be interesting to show a different side,” he says. His greatest comic turn in the house was a task in which he had to read a bedtime story to his fellow contestants and had them in stitches with his outrageous double meanings. He is glad it didn’t put the public off.
“It’s dangerous to draw comparisons between one successful reality show and the state of homophobia in Britain or to say that my win means that this country is becoming more liberal,” he says.
“But it certainly hasn’t done the gay community any harm. Seemingly people weren’t horrified by me even when I was being my usual vulgar self.”