Barrymore: 'Journalists are not my kind of people' (But we sent one anyway!)
When Charles Thomson was sent to interview Michael Barrymore, he didn't Strike It Lucky .
Weds 7th December 2012, Yellow Advertiser
MICHAEL Barrymore is three minutes into his guest slot at Gateway 97.8 when I get the first inkling of what he has in store for me.
“Hello,” he says, “there’s a journalist just walked in!”
I haven’t just walked in. I’ve been here for about 20 minutes. He grins at me and I get the feeling he’s plotting something.
Barrymore is at a secret location in Basildon, recording a special Easter show. I was told by station director Danny Lawrence that Barrymore had agreed to an interview. However, when I explained this on my arrival he immediately said: “No. No interviews. And I wasn’t asked.”
He allowed me to sit in on the recording but my presence seemed to spook him. He went quiet and kept checking his watch. The first few minutes of the show were somewhat stilted.
Now his unease has worn off. He is smiling broadly, singing along with the songs he has chosen to accompany his interview.
Rebranding Gateway ‘Wing It Radio’, he gently pokes fun at presenter Ros Connors as she struggles to keep a lid on his antics. Then he turns to me.
“What’s your name again?”
He starts singing. “A wandering journalist he, a wandering journalist round, Basildon dee dee dee...”
“I didn’t think they were your favourite people? Journalists?” asks Ros.
“Well, I wouldn’t put them at the top of my present list, no,” he replies.
During a music break he asks me to sit beside him.
“Charlie, what are you up to?” he asks when the music fades out.
“I’ve been sent here to observe,” I reply. “Danny said I could have an interview but you said no.”
“I know. There you go.” He pauses. “Well, what would you like to know?”
I decide to play it safe.
“Danny said you were working on a play?”
“A screenplay. Yes. It’s called Billy Likely.”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about people’s selfishness. That’s the thread of it, anyway.”
After the next song he interrogates me. How long have I been a journalist? Who do I work for?
“I’m interviewing a journalist,” he declares. “Which makes a nice change… You’re looking at me slightly bemused.”
“I wasn’t expecting to get pulled into the show,” I reply.
Moments later he’s scrunching a piece of paper into his microphone and claiming he’s being attacked by a rogue newspaper.
Ros looks at me sympathetically. “This is not what you were expecting was it Charlie?”
“It wasn’t, no.”
“Are you going to give him the interview after this?” she asks him.
“He’s got the interview,” Barrymore insists. “He’s got enough material. If he’s a creative journalist, which I’m sure he is, don’t worry. He’s taking it all in.”
He turns to me. “I like the cut of your jib,” he says. “I like your style.”
Barrymore’s last song choice is Erasure’s A Little Respect.
As it finishes he says: “I’ve not been shown much, have I, over the last bit? Ha!”
I’m not sure if he’s referring to the last hour or the last decade.
He wraps the show and I offer to walk him back to Gateway’s base.
“Do you do a lot of radio these days?” I ask.
“I do a fair bit. I don’t do so much of the big ones. I get asked to all the time but I always say ‘no’. I prefer to do the local ones.”
“What else have you got in the pipeline?”
“I’m actually working on a TV pilot,” he replies. “It’s called Rolling The Dice.”
“What’s that? A gameshow?”
“It’s more like an adventure thing, really. An adventure show.”
He walks through Eastgate quickly, as though he doesn’t want to be spotted. As far as I can tell, he isn’t, and it occurs to me that a little over 10 years ago, Barrymore would have been mobbed while filming ‘My Kind of People’ in shopping centres like this one.
I ask him if he often gets recognised these days.
“Sometimes,” he says. “If you don’t make eye contact they don’t notice you. But also, people don’t really expect to see you in their local shopping centre.”
Inside the Eastgate, Gateway 97.8 receptionist Irene asks him if he’d like a coffee while he waits for our photographer, who arrives shortly after she sets off to fetch it. A few quick pictures and with that, Barrymore is in the wind. Irene returns with his coffee to find he has already disappeared.
The next day station director Danny Lawrence calls the YA office. He’s just listened to the show.
“It’s always been Barrymore’s dream to turn the tables on a journalist and interview them!” he says excitedly. “Now, after all these years, he’s fulfilled that dream!”
At least one of us got the interview we wanted.
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