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Paul Daniels

August 2008

HE begins the conversation with an apology. No "hello" or "who is this?" but "I'm sorry."

For what?

"I'm having a memory card waved under my nose by my crazy secretary. Why are you waving that at me?"

There's a muffled voice in the background.

"She's supposed to be looking for instructions for my lawnmower. This is not a normal house you've phoned."

The secretary and manual fetcher is Kirsty, apparently.

"She's a stunning blonde."


"Just a minute you can turn her on, what are you wearing?"

What is she wearing?

"No, what are you wearing, you prat. Can I call a journalist a prat?"

Oh aye, go ahead.

"I used to be one for a while. For a little paper called The Bugle on the South Coast, now defunct."

What was your best story?

"I didn't really do stories. I did things like 'when I'm king this is going to change' stuff. You know about traffic congestion and how money doesn't solve the problem, things like that."

Having a good moan by the sound of it.

"Oh yes, I was probably the first grumpy young man."

At the time he was well into his 40s and well known to Bugle readers and everyone else. This was the 70s and Daniels was at his peak of popularity with numerous TV shows on both the BBC and ITV, entertaining royals and prime ministers around the world, headlining Vegas and Broadway.

Throughout the next decade he became a familiar face on the small screen as a game show host, fronting Odd One Out, Every Second Counts and Wipe Out.

Throughout he was the subject of negative stories in the press and successfully sued five national papers for inaccurate, libellous pieces.

"The money you get is tax free. So I've been trying to get them to write nasty things about me again. As a Yorkshireman that really appeals to me."

He doesn't read them anymore.

"The nationals have lied so much about me over the years, I can't believe what they write about anybody else."

He adds: "I remember one journalist who was vicious and personal so I wrote to her and said 'I don't know how you can do this stuff because we've never met'. And she came round to the theatre with a bottle of wine as a peace offering. I said 'thank you for that I shall maybe drink it after the show' and she said 'no, can we open it now?' And it started to stink. And I said 'you only want me to open this because I'm famously a non-drinker'. And she said 'oh well, that didn't work' and put it back in her bag.

"I said 'why do you write this stuff?' and she started to kind of sob - look at me, I'm overweight, I'm not going out with anybody'. And I said 'none of that matters, look at me, I'm in my 40s, I'm going bald...' and that was the article. 'Nobody loves me...' - I'd really fell for it."

He has a better relationship with the local paper in Henley on Thames, where he and Debbie live, often featured opening events or as president of the local am dram group.

Daniels turned 70 in April and the missus set up a website for people to leave birthday greetings, while treating him to a party at the Bel Air Hotel in Beverly Hills.

For now he's busy gearing up for The Best Of British Variety Tour which starts next week and also includes Cannon & Ball, Jimmy Cricket, Frank Carson, The Krankies and The Brotherhood Of Man,

"I spent the past couple of days with them and all we've done is shriek with laughter. These guys are so funny. Especially Brotherhood of Man," he adds, with a hearty guffaw.

"It's like the old days when they had eight or nine acts on the bill. It's tremendous value for money. We're all working below the (minimum wage). We've all dropped salaries just for the fun of it."

He adds with more chuckles: "Bobby Ball got a call from Frank Carson - 'are you doing this tour'. And he said 'yes I am'. And Carson said 'oh good, I've got a lift'."

It's not a joke, Carson really will be expecting a lift which can be a trial - so Ball told Daniels.

"He gets in the car and the jokes start. And no matter how long the journey they never stop. But if you try and tell a joke, he'll fall asleep."

The tour hits Nottingham next month.

"Nottingham was founded by Mr Snot and it was known as Snotingaham," he offers.

Are you reading Wikipedia?

"I've always known this. My head stores stupidly useless information."

He adds: "The first week I turned professional it was a guy from Nottingham who was top of the bill. Vince Eager."

The original British rock'n'roller who now lives in Radcliffe-on-Trent.

"I tell you, if that lad had my height he'd have gone places."

As for retiring he says there are no plans.

"I enjoy it. I like people. And if you like people, they like you back. Besides, I've got to pay Kirsty's wages."

The Best Of British Variety comes to the Royal Concert Hall on Thursday September 18.

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