22nd July Blimey, the agent has just phoned and told me that I am going to be contracted to do Strictly Come Dancing. I am boggled. I told them the truth – I have never danced, never had any dance lessons, I never listen to music. I have got the job. It’s like the Army. Before I was called up I had been working on pay systems so I naturally assumed I was going into the Royal Army Pay Corps. They put me in the infantry! I must go to the toilet...
23rd July Oh dear, the agent has just sent through the dates I will be needed for Strictly Come Dancing and now I am going to have to let three bookings down at worst and at best reschedule the dates. AND it crashes into the pantomime dates. I will be rehearsing panto and having dancing lessons all at the same time. This is going to be a mega bluff period of my life. Isn’t it odd? I travel the world getting rave reviews for what I do... magic stuff. Then I come to my own country and TV wants me to dance, or sing. What’s with TV? Why do they always want to make people look less than they are?
I am sure that people have no idea what goes on behind the scenes... I have now spent three HOURS re-organising my diary and circulating it to all those who are in the know about this show.
Bummer. It turns out that Paris is far more organised than I thought and that is going to make for a very difficult negotiation because I cannot get out of the SCD contract. The worst thing is that I expect to get the Order of the Boot in the first couple of weeks and could do the Paris gig without any fuss.
The Bristol gig got moved quite easily and they understood the problem.
24th July Last night Debbie was working on a TV show until 3.45 this morning. I spent the whole afternoon and evening on my own and for the first time in my life, found myself trying to dance around the kitchen. Not ‘proper’ dancing but more my own version of what I see happening on the disco scene. Of course, like all of us in our minds, I was brilliant. What a mover. In reality, which I dragged myself back to very quickly, I was a clomping idiot. I really am going to have to take this job more seriously.
This morning I weighed myself. 11stone 8lbs, which has been my average weight for the last couple of years. I went up a bit and held back on the goodies to get back down to that weight. I have never exercised, because I have no interest in it and find it boring. My son Gary, on the other hand, actually trains personal trainers. That makes him a major let down to the family and I will have to cut him out of the will..... just kidding if you read this Gary... there is no will.
So, I will have to start a gentle routine of exercise ready to build up to the ‘happening’. One of the reasons is that at the same time as I am learning to dance, I am doing a tour with the Best of British Variety Show and if I stay in Strictly Come Dancing then I will be learning a pantomime as well. It’s all go.
31st July A week has gone by. Every day I do 10 very slow full knees bending squats with a very slow push back up. I may be wrong but I think this strengthens my muscles far more that doing rapid up and down squats. When I first started every joint grumbled and cracked but after about 5 days they seemed to smooth out and there are no strange noises any more.
I also do 10 slow press-ups. They really take some doing so I am not as fit as I thought I was. Weight-wise nothing has changed. I am exactly the same.
This has been a week of discussions about medicals and contracts and dates and times and all the zillion details that agents need to sort out before you dive in off the deep end. I asked if I should take dancing lessons but the producer said not to do that because I might learn bad habits. Isn’t it sad that thanks to recent experiences in TV I don’t know whether to believe her or not, despite her being very nice. I would like to have had some knowledge of the job before I went, and she may well be telling the truth, but I also wonder whether they need someone to be very bad so the judges can have their usual nasty way with them.
18th August The days slip by and the bad news is that I have only lost 4lbs in weight. As it used to say in my school reports, ‘Must try harder’. Other than continuing negotiations betwixt my manager and the BBC, there’s not much to report.
I do wish though that someone in the BBC would do a calculation on how much they are spending on insurance premiums and medical examinations. It seems to be way over the top and I have never heard of a show being cancelled because someone was ill. They just slot someone else into the vacant spot.
Should I be offended this morning? Someone in the BBC has asked my manager if I want to go on a media training course? Don’t they read the papers? NOBODY can control the media. If they decide to be nasty, they will be nasty. Then I started to wonder WHO runs the course and what their experience is with the media? It’s almost worth going on the course to find out what nonsense they spout.
Our world has got busy. Last week Debbie recorded Come Dine With Me to be shown in October I believe. I am now on tour with The Best of British Variety Show. In the midst of that I am going to have to fit in the Strictly schedule. Another channel wants Debbie and I to renew our marriage vows. Hey, it’s a TV show so we will not be taking our vows in a serious manner, but it is down to us to organise that. A lot of all of this will run into pantomime preparations and Debbie’s new cookery book being launched.
So much for my peaceful life.
25th August I know, so please don’t beat me up, that I should be doing a LOT more in the exercise world to get fit for the show, but I can’t help it, I just find exercise boring. I can’t get into it at all. I did have a look at a couple of teach yourself dancing video things on the internet... but I can’t get into that either. I have decided to go with the flow when it happens.
1st September All aspects of Strictly are kept secret. I can’t really understand that because I have always believed in shouting publicity from the rooftops as loudly as you can and for as long as you can. Hey ho, they want it to be a secret, despite dozens upon dozens of people at the BBC knowing who is involved. One of my problems is that I have so much other stuff going on that I NEED to tell people, not about Strictly, but about what times they can call me/see me and so on. I simply can’t find anything out. Maybe they don’t know. Tonight Debbie and I go to Zippos Circus and we had a great time.
2nd September AT LAST I get taken to a rehearsal room BUT I expected to start to learn some dance steps. Instead we were shooting some ‘promo’ stuff and title inserts. That sort of thing. It took forever.
3rd September A day at home so I managed to fit in a medical. It’s my annual check up but it seems to have turned out OK.
4th September I was taken to some Studios and I confess I am finding all this Cloak and Dagger stuff a bit childish. Who really cares? Will I ever learn to dance?
5th September Ah Ha! I meet the other ‘victims’ and we all seem to get along really well. What a strange mixture we are. The choreographer was once on one of my TV shows, lifting me into a cooking pot, but that’s another story. I have never danced before and don’t understand any of the terms or counting that they use. They tell me it’s a cha-cha... really? We start to learn what is going to be a lot more complicated than we thought it was going to be. One celeb passes the comment that he never thought they would be going in this hard or this fast at the beginning. The pro dancers are all great, really great, and I don’t know how they are putting up with the likes of me at all. When I get home my front door is covered in silly mini-posters saying ‘Welcome home Fred Astaire’
06 Sep. My pick up time is all wrong and I get up way to early. I get taken into TV Centre and I have to wear colours that won’t clash or affect being interviewed in front of a green screen. That way the editors can put different pictures behind you like they do on the news and weather programmes. Then I get taken to rehearse the dance again with the gang. It’s getting faster and harder. A couple of celebs have blisters. We do finish reasonably early though. When I get home there is a walking cane and a sign that says ‘In case you need it’.... My wife is laughing
07th September Oh Goodie. I am taken in for final clothing fitting (I have already been rehearsing in high heels for two days) and we all get taken into Studio 1. This is the studio where for 16 years we made most of the Paul Daniels Magic Shows. The set for Strictly is really really good. Please remember when you watch this they put it up and down every week. What a big job. We all rehearse the routine for the show, and the entrances and exits. This is as much for the technicians to learn where we will be as much as it is for us.
The pro dancers have obviously been working very hard; their routines are incredible. Tomorrow is both show day and press day.
8th September As I write it is just after 4am and I am wide awake. Why is that? Am I secretly nervous and don’t know about it? Yesterday so many of the celebs and production team kept on saying how excited they were and so on but I just didn’t feel it that way at all. Mind you, I have always been ‘cool’ about doing shows and to me, this is just another one of them. The other thing that doesn’t get to me is the talk about the competition. I just don’t see it as a competition at all and it certainly isn’t how I think about the programme. To me it’s a fun, colourful show and that is it.
Well.... despite the BBC saying even at the last minute it is all still TOP SECRET, Twitter pointed me at their site and they have announced it. Good, now it is all out there. I weigh 11st 3lbs.