“You are often quoted as saying you would leave the country if Labour came into government, what did you actually say?”
I never said that at all. This was a creation of a north east journalist who ‘edited’ the answer to his own question: ‘If Labour get in would you leave the country?’ to which I replied, “IF Labour get in and they go back to what they did last time they were in power, which put interest rates at well over 20% and income tax at 93%, which they really did, then I would have to CONSIDER leaving the country.”At the time I was buying a new house in this country. Fortunately New Labour had Tony Blair, whose father was a Conservative MP, and he merely continued on with Conservative policies. Now of course, his ‘steam’ has run out and he is not sure what to do economically, so we are starting to run into trouble again. I doubt very much if I would ever leave this country. I have too much love tied up in family in the UK.
“You were teased in the media and on high profile programmes like Spitting Image about your wig, toupee, or whatever you want to call it. Does that frustrate you?”
I always thought that wigs were obvious and naff. You have to remember that I did not come into showbusiness full time until I was 30. I was delirious to finally be doing what I always wanted to do. When I was about 34 showbusiness suddenly became full of VERY young stars, with the likes of Bonnie Langford and Lena Zafaroni taking off like rockets in their early teens. I thought I would be perceived as too old for ‘fame’ as my hair had started to recede. At the same time I was at a formal dinner and this subject came up. The man opposite said that I should wear a wig like his. I was amazed because I did not have clue that he was wearing one. He was a hairdresser who made them and he said that the trick was to have them made with a LOT less thickness than most and not too tidy.
With some trepidation I went for a fitting and learnt how they made your ‘head mould’ from a plastic back and lots of sticky tape. That was very interesting and I have used the technique for making models of other things.
It felt strange when I first wore it, and not very secure, so I went to the beach at Redcar where it was VERY windy and put it through my own ‘wind tunnel test’. It did not fly off. The first show I did with it on my head was at Batley Variety Club. I asked a man I had on stage where he worked and he said that he worked for Wigfalls, a major local company. The answer was too good to miss. I immediately whipped off the hairpiece and dropped it saying ‘You mean, like that?’ and the audience erupted with laughter.
A couple of nights later I got a man on stage who was a hairdresser. Again the wig was whipped off and thrust at him with ‘Here, cut that then.’
The wig became one of the best tools for comedy that I had. I used to sneeze at private parties and send it flying across the room. I never took it seriously.
The press never found out, never mentioned it, never spotted it until one day they interviewed a wig maker who said he made wigs for Paul Daniels. The Sun newspaper it was, and they went berserk with the publicity. What amused me after that were female journalists who would sit in false eyelashes, mascara, lipstick, eye make-up and full face make-up and ask me why I wore a wig! At that time it just made me feel better.
Time went by and I decided that I was too old to wear the wig so I started to have them made thinner and thinner and smaller until one day I wasn’t wearing one at all and no-one noticed. For six months I did not wear a wig and I used to sit and laugh at the wig jokes against me on the TV on programmes like ‘Spitting Image’.
Mme Tussaud’s Waxworks decided to put me in the exhibition and I was sculpted for it. Eventually they had a press call and the reporters and the photographers gathered round. One reporter asked if I would be donating one of my wigs and I replied that I didn’t wear a wig. The place went mad with photographers jumping onto chairs and tables to get photos of my head!
The next day the press showed themselves in their true light. My ‘loss of hair’ was on Page One of several newspapers. This was the day that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up with the terrible fall out and that was on Page Five!!!!
I am amazed at how much interest a wig generates. If someone wants to wear a wig, why not? It is nothing to do with anyone else, is it? Do I miss it? No, except in the winter ‘cos it kept my head warm
“How did you feel about the BBC’s decision to stop making the Paul Daniels Magic Show?”
So many people will find this hard to believe but it is absolutely true: For years I wondered what I would feel like if the television shows ended. Of course I was aware that nothing goes on forever, but how would I really feel? Then one day the message came through that they did not want me to make any more of the shows, and the sense of relief was ENORMOUS.
I was truly amazed at this feeling. Then I realised that for so many, many years, I had worked 365/24 thinking about television routines and formats. Even though the vast majority of my work was outside television, the amount of creation and inventing that went into the TV shows was non stop and, unknown to me, a great strain. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
“You were taken ill in the Spring of 2003… What happened?”
The doctors have still not told me what it was, just some kind of virus. I had a very high temperature and passed out in my car. Fortunately I had pulled up outside the theatre and there was no danger to others. I felt terrible, as you do when you are ill, and they filled me up with so many anti-everythings that now I don’t think I have a germ left anywhere. The national press reported that it was a heart attack, a stroke, that I lived in Sonning, and collapsed on stage in front of the audience, all of which was incorrect.
“What are your views on the paranormal, psychics and so on. Is Uri Gellar really psychic?”
Uri is a great showman and a friend, but I don’t know where you should draw the line. I mean, if he’s a con-artist to what extent is he a con-artist? Who has he conned? He is entertainment value, but he has no psychic powers whatsoever. Some people WANT to believe. Uri cannot bend metal by thought waves, he can’t do anything by thought waves. He’s a good entertainer. Uri is a nice enough guy. He’s certainly interesting to be with at dinners because he’s constantly searching for information about everybody else at the table, so he can presumably use it later, which of course is written up in all the good books on how to be a good mentalist. The area where I think it’s very grey is this odd area where government bodies are set up to investigate or study this kind of phenomena, and I think that’s a bit sad because it’s the taxpayers money which could be going to pay some nurse, or for the poor, the sick, the needy.
I once got a typist to re-type the star sign information from an astrology book, but switched the headings around. Several times at parties people asked me “What star sign are you?” and I’d say “It’s funny you should ask. I’m doing a book on that” and I would show them the piece marked with their star sign. They’d say “Yes, this is me”. I laughed and when I told them what I’d done I lost so many friends….
Although it’s not difficult to find skeptical books, people are not made aware by the media that they exist. It’s sad that the people who have written these books which say “Oh, come on! This is nonsense” don’t get much publicity. When you do, you’re the bad guy. When Doris Stokes died, I got a ‘phone call from the press, and I told them it was nonsense before, and it’s nonsense now. I got quite viciously attacked in the press because they said I didn’t pick up on her while she was alive. Well, I ‘did’. At every opportunity. So I became the bad guy, although I was telling the truth. And I think that’s the real oddity in human nature. An oddity, but understandable. It’s a truth, isn’t it, that the mass of the people will always be poor, comparatively, and it’s the poor people that need mysticism. The mass press will therefore always promote it.
Even TV productions doing skeptical programmes do it in the wrong order. ‘What they should do right at the start of a debunking programme is say “What you are about to see is a programme that will show you how these people cheat, how they play on emotions. The people are fakes”. They should say that right up front, but they don’t. Inevitably they do the programme as if it’s for real and then only later on do they do the debunking. It’s at the wrong end of the programme because by then you’ve convinced a major proportion of viewers who have changed over. ‘Oh well, yes it’s another psychic and we know about psychics don’t we?’Ultimately, I think it comes down to bad education at school. Some people seem to have a need for mysticism; they’re missing out on the simple fact that what you ‘are’ is amazing; what you are is wonderful. What you are, inside you, is just fantastic. It really is, and yet they sit in front of the TV and watch David Attenborough going on about some mysterious animal that has developed its eyes so that it can see in the dark and they say “Isn’t that wonderful”. And they miss out on the fact that they themselves are the most developed animal of all in terms of thinking, and movement, and sense, and yet they look for mysticism, and that just drives me up the wall.
During the time of my TV shows, a BBC radio producer phoned my manager and wanted me to go on his show to perform a miracle. My manager said I wasn’t available that particular night, but would be the following week. “Oh, no!” said the man. “You don’t understand. The show is on Halowe’en. That’s the day their powers are greater isn’t it?” That was a BBC producer in 1989. But come on! In this day and age he believes my powers are greater on a particular day of the year!