October 24, 2004, Sunday
INTERROGATION: DAVID DICKINSON: I FOUND OUT I WAS ADOPTED WHEN I WAS 12′;
THE PERMA-TANNED ANTIQUES EXPERT TALKS ABOUT HIS LOVE OF Y-FRONTS,
You’re a bit of a heart-throb. Do you get lots of pervy letters? David
Dickinson: Not really what I would call pervy. I sometimes get
semi-romantic letters, from ladies of all ages, right up to grannies.
But they’re not dirty, mostly they’re very pleasant. But I do have
young fans who are not romantically interested in me. I do a lot of
appearances at universities, for Freshers’ Balls, where there are 2,000
youngsters having a bloody good time. They’re fantastic.
Why do students love you so much? DD: I really don’t know. I have no
idea what they see in me, but they all say, Hey, it’s the Duke’ and I
love you, David’. I think I’ve been lucky. My daytime show was on TV
when they fell out of bed, so they’ve taken me to be their own. A lot
of it could be that I remember what it’s like to feel like an
18-year-old, and I think they must suss that out on some level.
Why did they give you the nickname The Duke’? DD: It certainly wasn’t
after John Wayne, that’s for sure. I think it’s because I was quite
smartly dressed. Someone said, Oh, he’s like the Duke’ and it spread
like a virus on the internet.
You do like your smart suits. Will we ever catch you in jeans and a
T-shirt? DD: Well, not on the telly. I’ve always loved suits. When I
was young, we wore jeans, white T-shirts, leather jackets and boots
because our idols were James Dean and Marlon Brando. Then we started
getting into art films like La Dolce Vita and saw all these men in silk
ties and slip-on shoes. It was a fantastic change from the dour
post-war fashion we grew up with.
What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a suit? DD: I sometimes go
and buy a suit from Versace which might be a couple of thousand quid,
but normally my tailor does most of my things. I’m fussy about my
shoes, but that comes from growing up in a working-class home and
having my granny saying, Never go out with down-at-heel shoes.’ I
always make sure I have polished shoes and clean fingernails.
When did you first realise you were famous? DD: I’ve been doing telly
for about five years, but it wasn’t until I started Bargain Hunt that
it all really kicked in. People shout cheap as chips’ at me on the
street in England, but I was on holiday in Mexico, in this really
remote place with cactus weeds growing down the main streets, and I
heard someone yell, You won’t find any bargains down here!’
Why do you say cheap as chips’ all the time? DD: I picked it up in
Australia. My wife Lorne was a dancer, and she used to tour in theatres
there. I remember hearing an Australian guy saying it, and I adopted
it. I’ve registered it now. That and Bobby Dazzler’ are my personal
Boxers or Y-fronts? DD: Lorne buys my underwear, but I’m a fan of
boxer-type shorts. When I was doing Strictly Come Dancing, the dresser
would bring these thong things that were cut away so they wouldn’t show
under the Latin American trousers, but they were a bit tight and
uncomfortable for me. I used to wear Y-fronts, but they seem very
A lot has been made of your tan, but looking at you in the daylight,
you’re not that orange. DD: No, that tends to be exaggerated. Terry
Wogan says I’ve been dipped in tea and Jonathan Ross calls me The
Orange Man’. The impression show Dead Ringers calls me the love child
of Peter Stringfellow and a mahogany hat stand. But I’m naturally
olive-skinned. I don’t go on sun beds, and I’ve never used a spray tan.
I just go on a lot of holidays. I work hard, so when I have time off, I
treat myself and my wife to a wonderful hotel.
How long have you been married? DD: Thirty-four years. I’m very lucky.
I’ve got a great woman and I know that. We’re very happy with each
other. She was a dancer and I was her manager for 15 years, so we’re
used to being together all the time. When we go away, we don’t look to
meet anyone else. We just want sun, sea, sand and a nice bottle of
wine. Some people go away to meet people. We try to avoid them – you
see them circling you, then they move in. It’s scary.
If you were single, which celebrity would you like to go on a date
with? DD: Ooh, quite a few! Just because you’re married it doesn’t stop
you looking. Sophia Loren would be an all-time beauty. She’s still a
handsome woman, but 25 years ago she was a knock-out. I like Catherine
Deneuve too, and Juliette Binoche is wonderful.
Is it true you’re Armenian? DD: Yes, hence my colouring. My mother was
half-Armenian and half-French, and my father was English. I feel very
connected to the Armenian side – they have a great tradition of
trading, and I was always a wheeler-dealer. I was a swapper of marbles
as a child. It shows you how strong genetics are, because I was adopted
and brought up by an English family. I only found out I was adopted
when I was 12.
What was the worst time of your life? DD: When I went to prison for
fraud when I was 19. I got three years, and at that age having your
freedom taken away is appalling. And being in that hardened environment
was tough. But I deserved it. And it worked – I thought, I don’t like
this and I don’t want any more of this,’ so I made sure I never did
anything to put me in that position again.
How did you become an antiques dealer? DD: I always had an interest,
and I turned it into a career just by hard work and flair. People in
antiques say you can’t do it without a degree, but that’s rubbish. A
lot of people who speak terribly just so’ were ratty-arsed kids to
start with. There’s a lot of bulls**t in antiques.
You look pretty good for 63. DD: I work most days so my secret is early
nights. When I’m away with Bargain Hunt, I have dinner at 7pm, then I’m
tucked up in bed by 8.30pm. When I’m not, my wife and I will go to
dinner, or we have friends round – we kick our shoes off and have a
nice night. The way I see it, you’re paid to do a job and you want to
come in bright and sparky, not all baggy- eyed.
Do you work out? DD: Not at all. But I’ve just given up smoking after
40-odd years, and I do want to lose weight. I know I’m going to have to
do more physical activity.
Did you enjoy doing Strictly Come Dancing? DD: I did, but it was bloody
exhausting. The rehearsals alone nearly killed me. I’m not a quitter,
but after three weeks I was glad to come out. I was also offered Hell’s
Kitchen, but thank God I didn’t do it. Not for the abuse, just the
hours. I don’t think I’d take the abuse from Gordon, either. You’d have
to have a little go at Gordon, wouldn’t you?
>>From next month, David can be seen in the new TV ad campaign for Tetley
Tea. For more on Tetley see
DAVID’S REALITY CHECK
How much does a packet of 80 Tetley tea bags cost?
I don’t know. I’ve never done the shopping in my life. My wife does it.
pounds 3.50? (Wrong, it’s a bargain pounds 1.37)
How much is an average-sized portion of fish and chips?
It’s gone up quite a lot, I suspect. I’m going to say pounds 3.
When was the last time you used public transport?
I don’t use it – I never have, really. I’ve always driven, so I haven’t
really been one for buses.
Who is the Home Secretary?
Gordon Brown, no wait – the Home Secretary is David Blunkett. (Correct)