Interview with Deborah Ross from 24th March 1997
No, insists Danny Baker, he was not with Chris Evans and
Gazza when the alleged woman-slapping incident took place.
Yes, he knows The Sun had him there. And, yes, he knows The
Sun also had him "sprawled" across the bonnet of
Gazza's limo. But it was rubbish. Sure, he was with them the
previous night. But on this particular evening he was firmly
back in Deptford, watching his son in a school play. "Yeah,
yeah, I know, it sounds too cute. But it's true!" he
He then says he is very cross. What, at Gazza for doing what
he is said to have done? No, at The Sun for having him sprawled
across a bonnet when, in fact, he was doing no such thing.
"What are the children at me kids' schools gonna think?"
he asks.That you are one of the lads, I suggest, thinking
I am being helpful. "One of the lads?" he howls,
even more crossly. "One of the lads?" he repeats,
now aghast. "I hate lads and the whole laddish movement.
It's one-dimensional, innit? It's oafish andit ain't me.
"Yeah, I like football. Yeah, I talk the way I do. But
that don't mean I'm a lad. What you do ain't who you are.
I don't even go out very much, as it 'appens. I can't see
the point in poncing about down The Groucho. I prefer to be
at home with Wend andthe kids. But because I'm on telly and
I talk like I do everyone thinks, he's just a professional
Cockney, isn't he? It's the middle classes who always say
it. Why? Because they feel guilty about the working classes,
don't they? So they say,that DannyBaker, he's just a loudmouth
yob. People in telly are just as bad. I get stacks of offers
for terrible people shows. Or they say things to me like `My
grandmother worked down the coalmines in Durham', and other
patronising stuff like that and ..."
All right, Danny, put a jellied eel in it. Or, failing that,
tell me something about yourself which will prove, once and
for all, that you're not just one of the boys. "Look,
this isn't something I want to address," he replies impatiently.
"I mean, I've got nothing to prove here."
The thing about Danny - and Chris and Gazza now I think about
it - is that, aside from the rage that seems to go on inside
them, they are, all three, brilliant ... and they are also
complete plonkers. On the brilliant side, Danny's verbal dexterity
isquite something. His mouth and brain work together at an
awesome speed. He can talk off the cuff for astonishing periods
and can, certainly, be brilliantly funny. When he wrote for
NME, he was superb. His early radio stuff was thrilling, as
is hiscurrent Sunday-morning pop show on GLR. But for everything
that's been good, he seems to have done two things that are
bad, particularly on the telly. Danny, I ask, do you think
you've been wise in your career choices? In particular, I'm
thinking ofthe TV chat show of a couple of years back, which
wasn't so much disappointing as plain embarrassing.
"Look, the BBC phoned me up and said would you like
to do a chat show, and I said yes, and that was it. Although,
I'm actually the last person who should ever do a chat show.
I don't listen. So,yes, I' ve done complete turkeys. But so
what if somethinggoes down the toilet? I can't blot my copy
book because I've never thought of myself as 'aving a copy
Actually, I don't think he does care terribly. Which is a
shame, really, because he's too often too good for whatever
it is he's presenting. Although Radio 5 would not necessarily
agree. Earlier this month, they fired him from his Wednesday-nightfootball
phone-in programme after an incredibly nasty tirade against
the referee whose controversial penalty decision gave Chelsea
victory over Leicester City in the FA Cup. "But I didn't
tell Leicester fans to hit the referee. I just said I would
understand if they did," he now says.
Can you ever go too far? I ask. No, he replies, you cannot.
"You either do a good show or a lousy show and that's
it." What if someone were to clout that referee, would
he feel responsible? "Nope." Does he ever suffer
any self-doubt whatsoever? "No,never. I don't think anything
I do requires it. What would I have self-doubts about? Doing
Certainly, his belief in himself is unshakeable. He's always
right. By sacking him, the BBC have been lily-livered "weasels".
And, as if to prove it, he has since gone even further on
his new Talk Radio slot. "Yes, it's a witch-hunt,"
he declared gaily,while adding that the referee, Mike Reed,
"should be thrashed from the grass like a grouse."
He apparently thinks he can get away with anything, no matter
the consequences, which neatly brings us back to Chris and
Danny does seem very in thrall to Gazza and Chris. Gazza,
he boasts happily, kips on his sofa when in town. And, he
enthuses admiringly, he's the perfect house guest. "He
folds his blanket in the morning. He washes up his own cereal
bowl. When he firststarted coming round, he was still having
the odd cigarette, but he always went out on to the patio
to smoke. I thought, `What a polite bloke.' " But Danny,
I cry, he's not very polite to women. He may even have hit
one or two recently. Doesn't that count with you?
"Yeah, I know he does this ugly stuff. He's plainly
nuts, isn't he? But I've never seen that side of him meself.
All I know is that he' s a friend and we get on fantastic.
When he's around, it's great. I respect him. He goes up to
journalists and says:`f--- off.' It' s something I've always
wanted to say but never had the guts." He then says if
the tabloids can have him sprawled across a bonnet, how does
he know Gazza even did what he is said to have done?
And Chris? Well, if Danny and Chris got any more bosom-pally
they' d become one fat bloke with a red, sticky-up hairdo.
Danny's the scriptwriter for Chris's Channel 4 show, TFI Friday,
while Chris's company, Ginger Productions, produces Danny's
newSaturday football show on Talk Radio.
"Yeah, we're extraordinarily close. We're in and out
of each other' s houses all the time. Chris spent last Christmas
Day with us." Today, Danny is even wearing a pair of
Chris's shoes, a fact I chance upon when I admire the creamy
suede loafers pokingincongruously out from under the hems
of his old jeans. "Yeah, nice, aren't they? Chris gave
'em me. Someone sent them to him and he didn't want them so
he said I could have 'em." Then, with some excitement,
he adds. "Hey, I've stepped into Chris's shoes literally,
haven't I?" And he looks very pleased.
Danny Baker lives in Deptford, south-east London, in a Victorian,
three- bed terrace job that is just around the corner from
the estate where he was born 39 years ago. Unlike other working-class
boys made good, he seems to have remained true to hisroots,
rather than just sentimental about them. There have never
been any swanky mansions, swanky cars or swanky dolly-birds
of the mini-skirted, mini-brained, one-time game-show hostess
He has been married to Wendy, a former secretary, for as
long as anyone can remember. He is entirely devoted to his
son and daughter, the alarmingly named Sonny and Bonnie. He
earns a lot, yes - "I'm good at what I do. I gotta top
agent. I expect topdollar" - but does not spend ostentatiously.
Expensive holidays, he says, are as far as he goes. Where
to? Mauritius? St Lucia? Nah, Florida. "I love Orlando
and I'm not ashamed to say it," he says unashamedly.
He then says he's not very good on thecontinent. "Walking
round Rome and looking at buildings ... it's a waste of time."
His house is disappointingly tasteful inside. There are no
swirly- patterned carpets, nasty ornaments or Dralon suites.
Instead, the living room has a Moroccan feel to it - tapestried
cushions adorn the deliciously plump, white sofa where Gazza
kips -while, in the kitchen, all sorts of creamy- coloured
handmade-looking things are going on. No, having a nice front
room and kitchen does not make you middle class in any way.
"Why do people always think the working classes can't
have money or taste?Being working class isn't about that.
It' s about calling dinner `tea' and forgetting to put your
cup back on the saucer in a restaurant."
Danny was born to Fred, a docker, and Elizabeth who, at one
time, worked for Shuttleworth's, the chocolate makers. As
a young boy, he used to wait excitedly for his mum to come
back from work so he could smell the undersides of her Dr
Scholls. "They always smelt of melted chocolate ...luvverly."
I must look at him with something of a shocked expression,
because he then adds: "Yes, Danny Baker smellt the soles
of his mum's Dr Scholls. Now, what do you think Dr Freud would
make of that?" Quite a lot, I imagine.
The youngest of three kids, he has an older sister, Sharon,
and did have an older brother. But Michael died when he was
29 and Danny was 24. A docker, too, he simply went to bed
one night and was dead by morning. Danny says he isn't too
sure what he died of. "There was a lot of wailing going
on, so I never looked into it." He thinks, though, it
had something to do with his sinuses, being sick and then
choking on the sick. All the Baker children have sinus problems.
That's why, he says, he fiddles with hisnose a lot when he
isn't talking. Which isn't very often.
Danny's a torrential talker. You don't so much have a conversation
with him as take a verbal battering. Is he like this even
when, say, he's at home of an evening with Wend, Sonny and
Bonnie? "Yup, I'm relentless," he replies cheerfully.
He was a clever kid, a voracious reader (still is) who passed
his 11- plus but refused to go to grammar school because none
of his mates was going there. He ended up at West Greenwich
Secondary Modern where he was brilliant at everything - "I
loved myreports, which always started with Position In Year:
First" - but left at 15. He says that if he'd stayed
on they'd have eventually found him work in a bank, which
wouldn't have been for him.
And, anyway, by this time he'd already "caught the whiff
of rock ' n' roll". He worked in a West End record shop
then co-founded Sniffin' Glue, a cleverly post-modern punk
magazine. The next stop was NME, which he describes as absolutely
the best periodof his life. "It was a delicious time,"
he sighs nostalgically. Originally employed to answer the
phones, he quickly graduated to writing witty picture captions
then flying all over the world to interview pop stars. His
interview with Michael Jackson - who was desperate to discuss
Benny Hill - went straight into thelegend books. Danny became
the funniest, most popular writer they ever had, even though
he had a blase attitude to deadlines - he would often be writing
up his pieces at the printers - and frequently couldn't be
bothered to transcribe his tapes. Once,he interviewed Paul
Weller, couldn't be bothered to listen to the tape, couldn't
remember anything that was said, so just put down whatever
he fancied. Later, he bumped into Paul, who cried: "I
don't remember discussing any of those subjects." "Well,Paul,"
said Danny. "I'm sure we'd have got round to them given
more time." He then says that he is first and foremost
a writer. Probably. "I do writing best, although I've
got little proof of it. I got sidetracked into selling soap
The telly stuff started with The Six O'Clock Show - a programme
best described as sort of trouser-dropping, red-nosed Picture
Post - then continued through some terrible panelly things
until radio discovered him. He launched Six O Six, the Radio
5football programme that had him named Radio Personality of
The Year but is now presented by David Mellor. No, he's not
going to be rude about David Mellor. "Oh please, just
give me a stick to beat a cripple," he cries.
So what now for Danny Baker? Good things, I hope, although,
yes, I am worried about the company he keeps these days. Indeed,
whenever I think of Danny and Chris and Gazza on the 48-hour
bender which Danny only actually saw a few hours of, I think
of anold Frank Crumit song,the one with the chorus that goes:
"You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses
and then the pig got up and slowly walked away." Thus
far, Danny's done the walking away. But for how much longer?