UTV's Julian on anti-gay abuse, being spat at in street, and why his search for Mr Right is on hold
Legendary broadcaster Julian Simmons has opened up about being spat on in a homophobic attack in Belfast.
The popular television personality revealed the struggles of being homosexual in Northern Ireland and how he has become something of a gay icon.
The former flight attendant from Belfast, who made his final on-screen appearance on UTV as a continuity announcer last October, said he had got used to the homophobic remarks.
In an interview with Vinny Hurrell on BBC Radio Ulster, he said: "At the start I was always used to people taking the hand out of me, number one because of the way that I got on at work and also being on television, but people stopped and said things (to me), but I got used to bits of aggression.
"On one particular day I went down Bedford Street to cross at the back of City Hall into Donegall Place and I was standing at the traffic lights and a red courier van comes along and as it came along a window went down and this fella shouted out 'ye big fruit ye', and spat.
"As he spat at me the wind caught it and the spit landed on a woman six feet down the road, and of course everyone was looking, and I said: 'I'm so sorry about that'.
"It's horrible, but it's ignorance. It wasn't okay but I was used to it by that stage. People doing that, and things people used to say.
"It's gone now and people don't do that any more.
"I had adjusted to it and it was water off a duck's back to me, except when it involved someone else, this woman getting a big gob of spit on her which should have been on me but the wind had caught it."
The UTV star, who lost his mother Pearl in December 2009 following a long illness, said he never spoke to her about his sexuality.
"I just thought it never reared its head," he added.
"My mother was no dozer, she read so many biographies and autobiographies, and of course she knew, but we didn't discuss it and indeed during the last few years of her life I didn't have anything going on which she could have known about. There has always been little flings here and there but it was always quietly, discreetly, and because of mum and because of television."
The presenter said that any of his relationships or "flandering" took place across the water.
He spoke of how he felt he had to hide a relationship because of attitudes here.
It was while he worked for Air Canada that he realised that being gay was not like "being a leper".
"It made me see this is the way that it is and it was then that I really blossomed," he said.
"I (now) have lots of guys coming up to me and saying they enjoyed seeing me on TV because I was an inspiration to them.
"They felt they realised they weren't alone. That made me feel quite proud that I helped other people."
When asked if he has had any previous big romances, he said: "Oh there has been, but we will not go into that.
"There's been two or three big ones but I've always had to put a veneer over them and go through all the ups and downs of that romance.
"People asked how are you and I said everything is fine, it's marvellous and inside you are broken in two because of the way things have gone, but I have lived through it.
"But there's no romance now, I don't really have time."