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The Conversation: We chat to broadcaster Terry Wogan

By Oscar Quine

Originally from Limerick, the 76-year-old broadcasting legend will once again host Children in Need this year. He has been married to Helen Joyce for almost 50 years and the couple have three grown-up children.

Q: Who has been the worst behaved guest on Children in Need?

A: I tell you, a couple of years previous to Madonna's appearance on Children in Need, I went down to the South of France to interview her for Wogan, and it was fine, we did the interview and came back. Then she came on Children in Need and completely blanked me!

Q: Do you have any favourite listener pen names from Wake Up to Wogan?

A: I was thinking of a few of them the other day. Tess Tickles was one of the very early ones, of course. Then there was Edna Cloud, Helen Back and Mick Sturbs. And then there was a man called Peacock, whose first name was Drew.

Q: Ever used one as a pseudonym?

A: No. You see, one of those extraordinary illusions that people have is that if you have a famous name, you're able to get the best table at a restaurant. I try to disabuse people of this idea, because most of the receptionists in the expensive restaurants are foreigners, and they have no idea who you are. I'll then say, "Hello, Terry Wogan here" and they say, "Oh, Terry Wogan, how you spell that?".

Q: You must have cold callers recognising your voice?

A: Sometimes. But in the main, pretty much nobody's heard of me. I'm not one of the current crowd, you see, and you have to accept the fact that you eventually disappear.

Q: You're still very much part of the landscape.

A: Still clinging to the wreckage! That's the great thing about this whole game – you don't have to retire. If I'd stayed in the bank, I could have been a retired bank manager for years.

Q: Eurovision's a long evening. Did you rely on a tipple to help you through?

A: The traditional drink was Bailey's Irish Cream with ice, which was entirely in character with Eurovision, I think. In the early days I suppose we'd wait to have a little glass until maybe song 11. But as the years went by, the drinking got earlier and earlier.

Q: Apparently, you held the record for the longest-ever televised golf putt?

A: Well, that is true. It was 33 yards if you want the gory detail. I know that because the great golfer Lee Trevino walked it out, and he has got very big feet. The thing is that some professional geezer, called Woods or something, he sunk a longer one. But I tend to ignore that.

Q: Unfortunately you've also been beaten by another amateur. Michael Phelps hit a 50-yarder.

A: Well, so he says. But you see again, he's got huge feet! So if he marked them out, it's probably only 25.

Q: What do you make of being labelled a national treasure?

A: Treasure is the kind of thing you dig up ... or bury! And when people say "Oh, he's an icon", well an icon is a very old painting hanging in a Russian church! If you want to say something, say something nice about me. Don't call me a national treasure.

Q: You were brought up religious; do you still believe in an afterlife?

A: Well, I have difficulties with stuff like that. When people have a miserable life, as most people did through the Middle Ages, and lots of people do now, I think it's easier to believe that there's going to be a better life ahead. Whereas, I can't think of a better life than I'm having here.

The plug

At one time the most listened-to radio broadcaster in Europe, Sir Michael Terence Wogan became a household name with his chat show Wogan and his Radio 2 breakfast show, as well as Eurovision. On November 14, he will be presenting Children in Need for the BBC. For details, visit bbc.

Belfast Telegraph


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