I like to start the day with the same routine – sliding my ample rear into exactly the same spot where George Michael spent so many happy hours. It always feels so warm and comfortable.
My driver bought Michael’s limo – a black Mercedes with everything, satellite navigation, heated seats, televisions and tinted glass as dark as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s “hairdryer” moods. I peer through the glass, watching everyone, but no one can see me – like some editors I’ve known.
With all the papers on the back seat I have a quick scan and, at precisely 7.30am every day, my producer rings.
The programme is the biggest daytime phone-in show in London and we think the reason is simple. No panels or endless guests boring everyone to death – quick-fire views, a dash of humour, hopefully, and callers far smarter than me, any politician or socalled “expert”.
Today we’ll start with the German soldier who wants to run the British contingent of the Euro Army; why the Abbey National feels it needs to spend £25m to lose one word (I know subs who do things like that routinely for £125 a shift) and the qualities of liquorice. That night I review the next morning’s papers on Sky News and work with my long-time mates, presenters Bob Friend and Vivien Creegor.
We’ve got a great stunt planned for the radio show today. Around half a dozen LBC 97.3 staff will go down to Tower Bridge with large portable radios, stand under David Blaine’s box and on my signal, turn them up to full volume. Listeners will then ring in to wish him well – or say he’s nuts! My producer Philippa Adam and I have been together for three years – although she did get one summer off for good behaviour. She’s an absolute star, knows my eccentricities, humours me and tolerates my lunacies.
Once, when I said that transvestites never quite get it right and end up looking like a cross between Les Dawson and Dame Barbara Cartland, a load of them turned up the next day ready to lynch me. She managed to sweet-talk them away and I’m very fortunate to have her. I know I can say all this without it going to her head as she can’t read, but nevertheless is extremely intuitive.
Thanks to her, the Blaine stunt works a treat and when I ask him to wave, he does. We have a listener monitoring the Sky channel and she commentates from her front room in Bushey on what she can see. She dutifully reports all the commotion.
In the early evening it’s off to Richard & Judy to comment on the Government trying to stop mums driving kids to school. Richard and Judy are, as ever, unfailingly polite and allow a more than fair slab of time for their guests to have their say.
Afterwards in the green room, I chat with John Leslie, who’d just done his first TV interview on the show.
Early start to review papers on Sky News with Lorna Dunkley. We have a run through the headlines and agree that the royals’ rallying to defend Prince Harry’s right to train as a jackeroo is absurd.
In years gone by, young royals studied culture, went into the Army or drove ambulances – not leap about with kangaroos! Bump into showbiz superscribe Neil Sean in make-up and we have a good old gossip. His energy at 6.55am is amazing – and so are some of the stories that can’t go to air.
Having watched that fascinating TV drama, The Deal, the previous night, I know the listeners will be waiting to have their say. The highest number of interviews we ever have is one – and normally it’s less than that.
And today’s no exception. Within minutes everyone’s chipping in with views and anecdotes such as how come the PM had a laptop in 1983 and how did McEwan’s get such product placement? We even get the man who used to supply Granita restaurant with its meat, and he says they never bought rabbit, so how did Blair get his stew? Also join in the moaning about 118 118 and telephone them live on air.
Ask for the number for Tower Bridge and get given the number for Tower College. Ring back live, have a moan and get a refund for charity, which, they promise, will arrive in up to six weeks. We’ll be waiting – and we’ve got their number!
Met Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens is a regular guest and comes in to take calls. As soon as I say his name, every line is busy. He is totally unflappable, brutally frank and unflinchingly honest. Reveals the news about the terrorist arrests up and down the UK exclusively.
When he leaves the studio one hour later, a Sky News crew is waiting to grab an interview. Our programme is heavily monitored and we get so many papers/magazines wanting to get to callers but numbers can only be passed on if they agree.
That evening, host a corporate awards night. I do quite a few of these and there’s a simple way to survive.
Tell a few gags or newsroom stories at the start where you come off as a complete tosser (not hard in my case); don’t get drunk; get everyone’s name and title right; get out before the heckling begins and keep the car running!
We have Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in – but only on the understanding he will take listeners’ calls. A soldier called Sean in Tunbridge Wells rings in and puts this deal to Adams; if Sean apologises for what some British troops did to Adams’ people, will Adams apologise for what was done to some British soldiers? Long pause – literally radio silence, but unbelievably tense and powerful. I wait – and then Adams does, and he and Sean have an extraordinarily convivial chat. The power of radio and the sheer brilliance of our callers is stunning.
That night, attend the LBC 30th birthday party. I’m a newcomer compared to most presenters and it seems to me much of its history resembles that of an unwanted child. However, the current (and relatively recent) owner Chrysalis clearly means business and seems focused, professional and sharp. I realise, that unlike my producer, the bosses will be reading this. Now, about that bonusâ€¦