As a teenager, there were three things I wanted to be. An actor. A chef, because I always enjoyed the eating thing. Or a vicar. I liked the idea of preaching to people.
I wish I could go back to school and thank Mrs Christian for instilling a love of theatre, which let me make the most of my life. I went to a little private school in Salisbury, which my parents worked really hard to send me to. My great aunt, who was a snob, insisted that I have elocution lessons, due to my broad Wiltshire accent. And so from the age of 14 I had elocution with this wonderful woman. She obviously saw something in me, and encouraged me to try the theatre.
I think that 16-year-old boy was very like the man I am now. They used to call me Sunshine and Sunflower. I was very gregarious and upbeat, I loved people. I’ve never been stressed. And I don’t think I’ve ever had an ambitious bone in my body. Each chapter of my life has been a wonderful moment of doing something different. I loved all my theatre work, then my TV work, including Porridge when I was 25 – a great experience with Ronnie Barker – and playing Nero in I, Claudius. But I’ve never had a plan. If I have a regret in life it’s probably not going to university. I would have loved to study something soul-searching, psychology or philosophy.
My proudest moment was winning I’m a Celebrity
I was a huge fan of Mrs Thatcher. I thought she was the most extraordinarily wonderful woman, and she didn’t care if no one liked her. I remember when she was ousted. I was in my car, and I burst into tears. And I loved John Major, he was charismatic and charming. I’ve always been a Conservative, though I would have voted for John Smith. I hope we have a new Conservative leader making his way to the top now. We need a new man.
I wish it had been easier being gay when I was younger. There were pressures then. I was doing lots of children’s TV, like Rentaghost, and if you were gay in those days you were considered to be a paedophile. I didn’t really understand my sexuality when I was a teenager. I knew I had vague inclinations towards other men but it wasn’t a big thing. Then in my early twenties I met a girl and married her, because I thought that was the thing to do. Ridiculous. I hadn’t thought it through and of course it didn’t work. Now I’ve happily been with Neil for 21 years and that’s how it should have been.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
I think the people who fear homosexuality most are the ones who could be gay. The world is full of bisexuals because that’s the way they want to do it. What do they do? They ruin a woman’s life. It’s so wrong, because you’re not owning up to what you are. You lead a double life so how can you be a real person? It’s such a shame that we have so many sportsmen who are afraid to come out because of what might happen to them. I think it’s so sad. People who watch football have such a strange view on life. They almost demand that this person they love and adore, who is the same sex as them, has to also be heterosexual.
I’m afraid I have to admit that taking in all the acting and comedy work I’ve done, my proudest moment was winning I’m a Celebrity… That was my greatest role so far. I absolutely adored it. It was a life-changing experience. And to win it! A 60-year-old gay man to win a series like that! My God, that was something to be proud of. It gave me a whole new audience – young people saw something they liked. It was absolutely phenomenal.