Being on TV is the ultimate in glamour, as the late David Frost knew so well. That’s pretty much how it is for me too. First off, I get chauffeured to the studio. This driver collects vintage sweet wrappers, judging by his floor. I can see them even though it’s 5am and still dark. On our way, he relates all the symptoms he and his family have ever had. I hope we arrive before he gets around to his Farmers.
Getting inside the studio is the next hurdle. I’ve been to this one many times, yet each time the security guard peers at me as if I might be wearing a suicide vest. On my way out, he may be asking for my autograph, but getting in means a ritual interrogation.
The Green Room (which is blue rather than green – whose idea was that?) is swarming with guests ranging from newspaper reviewers to a family with 7 children who live on E numbers. In a corner two politicians from opposing parties are swapping dirty jokes. In here they’re like bosom buddies, though on air they’ll be punching the verbal daylights out of each other.
The newspaper reviewers have covered every surface with newspapers. The kids have eaten all but one of the biscuits in the box on the table, and I saw the youngest lick that one.
A runner asks if I’d like tea or coffee. In hindsight, I should choose water. It’s more likely to arrive before I go on air.
In make-up, the artists are busy working on presenters and guests while chatting about boyfriends and clothes. Two artists become free at the same time. I’m standing in the doorway as they eyeball each other. “OK, I’ll do her” says one of them finally. “I like a challenge.”
Foundation goes on ¼” thick. It gives me an orange glow, as if I’ve been on holiday. In a Doritos factory. “Ever considered permanent makeup?” asks the artist who is now applying thick ribbons of black eyeliner.
My tip: ask to look like the artist who’s doing your panel-beating and respray. Everyone likes a compliment, and it saves time because they’ve always got that look down to a fine art.
My artist sighs as she inspects my hair and asks how I’d like it. With about twice as much volume is my answer, but that’s not possible. What I get is a headful of Velcro rollers followed by a vicious backcombing that threatens to yank my earrings off.
Sometimes there’s no time for hair and makeup, and I have to go on camera without it. The message is more important than the messenger.
Presenters are invariably charming and can conduct three conversations at once: with the co-presenter, the guest, and, via an earpiece, the producer in the gallery. The interviewee only has to manage one dialogue.
It’s over quickly, but I always know that lots of people are watching, in other words the producer and my mother (actually my mother doesn’t bother so much these days). On the plus side, I manage to get across most of my points on MRSA. And someone finally hands me that coffee when I get out.
My driver is the same one. On our way back he merrily clips the wing mirror of a parked BMW, and deposits me 100 yards from my home. He can’t get any further because a refuse cart is blocking the road.
“Thanks” I say as I get out, feeling a bit rubbish.