Jeremy Vine’s top secret weapon for winning Strictly: teeny weeny undies! Not to mention the six-pack his Radio Two listeners never get to see
There's something rather arresting about watching Jeremy Vine pad about in his long green socks — and what look like a pair of very snug jungle-print underpants.
‘Minimalist’, is how he describes them.
Less minimalist is the amount that Jeremy, stalwart of the BBC, public humiliator of Gordon Brown, eternal ‘mini-me’ to Jeremy Paxman and the latest ‘celebrity’ to give us a twirl on Strictly Come Dancing, has to say about them while he changes into his dancing gear.
Ready to rumba? Jeremy Vine and his Strictly Come Dancing partner Karen Clifton
‘It’s the most important thing I’ve learnt — wear the right pants!’ he cries. ‘I’m normally a boxers man, but they tend to balloon where the air gets in. So I need something a bit tighter. A bit briefer. A bit snugger.
‘I spend a lot of time stripped off in front of women in my pants at the moment, so it’s important to get it right. It’s the first lesson of dancing!’
Which is all very well, but there are a few other dancing rules — concerning rhythm and grace and style — on which Jeremy might better focus if he’s to have any hope of making it past the first elimination round of Strictly on October 4. Because he is an astonishingly bad dancer — up there with John Sergeant and Ann Widdecombe and far worse than Judy Murray.
Last week a show insider unkindly called him ‘absolutely, utterly, irredeemably terrible with no sense of rhythm’.
‘I was a bit put out by that,’ he says.
‘Maybe someone saw me practising, but it was literally my first time dancing for decades.’
Maybe. But equally, anyone watching last Saturday’s opener couldn’t have missed him lurking woodenly at the back, shuffling from size 13 foot to size 13 foot like a constipated cow.
Jeremy is not the sort you’d normally associate with spangles, spray tan and tight jungle crotches. Yes, he is tall (6ft 3in) with very white teeth, but he is also rather grey, a bit nerdy-looking and uncoolly earnest and enthusiastic
Even before he discovered the joy of special dancing pants, the bookies were predicting a bloodbath. ‘They put me at 66 to one [to win] — and that was when no one even knew who the other dancers were!’ he says. After Saturday’s display, the odds lengthened to 100/1.
Earlier (with trousers still on), he kindly demonstrated a special sexy snake hip move he’d been perfecting with the world’s most beautiful dance partner, Karen Clifton (formerly Hauer). His eyes went all dreamy and he wiggled his bottom like an overexcited dog.
Jeremy is not the sort you’d normally associate with spangles, spray tan and tight jungle crotches. Yes, he is tall (6ft 3in) with very white teeth, but he is also rather grey, a bit nerdy-looking and uncoolly earnest and enthusiastic.
He grew up in Cheam, South London (his street featured in the sitcom Terry And June), goes to church every week, also worships the pop star Taylor Swift, was once in a punk band called The Flared Generation with his famous comedian brother Tim and says things like ‘gonna’ and ‘wanna’ to make himself sound a bit down with the kids.
His brother ‘the punmeister’, has banned him from retelling his jokes because he murders them. ‘I got a map of Italy tattooed on my chest but I ended up with really sore Naples. Ha ha ha!’
The last time he danced properly — at a party 20 years ago — an angry American marched up and said: ‘I want you to cut that out right now!’
‘I wasn’t even doing big arms,’ he says. ‘I was just doing my Human League dance — a nice bit of electro pop.’
If you think Jeremy seems an unlikely sex object, think again. Yes, by his own admission at school he was ‘square’, ‘a nerd’, ‘terrible’ at sport, and ‘so wet’ on the rugby pitch that he once complained that someone was holding onto his shorts in the scrum
He barely ventured on the dance floor again. Even at his 2002 wedding to fellow BBC journalist Rachel Schofield, he kept his feet rooted to the floor. ‘I just did a little shimmy without really moving.’
But this year, after turning 50 and on the fourth time of Strictly asking, he was ready to confront his fears. And, hopefully, impress his two daughters, aged 11 and eight, who love the show.
‘Other shows aren’t so nice. There’s cruelty in the X Factor. This is just spangles, glitter and joy,’ he explains.
Jeremy, already fit from cycling 70 miles a week to work, is planning on squashing in 20 hours’ training a week between his Radio 2 show and presenting quiz show Eggheads and Points Of View. Karen reckons 52 hours’ practice might just cut it.
When I ask her if, as the partners were being paired, she thought, ‘Oh God, please don’t give me him!’ she goes a bit pink before adding: ‘At least he can count. And he’s got good legs. And he tries very hard. There’s a lot to think about.’
Indeed. Because as well as groin strains, sore knees and backstage hissy fits, there’s the Strictly Curse to worry about — where dancing partners become overcome by the thrust of their tango.
Karen is a fiery Venezuelan beauty and world Mambo champion who makes the glamorous pop star Nicole Scherzinger look like a tired old maid. She describes herself as ‘a Lamborghini — just touch me and I race’, and admits biting her last partner, the TV reality star Mark Wright, on the ankle, to keep him in line.
Jeremy calls her ‘a goddess’, says how he ‘clocked her straight away’ and is brilliantly pink and giggly and flappy-wristed in her company.
Did his wife Rachel have anything to say about the pairing? ‘There has just been the occasional eyebrow movement,’ he admits. ‘But Karen only got married in July, so I think we should be safe.’
And if he’d been partnered with Kristina Rihanoff, branded a marriage-wrecker after waltzing off with her former partner Ben Cohen, the rugby player and married father-of-twins?
‘I think Rachel . . . well. Let me put it sensitively and say she was delighted that I was partnered with Karen.’
If you think Jeremy seems an unlikely sex object, think again. Yes, by his own admission at school he was ‘square’, ‘a nerd’, ‘terrible’ at sport, and ‘so wet’ on the rugby pitch that he once complained that someone was holding onto his shorts in the scrum.
But he’s also a dark grey horse with a bit of a surprise up his crisp pink shirt — as Karen reveals to me in great eye-flashing excitement.
‘I couldn’t believe it. When he took his shirt off! He was changing and I noticed — he has a six-pack. Yes, Jeremy Vine has a six-pack. I was like “Jeremy, you’re ripped! Get that six-pack away from me!” He has a better body than most of the pro guys!’
Gosh, who’d have thought it?
Come to think of it, perhaps Cherie Blair did when she propositioned Jeremy on the Labour election battle bus, back in 1997.
Strcitly hostess Tess Daly pictured with Jeremy Vine with his dance partner Karen Hauer
‘I’d been pestering her for an interview,’ he explains. ‘And one day I said: “Cherie, if you gave me an interview it would cause a total sensation.” And she said: “I can give you a sensation Jeremy, any time, but only in private.” And I thought: “WOW!’ She was properly flirty.” ’
Hand on very long leg stuff?
‘She didn’t put her hands anywhere, but she did make comments about my mac, which had quite a few stains on. Each time she saw me, she would comment about a different stain, so she was clearly keeping a close eye!’
Sadly, there was no interview. ‘Or sensation!’ he clarifies. ‘I think maybe I was played there!’
No matter. He’s had many more successes — albeit on the interview, not sensation, front. It was on Jeremy’s Radio 2 show that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was pictured on a camera in the studio, head in hands, listening to the infamous tape of him calling a Rochdale pensioner a ‘bigoted woman’ — what Vine calls ‘the defining image of the end of Labour in power’. Did he feel guilty?
‘I didn’t really. I just thought: “That comes with the territory, mate.” ’
Behind all that nice nerdiness, Jeremy is said to be ruthlessly ambitious, obsessively monitors his own listening figures and tweets endlessly to keep his profile up.
BBC born and bred, he’s a fan of troubled executive Alan Yentob (‘the heart and soul of the BBC’), has worked on Today, Panorama and Newsnight (much to Paxman’s irritation) and earns a vast salary. (‘Down 20-25 per cent since the crash — we’re all doing more for less.’)
When Paxman retired from Newsnight last year, Jeremy expected they’d offer him the job. ‘But they didn’t. And I felt this amazing sense of relief,’ he insists. ‘Anyway, I’ve got a way better job. The listener figures — oh my, there’s no comparison.’
He’s got a point. No one seems to watch Newsnight any more. Partly, he says, because of the 24-hour news cycle, which means it’s hard to surprise viewers at 10.30pm. But partly because of Paxman.
‘Much as I had a difficult, no, a very difficult relationship with Paxo, I do think he was the absolutely big ticket. When he was on, you had the sense anything could happen, even though sometimes he could be so bored he wouldn’t even bother to read the headlines properly.’
When Paxman retired from Newsnight last year, Jeremy expected they’d offer him the job
Their rivalry was legendary. Vine was instructed by Newsnight executives to keep a low profile and out of Paxo’s way. Paxo tried to crush him by calling him his ‘mini-me’. It stuck. And irritated. ‘Look, I really don’t want this to be about Paxo,’ he pleads. ‘I’m happy about it all now. I don’t begrudge it. I sort of ended up quite pally with the guy.’ Pally. Really? ‘Well OK, not really, no. I did invite him to my 50th birthday party, though. But he couldn’t make it.’ Did he deign to reply? ‘Er no, funnily enough!’
Who cares anyway? He’s the one limbering up for the ‘greatest show on earth’, doing what he loves most — showing off.
‘I went to the TV Choice awards this week and it was amazingly brilliant. When I turned up, people took photos of me! When you present Panorama, people don’t do that.’
Peter Mandelson once accused Vine of being the only person who wanted to be on television more than him. ‘It was true!’ And he’s having his moment now. Though I’d love to hear Paxman’s derisive snort on the subject.
‘I thought about it a lot. Mixing news and silly is a bad thing. If you go on I’m A Celebrity and you’ve got your head in a fish tank and you’re dressed as a chicken, that’s not great — though [former BBC newsreader] Michael Buerk was retired, so that was fine,’ he adds hastily.
‘I think I would probably draw the line at eating reptiles.’
Jeremy wouldn’t do Celebrity Coach Trip either, and has no truck with claims the BBC is dumbing down.
‘Dumbing down? These people are the Picassos of the dance floor! It’s high art! This is the best show the BBC’s ever done and I’m part of it.
‘You don’t get somebody measuring your inside leg on news!’ he says (35 inches, for those interested).
Later in the day, we reconvene in the dance studio where he strips to what, from where I’m standing, look like jungle-print underpants, but, disappointingly, keeps his shirt firmly on.
As he shares a few of his unforgettable moves, he looks alternately ill and as if he’s caught in a swarm of wasps. ‘My worry is that I haven’t been maligned by the critics and I really am that bad,’ he says.
But he is trying so very hard and his grey cheeks have gone all pink and the simple joy is shining so brightly, that you can’t help willing him to win. Or at least make it to week two.
If all else fails, just take his shirt off.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3231445/Jeremy-Vine-s-secret-weapon-winning-Strictly-teeny-weeny-undies-Not-mention-six-pack-Radio-Two-listeners-never-see.html#ixzz3lYgu8EHH
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook