Interview by Chris Amos
Whilst a new set of reality TV stars come off the conveyor belt every month, there is one shining prototype that has really proved his worth. Two years after being thrust in to the public arena Brian Dowling has transcended his Big Brother fame as a co-host of the hit Saturday morning TV show SM:tv.
In case you are still dubious, Brian will set you straight. “I am a TV show presenter” he corrects a fit looking lad who gatecrashed NowUK ’s photo shoot, armed with a mobile phone looking to get a quick snapshot of 'the guy from Big Brother’ for his disbelieving buddy.
Quite right too as this month, Blaze TV, the producers of SM:tv and CD:UK, have unleashed Brian with his own night time show. Called Brian’s Boyfriends, the show will follow him around the country as he attempts to help various people ’s boyfriends overcome potentially relationship ending habits.
This month Chris Amos catches up with a very tanned, spot free Brian Dowling to bring you his first gay press interview in two years.
Have you suffered any homophobic comments since becoming one of the most famous gay men in the UK?
“Only from my friends jokingly. I was once walking down the street in Dublin and a girl asked me for some money. I said I had no money and she said ‘That ’s the gay guy. That faggot from television!’ But I don’t think she meant it in that way because her friends really liked me. I think she just meant it as...maybe she did. It only happened once.”
Younger people are cool with sexuality but do you get any stigma from the parents of children?
“Never, I always have the parents coming over first to take photographs with me, then the kids come along. I meet loads of parents doing SM:tv and when they see me, they just go ‘Oh, it’s Brian’.”
What about stigma from other gay men?
“I get more hassles from other gay men looking down their nose at me and thinking ‘Who does he think he is?!' I have never protested to be anyone except who I am.”
You have done very well out of your Big Brother launching pad compared to all the other contestants - what’s your secret?
“I think I was in the right place, right time, but also the fact that I enjoy having fun, and get away with certain things other people can’t. I can be catty and a little bit mean but all in good fun and good humour. If Ant and Dec hadn’t left SM:tv when they did - who knows?”
Who is your ideal man?
“My ideal man would have certain qualities. I haven’t actually met my ideal man. He would be older, mature, independent, non-smoking, nice eyes, teeth and finger nails.”
“Must be clipped and clean. Looks don’t really bother me if someone has a nice personality.”
A lot of your and Graham Norton’s success for that matter, has been attributed to the ‘sanitised’ gay stereo-type, are you really this squeaky clean?
“I am. The thing is I went on Big Brother two years ago for nine weeks and if anyone had something, people would know about it. There is nothing that people don’t know. I am only twenty-four, I haven’t done that much.”
I saw your audition tape for Big Brother over two years ago and you have changed a lot since then.
“Yeah true, I was only twenty-two when I applied and I hadn’t done much. I didn’t really come out till I was nineteen and only ever had one serious relationship.”
You famously once said you had only read one book, Posh’s autobiography; have you read any more since then?
“I had to read Harry Potter for SM:tv, I have read a few.”
Have you met Posh and Becks yet?
“I have met her a few times, I introduced her on stage at G-A-Y - she asked if I would. I have never met David, I would like to though.”
Are you talking about relationship stuff?
“I don ’t have one. I had a boyfriend when I was on Big Brother and we were kind of on and off, then he moved away to Australia. I have been on a few dates since then, but there is no one in my life. Still looking.”
If you did meet someone would you be able to go into a relationship?
“I would like to go into a relationship but it’s about meeting the right person. I know this sounds really clichéd, but someone who likes you for ‘who you are’, because people are influenced by people who are off the tv. Also what if I meet someone who doesn’t want to be in the public eye, I have to take that into consideration.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your relationship?
“That sometimes men can absolutely be bastards and always put themselves first. But I am glad I have good friends.”
Are you concerned that the media would have you for lunch if you were to step out with a boyfriend?
“I am sure certain tabloids and reporters might. They wouldn ’t probably have me for lunch, but I am sure people would be interested. That ’s why I wouldn’t have a boyfriend on my arm unless I was ready for it. I think if you arrive with someone and put yourself in front of fifty photographers at a premiere, you are looking to have stuff found out. I think people call a private life a private life for a reason.”
I think the respect that Elton John has being part of a gay couple actually helps the gay movement move forward in the eyes of the
“Elton John is a fantastic, famous and talented man, he is excellent at what he does and people just accept it.”
Being on television and reaching such a big audience do you see the impact you have on gay culture?
“I don ’t really, and it’s kind of weird, the thing is I don’t realize it and don’t pay much attention to the gay thing. I think that’s my own ignorance because I have been quite lucky. I have never suffered the whole homophobia thing and never suffered anything, so to me it has always been like this. It’s weird when I hear other stories from other people, people who write me letters to SM:tv saying ‘I am bullied at school ’, I never went through any of that. And the fact is they go: ‘My parents, they don’t like gay, but they like you on Big Brother and my dad voted for you’.
One woman wrote a letter saying that when her mother had died that if it wasn’t for Big Brother getting her though the summer she would have killed herself. She said it made her laugh and made her realise things, to get away from things, she watched it avidly. She thanked me.
Does you contract with ITV allow you to have partners?
“Yes I can have a boyfriend if I want but I also have got to be careful that because I work on a children ’s TV show what I do outside of work will come under scrutiny. It is the same for Tess and Cat as well. If Tess is seen leaving a bar with her boyfriend’s hand up her skirt, that ’s not allowed. If I am seen leaving a club and looking very intimate, it does not look good.”
Has this kept you on the rails a bit?
“I think a little bit. Because of what I do, I have to be more careful. I think that is a good thing. I am glad that I went through it when I was quite young because I don ’t regret doing anything. Everything I do, I thought about, and it’s been the right thing to do. I have nothing that makes me go, ‘Aahhh!’”
Well there is that pole dancing at the Shadow Lounge?
“The pole dancing at the Shadow Lounge I would prefer not to talk about, I got highly paid for that night! The heels were really hard to walk in though, and those hot pants!...”
Do you watch reality TV? What are your favourite shows?
“I watched Big Brother last year when it was on at the end, I watched The Salon twice, it really annoyed me, and I didn’t like it. I watched Pop Idol and Pop Rivals and will probably watch Big Brother and Pop Idol this year.”
You are a Catholic gay Irishman, how do you feel about the Catholic Church’s stance on gay sex?
“Jesus, hit me with something hard! The thing is I don’t take it seriously and maybe I should be punished for that, but I don’t. You look at the bigger picture and you see children being molested and people being attacked and the people who are doing it are walking around and I believe bad things should happen to bad people.
“I believe that if there was someone up there, that all these bad things wouldn’t be happening, bad things happen to people.The church that I go to, the priests shake my hand and I talk to them.”
Do you think gay men should be allowed to marry?
“If they want too, yes, I don’t see why they shouldn’t.”
Would you like to be married?
“Of course I would like to be married and settle down, nice big car, big house and nice dog.”
You are obviously good with children would you like to be a parent one day?
“I would like to, I have two young nieces, I probably would like to be a Dad.”
Would you...you know?
“It would be a friend, I would ask them: ‘Are you busy for nine months?’ Insemination obviously!”
What is coming up on the horizon?
“I have got my new show, Brian’s Boyfriends, starting. I have got SM:tv Live and a few more things.”
How long do you see yourself on children ’s TV?
“Well I have another 6 months on my contract till August and they we will see.”
Would you like to go into acting, perhaps pantomime?
“I don’t need to do pantomime yet!”
You would be great in pantomime.
“Chris, I am not Lisa Riley!”
Have you got any records you want to set straight?
“I do not have a boyfriend, I have not been dating the guy from Streetmate - I have only seen him once, I am not a Dweeb, I was not prancing around Clapham Common with this guy’s hand looking for attention! A certain journalist made these accusations, you know who you are.”