Irish Star on Sunday Magazine., 28th March 2004
Brian - I'm No TV Flop
BUSY BRIAN'S NEVER BORED BY SUCCESS
When a man you've never met before starts complimenting your handbag, he must be gay. When a gay man you've never met before says, "you've got breasts" he must be Brian Dowling.
Looking dapper in jeans, a striped jumper and bomber jacket, Kildare's finest is on a flying visit for a guest appearance on RTE's new music programme The Lyrics Board.
His skin is golden brown (St Tropez tips from none other than La Beckham herself he confides).
After nine months of narrating The Salon, Brian will shortly begin filming a second series of Brian’s Boyfriends for ITV. (He's also shooting a series called Celebrity Bodies for a satellite station Trouble).And with his bank balance buffered by a string of commercial endorsements (Hubba Bubba, Persil, Cornetto - and he's plugging Atomic kittens DVD he's plenty of reason to be in buoyant mood
In person, Brian is as animated as a Tiny Toon character.Recounting a 45-minute chat with Kylie at the Moulin Rouge premiere, he oohs and aahs and clasps his hands to his impossibly-smooth cheeks.
But his cheerfulness is not entirely impregnable."I got upset recently over some things that were in the paper that I've got a weight problem and I'm fat and I'm this and I've got no career," he says, his face clouding over."You get people judging you and saying you’re not a success. But they don't know me - how can they say I'm not a success? "I've worked every day for the last three years and I've just bought a new apartment in Clapham. "I'm very privileged to work in a very good job, but people will say anything for a story."
Brian's now been living in London for six years. And while he admits he'd love to work here ("Mum would be so proud") he can never see himself returning here to live. "London is very different to Ireland. "Ireland's just a little bit different - people pointing and staring and people going 'oooooh' and people are still really nice but it's a different reception". They point because he's a celebrity, rather than because of his sexual preference.
This he insists is not an issue. "The whole gay thing doesn’t bother me, it’s the press that make an issue of it" he says, candidly. "Its never 'Tess Daly straight married woman' but it was always 'Brian Dowling gay TV presenter or gay big brother winner'.
"When I went on SM:tv then it was a big deal because I was the first openly gay children’s TV presenter" he says. "I was just doing a job and I happen to be gay."
It was during big brother that he was given the title 'trolley-dolly' and it’s not one he shakes easily. On that morning's Aer Lingus flight, he closed the overhead hatches and collected his own food tray when he finished eating.
But why wasn't Brian flying Ryanair? Surely they must have a superb relationship after the monumental plug that’s was his win on Big Brother? Not so. "They were awful," he says somewhat sadly.
"I was coming home and my agent said, 'Well you're having a big party at home - Ireland wants a big party.'"Technically I was still working for them at the time, so my agent rang them up."She said, ' Brian’s flying home and the press want to do a big thing at the airport.'
"Obviously, it was going to be a plug for them."But they were not interested - they just put the phone down. So I ended up flying British Midland - who were amazing - they upgraded us and everything.
"And the next day all the tabloids were saying Ryanair and I was just like oh f**k off."
For all his pomp and giddiness, Brian is no fool. He admits that he would never have left SMTV if Brian Boyfriends had been a failure. And he knows that his Big Brother experience buoyed his popularity on the Saturday morning show. Big Brother "was a huge show - 12 million people watched it, 4.3 million voted me to win. "So I was already well known and I had a ready-made fan base going in to SMTV. "It was really difficult but myself and Tess Daly did the best we could. We won two BAFTA'S six months before we left."
Then Brian is called off to the Lyrics Board by the studio manager and he's positively skipping. "I'm a awful singer. But my Mum loves it and I'm sitting beside Ronan Collins - how exciting is that?"
If only all celebrities were as enthusiastic.