Interview by Chrissy Iley
I have just read Jim Davidson’s book No Further Action. It’s about his annus horribilis in 2013. It started off with his beloved dog Benji dying and him being arrested at Heathrow before he went into the 2013 Celebrity Big Brother House.
Operation Yewtree was extending its branches far and wide. Davidson spent a year fighting the claims against him to prove his innocence. The book is raw, shockingly vulnerable and hilarious. The stage show of the same name which started in Edinburgh and will then tour the UK for 54 dates including Bedford Corn Exchange on September 24, promises to be all that and more.
No one can tell an anecdote and mock himself to get such robust laughter as Jim Davidson.
I first met him after I had surprisingly warmed to him in this year’s Celebrity Big Brother. He entered after this terrible year barely out of the shadow of his Yewtree horror. People still accused him of being racist and sexist and a generally unpleasant human being. But he won everybody over.
He became the father figure to some of the younger male celebrities, almost adopting runner-up Dappy Contostavlos. His reappraisal was meteoric. People love Jim again, and nothing could please him more.
He said: “The two things that kept me going throughout that year were the support of the public and my friends and the fact that I wrote down everything I was feeling, the facts as well as the demons.”
The writing was cathartic and he is not afraid to show just how low he got. “Operation Yewtree made me aware for the first time that I had to have a serious look at myself.
“When I was arrested and the run-up to that arrest, when I knew that something was going on, it made me look inside myself. I had to look deep. I knew I had to defend myself. But at the same time there are many things in my life that I have done wrong. I didn’t do any of it on purpose, but I thought that no one really deserves to have me in their life.
“When I was in a drinks clinic I learnt to write down problems. I went years back because I had got into the old Colombian marching powder and was drinking too much. I haven’t touched coke since. I gave up drink for seven years.
“I still have a drink now, but as it’s Alcoholics Anonymous I drink under a different name.” I laugh. He giggles. I haven’t had a drink now for a week, but before that I was on a ship with Nigel Farage and my liver said to me “Now stop this nonsense.”
“I went on a business trip to drum up some support for my military charities and also speaking was Nigel Farage. Boy can he drink us all under the table, but he never seems affected by it.”
The 60-year-old Jim before me now is irrepressibly jokey and happy. It’s hard to imagine the dark place that he got to, especially when he tells me of the interrogation by two policemen and a policewoman. He makes it uproariously funny, but at the time it couldn’t have been less so.
It was a terrible year where he questioned who he was and everything in his life, but he ended it with a triumphant win on Celebrity Big Brother.
Does he keep in touch with his adopted son Dappy? “Yes. I went to see him in concert and I also went to meet him outside a courtroom the other day where he was found guilty of assault. But I was there to support him as any father would.”
He recognises the vulnerability in Dappy just as he has had to recognise it in himself.
“The worst moment was when I was flying down from Glasgow. I was reading a book about a bloke going to prison. I started to tremble and shake and that’s when I called Michelle (his wife) who called my friend, Goose.
“Goose called me immediately. He gave me a lecture on being truthful and being myself. I said “Goose, there are demons in the air.” And he said, “You just take care of the truth and God will take care of the demons.” I took his advice. It made me feel as if I’d handed over my problems to God.”
He talks about rows with Michelle that year. “After being accused of all these things through Operation Yewtree, now if I’m accused of anything, even leaving the milk out, if I didn’t do it I overreact.
“There was an overriding fear and self pity. I only have the truth to say. Anyone else can say what they want. Is this a witch hunt and am I now a witch?”
It was a year in which he fought to be proved innocent and fought for his sanity. “I feel pretty good but it does make you think you never know what’s round the corner. It’s made me wary of planning for the future. I might walk out the door tomorrow and a footballer will come and bite me on the shoulder. Although I do know I’m taking this show up to Edinburgh and then on the road for 54 gigs.
“September, October and November will be an elongated version of the Edinburgh show. It will be two hours instead of one.”
He will be on the road alone. Michelle, who he met at a restaurant in Southampton 14 years ago, never comes to the show.
“She gets frightened that people won’t laugh.”
Up to recently Davidson didn’t fear anything. Now he admits that he’s afraid of failure. “The desire to be liked is part of who I am. So for someone with that psychological footprint it doesn’t suit any of the crimes I was accused of. Some of those accusations were horrendous and some were trivial. One was about pinching a girl’s bum in a pub. Imagine, people I haven’t spoken to in ages, you feel so rotten ringing them up.
“Hello, remember me. What were we doing in 1983?”
Now that it has been written in a book and it is about to become a stage show he feels comfortably distanced from its pain and can laugh about it. “Yes. The further I am away from it, the better I feel and can get on with life.
“When I was growing up I was always confident, a show-off.” He never examined himself before these accusations came about?
“No, I never did. It’s getting older and realising that life has been good. I’m a comedian and surely the bubble will burst.”
Even his ex-wives supported him. He has been married five times altogether. “Before I met Michelle I got an OBE and three ex-wives, like The Witches of Eastwick, all turned up. They all said, when I was accused of something that didn’t happen, they’d all be there with me and for me... and they were.”
In the past people have always accused him of things that he felt he wasn’t, like being a racist or sexist. “I’m fed up with that a little bit. But regret is a useless emotion so it’s about what I do now and what I do with my life now rather than any mistake I might have made.”
What does he consider a mistake? “Before I thought there was one set of rules for the world and another for me. I had lots of money and energy and was fun to be around. I think I wore the wives out. You can’t stay out till four in the morning every night. You can’t have a pint of lager for breakfast every day. But I do wish I hadn’t been so reckless and saved a few more quid.”
His treats now are not big nights out or holidays, but spending time with his two little white dogs, Bertie, a lhasa apso, and Oscar, is a coton de tulear.
“Bertie is very laid back. Oscar is a bit mad, a special needs dog, a postman biter.”
I wonder do the two dogs represent the two sides of his personality? “That’s right. I wake up and say I’m feeling a little bit Bertie, but I might get a little bit Oscar later.”
He was very close to Benji who died but imagines that now when he looks down and sees the reconstructed Jim Davidson fired up and happy to go on tour again, “He will be wagging his tail in heaven.”