Lorne Jackson - no stranger to interviewing celebrities - chats with the daddy of them all... Basil Brush.
People often ask what ‘they’ are like.
‘They’ being celebrities.
“You’ve met a few in your time,” wide-eyed friends gush. “Describe ‘em in the flesh!”
For those interested in such tittle-tattle, here’s a brief summary.
Stallone – not as big as you’d think. Parton – bigger than you could possibly desire.
Willis – very big. His head, that is. The lurk of a smirk is never far away, when Bruce is around.
Then there’s the most scintillating star of all.
A performer with the insouciant charm of Hugh Grant, the comic timing of Jimmy Carr, and the teeth of Terry Thomas.
It’s Basil Brush, of course. Mr Boom-Boom Bombastic, himself.
Or Baz, as I now feel entitled to call him, after we got on so well during a very affable chat.
BB was in town plugging Cinderella, the latest Birmingham Hippodrome panto, which he’ll star in, alongside Brian Conley and Lynda Bellingham.
And he’s exactly as you would imagine.
The clipped and caddish voice isn’t fake – he’s certainly no meerkat in disguise. I was also relieved to discover Baz doesn’t dye his hair.
Not a glimpse of grey in the bristles of his brush. Still jauntily ginger after all these years.
His act hasn’t changed much, either.
The Christmas panto could have been the perfect opportunity to break free of the typecasting he’s regrettably become associated with. Time to cross-dress, perhaps, and star as Cinders.
But no. He’ll play the foppish fox, as always.
Baron Basil is his role, and I must admit he looked splendidly aristocratic in a crushed velvet waistcoat, when we were introduced in his Hippodrome dressing room.
Clearly a man – sorry, fox – who takes great pleasure in the finer things in life.
Does this mean Hippodrome staff can expect diva-style strops? Will he be demanding a juicy rider to go with each performance?
“Well, you can see my rider just here,” he says, pointing with his nose to a plate of brightly coloured sweets and biscuits on a nearby shelf.
“Jelly babies and more jelly babies, and flowers for ME, and a good luck card for ME. And a giant poster on the wall of ME.
“Oh, and they’ve provided me with a car...”
What kind of car does he drive?
“A Rolls Canardly,” he reveals.
I nod, too embarrassed to admit to my new chum that I haven’t heard of that particular make. Then Baz fills me in.
“It rolls down the hill then can ‘ardly get up the other side. Ha, ha! D’you gerrit? Boom-BOOM!”
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Baz loves the most grizzled of guffaws. He’s getting on in years, himself.
He initially became a telly sensation in 1963, the same year the planet first shook to the tunes of The Beatles.
There have been numerous television shows since, and he remains a perennial favourite with kids of all ages. He even has famous fans.
For instance, the original Christian name of Australian film director, Baz Luhrmann, is Mark. But his friends awarded him the nickname, Baz, in honour of the English fox. And that’s what he’s been known as ever since.
Has he considered updating his catchphrase? After all, boom-boom seems very aggressive and Neoconservative. More Basil Bush than Brush – as in George W.
Perhaps the catchphrase ‘pop-pop’ would be a gentler alternative?
“It’s funny you should say it’s aggressive,” he muses. “Because I went to Australia last year, and as I went through customs – or quarantine as it was for my good self – the chap recognised me. And he said: ‘Crikey, you’re Basil Brush. Give us a boom-boom!’
“But I realised how inappropriate the boom-boom was in an airport.
“So I’m careful where I unleash my boom-booms, put it that way. But there will be plenty of them in the pantomime, because I think they’re safe there.”
Now I come to a rather tricky matter I feel impelled to raise with Baz. You see, he has more in common with Dr Liam Fox than he may care to admit.
Dr Fox is notorious for allowing his friendship with the best man at his wedding to get in the way of political duties.
Baz, it seems, also nurtures a companionship that isn’t entirely transparent in nature.
While we’re yakking, a one-armed man lurks close by. At least I assume he only has one arm. Either that or the invisible limb is hidden somewhere unmentionable.
Which brings me to my big question.
Over the years there have been numerous scurrilous rumours hinting that Baz is a mere... puppet.
Would he care to comment?
“Well, when you’re talking about puppets, you mean Sooty, of course,” he blusters, looking desperately shifty, I must say.
“Certainly not me! It’s very easy to get us confused. But I’m real. I can breath, I can wiggle my tail, and I can give you a jolly good nip, too.
“C’mere!” he says, snapping at my hand. “I hope you’ve had your rabies jab...”
Yikes! Maybe Baz and I aren’t quite the bosom buddies I’d assumed. Seems like I’ve just been given the big brush off from a Brush.
* Basil stars in Cinderella at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Dec 17 until Jan 29. For more information: www.birminghamhippodrome.com or 0844 338 5000.