Profile: Chris Tarrant OBE: Christopher John Tarrant, or 'CT' to his friends, is a 6ft 2" Libran who grew up with a nickname of 'Cuthbert'. His first job was driving lorries but he held an ambition of being the captain of England's national football and cricket teams. His first job was working as a teacher in Brockley, South London. He was once so poor that he slept outside the school in his van. His first involvement in the media business took him to the Central Office Of Information where he was a film researcher for their Overseas Unit, he used to be a teacher in the East End of London, but perhaps his biggest break was when, at the age of 26, ATV asked him to present a Saturday morning TV show called 'TISWAS' (Today Is Saturday, Watch And Smile) in 1974. He said that he went into show-business because "it seemed like a cushy number". At the end of TISWAS' run, the show's staff moved to a late night alternative adults version called 'OVER THE TOP' or 'OTT', but this ground-breaking show, whilst perhaps being socially acceptable today, certainly wasn't then and it ended after only a couple of series under Central Television's control.
In 1984, he joined 95.8 Capital FM - but the first time he put a record on the turntable at the station, he played the 'B' side by mistake. He has also played a Monty Python track with the 'F' word at the end of it - without realising! He started on the Breakfast Show in 1987. He's won the Gold Award for 'Best On-Air Personality' at the International Radio Festival in New York, 1990's 'Radio Personality of the Year' and 1995's 'Best Breakfast Show' at the Sony Radio Awards. His shows have aired from places as far and wide as Australia, Lapland, New York and Kenya. A further accolade came in 2001 when he won the Gold Award for Career Achievement.
During the course of his career, his TV work has snowballed. First he followed on in the footsteps of Clive James & Keith Floyd to present 'Tarrant On TV', which he still presents today. He is also known for the highly unusual game show, aired on ITV, called 'Man O Man' in which a studio full of men were gradually whittled down to just one, with hostesses shoving the rejected ones into a pool of cold water.
But perhaps most noticeably in 1997,
Celador Productions created a pilot of a new TV game show called 'Who Wants To
Be A Millionaire?'. The show's format needed some major tweaks to stop it
being just another game show and, with the tweaks complete, in 1998, the show
burst onto the screens of ITV with a top prize of a cool £1million. Over
£40million has been awarded in prize money to date, and both the show and Chris
himself have picked up many awards on a yearly basis since, whilst the show
continues to be shown around the world in many languages with exactly the same
format. The UK version has the biggest prize of them all due to exchange
rates. The show, which previously aired every night, then every other
night can now be seen on ITV1, Saturday afternoons (where the previous
Saturday's show is repeated) and then again with the next show Saturday evening.
2003 saw the end of yet another run of the Saturday night show, with, instead a
highlights show airing Monday to Friday at 5:30 from Monday 6th June 2003 -
Friday 22nd August, looking back at memorable
moments in the show from it's first four series and some brief interviews with
some of the key contestants. Since then a video and subsequently, a DVD
have been released 'Magic Moments & More' which takes viewers behind the
scenes of the show, and reveals some classic moments. The DVD version
includes the show's first £1m winner, Judith Keppel's journey to the million as
well as other interactive elements. Additionally, 2003 saw Chris as the
host of an interactive DVD game featuring DVD Extra where you can play from the
comfort of your arm chair for a chance to win a virtual £1m with all the
authentic themes, sounds and lifelines, and the chance to win real prizes for
those who reach the Million (without cheating...)
Chris' most distinguishing marks are scars around his left ankle where he had a metal plate inserted after breaking his leg. He is married - 'at least he was when he left the house this morning' and has six children. He ranks his DJ-ing style as '...chaotic and loud' and says that he has an ideal face for radio! Chris says the three words that best describe him are '...tall, gangling and loud...', he is most likely to say '...let's get out of this hell hole' and least likely to say '...oh great! There goes my alarm clock....' His worst mistake is calling his radio station 'Crapital Radio' many years ago! He is a keen fisherman but also likes cricket and football, and musically, he's a big fan of Status Quo. He hopes to be remembered for '...making people smile at un-godly hour of the morning when smiling was probably the last thing on their mind.' Finally, if Chris wasn't Chris, he'd be Robert De Niro.
For some considerable time, it had been common knowledge that Chris Tarrant - no longer the spring chicken that he was in the TISWAS days - was expressing a wish to leave 955.8 Capital FM's breakfast show. Chris, host of 'Tarrant on TV' and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' had been at Capital on breakfast for many years. A Millionaire documentary screened on ITV2 over recent years showed Chris' punishing schedule of recording 'Millionaire', finishing late, getting two to three hours sleep and getting up to present his radio show, only to leave to continue the same circle the following day. As recently as September 2002, Chris appeared on 'The Frank Skinner Show' stating it was time to ease off a little and that he had been doing the show for some time. However, with the reduced filming and airing schedule of 'Millionaire' which must've helped, Capital Radio Group Chief Exec David Mansfield announced that a number of ideas had been discussed with Chris and both were delighted that he would launch the station's new Breakfast show in January 2003. In stark contrast to statements made by the man himself on Frank's show, speaking at the time, Chris said 'I just can't help it, radio is in my blood and so is Capital. I'm sorry to disappoint the competition, but I am not ready to hang up the Capital headphones yet!'
In September 2003, the rumour mill fired back into life again, and AIRCHECK Radio News reported that Capital had made several moves to take Jonathan Ross away from the Sony Award winning BBC Radio 2 Saturday Morning Show, a slot Ross took control of when Steve Wright moved to weekday afternoons in place of Ed Stewart in 1998/1999. It seemed Capital were once again attempting to shoe-horn Jonathan out of the slot which has achieved some pretty healthy ratings for the BBC RAJAR figure-topping national station. Ross, at the time, was contracted to the BBC until July 2004 and this contract was not the type believed to be broken by either agent or presenter, but his agent didn't rule out a move for his star. Addison Cresswell, said that Capital '...have approached me on three or four occasions. There is no hiding the fact Chris Tarrant is going at Christmas. They are bound to be sniffing around the top talent and Jonathan has got one of the highest rating shows. Plus Chris is a big fan of Jonathan.'
RAJAR figures from the time stem from a
13-week listening period. Chris was off for nine of those thirteen weeks.
The RAJAR/Ipsos-RSL figures for the first three months of 2003 showed Capital
FM's audience share fell from 8.8% to 8.1%. At the same time, internet discussion boards and
industry gossip fired up a debate on who would replace Jonathan Ross if
he left Radio 2. However, the debate became quickly irrelevant
when it was confirmed that, after 17 years,
Tarrant was to hand over the 95.8 Capital FM Breakfast Show to Johnny
Vaughan who signed a three year deal, from Spring 2003 to present the
show which hits around 1,750,000 people each morning. The deal is thought
to be worth around £5m - £6m. The announcement was made to listeners,
staff and the stock market on Tuesday 30th September 2003 - the change is the
second phase of a general station shake-up. Capital's MD, Keith Pringle
said "I'm delighted Johnny will be joining the
team at 95.8 Capital FM to head up the UK's most prestigious breakfast
show. Johnny has perfect credentials for the job; he's funny and spontaneous,
down to earth and most importantly a real London guy who fits in perfectly with
how our listeners want to be. Johnny will be joining our team in Spring
2004, taking over from Chris Tarrant who has clocked up an outstanding 17 years
of brilliant service."
Johnny Vaughan said: "To be asked to fill CT's big headphones, and trust me they are big headphones, is an honour and I am thrilled to take on this challenge. To me London is the greatest city in the world and Capital the only radio station! I'm used to early mornings so getting up won't be a problem - my only hope is that I look as good as Chris does in 15 years time."
Chris Tarrant said: "I love Capital. It's the only station I've ever worked for and I'll miss the great friends I've made here. I think Johnny is a great choice as my successor and he'll bring a lot to the show. The Big Breakfast showed that he's vibrant, lively, funny and exciting in the mornings and I'm sure he can bring all this to the Capital Breakfast Show. I think he's a great replacement and I wish him all the best. However, I'm now off to enjoy life without the early starts and I won't miss the alarm going off every morning."
In the 2003 New Years Honours List, Chris was awarded the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, for services to broadcasting. Chris said; "I'm deeply honoured - I've been very lucky. I do what I do because I love it, but to be recognised for my work both professionally and privately is really humbling."
Chris remained on Capital FM's breakfast, weekdays, until April 2nd 2004. Johnny Vaughan took over from fill-in jock Chris Brookes on April 19th 2004.
Chris returned to the radio for the first time since leaving Capital for a one-off special on BBC Radio 2 aired New Years Eve, December 31st 2004 from 19:00-21:00. The show saw Chris offering his own individual take on 2004 through conversation with some of the people he believes made it truly a year to remember.
Whereabouts: If you were wondering whether Chris Tarrant would ever set foot in radio land again after he stepped down after 17 years at London's Capital FM, worry no more. In June 2004, the parent company of the producers of top TV game show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?', Celador (Complete Communications Corporation Ltd) (CCCL), have teamed up with the operators and owners of Classic Gold - UBC - to form a new radio company - Celadorr Radio Broadcasting Ltd, with the intention of bidding for new UK Radio licences.
The new group is led by experienced radio personnel - UBC's Simon Cole and Tim Blackmore, Jim Moir - BBC Radio 2's former controller from 1996-2003, and of course, Chris Tarrant, all with non-executive directorships. Paul Smith is the Chairman of the new company - he fronts a team which already has experience in applying for radio licences, and which also includes Lin Glover, Head of Radio Development at CRB, who brings 20 years worth of experience to the group.
The group began it's moves by un-succesfully bidding for a new Edinburgh licence, but is now focusing on the Belfast and Manchester licences as broadcast regulator OFCOM advertises them. Each application will be fronted by a board of directors from each community, with the target audience for each licence being aged over 35.
On leaving Capital Radio, Chris concluded negotiations and started work on two new television series for ITV1 - 'Tarrant's Travels' and 'Footsteps of White Polar Bears' both of which were commissioned by Carlton Television. The programmes are bring produced by Chris' own new television production company - CTV. 'Tarrant's Travels' involves Chris and his wife Ingrid touring the UK in a classic convertible Rolls Royce - filming was scheduled to start at the end of 2004. The first job is 'Footsteps of White Polar Bears', very much a working title, but involving Chris tracking arctic bears in Northern Canada.
Follow the activities of Celador Radio Broadcasting via www.phone-a-friend.com or www.celador.co.uk and there's also a chance to play 'Millionaire' on line at www.itv.com/millionaire. Enjoy!
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