Chris Evans has confessed that his behaviour as a Radio 1 DJ was ‘outrageous’ and ‘delusional’ but insists he is now a changed man. The presenter, who is due to take over Radio 2’s morning show in the new year, admits in his autobiography, that he acted like a spoilt child when he was Radio 1’s breakfast presenter. His apologetic tone and new maturity will reassure millions of listeners that Evans, 43, is the right man to take over from Sir Terry Wogan, as revealed in The Mail on Sunday last week.
Many Wake Up To Wogan fans are worried the ginger-haired DJ will continue the brash presenting style that was his trademark at Radio 1 – a polar opposite of Sir Terry’s gentle wit and humour. But he reveals that he has turned his back on his raucous behaviour.
Here he tells talks about how he ‘lost all perspective’ and was ‘away with the fairies’ for the two years he ran the Radio 1 breakfast show, from 1995 to 1997...
It was a Saturday morning in spring 1995 when Radio 1 came knocking at my door. I was in the swanky, Thames-side, top-floor penthouse that I rented, busy going through the script for that night's Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, my Channel 4 show. The phone rang.
'Hi Chris, it's Matthew Bannister.'
Matthew had given me my first London big break in radio some years earlier, at GLR. He had now been drafted in to save the ailing Radio 1, the BBC's station for young people which was foundering due to an identity crisis. This was mainly because most of its DJs were now old enough to be grandads.
'I just wondered if you fancied coming back on the wireless again to do our breakfast show?' Matthew said.
'And I was wondering when you'd call,' I replied, half joking. I'd heard about Radio 1's problems and secretly nurtured the idea of having a crack at turning things around. It was a no-brainer.
'I'd love to do it, when do I start?' 'As soon as possible.' I asked my agent what he thought we should be charging for the contract. When he told me, I instructed him to double it. This instruction wasn't about the money, this was about the risk.
If Matthew wasn't willing to stump up the cash, then I knew he was hedging his bets. I couldn't take a job that was bound to have an effect on my highly successful television career on that basis. Matthew said he would sort the money.
My new breakfast show was an instant hit. I put together a team of old pals and former colleagues --including Holly 'Hot Lips' Samos, the glamorous Greek with the gorgeous voice who was a little more than a friend at times - and every day we went on the radio and had fun. It was a simple formula, but one that worked a treat.
All we had to do was stay out collecting stories for as long as our bodies would allow us, and then manage to get up in the morning in time for the start of the show. Something which, contrary to popular belief, we only failed to do once - and that was on purpose.
It was Christmas 1995 and we were on our Christmas night out. Without telling the team, I had booked them all rooms in a hotel for the night - a fact I gleefully revealed over dinner.
As the revelry went on, I started thinking about the next day's show and how we could best relate to our audience when it came to the infamous subject of the staff Christmas party.
The listeners were aware we were going out that night and would want to know what shenanigans had taken place. After a few more beers, I called the troops together at the bar.
'Team,' I declared, 'I have decided it is our duty to the show, to our listeners and indeed to the country not to turn up for work tomorrow. That is what we must do, for that is real life. That is what happens when people have a Christmas do like we are having this evening and we are but a mirror to what goes on elsewhere.
We must not turn up for work - to do so would be to not be doing our jobs properly!'
There was a caveat: none of us was allowed to tell anyone, otherwise cover could be arranged and the impact of our absence would be lessened.
I admit, it sounds totally insane now, but back then, at that very moment, I was genuinely convinced it was the right thing to do - obviously I was delusional.
At first the team thought I had gone nuts, which I probably had, but I was having none of it and proceeded to order them not to go in. Once they could see I was serious and realised they had no choice - I was the guy who paid their wages after all, as we were an independent production company - acceptance began to sink in and with it a strange euphoria came over the group.
People still to this day don't believe we missed the show on purpose, but I promise you, that's what happened.
The morning after the night before I was woken by a phone call from Matthew. I was in the hotel room asleep when he called. He was not happy, especially when I told him that it had all been a plan and that he should be congratulating me instead of berating me.
Matthew said that, if it was a plan, which he still couldn't quite get his head around, then I should have at least warned him as a lot of very nice people had been put to a lot of trouble as a consequence of our no-show. Of course, he was quite right and being entirely reasonable.
He went on to add that in no way should I expect to be paid for that morning. A little unfair, I felt at the time, as I honestly thought I was doing what was right for the show and especially seeing as the next day we were front-page news - publicity money couldn't buy. There was no doubt about it, I was beginning to display the first signs of pottyness.
Making a Spectacle: Chris in his heyday as the man who rescued Radio 1
The figures for The Breakfast Show had been on the up almost since the day we'd arrived on the air, but more importantly the whole perception of the station had also changed. As a result of our show, and its ripple effect throughout the rest of the station, almost overnight Radio 1 had gone from a museum piece to the heart of the here and now.
The old guard had clung to the wreckage for as long as they could, but finally their fingers had been prised away from the driftwood and they were sent floating off to die. Or at least that's how we saw it. This was the Nineties, Britpop was on fire and the new Radio 1 was slap-bang in the middle of it.
I don't think I'll ever be as excited again in my time on planet Earth as I was back then. Jesus, it was like a real-life rollercoaster ride that none of us wanted to get off - just thinking about it now makes my pulse race.
The combination of a national breakfast show on the Beeb and TFI Friday, on Channel 4, which had started early in 1996, the hippest music/ entertainment show on the box, turned into a powerful combination that ensured us all the best guests, all the best bands and more Press than we knew what to do with.
The Press was good, bad and in between. 'All publicity is good publicity', as the saying goes, but bad publicity was way better as far as we were concerned.
For a while the BBC liked their new spiky image. Nobody really minded that we were being 'naughty'. After all, most people knew I had a genuine love for what I was doing.
Although admittedly I was acting a little more strangely of late, I was still breaking new ground and for now that was enough ... just.
Things were changing though. I was changing. Those important lines between what's real and what's not were becoming increasingly blurred. Writers may inhabit the lives of their characters for a while, but only for as long as they need to, a lesson I was yet to learn as I continued to get lost in my world of make-believe.
Take my 30th birthday in April 1996, for example. We finished the breakfast show and hot-footed it over the road to the Langham Hilton Hotel. I had hired a suite for the day.
The 'celebration' started at about 9.05am, straight after the show. Whatever anyone wanted they could have, which is probably why so many people turned up. By lunchtime it was like midnight - there's something far more rebellious about starting drinking earlier on in the day.
I set myself up in the drawing room to play cards, helped along with a bottle of whisky, several packets of cigarettes and a case of beer. I don't think I left the table, other than for lavatory breaks, until well into the evening. All day, the flow of human traffic was non-stop.
I have no idea what the final body count was, but my last vision of the scene was of me stumbling out of my bedroom in the early hours of the next morning to do the show having to carefully step over some additional 'guests', the majority of whom looked like they might never wake up again.
There was no doubt about it, we were having 'fun' and lots of it. But whereas a couple of years before when, in between the fun, I would sit at home quietly figuring out the next big idea, now I was just out - all the time. Sure, I was turning up for work every day, but the fuel gauge started to register dangerously low.
Energy wasn't the issue. I was young and relatively fit, plus, as the breakfast show was so early in the morning, I was still generally on a buzz from the night before while we were on the air: anyone who knows will tell you a hangover doesn't properly kick in until lunchtime and by then I would be at the gym.
The problem was more about creativity. The ideas machine had stopped because I had stopped. As a person I had ceased to be. I had vanished into thin air and been replaced by a made-up character surrounded by other made-up characters. The problem was, though, we no longer had a script and when the actors start making up the words it's time to run for the hills.
The day after my 30th birthday party, Matthew rang and asked me to meet him at a restaurant no more than half a minute's walk from Broadcasting House.
Matthew smiled nervously, he was obviously concerned and wanted to discuss something. He asked me how that morning's show had gone.
'Fine, it was fine, thanks, now what's up?' I thought it best to cut to the chase.
'Look, Chris, we have a situation and that situation is that things are becoming difficult, to say the least, with the powers that be.' The powers that be that he was referring to, I presumed, was the BBC's Board of Governors.
'What do you mean?' 'Well, Chris, you're in the papers every day.' This was true - there had been a recent report out that the three most written-about people in Britain, with regards to column inches, were Princess Di, me and then the Prime Minister.
Matthew continued: 'And not always for the right reasons. Things have been fun for a while, but there is growing concern that maybe we should be reining things in a little - i.e. reining you in a little. All I'm really asking is that you give me a chance to defend you, something-I'm finding it increasingly difficult-to do.'
I could see where Matthew was coming from. The lack of ideas on the show meant that I had begun to become more self-indulgent on the air, all I ended up talking about mostly was myself. When I wasn't doing that I was talking about things that had little or no place on a national breakfast show.
I was playing fewer and fewer records. One morning I went almost an hour without playing a single song, thinking that what I had to say was far too important and interesting to be interrupted by something so trivial as music. In short, I had lost all perspective.
I was also becoming more ' outrageous', another euphemism for someone running out of steam. Outrageousness, unless you're 19 and in a band, is no substitute for creativity. When outrageousness begins to creep in, everyone should sit up and switch to Code Red because unless somebody does something about it - and quickly - time will be called and everyone will be asked to leave.
I've had a great idea, I told my boss. Fire me!
Both Matthew and I knew this, but whereas Matthew was trying to do something about it - for all our sakes - I was still very much away with the fairies.
'You know what you should do, Matt?' I suggested excitedly.
He looked at me, almost shocked that such a grave topic of conversation could elicit this kind of frenzied reaction.
'No, I don't actually,' he said, almost indignantly. 'Please - do tell.'
He was now looking at me as if he didn't recognise me, like I might be ever so slightly insane. He wasn't far off the mark. No sleep and 12 months of going out does that to a person, but no matter - I had big news for him.
'You should sack me,' I declared triumphantly.
'What?' 'You should sack me,' I repeated with the glee of the crazy man who'd taken up residence in my head.
Matthew was speechless - had I just said what he thought I'd said? 'I don't understand,' he remarked, but there was more, I hadn't finished yet.
'Come on, if you think about it, it's simple,' I went on. 'You had the b***s to bring me here - it worked - everyone acknowledges that. Now if you further have the b***s to dispense with my services, you'll be the complete hero. He knows when to hire and he knows when to fire.'
What on earth was I rabbiting on about? I must have been so far gone. I honestly thought it was a brilliant idea.
I hadn't for one second contemplated that there wasn't another Radio 1 for me to go to if Matthew did take up my suggestion. I had forgotten that this was the job I had always dreamt of having --the show I used to listen to while driving in the Mini my mum bought me to go to work collecting trolleys at the local supermarket for £40 a week.
The very same show I was now recommending I be relieved from - and by a very nice man to whom I owed a good chunk of my career.
'Chris, have you considered taking a holiday?' Matthew sighed.
The situation at Radio 1 was clearly no longer sustainable. I decided to force the issue and asked Matthew if I could have Fridays off, a ridiculous request and one that I knew was bound to end in tears.
My reasoning behind the plea (as if reasoning was any part of my world at all by now) would be that TFI was causing me to hold back my energy on the breakfast show in the morning and yet when I arrived at the television studio in the afternoon I was so tired anyway I was unable to do either job sufficiently well. So, why not let me have the time off so I could concentrate on television?
Matthew responded in the only way he could. He said the request was highly unreasonable and smacked of disrespect and ingratitude. He stated in no uncertain terms that I was backing him into a corner and, if I continued to do so, there was only one course of action available to him. If I persisted with such a ludicrous demand, we would have to part company.
This was all I needed. I decided to jump before I was pushed, but I did what you should never do. I resigned on the air.
For Socrates the hemlock, for George Best the bottle, for Hemingway-the barrel of a shotgun, but seriously - a DJ!
'Please somebody stop me from sounding like a total cretin and throwing away one of the best jobs on the planet,' I should have begged.
But it was too late, for now I had also disappeared all the way up my own back passage.
So. Brilliant. What a genius. I now had Fridays off. In fact, I had the whole week off. All supposedly to get ready for just '48' minutes of television.
As a result of my 'resignation' I had caused absolute carnage, lost much of the respect I had worked so hard to build up over the years as well as a whacking great pay cheque in the process. And the worst thing of all? I had acted like a spoilt child.
I think we could safely say I had lost the plot, like when the participants of reality shows burst into tears because they haven't seen their family for three days while there are soldiers who haven't seen their families for months getting shot at in Afghanistan, that sort of thing.
I knew that I had made the most colossal, misguided error of judgment. I didn't let on of course, not to anyone, but inside I was already dying.
I was dying because I knew that for the first time in my career, for the first time since asking Ralph for a paper round, for the first time since finishing with Tina for a quick snog with the captain of netball team, for the first time since walking out of the miserable git's shop after he confiscated my radio, for the first time since dropping a fat fryer on Bill's car when I was a forklift truck driver, for the first time since setting fire to the outside broadcast truck at Piccadilly Radio, for the first time since recording over the Geldof tape, for the first time since kissing Kim in the tent on The Big Breakfast, for the first time since I bought my first flash car, for the first time since I had been married to Carol, for the first time since having the conversation in the pub with Alison about Jade, for the first time since I made all those mistakes along with the countless others that you are bound to make if you dare to get out of bed in the morning and live this thing called life, for the first time since all of those things, I had really messed up.
And although I had messed up many times before, the thing was - on this occasion - I should have known better. Therein lay the difference.
Everything I had experienced up until this point I could square with myself one way or another. Regardless of whether it ended up being right or wrong, I could reason in my head as to why or why not it may have happened. But this was not like that.
Success, once achieved, exists, whereas before it did not. Therefore it can no longer be ignored - hoping it won't have an effect, hoping it won't change things. Success has to be dealt with, it has to be fed and watered and looked after and given a place to sleep. Success is a wonderful thing, in the right hands. It is wholly good and can achieve many things if harnessed and exploited in the right way. But if abused, it can be lethal: a ferociously powerful racing car on a wet road being driven by a blind man wearing lead boots.
In the past four years I had undoubtedly achieved 'success', success beyond my wildest dreams, but it was obvious I didn't have the first clue what to do with it.
It was time for a think.
Kissing Kim was a fantasy come true
As a DJ and presenter, I punched way above my weight when it came to dating girls. On one occasion, in November 1993, when Gaby Roslin, my co-presenter on The Big Breakfast on Channel 4, was on holiday, Kim Wilde was lined up as a replacement.
She was so much sexier than even any of us had dared to imagine. She threw herself into the spirit of things; doing anything thatwas asked of her, which just happened to include one Wednesday morning having to crawl into a one-man tent with me during an ad break.
Starry-eyed: Chris and Kim Wilde during their brief romance in 1993
Every show, just before the eight o'clock news, we reran the main title sequence to start the next hour, after which Gaby and I would burst on the screen to declare the day and date and why it might be significant. This sequence often involved a product new to the market - hence the presence of a revolutionary one-man tent.
The producer thought itwould be a good idea for Kim and me to be in the tent when the shot came to us, but with the flap zipped up. On his cue we would rip open the zip, reveal our happy, smiling faces and bid the world good morning.
After waiting in the tent for about a minute, we began to find the situation comical. We began to snigger and feel naughty. We were so close our noses were almost touching.
As the title music started in our earpieces, I whispered to Kim: 'We could do anything now and no one would know.'
'What do you mean?' she asked.
'Well, anything, as long as we weren't still doing it when the zip opens.'
The title music was halfway through and the production assistant had started counting down to our cue.
'What like?' she enquired, raising an eyebrow. At which point I simply went to kiss her. Kim kissed me back. I took this as the green light to go for it: what followed nextwas the most fantasy-filled fivesecond snog any red-blooded male could experience.
As the countdown ended and the director gave us our cue, the zipped up door of the tent now filling the screen remained fastened for just that little bit longer than it should have done. And now you know why.
The next Monday, Gaby was back on the show. 'How was Kim lastweek?' she asked.
'She was incredible,' I replied. Gaby looked a little put out. 'Oh no, not at presenting, Gabs, you know there's no one comes close to you as far as that's concerned - I'm talking about as a woman.'
'What do you mean, "as a woman"?' 'She's my new girlfriend - I kissed her in a tent on the show lastweek and now we're going out.'
Gaby half-smiled, but itwas true - we were now an item. It lasted for a few weeks until December. Gaby and I were taking out the Big Breakfast crew for ameal. I was at home in London anxiously awaiting the arrival of my superstar girlfriend. The phone rang and I presumed itwas Kim to tell me she was outside.
It was Kim, but she was still at home in Hertfordshire. She said she had been reconsidering our relationship and had decided that it was never going to work. I was a little rocked by that.
Even though I had suspected I was living on borrowed time, I would have loved to have taken her out that night because itwas a special occasion. But I understood why she felt she couldn't come. She knew the party was a big deal for me and didn'twant to be there for the wrong reasons.
My friend Dan, a sound engineer at The Big Breakfast, called to ask where I was. I said Kim wouldn't be coming but I'd only just found out, which was why I was late. He said he would wait for me in the pub next door.
When I arrived he could see something was wrong. 'What's up?' he asked.
'Kim's just finished with me.' 'You're joking,' he said. He thought itwas hilarious. 'It's not funny,' I said, but I suddenly felt I might start laughing, too.
'Oh come on, you knew itwas never meant to be. You took a chance in the tent and it paid off - well done. But you didn't think for one second itwas going to last, did you? You had no chance.' By now Dan was rolling around on his chair he was laughing so much.
Of course he was right. After two quick pints, we made our way to the restaurant. As we arrived, there was silence and then a crash as the karaoke machine struck up with the chorus: 'We're the kids in America, whoah-oh. We're the kids in America, whoah-oh.'
This was meant to greet the arrival of Kim and me, but upon seeing a severe lack of Kim there was now an awkward scene as the song continued. But Dan, still on form, declared: 'Look everyone, it is me, Kim Wilde, and I am now a man!'
His witty line got everyone, including me, off the hook. Finally, the party could get into full swing with Dan and me still the only ones aware that Kim had come to her senses and dumped the ginger kid.
Carol said it was insane to get married, so we did
In 1988, I was working at Radio Piccadilly filling in on the drivetime show. One day I went on a news-story-inspired rant about cats, finishing up by saying: 'However there is a good side to cats: that's the left-hand side, cooked medium rare with a garlic sauce.' The switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree and I was out of work five minutes after the show had ended.
When I was offered a production job on a new satellite radio station called Radio Radio, owned by Richard Branson, I accepted immediately.
The offices for Radio Radio were just off Oxford Street. I can recall many things about my first day, but one memory stands out above all: the first person I saw after walking up the stairs.
She was a woman called Carol. I saw her when we walked through the main office door, but had been able to hear her a good minute or so before, from several floors below. This woman was loud --I mean, really loud. 'Who's that?' I whispered to Andy, the guy who had offered me the job.
'Oh that's Carol McTraff,' he said, laughing. 'We call her McTraff. because she deals with the traffic, but her real name is Carol McGiffin, she's hilarious.'
Working in London, I soon discovered, was as much about what you did in the evening as what you did in the day. From the beginning, I found myself going out almost every night. And if Andy didn't know how to get into somewhere, Carol did - she was the original girl about town.
Radio Radio folded, but when I was later presenting my own show at GLR and needed someone to present our 'what's on?' guide, I thought of the most London person I knew. The crazy lady with the cockney voice as loud as a foghorn. Carol the traffic girl.
Carol jumped at the chance. She was a little clunky to start with, but weren't we all? She found her radio voice soon enough and in no time at all was hailed as our Time Out Totty.
She knew exactly what was going down, from designer sales to the latest comedy clubs. When she arrived at the studio, she was always totally prepared and impeccably dressed - although sometimes still a little hung over.
Not that this was a problem because she regaled the audience with her tales of the previous evening's merriment. This only served to enhance the weekend feel we were trying to achieve. The listeners loved her.
Going for a drink with the audience afterwards became a regular occurrence and something we would talk about the following week on the air. The more we talked about it the more it happened and the more fun everyone had. The lines of showbusiness and the real world were blurred from the start.
Carol and I would often be the last two left standing, usually ending up in a bar near her flat. She was the most fun, full of stories and tales of adventures, often including outrageous behaviour.
She also had another attractive quality which I was becoming ever more aware of - she had the greatest legs I'd ever seen. The longer we stayed out the longer they seemed to get.
Somewhere in among the broadcasting, the booze and the bunfights, the thought of Carol's legs consumed me and one day I found myself asking her if I could take a closer inspection. The sun was shining and she was wearing the cheekiest of white, pleated short skirts.
As in life, when it came to passion and romance with Carol, there was no holding back.
We were an on-and-off couple for a while and although for the majority of the time we got on like a house on fire, there were several cogs to our relationship that kept on jamming. It was as if we were both reluctant to admit we wanted to be with each other on a permanent basis.
One day the subject turned again to the future and whether we were wasting our time, when out of nowhere I suggested: 'Why don't we just get married.'
'Don't be stupid,' she said, laughing. 'You and me married? That's insane!'
To say Carol was not the marrying type would be putting it mildly. She was fiercely independent and to my knowledge hadn't been involved in any serious kind of relationship for a few years. But I thought maybe this was what we both needed.
I think it must have been the gravity of the proposition that eventually cajoled Carol into saying 'yes'.
We wasted no time in booking a slot at Camden Register Office. Although we told only a couple of people about the wedding, we organised a party the same night where we announced our nuptials to 60 open-mouthed guests who didn't know whether to believe us or not.
Out of all the questionable things I have ever done, marrying Carol is way up there. Impulse can be a good thing, but I have concluded that it is best employed in situations that may not be that important.
My marriage to Carol was based on impulse and the hope that it might work. When I think back, it's like it never happened.
Carol is the star in any room, in any situation. She was born with an extraordinary self-confidence. I still don't understand what makes her tick but whatever it is, it makes for a highly entertaining person. She is also as hard as nails and not to be messed with.
After I had made a few quid in the first flushes of The Big Breakfast we bought a pretty house on the edge of London's Hampstead Heath.
However, I know I was not happy and I suspect Carol was not feeling dissimilar. We were both being nicer to everyone else than we were to each other - a sure-fire sign of a couple in turmoil. We were starting to bicker at home and when we weren't bickering we were becoming more and more distant.
Looking back, I can see how my success was more likely the determining factor in our break-up. Carol has a lot to bring to the table and now she was married to a guy who was the talk of the town. Carol and I both wanted to be the lead singer of the band - therefore the band was destined to split.
I remember the afternoon it happened. It was a Tuesday and I was in bed. Because I was up and out with the lark, I would always have a couple of hours' sleep in the afternoon. I was lying, eyes wide open, thinking the same thing I had been thinking for weeks: 'I am so unhappy, we are so unhappy, why are we together, what are we going to do about this?'
I am not at ease with confrontation - I am a man, after all. And this was also Carol we were talking about here - not the easiest person to bring round to any point of view other than her own. But I had to do something.
I got up and went downstairs to the kitchen.
'All right?' she said. 'Not really, no,' I replied. 'Why, what's the matter?' 'I don't think we should be together any more.'
There, I'd said it, with those few words it was out in the open.
One hour later, I was in my car driving away from a woman who had once been my best friend, and yet we had now come to a point where we could barely recognise a single thing we had in common.
How does something like that happen to two people? All very sad.
So what did Chris's chief think about him? Here, Radio 1's Matthew Bannister gives his verdict
Re: Your request for a reference for Christopher Evans.
Comrades in Arms: Evans and Matthew Bannister
Whilst he has many strong points, of which I'm sure you are aware, there are a number of issues which prevent me from endorsing him unreservedly. Although there appears to have been a miraculous transformation recently, in the past he has suffered from the following problems:
A tendency to skateboard down the corridor at work in his boxer shorts.
An insistence on using his own toaster in the office which repeatedly set off the fire alarm.
A determination to fly his own flag from a BBC building, which led to endless meetings with angry people from the premises department.
An insubordinate attitude to authority, tending to refer to his boss as 'The Fat Controller'.
An impeccable sense of timing which led to him telling a joke about oral sex and Brussels sprouts on the day I was due to defend him to the BBC Board of Governors.
An unreliable attendance record which culminated in him taking the day after the Christmas Party as a 'sickie'.
A tendency to flounce out if not given Fridays off.
Apart from these minor defects he is, of course, a brilliant broadcaster who has singlehandedly changed the face of British radio and an all round good egg. I'm very proud to have been associated with bits of his career.