Louise Bennett looks at how the Radio 2 star, Chris Evans brought it back from the brink
As Chris Evans is announced as the much-hyped new host of Top Gear this week, I can’t help thinking the 49-year-old could teach even Madonna a thing or too about the art of reinvention. This is the same man who just a few years ago was more famous for not turning up to work due to his marathon drinking sessions and would never have been trusted at the helm of such a juggernaut of a show.
Back in the nineties, along with hair scrunchies and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Chris Evans was BIG news.
After becoming a household name in 1992 hosting The Big Breakfast he took the reigns of Radio 1’s prestigious breakfast show in 1994, insisting it was looked after by his own company Ginger Productions. But after a series of no-shows and ‘unauthorised days off’, Evans soon became an unpredictable time bomb. But it was when he started the now iconic TFI Friday show that things really started coming off the rails. Famous for it’s outrageous stunts and potty-mouthed interviews, Chris’s zany world started spilling off-screen into his personal life too.
And there was nothing he couldn’t get away with. Didn’t fancy coming to work? He wouldn’t bother. Didn’t get on with his bosses? He would buy the company – snapping up Virgin Radio from Richard Branson in 1997 for a whopping £85m. He even pulled his teenage pop star wife Billie Piper in 2000 by treating her to a Ferrari full of roses. When she couldn’t even drive.
By 2001 his ego had become so out of control that no tv or radio executive in their right mind would trust him with a show. He was more famous for his drinking sessions than his talent as a presenter. So how did he pull it back from the brink? Here’s his five-step plan…
1. Admitting he messed up.
‘It was because I was an idiot,’ he said in his 2010 autobiography It’s Not What You Think.
‘I was stupid, no doubt about that. I was ungrateful and now I have a sense of perspective to say that’s what happened.
2. Eating a huge slice of humble pie
Taking over radio 2’s Drivetime show in 2006 he thanked the BBC for giving him a second chance, kept his head down and reminded everyone exactly why he’s one of the best broadcasters in the business.
3. Knowing his audience
The people who were hooked on his anarchic style of television and larger-than-life radio persona had grown up too. So Chris cleverly tapped into their affections with his new, toned-down style.
4. Sorting out his personal life.
His out of hours exploits are no longer front page news. He has a new, settled life with his third wife Natasha Shishmanian (who he married in 2008) and their three year old son, Noah. A doting grandfather and car enthusiast, he’s proved that he’s ready to deal with his celebrity life without losing his head.