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Griff Rhys-Jones on whether he’d bring back Not The Nine O’Clock News

Griff Rhys-Jones

The TV presenter and comedian, 67, on downsizing, bungee jumps and his online auction Celebrity Bottom Drawer.

What is Celebrity Bottom Drawer?

It’s a sort of eBay for A-listers. I’ve gone to lots of celebrities I know and asked them to do some decluttering, and I’m putting the items they donate into an online auction.

I’ve been doing shows to raise money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices and last year we did one and raised £100,000. Of course, this year we can’t do that so I had this slightly crazy idea of Celebrity Bottom Drawer.

What fabulous celebrity bric-a-brac is on sale?

Dawn French has donated a Rolex. She says it was given to her by a lover but she’d only worn it twice so she’d decided she must pass it on.

Tom Hollander has come up with a box of incredible stuff – shirts and scripts from Pirates Of The Caribbean and a Tiffany travel clock, which was a gift from Tom Cruise.

He’s literally re-gifting it! He also sent me a pair of red underpants that he wore in the movie In The Loop. The Durrells have sent props from the show, Joanna Lumley sent me one of her scripts from Absolutely Fabulous and Davina McCall has donated a fantastic yellow dress she wore on television.

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only Undated BBC handout photo of Dawn French being interviewed by Andrew Marr for the BBC current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. PA Photo. Issue date: Sunday October 18, 2020. See PA story SHOWBIZ French. Photo credit should read: Jeff Overs /BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

Dawn French is donating a Rolex that once was apparently given to her by a lover (Picture: Jeff Overs /BBC/PA)

We’ve got James Bond stuff, Jonathan Pryce has given us a coat he wore in Evita and Emma Thompson has donated a Mary Poppins umbrella from the film Saving Mr Banks. I’m hoping we’ll have around 200 items.

Has anyone else handed over anything expensive?

I went through a drawer and found a silver Mont Blanc pen I was presented with in 2002 as an award for raising money for charity.

I’ve never used it, not even to write a thank-you letter to them! I looked it up online and it was valued at about £7,000.

What else have you donated yourself?

I’ve just moved house and I’ve got lots of stuff. I’ve even got a coffin that was made for me in Ghana.

I was making a TV show about folk art and the people there are buried in the most elaborate coffins.

If you’re a bus driver you’re buried in a bus and if you’ve been a big man around the community you’re buried in a lion coffin, so they made me a beautiful television camera coffin, which I shipped back.

It’s in a shed in a huge box so this seemed like the time to find a buyer for it.

Have you downsized, then?

It was time to move to a slightly smaller house. More alarming than getting rid of your own stuff, though, is trying to get rid of your children’s stuff.

But you’ll be pleased to know my daughter’s old homework and drawings won’t be featuring in Celebrity Bottom Drawer!

Undated handout photo issued by Avalon of a puppet with the likeness of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, created for the new series of Spitting Image, which will air exclusively on the ITV/BBC led streaming service BritBox in the Autumn. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday August 5, 2020. See PA story SHOWBIZ SpittingImage. Photo credit should read: Mark Harrison/BritBox/Avalon/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Spitting Image might have returned, but don’t expect Not The Nine o’ Clock News any time soon (Picture: Briz/PA)

Spitting Image has returned. Have you ever been tempted to bring back Not The Nine O’Clock News?

Mel [Smith, who died in 2013] isn’t available to do his part and, to be honest, it was such a thing of the time.

I was amazed it came to an end after four series but that was the fashion around that time. It was a bit like Fawlty Towers, you did a few series and then you moved on.

How did you spend lockdown?

At home in Suffolk. I’ve been enjoying the countryside and being in rural bliss. It was quite extraordinary because with the type of life I lead you don’t usually get much of a chance to just settle down in one place and watch the seasons change.

Have you lost work this year?

I was planning to do a theatre show in the autumn, which was obviously pushed back, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in January either.

My travel shows about Australia and New Zealand were badly hit too. It fleetingly appeared on ITV and then they decided they needed more shows about Covid so it’s been postponed.

Apparently they were worried it was sending the wrong message to people.

How do you stay in shape?

I was a keen runner for 30 years but I was told to stop about two years ago. I couldn’t get out of bed and I went for a scan and they said two vertebrae had fused and they didn’t recommend I run any more.

I loved running so it was genuinely awful. I’ve bought myself a cross-trainer so I do that instead.

Do you have any hobbies?

I sail a boat. I race an old classic yacht. We do it in the Med. The boat’s down there so I haven’t been able to go down there and do that this year.

I also spend a lot of time in my garden.

What’s on your bucket list?

Everything – I just love everything about life. I’m lucky to lead a hyperactive life and I enjoy myself immoderately most of the time.

Last year I did a bungee jump in New Zealand off Kawarau Bridge, which is where everybody goes, but only when they’re 20 and I did it at 66.

I said: ‘Am I the oldest person?’ They said: ‘Good Lord, no, we had a 96-year-old woman recently,’ which rather put me in my place!

To make a bid at the auction go to celebritybottomdrawer.com


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