PIERS MOR­GAN

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - SOAP WATCH -

Flew back into Lon­don to record some Life Sto­ries shows for ITV. Tonight, I in­ter­viewed one of my all-time heroes, Ian Botham. He’s swash- buck­ling, hard- drink­ing, pug­na­cious, coura­geous, in­spir­ing and al­most im­pos­si­bly pa­tri­otic — and it was a ter­rif­i­cally en­ter­tain­ing en­counter.

But all you re­ally need to know about the great man is what he did when he bowled the fi­nal de­liv­ery of his record- break­ing cricket ca­reer. Play­ing for Durham against, ap­pro­pri­ately, the Aus­tralians, he walked back to his mark and unzipped his flies. Then, as he con­firmed tonight: ‘ I hauled out the meat and two veg, and ran in with the old man dan­gling in the wind.’ How many pro­fes­sional sports­men would have the balls, quite lit­er­ally, to do that?

My main aim with ‘Beefy’ was to try and make him cry, some­thing he’d warned me be­fore­hand would be im­pos­si­ble. ‘I haven’t cried since I was six,’ he scoffed. But he came close, es­pe­cially when talk­ing about his fi­nal, in­cred­i­bly mov­ing, con­ver­sa­tion with his mother, Marie, on her deathbed. ‘She was there for me ev­ery step of the way,’ he said, ‘and I’m so glad I was able to get there in time to say thank you.’

He also got sus­pi­ciously wa­tery-eyed when I asked him about his mo­ti­va­tion for the gru­elling char­ity walks he does to raise funds to fight leukaemia.

Botham has raised more than €14 mil­lion for re­search into the dis­ease, over the course of 12 walks in 25 years. And of­ten ripped his body to pieces in the process. (I did one eight­mile leg of a walk with him a few years ago, and the pace he walks — a con­stant 4.5mph — left me a bat­tered, breath­less buf­foon.)

When he started, the sur­vival rate for chil­dren with leukaemia was 20 per cent; now it’s 90 per cent. ‘A guy ap­peared dur­ing one of the re­cent walks,’ he said, ‘and told me we’d first met on one of the ear­li­est walks, when he was a young kid with leukaemia in a wheel­chair. He was now fully re­cov­ered and liv­ing a great life, and just wanted to thank me. That made all the pain and blis­ters worth­while.’ Peo­ple of­ten ask me what the cri­te­ria are for choos­ing Life Sto­ries guests. The sim­ple an­swer is that they need to be a) fa­mous b) have led an in­ter­est­ing life and c) be ready to talk openly and hon­estly about it, warts and all.

For 25 years Julie Goodyear was the big­gest soap star around, play­ing the tem­pes­tu­ous Coro­na­tion Street bar­maid Bet Lynch. She’s been mar­ried four times — once for ONE HOUR — had sev­eral long re­la­tion­ships with women and sur­vived can­cer.

All of which made her a per­fect guest.

But it’s what hap­pened to­wards the end of a riv­et­ing in­ter­view that will spark mas­sive in­trigue. I must have asked her a dozen times to say some­thing nice about her fourth hus­band, Scott Brand, who has shared her life for the past 17 years.

And ev­ery sin­gle time, she point-blank re­fused.

It all be­came fas­ci­nat­ingly strange — es­pe­cially as poor old Scott was sit­ting a few feet away, glug­ging help­lessly on a bot­tle of wa­ter.

‘Se­ri­ously, you can’t think of one sin­gle pos­i­tive thing to say about him?’ I per­sisted, in­cred­u­lously. ‘Nope,’ she re­torted. Julie then turned, ap­par­ently ex­as­per­ated, to the rest of the au­di­ence, and said, ‘You all un­der­stand, right?’ I looked around at the sea of be­mused faces, and saw that absolutely no­body un­der­stood at all. It was the most awkward mo­ment in Life Sto­ries his­tory.

Justin Rose has be­come the first English­man to win the US Open golf cham­pi­onship since Tony Jack­lin 43 years ago. This fol­lows Andy Mur­ray win­ning the US Open ten­nis last sum­mer, One Di­rec­tion top­ping the US pop charts — and Man Of Steel, star­ring Henry Cav­ill, romp­ing to the Num­ber One slot this week.

So, rather a good time to be in Amer­ica. But there’s one per­son for whom Rose’s glory meant even more than it did to the man him­self.

I sent Justin a pri­vate Di­rect Mes­sage on Twit­ter, con­tain­ing one word: ‘BOOOOOM!!!!’ — my trade­mark salu­ta­tion in mo­ments of great t r iumph. ‘ BOOOM!!!!’ he mes­saged back, then adding: ‘Thanks for the sup­port Piers! My gooner caddy fi­nally feels what it’s like to win a tro­phy! Lol.’ I’m de­lighted for Justin, one of the nicest, most de­serv­ing guys in sport. But I’m even hap­pier for his caddy — long- suf­fer­ing

Arse­nal fan Mark Fulcher.

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