Sorry dahlings, that kiss was Katya’s fault
The partner who tamed him. Their plans for parenthood. The truth about his abusive father — and THAT Strictly scandal. To launch his memoirs in the Mail next week, Craig Revel Horwood gets a 10 for candour!
CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD is not sure he’s cut out to be a parent. ‘I don’t know whether my lifestyle is right to bring up a child. Friends of mine have adopted and you’re so scrutinised.
‘The adoption agencies want to know what you eat, what you drink, how many you smoke. I’d have to make some proper lifestyle changes, wouldn’t I darling?’ he says, as he flops back into his white leather sofa, cigarette in hand. ‘But we’ve definitely talked about it and thought about it.’
‘We’ is Craig, 53, and his horticulturalist boyfriend of seven months, Jonathan Myring, 33, who is moving into the waspish Strictly judge’s spectacular country pile in Hampshire on the day we meet.
Jonathan is a thoroughly likeable soul who gets his kicks from rare plants with unpronounceable names rather than spray tan and Lycra. Take when Craig presented him with a confidentiality agreement on their first date.
‘I signed it, then wrote my own on a napkin,’ Jonathan tells me. ‘If I have to spend an extended amount of time with any reality Tv stars from Chelsea or Essex you owe me £100 million.’ Craig took it and signed it ‘Gemma Collins’, referring to The only Way Is Essex’s larger-than-life diva.
Jonathan, who trained at Kew Gardens, turns his attention to a packet of traveller’s palm seeds that has just arrived. He says the seeds will eventually grow into ‘two big d-shaped fans like the showgirls wear’. Given they take seven years to mature, Jonathan is clearly here for the long haul. Will they marry?
‘Yes, but there’s been no proposal,’ says Craig. ‘I think you’ve totally got to know it’s going to work, but his clothes have just gone in the wardrobe. Literally.’
HIS seven-bedroom home, set in more than seven acres of land, is — to borrow a phrase from him — ‘ truly fab-u-lous’. Forget flagstones and shabby chic, this place knocks the most flamboyant of Strictly sets into a cocked hat with its glitterball statues and glitter . . . well, everything, really. Even the floor in the guest loo lights up.
However, there is also a sense of calm that makes you want to sign a confidentiality agreement and stay.
‘In London, everything is fast. Everyone gets bored really quickly and moves onto the next person really quickly,’ says Craig.
‘I got sick of that lifestyle — constantly going out, air kisses. You always have to be vigilant; always be aware there’s someone with a phone taking a photograph.’
It’s advice comedian Seann Walsh and his professional Strictly partner Katya Jones might have been wise to heed: a video of them sharing a passionate, drunken smooch emerged last week.
For anyone who’s somehow missed the scandal, Katya is married to fellow dancer Neil, and Seann was promptly dumped by his girlfriend of five years, actress Rebecca Humphries. ‘Personally, I think Katya was in the wrong,’ says Craig, with characteristic bluntness. ‘She should have put a stop to it because she’s a professional dancer.
‘It’s her job not only to protect her own relationship, but to protect the celebrity’s and be the mentor. I think she broke protocol over that. She should never have allowed it to happen.
‘And, of course, she’s married and her husband Neil is on Strictly.’ Craig clearly feels huge sympathy for the poor man.
‘[Tonight] will be tough for Seann and Katya, and Neil. That’s where the awkward part of this whole scenario lies as they’re the ones who have to face the music.
‘They’re the ones who have to go on and do the dance of shame. It’s like going to a Christmas party and you snog the boss. You still have to come to work on Monday if you want the job.
‘People talk about the Strictly Curse, but this happens in every profession. Yes, when you’re dancing you’re up close and personal for eight hours a day and you get used to being tactile — to holding hands, hugging, kissing — but it’s acting.
‘At the end of the day you down tools and go home to your partner. You don’t have to fall in love or have sex with each other.
‘Generally, when people have affairs there is something wrong with their relationship, otherwise it wouldn’t happen. If you’re hell-bent on being with someone, you wouldn’t let anything jeopardise that, whether it’s alcohol-induced or not.
‘Look, I wasn’t there. They’ve been filmed kissing, which is not on really, but they’ve both apologised and they’re dancing [tonight].
‘The audience will either vote to keep them or make up their minds not to. They have to be professional and get on with the job they’re contracted to do. I’ll be judging them on their dancing in the Charleston and whether or not they have chemistry.’
Hang on Craig. Chemistry? Clearly they score four tens for that. ‘There’s a lot more physicality one has to master on Strictly Come dancing than just a snog in a pub,’ he says, with a sort of thank-goodness-I’m-away-from-that-life look on his face.
‘When you’re here the pace is much slower. I thought no one would visit and it would be lonely, but I see more of my friends because they’re all trying to escape London,’ he says.
‘There’s no one to judge you here. There’s no malice. I had one party this summer where we all played croquet in drag. I had to do a phone interview that day so I was sat here in a twin set and pearls with a big ponytail sticking out of my head, watching my friends playing croquet on the lawn.
‘I thought, “If this journalist knew what I looked like, they’d laugh.” It’s fun. It’s lovely. Finally everything is coming together.’
He looks genuinely happy. Certainly more so than when we spoke after the publication of his second autobiography five years ago.
BACK then he worried himself half sick over whether or not he would ‘come over well’. You knew he was trying so hard to be happy, but wasn’t.
‘Jonathan’s made such a difference,’ he says. ‘He’s brought love and life back into the house. There are plants growing everywhere now and they’re all real. Normally everything is fake.
‘He wasn’t a Strictly fan at all, really. We discussed it when we first met. He said, “I’m a bit of a bookworm.” I said, “That’s great. I’ve got plenty of books.” He’s gorgeous and . . .’
Craig gushes rather like, well, his
fellow judge Bruno Tonioli. ‘He ticks all the boxes and he’s bloody lovely with it.’
‘ He’ also wants to adopt a child. ‘I totally support it if that’s what he wants, and I’d be a loving dad. I’m not against it. In fact, I encourage people to do it. There are so many kids who need loving families, who have been caught in abusive homes.’
Suddenly Craig looks vulnerable. For he understands, only too well, the scars of an abusive childhood. ‘It’s taken me until now to get myself together and discover, actually, I am a nice person,’ he says.
Craig’s father, Phil, a former lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, was an abusive alcoholic who made the lives of Craig’s mother Beverley and his three sisters and brother sheer hell.
He documented some of these drunken rages in the first two of his three autobiographies All Balls And Glitter (2008) and Tales From The Dance Floor (2013). But it is only now, since his father died from alcohol poisoning three years ago, that he is able to talk freely. That death, shortly before Christmas 2015, and its impact, is told with deft poignancy in Craig’s third autobiography, In Strictest Confidence, which will be serialised in the Daily Mail next week. ‘I think it [the death] is freeing in a way,’ says Craig. ‘You can be yourself without the fear your dad is going to come down on you. He can’t harm me any more — only in thought and only if I allow it. He used to call me “lazy bastard” and chase me round the house. ‘He hit me once and I fell backwards off the fence, but that physical abuse doesn’t hurt as much as the mental torture — the fact you can’t bring anyone home because of him. We used to have to go to the fridge to get his beer as he wouldn’t get out of his chair. After the seventh beer, that’s when the ranting would start, until he fell asleep. ‘He constantly called my poor mum a cabbage. Every time I hear the word “cabbage” now — even if I cut one up — I think of him and the way he used to say that to her. ‘The kitchen knife used to come out at times as well. It was horrific. ‘When he wasn’t drinking he was funny, adorable, a lovely man, but as soon as he had a drink he became wildly abusive and demanding.’ Craig didn’t go to Australia for his father’s funeral. He was appearing in a pantomime of Peter Pan as Captain Hook, so participated via Skype. Despite their uneasy relationship, he sobbed his eyes out as he watched the service. Later, when his family forwarded some of his father’s paperwork, he discovered his dad had taken out an insurance policy on his life, which he had paid into for 20 years. In short, Craig’s father was gambling upon his son’s death. ‘I couldn’t believe he’d done that,’ says Craig, looking genuinely wounded. ‘It was the early Eighties so a lot of people were dying from Aids. He was, I suppose, thinking I’d die sooner rather than later because of my lifestyle — because I was openly out. I felt slightly betrayed, in a way, that he would get the payout. Finding that policy was another nail in his coffin for me. I suppose it made it easier to deal with his death.’
Craig pauses to go to make us drinks (in a kitchen with a glittery floor, naturally). In the flesh, television’s Mr Nasty is, in fact, as bighearted as any showbusiness personality I have met. When he returns with two cups of coffee, he is determined to find the good in his father’s actions.
‘I suppose he may have been thinking it would pay for my funeral costs and any debts I might have had,’ he says. ‘He did love us, but he had a funny way of showing it.
‘It was wonderful when he came back from being on tour [with the Navy]. We always looked forward to the presents. Once we got a bike each. It was amazing, but that joy was limited, as we knew what would happen after the seventh bottle.
‘I think you carry the abuse with you. You just have to compartmentalise it, but feelings don’t disappear. Even if you love someone and they’ve done you wrong, you still love them. I find it difficult to hate someone and you tend to forgive.
‘I think that’s very important. I don’t want to harbour that [misery] all my life. I’ve planted a garden in my dad’s memory. Jonathan helped me do that.’
Craig met Jonathan on Tinder when he was all but despairing of settling down again. His relationship with Britain’s Got Talent puppeteer Damon Scott, which lasted for just over two years, ended in 2016, amidst Damon’s Sunday newspaper claims that Craig’s life ‘revolved around alcohol’.
‘That was disappointing,’ says Craig, who now ensures everyone in his life, even close friends, signs confidentiality agreements. ‘It’s a matter of trust and I don’t trust anyone. I trusted Damon and look what happened.
‘They got the drinks right [in the report]. I do like sauvignon blanc and vodka, but I don’t start drinking in the morning. I had to laugh, but at the same time it was terrible — but then people do do things for money, don’t they? He was no longer living with me and I supply a delicious lifestyle for anyone.’ Why did the relationship end? ‘I was willing things to be lovely. I wanted to be loved. I knew from the beginning I was lying to myself. A lot of people do the same because you want something so much. You want the perfect life, but there is no such thing. We weren’t right for one another. It began deteriorating as soon as we moved in here together [in September 2014]. We just didn’t get on, really.
‘I just bought into it as I wanted the dream. I wanted the house. I wanted the boyfriend — tall, dark, handsome, someone in the business who had an understanding of the paparazzi. That was stupid, obviously, in hindsight.’
Craig began meeting men on social media sites — an endless stream of dates that never went anywhere. He writes about it hilariously in his autobiography, but there is an underlying poignancy.
‘I was searching for something in those two years, but that soon becomes dull. It becomes tiresome and so vacuous that you don’t like yourself any more. When I met Jonathan, I was about to go off all the sites.’
The judge says he knew he was falling in love with Jonathan after inviting him to his home for the weekend following their first date.
‘We both said the reason we wanted to meet each other was because both of our photographs [on Tinder] were not doctored and we were both smiling.
‘Then as soon as I met him, I thought, “Yup, great smile.” There was no awkwardness.
‘We had brunch in a nice little place in Nottingham where I was working on the Strictly tour. They arranged a quiet table around the back. It couldn’t have been more perfect. We even ordered the same thing — smashed avocado with poached egg on top — so we had similar tastes as well.’
that first date, Craig only had one spare weekend before he began filming for the festive movie, Nativity Rocks!, in which he stars as director Emmanuel Cavendish, and so he invited Jonathan to Hampshire.
‘As soon as we walked in here it felt right. I was worried he wouldn’t want to go out with me because I am 20 years older and the celebrity thing can be difficult for some people. I knew I was falling in love the day he left,’ says Craig.
‘This summer was the first I’ve had in this house when I didn’t have builders. I could enjoy the garden and enjoy learning about it with Jonathan. He’s taught me a lot. I’ve been getting back to the earth, growing my own vegetables and herbs. I’ve loved that.’
Will he write a fourth autobiography, say Strictly The Good Life or Green Fingers And Glitter?
‘I don’t feel the need to write another one,’ he says. ‘I’ve aired everything now — unless something dramatic happens.’ Like parenthood? ‘If Jonathan really wants to, I’d adopt, but I would have to make some lifestyle changes. I definitely wouldn’t be able to have the naked butlers at my parties, and I keep them in business, darling.’
IN STRICTEST CONFIDENCE by Craig Revel Horwood is published by Michael O’Mara on October 18 at £20. To order a copy for £16 (offer valid until October 24, P&P free), visit mailshop.co.uk/ books or call 0844 571 0640.
Outspoken: Craig Revel Horwood Pictures: MURRAY SANDERS/DARREN SACKS/ALAMY
Glitzy: Craig with partner Jonathan Myring at their home in Hampshire. Far left, Seann Walsh kissing his Strictly dance partner Katya Jones