The ugly side of Strictly’s big­gest diva

Danny ‘The Grinch’ on the back foot as he gets fi­nal warn­ing over bul­ly­ing claims

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Natalie Clarke

It be­came clear over re­cent weeks that ‘some­thing was brew­ing’ be­tween Danny John-Jules and his Strictly dance part­ner Amy Dow­den – and now he has been given a ‘fi­nal warn­ing’ by the BBC over claims he has been bul­ly­ing her.

He is said to have left 27-year-old Amy in tears af­ter an out­burst in which the ac­tor told her: ‘I’m the star, not you.’

At the out­set, the other con­tes­tants and pro­fes­sional dancers thought his aloof­ness and re­luc­tance to en­gage was caused by nerves. But then – and it was sooner rather than later – the truth dawned.

It was the old story, alas: Danny was sim­ply an old-fash­ioned diva, with a fa­tal ten­dency, ac­cord­ing to an im­pec­ca­bly placed source, to take him­self – and his danc­ing – just that bit too se­ri­ously.

So when he fluffed his quick­step last week on Strictly Come Danc­ing, he didn’t do what con­tes­tants usu­ally do, laugh it off and say he’d try to do bet­ter next week.

For Danny, his dance dis­as­ter struck at the core of his very be­ing. He ap­peared un­able to ac­cept that a star of his mag­ni­tude could make such a hash of it.

Amy is said to have fled the stu­dio where they were prac­tis­ing in tears and later told BBC pro­duc­ers that she had had enough and did not know if she could con­tinue, ac­cord­ing to the Sun.

‘He gets very an­gry in the train­ing room and he swears and shouts at her a lot. He also makes a lot of snide com­ments about him be­ing fa­mous and her not,’ an in­sider said. things have been bub­bling away for a while and it all came to a head on Wed­nes­day.’

Af­ter weeks of hav­ing to try to ac­com­mo­date Danny’s gi­ant ego, it is al­leged the sit­u­a­tion be­tween the pair be­came tenser than ever when he was in the bot­tom two and had to per­form in the dreaded dance-off. ‘He was fu­ri­ous,’ says the source. ‘He thinks he’s a bet­ter dancer than Amy.’

It is cer­tainly true that Danny can dance. View­ers who may have been un­der the im­pres­sion that the 58-year-old was per­form­ing mir­a­cles each week – the game older guy man­ag­ing to pull it off – might be dis­ap­pointed to learn he has been danc­ing at the­atre school since he was a child. He even un­der­went dance train­ing with none other than Strictly judge, Bruno to­nioli, at Lon­don’s Dance Cen­tre, in the late Sev­en­ties.

He has starred in West End mu­si­cals, in­clud­ing Starlight Ex­press, Soul train and Bar­num and once danced in a Wham! video.

Danny takes his danc­ing – and him­self – very se­ri­ously in­deed.

to those who knew him be­fore Strictly, it is as a cast mem­ber of tV’s sci-fi com­edy Red Dwarf and as a po­lice­man in mur­der mys­tery drama Death In Par­adise. A re­li­able ac­tor, then, who has had a solid – if not spec­tac­u­lar – ca­reer.

But Danny sees him­self as a true star in a medi­ocre world of wannabes. Be­fore he takes the floor for his Fri­day re­hearsal at El­stree Stu­dios, Danny is said to go into full-blown prima donna mode, say­ing things to the pro­duc­tion team like: ‘Please, I need quiet’ as he pre­pares him­self.

He of­ten refers to him­self in the third per­son. ‘Danny isn’t happy,’ he some­times says, for ex­am­ple, when Amy breaks off from giv­ing him her un­di­vided at­ten­tion. Or,

‘He has an artis­tic tem­per­a­ment’

watch­ing the other con­tes­tants dur­ing the Fri­day re­hearsal, and see­ing some of them dance not too well, he has been heard to say: ‘Danny’s gonna do well.’

He is also said to be un­pop­u­lar with pro­duc­tion staff be­cause of his airs and graces. Some of the pro­fes­sional dancers also find his stand­off­ish man­ner an­noy­ing and, says the source, have nick­named him ‘the Grinch’.

An in­ter­view he gave last week to the Sun is un­likely to have en­deared him, ei­ther, to his fel­low con­tes­tants. He re­port­edly claimed some celebri­ties – seem­ingly im­ply­ing that he meant some of his fel­low con­tes­tants – were ‘an in­sult’ to gen­uine en­ter­tain­ers such as Ge­orge Michael, Cliff Richard and, of course, him­self.

‘I’m not a celebrity, I’m an en­ter­tainer, that’s the dif­fer­ence,’ he said. ‘I’m a dif­fer­ent level.’

Not that Danny sees him­self as a mis­er­able prima donna, the source says. If he is de­mand­ing in the stu­dio with Amy, it is be­cause that is the way it is with true artists. ‘Danny will say he’s not a bully. He will say he’s a pro­fes­sional, that he has high stan­dards, that if he gets het up it is be­cause he is an artist and has the artis­tic tem­per­a­ment.’

Per­haps it was this artis­tic tem­per­a­ment that got the bet­ter of Danny when, back in 2008, he at­tacked two coun­cil work­ers for not emp­ty­ing his re­cy­cling bin.

Brent mag­is­trates heard that he punched fa­ther and son Jan and Jaroslaw Lisiecki to the floor when they left the bin out­side his ter­raced house in Ken­sal Rise, north­west Lon­don.

the ac­tor chased them down the street wear­ing a lime-coloured dress­ing gown and his wife’s slip­pers, swore and spat at them, be­fore punch­ing the two men, one of whom fell and cracked his head on the rub­bish truck.

Mr Lisiecki snr told how the ac­tor said: ‘f*** you, you f***ing c***.’ Danny de­nied as­sault but was found guilty and was given 120 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice and or­dered to pay £35 costs and £75 com­pen­sa­tion.

Danny grew up in Padding­ton, west Lon­don, with his mother Veron, fa­ther Hyran and brother and sis­ter. He trained at the Anna Scher the­atre, a pres­ti­gious stage school for chil­dren in Is­ling­ton, north Lon­don. He said that, as a child, the fam­ily had lit­tle money. ‘It was about sur­vival,’ he said. ‘I had a pa­per round when I was a kid, had jobs on a sec­ond-hand stall, build­ing site, hos­pi­tal, ware­house and hair salon be­fore I got into the busi­ness.’

In the early days, he worked as dancer on the va­ri­ety cir­cuit. He ap­peared in a num­ber of West End mu­si­cals be­fore win­ning the part of Cat in Red Dwarf which first aired in 1988. In the Eight­ies, he was a reg­u­lar on the North­ern Soul club scene.

One per­son who knew him at the time says he was ‘a bit of a ladies man, very charm­ing, a dap­per dresser and an amaz­ing dancer’.

It was, per­haps, the suc­cess of Red Dwarf that led to his ego get­ting the bet­ter of him – the se­ries achieved a cult sta­tus among ob­ses­sive fans.

Ac­cord­ing to one who knew him

‘Try­ing to de­stroy him’

at this time, Danny took a ‘method’ ap­proach to his role in the fash­ion of other act­ing leg­ends like Brando and De Niro.

A cou­ple of years ago, Danny posted tweets about ra­cial bias on Strictly, but that didn’t hin­der his be­ing asked to ap­pear on the show. And now he’s at the cen­tre of the sec­ond storm of the se­ries – fol­low­ing the saga of comic Seann Walsh whose re­la­tion­ship with his girl­friend col­lapsed af­ter he was pho­tographed kiss­ing his dance part­ner, Katya Jones. In the in­ter­view he gave last week, Danny ad­mit­ted hav­ing no time for get­ting to know his fel­low con­tes­tants. ‘I haven’t fo­cused with any of th­ese peo­ple out­side the show,’ he said. ‘My fo­cus is my next num­ber.’ Yes­ter­day, the BBC tried to play down the story. ‘It’s been mas­sively over­stated,’ a BBC source said. ‘they had a mi­nor dis­pute over the dance rou­tine on Wed­nes­day but went back to train­ing later that day. they had a full day’s re­hearsal at El­stree as usual to­day. Ev­ery­thing’s fine.’

Danny and Amy also at­tempted to present a united front on Strictly com­pan­ion show It takes two. Danny said: ‘I’m more than happy; it’s prob­a­bly the best danc­ing we have done in the last cou­ple of days. And I’m just happy to go along, she is the boss, she wears the pants.’

Last night, Danny’s part­ner Pe­tula Langlais crit­i­cised the BBC’s han­dling of the row. She wrote on twit­ter: ‘Wow BBC Strictly are re­ally throw­ing Danny John-Jules un­der that bus! I’m in shock... why are you try­ing to de­stroy him?’

tonight, when they take to the dance floor, it will, no doubt, be smiles and se­quins as usual.

‘I’m the star, not you’: John-Jules with Strictly part­ner Amy Dow­den

‘Joke’: Danny John-Jules wears cap in an ap­par­ent dig at row yes­ter­day

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