My very event­ful life on the box

Yes, it re­ally has been 35 years since Lor­raine Kelly’s TV de­but. Here she shares the highs and lows of her re­mark­able ca­reer – from the hor­ror of Locker­bie to the emo­tive is­sues she tack­les on her ITV show

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Lor­raine Kelly, surely tele­vi­sion’s sweet­est break­fast star, has no hes­i­ta­tion in de­scrib­ing what she’d do to her ITV col­league Piers Mor­gan if she was ever forced to present with him. ‘If I had to sit next to him on the sofa every day I’d stran­gle him with my bare hands,’ she gig­gles.

‘ It would be jus­ti­fi­able homi­cide. Su­sanna Reid – who does have to sit next to him – is a saint in my eyes. She should have a halo above her head. You never know what the b****r is go­ing to say next. But I like to think there’s a mu­tual re­spect there. You can only say the sort of things we say to each other if, deep down, you re­spect each other. I do think he’s in­ter­est­ing to watch, even if he’s a pain in the bum.’

For the first time in years, ITV’s morn­ing out­put is in the as­cen­dancy. Piers might like to be­lieve it’s all down to him and his fre­quent out­ra­geous out­burst s. Hol ly Wil­loughby and Phillip Schofield might sim­i­larly at­tribute it to their un­de­ni­able chem­istry. But it’s Lor­raine, break­fast tele­vi­sion’s long­est-serv­ing con­tin­u­ous pre­sen­ter, this year cel­e­brat­ing 35 years on the box, who re­mains the of­fi­cial queen of morn­ing telly.

Yet she’s the most mod­est celebrity you’re ever likely to meet. After be­ing primped and prod­ded for Week­end’s sen­sa­tional pho­to­shoot on a cold and wet af­ter­noon you’d think she’d be a bit tired and grumpy. But there’s none of that. Be­fore she sits down, after chang­ing into her more usual look of jeans and a jumper, she of­fers to get me a cup of tea and ad­mits to be­ing thrilled by her few hours as a su­per­model. ‘Oooooh, I love do­ing this sort of stuff, I feel very glam­orous – very far re­moved from my usual look,’ she laughs. ‘When else do you get a chance to do stuff like this?’

And that is the se­cret of Lor­raine’s suc­cess. She’s so open and friendly, with a cheery laugh that comes straight from the heart, that it’s im­pos­si­ble not to warm to her. Tom Hanks and Hugh Jack­man adore her. Ryan Reynolds and Ruth Wil­son are al­ways happy to be on her sofa. Singers from Cliff Richard to Olly Murs call and ask to be on the show. One of the very few peo­ple she didn’t get on with was Kevin Spacey – ‘He was hor­ri­ble’ – and his re­cent down­fall came as no sur­prise to her. ‘He was just rude to every­body. By the time he’d gone I thought, “Oh boy, you’re re­ally not very nice.”’

Re­cently she had to get one terri- fied A-lis­ter – known the world over as one of cin­ema’s big­gest bad­dies, Volde­mort – to re­lax on the sofa. ‘Some­times I for­get how ter­ri­fy­ing live tele­vi­sion can be for peo­ple who aren’t used to it,’ she says. ‘I al­ways go and meet the peo­ple I’m go­ing to in­ter­view be­fore we go on air and Ralph Fi­ennes was lit­er­ally rock­ing back­wards and for­wards in ter­ror. He whis­pered, “I’m re­ally ner­vous.” He com­mands the stage do­ing Shake­speare, but he was terrified. We ended up talk­ing in the in­ter­view about how he gets scared hav­ing to talk about him­self.’

It was Piers who first de­scribed Lor­raine, 59, as hav­ing an ‘iron fist in a fluffy glove’ and she sees her­self first and fore­most as a jour­nal­ist, rather than a pre­sen­ter. ‘A lot of peo­ple see my show as fluffy. We’re unashamedly en­ter­tain­ment, but we’re often the first to talk about dif­fi­cult top­ics such as fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion or tran­si­tion­ing. Break­fast tele­vi­sion breaks taboos and tack­les big is­sues in a way that news can’t. I never re­ally had a hanker­ing to sit on TV with a pink jacket and big hair – I was al­ways happy do­ing my job as a re­porter. But here we are…’

Born in the work­ing- class Gor­bals area of Glas­gow to a TV re­pair­man fa­ther, Lor­raine grew up in a house with an out­side toi­let and no hot wa­ter, but she was bright and am­bi­tious. She turned down a uni­ver­sity place to start work­ing on her lo­cal news­pa­per, The East Kil­bride News, and then got a job as a re­searcher for the BBC.

When she heard about plans for a new-fan­gled thing called a ‘break­fast show’, she ap­plied to TV-am to be part of their line-up. She was made the show’s Scot­land Cor­re­spon­dent in 1984. She be­came a reg­u­lar on na­tional tele­vi­sion, but she also fell in love with her cam­era­man, Steve Smith, and they mar­ried in 1992.

It was Lor raine’s heart­felt re­port­ing on the Locker­bie tragedy 30 years ago that brought her to the at­ten­tion of TVam’s big­wigs. She was the first TV re­porter on the scene in De­cem­ber 1988 when a Pan-Am transat­lantic flight from Frank­furt to De­troit was de­stroyed by a bomb in mid-air and landed on the small Scot­tish town, killing 243 pas­sen­gers, 16 crew and 11 peo­ple on the ground.

She re­veals she still gets flash-

‘I still see the bod­ies at Locker­bie in flash­backs’

backs of the ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion that greeted her. ‘ I knew the po­lice be­cause every morn­ing I would phone them to see what was hap- pen­ing,’ she re­calls. ‘It was in the early hours of the morn­ing and I got a call from a lo­cal po­lice­man who said, “Some­thing’s hap­pened, we think an air­craft has come down, we’re not sure.”’ She was al­ready with Steve and they grabbed their stuff and got in the car. ‘It took us a cou­ple of hours to get there from Glas­gow – we had three tyres blow out be­cause of the de­bris in the road.

‘We got right up to the nose of the plane in the field. We were there be­fore the po­lice had put bar­ri­ers up. It was ter­ri­ble. I’ve kind of blanked a lot of it out be­cause it was so bad. There were lots of bod­ies, some of

them were still in their seats. It was aw­ful, so aw­ful. There was like a crater and some houses still stand­ing, oth­ers were just gone. Just mo­ments be­fore, fam­i­lies had been sit­ting there watch­ing the telly. And then hell came down from the sky.’

It was in the days be­fore news or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fered jour­nal­ists coun­selling, so she just had to get on with it. ‘ I do some­times get flash­backs,’ she ad­mits. ‘I still see the bod­ies. My dad came to pick me up from there on Christ­mas Day to take me home for din­ner. Be­ing a typ­i­cal work­ing-class Scot­tish man, he said, “You’ll not be want­ing to talk about it.” But I ig­nored that. I just talked and cried. It was a two- hour jour­ney and I talked and he lis­tened. He didn’t say very much but it helped me. And ob­vi­ously I was able to talk about it with Steve too as he was go­ing through the same thing.’

After Locker­bie Lor­raine was asked to do more and more. In 1990 she be­came a main pre­sen­ter of Good Morn­ing Britain and in 1993 she helped launch GMTV. A year later, Lor­raine took time off to have her daugh­ter Rosie. When she was ready to re­turn to work she dis­cov­ered her job was gone – Anthea Turner was now do­ing it. ‘When I went off on ma­ter­nity they re­placed me, ba­si­cally be­cause telly is bru­tal and that’s just what hap­pens,’ she shrugs. ‘But then I was given a pro­gramme to do about moth­er­hood and it did re­ally well and I ended up with my own show. It was good in the end – when I was do­ing GMTV I had to get up at 3am, but my own show was on later.’

It must have hurt when she was re­placed so eas­ily, but Lor­raine is open about the bru­tal na­ture of tele­vi­sion. ‘I’ve seen many regime changes,’ she says. ‘The only thing that’s con­stant about TV is that it moves all the time and you have to move with it. That’s just how things hap­pen. I’m still there. It will stop one day. Telly is bru­tal; the only rea­son I’m still do­ing this is be­cause peo­ple are still watch­ing.’

Lor­raine clearly adores the cut and thrust of live TV, but it hasn’t all been plain sail­ing. A few weeks ago she had to run off be­cause of a cough­ing fit, and a few years ago she tripped up while go­ing to in­ter­view Jane Asher and had to carry on do­ing the chat with blood run­ning down her knees. But she loves

‘I went on ma­ter­nity and GMTV re­placed me’

the fact that you never quite know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next.

Her longevity is tes­ta­ment not only to her gen­uine tal­ent, but also to her hard work. Although her day job is in Lon­don, the fam­ily moved to Dundee as Steve wanted Rosie to go to school there. So for many years Lor raine would shut tle be­tween Dundee and Lon­don, with Steve left to do much of the day-to­day par­ent­ing. ‘He and Rosie have a bril­liant re­la­tion­ship; he was the one driv­ing her to school, get­ting her to brush her teeth and eat her Brus­sels sprouts,’ she says. ‘But Rosie and I have a great re­la­tion­ship as well. We talk about ev­ery­thing un­der the sun. I’m her mum, though, I’d never say I was her best friend be­cause she’s got her friends al­ready. I’d love to think she tells me ev­ery­thing but she doesn’t.’

Rosie is presently work­ing in pub­lic re­la­tions in Sin­ga­pore and Lor­raine misses her madly, although the two are still in touch all the time. Be­fore our chat started Lor­raine was on­line help­ing her daugh­ter pick out a dress for a func­tion.

Lor­raine’s view­ers get to know a

lot about her. When she had a mis­car­riage after hav­ing Rosie she talked about her dev­as­ta­tion on screen. When she had prob­lems with the menopause, she talked about that too. ‘I just felt odd,’ she ad­mits. ‘It re­ally hit home for me when I went away for a week­end with Steve to Spain. We were sit­ting there, the sun was shin­ing, we were eat­ing beau­ti­ful ta­pas and I felt re­ally glum. Steve said, “What’s wrong with you?” and I said, “I don’t know. This is crazy. There’s no rea­son for me to be feel­ing like this at all.” It gave me a wee tiny taste of what it’s like for peo­ple who have de­pres­sion.’

She talked to ITV doc­tor Hi­lary Jones and within days she was on HRT and start­ing to feel bet­ter. ‘I know it doesn’t work for every­body but it’s re­ally helped me – al­most overnight.’

The last few years have been a time of great change for Lor­raine. She lost weight, with her dress size drop­ping from a 14 to a ten after get­ting into ex­er­cise, and she also moved from Dundee to a small house over­look­ing the Thames in Buck­ing­hamshire when her reg­u­lar flight from Lon­don City air­port was can­celled and the com­mute fi­nally be­came too much for the pre­sen­ter. And she and Steve got a dog. While he isn’t ex­actly a re­place­ment for her daugh­ter in the Far East, Lor­raine now has ‘a son’ in her adorable bor­der ter­rier An­gus. ‘It’s an­other heart beat­ing in the house,’ she says. ‘You can be away from home for two min­utes or two hours and you get the same en­thu­si­as­tic wel­come from him every time. View­ers love him com­ing onto the show be­cause ob­vi­ously he doesn’t obey me at all.’

We may be liv­ing in a world of choice with hun­dreds of tele­vi­sion channels to turn to, but it’s no sur­prise that view­ers con­tinue to switch on to watch the muchloved Lor­raine. ‘We’re there to make you feel bet­ter,’ she says. ‘I think that’s re­ally im­por­tant, es­pe­cially right now when it feels like the world is a bit dark. We cover all sorts of hu­man is­sues but I like to think that we’re do­ing it all with a bit of hope, and also with a sense of hu­mour or pur­pose. I like to think of our show as be­ing a safe place. There’s al­ways some­thing amaz­ing on it be­cause the hu­man spirit is sim­ply ex­tra­or­di­nary.’

Lor­raine and (be­low left) hit­ting a cush­ion of Piers Mor­gan’s face

Lor­raine with her fel­low TV-am pre­sen­ter Mike Mor­ris in 1990

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