Byline: EDITED BY TINA CALDER
HE may be "The King of Chat" but Gerry Kelly's rise to fame was by no means an easy one.
In 1979, aged 30, he became a professional broadcaster but before that he had been a primary school teacher and a lecturer at St Mary's teacher training college in Belfast.
Two years earlier, the sports editor at UTV planted the broadcasting seed in his head.
Kelly said: "UTV's sports editor arrived at my family home and asked if I would like to read the GAA results on the Sunday news.
"My brother Danny was on the Down team that won the 1968 All-Ireland, we both look alike and we were living at home. I like to say that I was mistaken for him and because I answered the door I got the job, but the truth is I knew the guy and he thought I'd be good at reading results."
Kelly was on air for barely a minute a week, but took to broadcasting like a duck to water. And although he quit lecturing he was unable to obtain a full-time position in the closed shop of UTV because he wasn't in the National Union of Journalists.
He explained: "The only way I could get into the NUJ was to get a full-time journalist's job. So I went to work for The Down Recorder, for no money."
He and his wife survived on her hairdressing income and pounds 200 in superannuation from his teaching days.
By the autumn of 1979, Kelly's wallet may have held little else, but it did contain that precious NUJ card. With its blessing, he landed a reporting gig on the newly launched Good Evening Ulster, UTV's first hour-long six o'clock news show. The rest is history. Now in its 16th year the Kelly show is more popular than ever with half its audience coming from the Republic.
Having interviewed the likes of Dolly Parton, Celine Dion, Westlife, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Nesbitt, Alex Best, Kerry McFadden and Tom Jones, he prides himself on being able to get his guests to open their hearts.
Kelly said: "When someone comes on the show it's not just a case of them coming in and sitting down with me. …