Yes, Val Singleton Was My Lover. and Lesley Judd? Well, er, Let's Just Say She Was Gorgeous; Not-So-Innocent: The Blue Peter Team of 1972 U from Left to Right, Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes
Byline: Jan Moir
PETER PURVES is frowning. Now he is blushing. He starts off pink, then deepens into wrinkled scarlet, like a tomato blistering on a spit. Is he furious or embarrassed? It is difficult to tell. Even his wife finds it hard to work out what is going on inside his great, big, shaggy, dog-loving head.
'She says I don't feel things deeply u and I probably don't,' he says. 'Humph. Never been one for much introspection. Am terribly ordinary. A very straightforward and simple sort of person.'
Perhaps he is just fed up of the subject matter. If so, one could hardly blame him. 'Have you never had a one-night stand? Are we going to talk about sex for much longer?' he asks, getting slightly tetchy. It certainly is a sticky moment. A sticky-back plastic moment.
For most British people over the age of 30, Blue Peter holds a very special place in our hearts. Especially the golden era of Blue Peter shows that were presented by Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves, John Noakes and Lesley Judd. Oh, how we loved them!
Over a 15-year period, this cheerful, clean-cut quartet were the guardians of our childhood. They encouraged us to save milk bottle tops for the starving children of Africa, taught us how to make a doll's house from egg cartons and how to properly look after our pets.
It was wholesome and educational; it was also fun. Yet it now transpires that behind the squeaky-clean Blue Peter scenes, there was lots of pure filth, too.
For sitting here before me, in his thick linen suit, lemony tie and sensible Russell & Bromley lace-ups, is the man who single-handedly put the blue into Blue Peter.
Last year, Valerie Singleton revealed she had a stop us being friends. We didn't even fling with Purves when they worked together on the show. 'I like the pirate type. And men who give me what I call BSE u a big sexual experience,' she candidly admitted.
This was a seismic revelation for Blue Peter fans, who imagined the naughtiest thing the presenters did behind the scenes was forget to tidy up the colouring pencils and drawing paper.
'But I went weak at the knees the first time I saw Valerie,' says 70-year-old Purves today. 'I fancied her like mad.
'She is a very pretty girl. Beautiful, beautiful face. Most attractive. I had watched her on the box and thought, phwoar, she's all right.'
Purves adds that although there were 'numerous opportunities to do it before we did it', he dismisses their fruity liaison as 'just a one-night stand' after a few glasses of wine.
'Did I give her a BSE? Well, I can't have been that great or she would have wanted to do it again, wouldn't she?' he says. 'The next morning, we didn't think it was a mistake. It was a very nice experience, but that was it.
'No, I am not being flippant about it. It was totally unimportant but very nice, and it didn't stop us being friends. We didn't even consider that. We just carried on working together.
'Of course, I worked with Lesley for much longer than I worked with Val.'
Did you sleep with her, too?
'No comment!' shrieks Purves.
Well. You so obviously did.
'No. I won't admit to that. I will never admit to a sexual relationship with Lesley,' he cries, pinking up again and mounting what seasoned affair watchers would call a classic Bill Clinton rearguard defence.
'Lesley was a very good friend. I thought she was talented and bright and good fun. She was gorgeous. I mean, did you ever see her? Could you blame me for sleeping with her? Even if I, er, had. But this is an area I don't want to go into.'
Well, this certainly brings a whole new meaning to the show's famous catchphrase, 'Here's one I made earlier'.
In fact, it is beginning to look like the only Blue Peter girl Purves didn't seduce during his 11 years with the programme was Petra, the show's official pet dog. And, yes, it also seems rather unfair that Purves got off with both beautiful Valerie and gorgeous Lesley, while poor old John 'Noaksy' Noakes got off with nothing.
Gruff, tough Noakes was the Blue Peter action man, always being sent away to do the Cresta run or free-fall from a speeding jet. Now we know why. Back at the studio, everyone else was partying like it was 1969.
'I am not speaking for him.'
Whay hey hey, as Noaksy himself might say. You mean he slept with Valerie and Lesley, too? 'I have no knowledge of that. No knowledge whatsoever. That is not the sort of thing John and I would chat about. That is what kids do.
'Blokes who say "I have had someone, I have had her" u what is that all about? That is why it is not in my book. I don't want to do all that confession stuff, really.'
Oh, my goodness. Get down, Shep.
The book Purves is talking about is his new autobiography, Here's One I Wrote Earlier ... which will be extracted in the Daily Mail next week. Purves was commissioned to write the book last July and the stories 'just poured out'.
HARDLY a scrap of detail of his post-war childhood in Blackpool and elsewhere is left out, from staying with 'lovely Auntie Jenny in Shiremoor, a stone's throw from Whitley Bay' to entertaining his grandmother by performing radio skits.
His father was a tailor, who later ran a hotel, but did not do well in business. Even though money was short, they managed to send young Peter to boarding school at an early age.
'You see, that's how I ended up being the way I am. Rather unemotional.
Cold. It's because I've been on my own since I was nine years old,' he says. He found solace acting in school plays. He admits he never bonded well with men and always preferred the company of women.
Throughout the book, though, it is noticeable that Purves u who has presented the BBC coverage of Crufts dog show for many years u mentions the word 'love' only once. When he is writing about Petra. 'I loved Petra, even though she wasn't a very nice dog,' he notes in one chapter..
'No!' he cries today. 'I know that I wrote I fell in love with my first wife, Gilly and that I fell in love with my second wife, Kate.'
Are you sure, Peter? Yet it is curious that readers hardly find out anything about these mysterious women he married, who turn out to be the scriptwriter Gilly Fraser and the West End actress Kathryn Evans. Both of them sidle through the pages like sketchy ghosts.
'This book is not about them u it is about me,' says Purves.
Purves always wanted to be an actor. His career took off when he joined the cast of Dr Who as a stranded space pilot called Steven Taylor. True to form, he managed to have affairs with various Tardis totty almost straightaway, including the actress Adrienne Hill and her replacement Jean Marsh, who was exterminated by a dalek at the end of the series Dalek Master Plan.
Of course, Purves was married at the time u his son, Matthew, was born in 1964, and five years later Mr and Mrs Purves adopted a little Chinese girl from Macau called Lisa u but fidelity clearly did not play a large role in his first marriage.
THERE was liberation about sex back then,' he says. 'The Pill had come in u so girls were as responsible as the men for behaving well. You would meet attractive people and, if there was an opportunity, fine, you might go to bed together. I have no bad memories about it. I hope I never hurt anybody.'
We will never know. Here's One I Wrote Earlier does not record if Mrs Purves Mk1 shared her husband's libertarian outlook.
Meanwhile, joining Blue Peter in 1965 turned out to be the central experience of his entire career. Replacing the outgoing Peter Trace, Purves quickly set about establishing his own identity as a secret Sixties swinger on the show. In particular, he loathed the stuffy, Trace-type sweaters producer Biddy Baxter made him wear.
'She put me in Norwegian jerseys. Awful things with deer on the front. I was fairly trendy, so I preferred flares, kipper ties and cowboy boots.'
Although his 850 Blue Peter shows were to provide him with tremendous experiences, there were also difficult times behind the scenes. Presenters, he reveals, were never properly insured by the BBC, despite the dangerous stunts they were expected to do.
They were also aggrieved at how little they were paid. Purves got [pounds sterling]35 a week, plus [pounds sterling]5 a day for extra filming.
Indeed, it was while being filmed on a San Francisco tram in 1972 that he was 'horrified' to learn the tram driver was paid 'approximately $10,000 a year more' than him.
'It will always be a thorn in my side that they were such bad payers,' he says today.
There were also tensions with Baxter, who was autocratic and did not encourage any editorial input from the presenters. Baxter wasn't interested in what they thought and discouraged them from visiting the office.
'I didn't get on with her, and there were times when I actively disliked her intensely,' says Purves. 'She ruled the show. And she never understood me.'
At the Buckingham Palace reception last year to celebrate Blue Peter's 50th anniversary, Purves and Baxter were civil to each other u 'But John Noakes refused to speak to her,' he says.
Yet, despite the rows, there were always consolations to be had. Pete and John getting drunk on poteen with Norwegian woodcutters. Pete and John getting smashed on duty free Jack Daniels on location in Marrakech.
And, of course, there were the girls. In Copenhagen, Purves and a Blue Peter cameraman picked up two Icelandair stewardesses in the Tivoli Gardens, then took them to dinner and onto a sex shop. Purves was happily perusing the goods when the girl behind the porn counter pointed at him and screamed: 'Oh! Blue Peter.'
'You couldn't get away with anything, even abroad,' he notes. Or indeed at home.
Once, when beginning a Blue Peter trip to Mexico, Purves was strip searched at Heathrow airport after a stalker u a girl he had been dating who had become 'difficult' u told the police that he was carrying drugs..
What with all the sex and intrigue u and Purves insists that this is only 'the half of it' u it is incredible that the presenters ever got a programme out. Or managed to make bunk beds for the cats or the Christmas advent crown without groping each other and cracking open a bottle of Scotch.
When Lesley Judd joined the show in 1972, she was married to Derek Fowlds, an actor who worked as straight man to Basil Brush. Later, she divorced him and married a Blue Peter cameraman.
'It wasn't a sexually charged workplace, although I think I'd have been blind not to find Lesley attractive.
But Blue Peter was bloody hard work. We just got on with the job,' says Purves.
Even though the show was regularly watched by audiences of millions, fame was different back then.
The scrutiny was not so intense, but neither was the fan's ardour. 'I never,' says Purves a little sadly, 'experienced that element of hero worship that people get now. The cult of celebrity wasn't around then.
'Today, everyone wants to be on the red carpet. What a bore that is, oh dear, oh dear.'
Certainly, in the old days, any old mischief like stalkers and mistresses could be shielded from the
Press. Today's Blue Peter stars are not quite so lucky. In 1998, presenter Richard Bacon was sacked from the show after it was reported that he had taken cocaine. Former presenter John Leslie fell from grace following allegations of sexual misconduct. He was later cleared of all wrongdoing, but his humiliation was more acute because of his Blue Peter connections.
Purves has much sympathy for these young men. 'I don't think they let the side down. I think Richard Bacon was very unlucky.
John Leslie I know nothing about. I suspect he has been maligned, too.
I have no knowledge of it. I just felt very sorry for both of them.
'We all do silly things. I smoked the odd joint here and there. I was never stoned on air, but everyone did it. It was no big deal if you were careful and discreet.'
Today, Purves lives in Suffolk with his second wife, Kathryn, who has just been nominated for an Olivier for her role in the current West End production of Sunset Boulevard.
They met in panto together when she played Dandini and he was Baron Hardup.
'I like women who are talented. Then they can bounce off me,' he says, in all innocence. As they turn the lights down low in the Avista restaurant where we meet, I nearly bite a chunk off my coffee cup.
Evans and Purves married when he was 40. 'Kate was my last affair,' he says, unaware of how sordid this might sound to those who misunderstand his earnestness.
Certainly, his second marriage seems to be marked by the deep peace of the double bed rather than the hurly burly of the chaise longue that preceded it.
Purves remains on cordial terms with his first wife ('we email') and describes her as a 'very understanding girl'. She'd certainly have to be. What is most remarkable about Peter Purves is that, although not an unkind man, he seems to have lived most of his life in a Peter Purves vacuum, oblivious to the needs and feelings of others.
'Being unemotional is my selfdefence,' he says, blinking behind his glasses.
To his great sadness, he and his first wife have been estranged for the past ten years from their adopted daughter. Lisa was 17 when her parents split up and now wants nothing to do with them.
'I am partly disappointed in myself, partly disappointed in her,' he says. 'The last time we spoke, we had a flaming row. It is really sad.
She threw away most of what we had offered her and given her.' How strange that a man who had a close relationship with millions of children somehow failed to connect with one in his own family.
Meanwhile, he says he thinks that most children's television today is rubbish u 'SpongeBob Square- Pants? Who is he? Such ugly drawings' u and misses doing Cruft's since the Beeb dropped it from their schedules.
Later this week he will throw a party to launch his new book. Everyone is going to come, he hopes: Valerie, Biddy and even Lesley, who has divorced again and now lives in France. It will be a very civilised time, he promises. Not too much emotion.
In fact, Peter Purves, former heart-throb and all-round Lothario, says the only time he now gets emotional is when watching his wife in Sunset Boulevard. He has been four times, and every time he sits in the theatre stalls and weeps and weeps.
What a strange man he is.
Read Peter Purves's gripping memoirs in next week's Daily Mail…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Yes, Val Singleton Was My Lover. and Lesley Judd? Well, er, Let's Just Say She Was Gorgeous; Not-So-Innocent: The Blue Peter Team of 1972 U from Left to Right, Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: February 7, 2009. Page number: 24. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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