BARGAIN PUNTER; He's Known as the Duke, but to Millions Dapper David Is like the Real-Life Lovejoy

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCES TRAYNOR TV Editor

HE is the jewel in the BBC's morning crown, a sartorial god with an eye for a bargain.

Students idolise him and websites have been created in his honour. Even glossy mags such as The Face and Loaded have paid their respects to the `Duke'.

Meet David Dickinson, the perma-tanned star of Bargain Hunt, the antiques game show that has taken daytime viewing by storm. His unique style - immaculately-tailored suit, matching tie and hankie, cufflinks and bracelet, blended with that bouffant Seventies coiffeur - has made him an unlikely cult hero.

And noone is more bemused by his rise to fame than the man himself. David, 61, said: "It has really been incredible. On our last run of programmes, we were getting two million viewers at 11.30am.

"Even when Richard and Judy were in the same slot on a different channel in their latter days, we were overtaking them then."

It's just two years since Bargain Hunt was launched without any fanfare, another anonymous addition to the many make- over and lifestyle shows put out daily.

The idea couldn't have been simpler - two teams of amateur collectors get an hour at an antiques fair in which to acquire the best bargains for pounds 200.

Their choices are then sold at auction, hopefully making more money than they paid.

David is on hand to offer advice on the best pieces and, with 30 years experience in the business, few know antiques better than this real-life Lovejoy.

The producers now get more than 1000 letters every week from viewers keen to get on the show.

David admits he's been taken aback by the show's popularity, but he's thrilled all the same.

He said: "I've got hundreds of thousands of fans that write to me on the website. I've had massive support from students. I get some wonderful letters, some of which have been very touching. They say how much they like my manner. As far as I am concerned, that's me on the programme. I didn't need to adopt a persona for the job. I've just been me."

David's life is as interesting as the antiques he covets. …