Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood
Not least, because the star judge of Strictly Come Dancing used his share of his father’s inheritance to buy himself a top-of-the-range “wine library” for the £2 million home. Costing £40,000, and more usually seen in upmarket restaurants or food halls, this lavish chiller cabinet is six metres long by 2.5 metres high. “It is built in, floor to ceiling, and enables you to display your Champagne at the correct temperature. It is very desirable to look at. It lights up, and has mirrors,” says Craig, 54, proudly. I suggest it is the Strictly of fridges. “No, darling, it is the Rolls-Royce of cellaring,” says the theatrical judge of the world’s most successful reality TV show format, in arch riposte.
“I wanted there to be something, and not just use the inheritance towards the mortgage. My wine collection was living in boxes in the garage until this point.”
So was a bottle of beer his father gave Craig 20 years ago. “It’s Ballarat bitter, from my home town in Australia. They don’t make it anymore,” he explains.
That single bottle now has pride of place in the wine library, a devilishly decadent purchase and one he believes would have amused his father, but which is also Craig’s ironic way of finding some peace with Philip’s choices.
“He didn’t want to travel so he never came over here to see any of my houses, or to see any of the shows.
“I would send him CDs of my work, and he would watch them over and over again. He would be moved a lot. He would cry a lot.
“But when I visited him once a year, it was always very brief. He was drunk and wasn’t listening, or he was asking questions but was not interested in the answers. It was so sad, but I really couldn’t help him unless he got off the alcohol,” says the Australian choreographer in a gravelly voice that reveals a surprisingly reflective temperament, and is far from the “darling” -peppered speech of his TV persona.
He says the timing of his father’s death came as no surprise.
“I had been expecting it for the last three years of his life. He drank all day, every day and, as I left Australia when I was 23, he never really knew me well as an adult.”
In Strictest Confidence by Craig Revel Horwood, £8.99, is published by Michael O’Mara
In the third instalment of his memoirs, In Strictest Confidence, Craig tells how Philip had even bought his own burial plot and urinated on it before he died – twice.
“It was like an animal, claiming ownership of his territory – like people in London’s Hampstead building these massive houses to be remembered by,” he tells me.
There are also tributes to his troubled father – a former sailor who retired to a remote farm and was determined to be buried in his naval uniform – in Craig’s seven-acre garden. Past the cream AGA stove in his vast kitchen, past the Swarovskien crusted Buddhas and white ceramic dancing pigs in the drawing room, and into the orangery with its view of the pool and woodland. From there you can see a commemorative bench.
And, just beyond, stand a flock of full-size resin sheep and five resin saddleback pigs – a hog, sow and three piglets.
He denies this is a family montage. “I am one of five. But going down this vegetated pathway does look like the view from my dad’s farm. He would have enjoyed it. It’s my homage to him.
“You want to look back on someone’s life as a celebration. As much as you’ve been hurt by these people, that pain goes away when you see the coffin going into the ground, and you have to release it.
Craig with fellow Strictly judges, from left, Bruno Tonioli, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas
“That is what grieving is all about. It is getting over things, and being happy again.” Even though he couldn’t be there due to work commitments, Craig wanted to contribute something to the funeral so he recorded his own version of Sinatra classic MyWay and was able to ‘attend’ via Skype.
“When you lose your father, it’s a big deal,” he says.
Also inside the not-to-be-consumed section of his wine library, are 16 bottles of Champagne, one for each year of Strictly. These are gifts from Elstree Studios, where the show that has made his brand of pantomime villainy into a Saturday night staple, is filmed.
“As soon as you become predictable, it’s over,” he says of his acerbic ad-libbed judgments on the show.
“Obviously, Strictly is pantomime, and I’m the villain of the piece, but over the years I have had to soften off. I was able to be a lot nastier 16 years ago.
“That was more acceptable then, but today actors and some people who aren’t used to being criticised can’t cope – particularly millennials who have been brought up in a nanny state.”
Often the target of booing from the studio audience, Revel Horwood certainly seemed to soften his approach after head judge and professional ballroom dancer Len Goodman retired in 2016 after 12 years on the show.
Craig with his £40k wine library
“The way BBC executives have reacted to me has shown me that I needed to rein in what I was saying,” says Craig.
They told you to tone it down? “Yes,” he asserts. “But I remain ‘quite vanilla’ on Strictly, compared to how I am in real-life working on West End shows. However, it’s not a war. It’s not life and death. And neither is it based on anything to do with real ballroom. It’s an entertainment show that a celebrity is being paid to do, and they very much know what they are getting in to. And if they don’t, they are stupid.”
He doesn’t sound much like he is joking.
As for the so-called “Strictly curse”, which has seen numerous relationships develop between the professional dancers and their celebrity partners – for Craig it’s just a label, and the wrong one at that.
“The word ‘curse’ sells more papers than the word ‘blessing’,” he says. “And I think it is a blessing for people who are obviously at such a terrible point in their relationship that they would even consider going off in a relationship with a colleague.
“It’s not the dancing that makes it happen, it’s the fact that their relationship allowed those cracks to appear.”
He is delighted that same-sex couples will be able to dance together on Strictly for the first time next year, and has been championing the cause with the powers-that-be at the BBC for five years.
“Obviously I’m inclusive, but I am surprised it has taken this long.
“However, it is nothing like the big deal it is made out to be. Men have been dancing the tango with men for centuries. And when men went to war, the women all danced together and no one batted an eyelid.”
Everyone always wants to know if the Simon Cowell of Strictly would ever consider leaving the show, but the answer is still an emphatic no.
“I love it, because for me every series is like the buzz of recasting a musical, and the BBC does choose the celebrities very well, giving a real cross section.
“The 90 year olds want the glitz and glamour of the Fifties when they met their husbands. Middle-aged women want a hot sports star to fantasise about. And the kids want people they can relate to – the online people.”
However, he says whether a person is famous enough to be on the show is a question being redefined every year.
His father Philip, a former Royal Australian Navy seaman
“Who would have thought [internet vlogger] Joe Sugg would be a celebrity?” he says of last year’s runner-up, who is now a West End star.
“But then again, as the Government is pushing for every house to be online that’s the way it’s going and you have to embrace that. However, I was horrified when recently I bought a Dyson fan and had to plug it into the internet.
“And when I looked up some of the new celebrity contestants online to get a heads-up on why they are famous, there they were, saying: ‘I got these tops at Top Shop for £12, and which one should I wear?’ “I have to say I did find it quite boring, darling.” The pantomime villain is definitely back.
Strictly Comes Dancing starts tonight on BBC One at 7.10pm. In Strictest Confidence by Craig Revel Horwood, £8.99, is published by Michael O’Mara. For your copy with free UK delivery, call Express Bookshop on 01872 562310 or see expressbookshop.co.uk