A pint with...
A chat with JOE's Style Icon Dermot O'Leary Part 2
Last time, Dermot O’Leary spoke about his Irishness, the joy of wearing a good suit and his hopes for an American future.
In the second of our two part interview with JOE.ie’s Style Icon Award winner, we delve into the weird world of Louis Walsh and Michael Jackson, plus talk about the women in the X Factor presenter’s life.
JOE: You’re in the running for the job of host of the American version of X Factor, but if you get the job, does this mean that you’ll not have time to host The Rose of Tralee?
Dermot: You’ve been looking at Wikipedia...
JOE: Might have done. When we’re going to interview someone for JOE.ie we’re very thorough in our research and that may from time to time involve a quick look at Wikipedia.
So are you saying you’re not keen to take over from that great Kerry broadcaster Dáithí Ó Sé as host of the most Irish of TV shows?
Dermot: No it’s not in my plans. I made a little witticism about that being something that I could maybe do in the future and what I said will forever come back to haunt me. Someone asked me in an interview if I’d be interested in hosting the Rose of Tralee and I said ‘Sure, why not’.
JOE: So your saying that Wikipedia don’t always get things right?
Dermot: Eh, no. The last I heard, I did a couple of years in Steps, which gives you an idea how accurate Wikipedia can be.
JOE: So no Rose of Tralee, but yes to the UK X Factor, whatever happens with regard to getting the Stateside job?
Dermot: I’ve certainly no plans of giving up the British X Factor gig, whatever happens.
JOE: Which means more time spent with Kiltimagh’s finest export Louis Walsh. So just how irritating is he?
Dermot: He’s not as irritating as...[pause]...
JOE: ... as he used to be?
Dermot: Well certainly not as irritating as he used to be, but also not as irritating as he comes across. Don’t get me wrong, he means everything he says, but he’s far more of a laugh, far more of a hoot, far warmer than he comes across.
The relationship between me and Louis is a lot more good natured now, compared to when I first started on the show. The problem with Louis is that he’s the one you can always beat up on, sort of like the way you can with your best mate.
You can’t go hard on the two girls because a gentleman doesn’t beat up on a lady, and even though Simon Cowell wants you to spar with him, in the back of your mind you’re aware that he’s still the boss, which leaves Louis as an easy target.
He knows that. He deliberately says things that he knows I’m going to come back to him and have a pop at him for.
JOE: You also have to deal with some weird old pop stars – the Whitney Houstons of this world...
Dermot: Whitney was a strange one alright. If you can meet the big performers just before the show then it tends to turn out fine. It’s when they come on stage, they’re exhausted, and the first time I get to speak to them is on stage after they’ve been singing. When that happens it can be less comfortable.
When they’re huge stars they sometimes just stay in their trailers all day surrounded by their entourage, so I often don’t get to see them until they’re on stage for the live show.
It’s a bit of a lottery. For every Whitney there’s someone like Michael Bublé or Usher who are just brilliant.
JOE: And then you’ve got Michael Jackson, who you introduced as he made his last ever public appearance. Because of that there are people all over the world who would recognise you from footage from that day.
Dermot: It’s strange. After everything I’ve done, that was definitely the most notable and the biggest day of my career so far. I got the call the day before and was asked if I’d like to introduce him on stage. Obviously I was going to say yes.
It was extraordinary – possibly the closest first hand I’ll ever see to Beatlemania. I remember looking out into the crowd of thousands who were somehow simultaneously hanging on his every single word while also screaming and not listening to a thing he was saying – not that he said a lot. Just getting a taste of his world there was enough for me to totally get why he lived such a strange life.
JOE: So is he one of the people you only met on stage, or did you get more time with him.
Dermot: I was meant to hang out with him for a couple of hours in order to get to know him, but he was stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel trying to get to the O2 Arena in London, where the thing was being held. I had to fill in for him while we were waiting and was left standing there for what seemed like hours.
In the end he got there, walked onto the stage, came over to me and hugged me, which was very odd, made a fist and a V for Victory sign, then he did a little dance and hugged me again. He asked me if the teleprompter was on and I told him it was.
He then proceeded to ignore the teleprompter and basically say 'I love you' a few times and ‘This is it, because this is it, really this is it’ for what felt like about five minutes. He struck a few poses and disappeared again. And that was it – the one and only time I met him.
JOE: Back in the world of normality, you’ve been with your other half Dee for about eight or nine years now...
Dermot: You’re going to ask me the marriage question aren’t you?
JOE: Actually no I’m not. Feel free to talk about marriage if you like, but I’m not your type.
Dermot: [Laughs] I usually get asked the marriage question, and I always say that things have gone so fast for us that it doesn’t feel like it’s overdue. So what were you going to ask?
JOE: Just that, regardless of your home situation with the missus, you must get a lot of female attention when you’re out and about, particularly when you’re surrounded by eager young ladies during the huge X Factor auditions process.
Dermot: It depends on the girl really. Some know about my girlfriend and they’re fine about that, some will start flirting and some can be a bit more excitable.
The big leveller is when you go away on holiday and you’re in a country where no-one knows you and no-one gives you a second look. That’s when you realise what a sex symbol you really are.