Though a 2nd place finish in the most recent edition of UK terrestrial broadcaster Ch. 4’s “Celebrity Big Brother” might not seem like anything to crow about, for disgraced light entertainment titan Michael Barrymore, it is nothing short of a new lease on public life. From The Independent’s Peter Stanford.
Michael Barrymore’s life reads like a medieval morality play in three acts. First comes the worldly success on TV. He rises rapidly from being the warm-up man on Larry Grayson’s Generation Game to become the king of the Saturday-night schedules, fronting shows such as My Kind of Music and Strike it Lucky
Then there is a total change of scene to the spectacular fall from grace. This starts when he says that he is gay but living a double life with his wife Cheryl, and ends up in the fires of hell when, in March 2001, Stuart Lubbock, a 31-year-old Essex butcher, drowns in the swimming pool of Barrymore’s Essex home during what the tabloid press label a “gay orgy”. Cast out by the TV executives who once treated him like a god, he heads for the wilderness – aka New Zealand.
And then there is the happy ending (at least for now), a triumphant return to the screen as an older, wiser and, crucially, remorseful man, his 15 minutes of blame are miraculously over.
As well as The Friday Night Project, Endemol, the company that makes Big Brother, is talking about finding other vehicles for Barrymore’s return to our screens. And even his most indefatigable tormentor, Stuart Lubbock’s father, has given the troubled star “absolution”.
“I lost my son but you lost everything that night,” he is reported as telling Barrymore, “your career, your home, your life here. You have suffered like I have. Enough is enough.” It is not an entirely closed chapter, however. The Lubbock family may still take Barrymore to court demanding compensation.
Not so long ago the television funnyman was being described in the tabloids as a killer, “The OJ of Essex”, or “Sodom Hussein of Roydon” (the Essex town where he lived). Even during Barrymore’s early days in the Big Brother house, the paper was full of reports about father Terry Lubbock’s outrage. But by the end it had brought the two men together for the first time and was trumpeting the message of forgiveness.
A genuine conversion? Just going with the flow of public opinion? Or a stitch up? It is certainly a world away from five years ago when Lynda Lee-Potter wrote in the Daily Mail that she would “rather stick pins in my eyes than watch Barrymore on TV again.”