LOVELY SMASHING SUPERSTAR!
Bullseye legend Jim gets straight to the point in laugh-a-minute chat about life and love EXCLUSIVE BULLY^S GONE SOFT BUT NEW COMICS ARE GREAT SAYS BOWEN
He^s a British icon with fans aged eight to 88 and boasts one of the longest marriages in showbusiness.
But despite reaching 71 just over two weeks from now, Jim Bowen has no intention of hanging up his boots - or darts - just yet.
Today, as the former TV Bullseye host prepares to take on the youngsters at Edinburgh Comedy Festival, he^s met up with The People for one of his frankest and funniest interviews.
In his inimitable super, smashing, great style, the schoolteacher-turnedcomedian reveals how Bullseye mascot Bully has turned soft, the secret of marriage is never running out of toothpaste, education has gone to pot - and why the last present he wants in the world is a watch.
"I don^t want to know about time," he jokes. "The older you get the less you^ve got, so why would I want a watch?"
Speaking from his cruise ship cabin, Jim is on cracking form. He^s taking a break before a month of shows at the festival, an experience he loves almost as much as Bullseye.
He tells how he^s a fan of the new surreal comics, but is sad that his generation of stand-up funnymen is literally a dying breed.
"It^s been worrying of late, it really has," says Jim. "When you lose people like Bernard Manning, Mike Reid, Colin Crompton, Charlie Williams so close together, it^s awful. They were all dear friends.
"You read the paper and think ^Oh God, not another one^. I try to be philosophical. I make the most of every day and move a little quicker in case the Grim Reaper is having a Christmas sale."
For Jim, few topics are too taboo to joke about, and it^s this salt-of-the-earth cheeky chappy style that helped pull in 10 million viewers a night in his 15 years on Bullseye.
Jim says: "People ask whether I get fed up with fans shouting catchphrases at me. But I will be cross when they stop. They^ve paid my wages for 30 years. I love getting fan mail, although I can safely say I don^t have a female fan base nowadays.
"It^s funny they still show Bullseye on digital. I don^t watch it because it heightens how time has ravaged me, although I would rather look at myself in a picture than the mirror."
Modest Jim is eternally grateful for his lucky break on Bullseye.
He came from a hard upbringing, having spent his first year in a children^s home before being adopted by a working-class Lancashire family.
At 15 he was a bin man in Burnley and then trained as a PE teacher, before becoming a deputy head.
Then one night, he criticised a pub^s comedian and was given a spot on stage.
He caught the bug and began playing three workingmen^s clubs a night. He was spotted by Frank Carson, joined ITV^s The Comedians, and the rest is history.
"I was in the right place at the right time," laughs Jim. "It^s not about talent. It^s more difficult for comedians now. There^s so many channels, getting on TV doesn^t mean as much.
"I was on 26 weeks a year for 15 years with Bullseye, but for 10 of them there were only four channels. People had to watch me." He adds: "When the first show aired I was horrendous. I sat in the living room with my wife Phyllis and daughter Suzanne. I turned to Phyllis in the advert break and asked ^What do you think?^. She answered: ^I think I^ll go and put the kettle on^."
Jim only improved after his idol Bob Monkhouse took him for lunch at Elstree studios to share tips.
He went on to become a household name and since Bullseye ended in 1995, Jim has been doing stand-up, acting - including Peter Kay^s Phoenix nights - cruises and speeches.
In 2006, Challenge TV revived Bullseye but asked Phoenix Nights^ writer Dave Spikey to host instead.
"If I^m honest, I was faintly disappointed," says Jim. "After years I thought of it as my baby. But Dave was lovely. He rang and said wanted to put his own stamp on it hoped I would like it."
But Jim admits he wasn^t impressed with the new-look Bully.
"I^ve got two old Bullys and was looking at them the other day," he says.
"They had hairs on their chests and proper darts players^ bellies, not like ones in the shops today. They need to more manly."
Jim^s been supported in his varied career by wife-of-49-years Phyllis. But he^s also had his fair share of strife.
Son Peter was splashed across the tabloids for taking cocaine.
Jim says: "Pete^s hard time was selfinflicted but I felt guilty because he paid the price for being related to me.
"Yet it took him six months to sort himself out and now he^s doing brilliantly. He delivers all the beer to bars in Las Americas, Tenerife, has a nice lady and rings his mum every Sunday. I^m very proud.
"In contrast to his sister," jokes Jim. "She was a stockbroker, retired at 37, has more money than us and still reverses the charges." Jim is thrilled his children didn^t want to go in to showbiz - "I would not want little show-off smarty pants for kids" - but delighted he^s got a new generation to entertain in the form of grandchildren Robert, three, and Daniel, 18 months.
"I was on Loose Women last week and Robert said to his mum Suzanne, ^Why^s granddad in the telly?^ I^m not sure Suzanne was pleased," he jokes.
"She quietly disowns me. She went for an interview at Durham University when Bullseye was No 5 in the charts. When they asked what her dad did, she said I worked nights."
Wife Phyllis is also "terrified" of the limelight, but the couple have a nearperfect marriage - with no rows in 49 years. Jim says: "Apart from anything else it^s lovely economically to have one wife - just ask Jim Davidson."
With a nudge from Phyllis, 70, he adds: "It^s also the little things. I^ve never run out of toothpaste, I always have a clean shirt and new toothbrush.
It^s good housekeeping but the skill is keeping it up for 49 years. And I^m glad I still have teeth to clean."
Jim^s only regret in his career is the controversy when he used the term "nig-nog" on his Radio Lancashire show in 2002, prompting him to resign.
"It was absolutely bizarre," he says.
"In Lancashire it meant a guy that^s not all that sharp. Nowadays, I^m careful not to be controversial. But some of the language and violence on television today makes my offence pale into insignificance."
His slip-up has not stopped the phone ringing and Jim won^t stop until it does.
"I want to be remembered as a guy who never intentionally harmed anyone or anything," he says. "And if people have had a laugh with me along the way, that^s even better."
email@example.com/Jim is doing a daily chat show and Bullseye spin-off, "Look At What You Could Have Won" at Edinburgh Comedy Festival until August 25. For details visit www.edcomfest.com
If I was still a teacher I^d shoot brats
Former deputy head Jim is relieved he got out of teaching.
"I came out of teaching when they stopped us nailing the little buggers to the desks," he smiles.
"When I taught, we had a chance because the system supported us.
"I feel desperately sorry for teachers now.
"The fear factor has gone.
Children know they can go off the rails and the chances are nothing will happen.
"It makes me sad. We could shout at them and parents would support us. That^s changed.
"The problems with knife crime and people not feeling safe on the streets is tied to the lack of discipline at school."
And Jim jokes: "If I went back now I^d probably shoot a couple."
I^m lousy at darts and like to sit at bar
Surprisingly there^s one thing Jim^s not so keen on - DARTS.
"I^m a worse darts player than presenter," he says.
"I^ve never got a bullseye and would rather sit at the bar with a nice pint of Tetley^s."
Jim says his perfect day is lunch with Phyllis, lying on his recliner and watching Corrie.
"I drop hints I would like to be in Corrie, but nobody^s phoned," he laughs.
"I would love to play Ken Barlow^s more academic brother.
I think Deidre is gorgeous."
Less tongue-in-cheek, he adds: "Don^t tell Phyllis but I really like Natasha Kaplinsky too. I hate reality shows but I would have done Strictly to dance with her."
Story by: Jessica Boulton - The People