BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Entertainment
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Friday, 22 December, 2000, 10:58 GMT
The reign of the Ginger prince
Sir Richard Branson and Chris Evans, December 1997
Master publicist: Evans with Sir Richard Branson
For a man who knows all about the art of self-promotion, Chris Evans' wedding to teenage pop star Billie Piper was a decidedly low-key event.

Billie and Evans started seeing each last December when she went on his Virgin Radio breakfast show to promote one of her singles.

Romance quickly blossomed and the media mogul and singer quickly became inseparable.

Rumours of an impending marriage have been circulating for months despite the age difference between the couple.

Even before the Billie romance, headlines about Chris Evans had been hard to avoid in the year 2000.

He started the year as a media mogul, but sold his Ginger Media Group in January to SMG, owner of ITV broadcaster Scottish Television, for 225m.

Frank Dobson
Evans found himself in a row with Labour's Frank Dobson earlier this year
Evans also found himself caught up in the battle to become London's mayor when his financial support for Ken Livingstone drew him into a row with Labour's Frank Dobson.

Witty prankster

Evans shot to fame in 1992, as host of The Big Breakfast, Channel 4's new early morning programme, having built his reputation as a witty prankster on the BBC London radio station GLR.

Before starting in radio he had a number of dead-end jobs in and around his native Warrington, including, notoriously, one as a "Tarzanogram".

Breakfast hit

The Big Breakfast was a huge hit in the early days, beating even ITV's new breakfast station, GMTV, when it launched in 1993.

Chris Evans in The Beano
Radio, TV, newspapers... and now the Beano
Evans's hyperactive personality defined the show and he was catapulted from London cult personality to national celebrity.

But he has always been more than a mere frontman. At GLR for instance, he started as a producer, not a presenter.

Later he launched his own production outfit, Ginger Productions, responsible for his first prime-time TV show, the Channel 4 quiz Don't Forget Your Toothbrush.

The format was sold around the world, bringing in funds to help him build up his media empire.

He left the Big Breakfast in 1994, and the following year was recruited by BBC Radio 1 to revamp the station's breakfast show, on his proviso the show would be in the hands of Ginger Productions, not the BBC.

The deal ruffled feathers at Broadcasting House, but worked wonders for the station, which saw its ratings rocket, along with its profile.

TFI hit

In 1996 he returned again to TV screens, this time with the Channel 4 tea-time show TFI Friday. The show was a classic Evans cocktail of leading bands, celebrity chat, bizarre stunts and in-jokes.

Danny Baker, Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne
Own goal: Out with Danny Baker and Paul Gascoigne
An early scoop was Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker's first interview following his on-stage protest against Michael Jackson at the Brits.

Meanwhile his tempestuous love affair with the BBC was on the wane and he quit Radio 1 in January 1997, after his demands to work a four-day week were refused.

Later that year he returned to breakfast radio, with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin station, competing against Radio 1's new breakfast line-up of Zoe Ball and Kevin Greening.

Evans liked the job so much, he bought Virgin Radio from Sir Richard at the end of 1997.

Chris Evans and Geri Halliwell
Ginger snaps: Evans and Halliwell enjoy a photo opportunity
The City was stunned at his 85m purchase right from under the nose of London-based Capital Radio, whose bid to buy the station had been held up by a government inquiry.

With City backers behind him, his new Ginger Media Group made him a broadcasting mogul.

Red alert

But the Evans magic started to fade soon after. He was photographed out on the town with Paul Gascoigne - damaging the footballer's chances of getting into the England squad for the 1998 World Cup.

Ginger's TV arm showed signs of losing its flair. TFI Friday started to go off the boil, and two BBC projects, the National Lottery Red Alert and student quiz Carry on Campus, flopped.

Worse was to come, when TFI Friday - the show to watch during the heady days of Britpop - was dismissed as "naff" in a much-disputed viewer survey in 1999.

The show's falling ratings provided proof that things were going wrong for TFI - and even a much-hyped "romance" with singer Geri Halliwell failed to lift ratings for Evans' show.

Chris Evans and Anthea Turner
Nursing the press: Another stunt, with TV presenter Anthea Turner

Evans stepped down as TFI Friday host before it ended - clearly not wishing to be associated with the sinking ship.

In the past Evans has been linked with actress Anna Friel and model Melanie Sykes. He married DJ Carol McGiffin in 1991 before he became famous as the original Channel 4 Big Breakfast presenter, but they divorced in 1998. Until last year he had a on-off relationship with TV producer Suzi Aplin. He also has a 12-year-old daughter, Jade, by former girlfriend Alison Ward.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

22 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Sir Elton leads TFI finale
22 Dec 00 | Entertainment
The rise and fall of TFI
01 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Stars change race for ad
18 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Evans tops UK showbiz earners
16 May 00 | Entertainment
Virgin fined for Livingstone support
13 Jan 00 | Business
Evans sells up
04 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Chris and Geri's 'ginger romance'
29 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Channel 4's TFI a 'turn-off'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories