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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
The rise of Johnny come lately
Johnny Vaughan
Vaughan: Branching out as writer and actor
It has taken just three and a half years for Johnny Vaughan to become the hottest property in British television.

When the nearly unknown Vaughan presented Channel 4's the Big Breakfast for the first time in September 1997, no one had successfully filled the gap left by the original presenters Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin.

His engaging television manner - which marries the common touch with a sly wit - brought huge ratings to the Channel 4 show.

Now 34, Vaughan has had an unusual career even by the standards of the media.

Cocaine

His schooling was divided between a north London comprehensive and the rather more exclusive surroundings of Uppingham boarding school.

He is also a graduate of the university of life, having completed a 25-month prison sentence for dealing cocaine in 1991.

It was at Brixton prison that he found his Catholic faith, a change he attributes to the commitment of the Catholic chaplains inside.

He was confirmed in his religion at Westminster Cathedral in March 1999.

While in prison he read the classics and learnt to use a computer, and on his release he went to work producing corporate videos.

Hobbies

His job involved getting members of the public to talk about their perceptions of products from crisps to Japanese cars.

The experience of getting members of the public to talk about their tastes and hobbies was clearly useful training for the Big Breakfast.

Denise Van Outen
Van Outen: A ratings success with Vaughan
And the videos he made also came to the attention of Channel 4.

Vaughan was employed as a presenter on the programmes Moviewatch and a music show called Naked City, and he was also given a short-lived chat show called Here's Johnny.

But he did not find the right vehicle until he began presenting the Big Breakfast in 1997, when his on-screen chemistry with co-presenter Denise Van Outen sent audience ratings flying.

Vaughan's ability to think on his feet and talk fluently about almost any subject owes much to what he calls his "crazes" - short bursts of learning all he can about a subject.

His enthusiasms have included racing pigeons, Roman Britain, gypsy culture, the history of slavery and garden sheds.

He is also a senior partner in TV production company World's End.

Daughter

In August 1999 he married clothes designer Antonia Davis, who had been his girlfriend for some six years previously.

The couple had a daughter in June 2000, when Vaughan also announced that he would not be renewing his Big Breakfast contract when it expired in January 2001.

Paying tribute to Vaughan, Channel 4's head of entertainment Kevin Lygo said: "Johnny has become one of the best known and best loved faces on Channel 4 as The Big Breakfast's anchorman."

Now the quick-witted presenter will be branching out for the BBC as a writer and actor - a comedy drama for BBC Two has already begun filming.

See also:

30 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Vaughan signs 'unique' BBC deal
12 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Breakfast over for Denise and Johnny
01 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Comedian tipped for Big Breakfast job
05 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Breakfast star Vaughan's back agony
02 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Vaughan quitting Big Breakfast
04 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Van Outen's Breakfast return
04 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Liza's Big Breakfast tears
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