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EDITIONS
Monday, 9 September, 2002, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Tony Blackburn: Golden Oldie
Tony Blackburn at the start of his Capital Gold era
Tony Blackburn has enjoyed a transformation
DJ Tony Blackburn has been awarded the title Oldie of the Year in a ceremony in central London.

Blackburn's Oldie of the Year award crowns a golden six months for one of BBC Radio 1's founding fathers.

Last month it was announced he was returning to Radio 1 almost 20 years after leaving - for one day only to co-host a show with afternoon presenter Chris Moyles.

In September last year he beat the bookmakers to overcome seven other minor celebrities and win ITV1's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.

His calm demeanour, cheery disposition and refusal to enter the incessant squabbling around him led to steadily growing popularity.

Celebrity Survivor success was all rather surprising for Tony Blackburn, an important figure in the history of radio, but also a DJ viewed by some as a dinosaur who had lumbered into the tar pit of Capital Gold.

He has been mercilessly lampooned By Harry Enfield's DJ caricatures Smashey and Nicey, with their fondness for soft rock and novelty records.

If you are going to be stuck in the jungle, you would probably prefer to be stuck with Tony Blackburn

Dr Cynthia McVey
Reality TV psychologist
Some will remember Blackburn sobbing during one episode of his radio show in the 1970s after a split with then wife Tessa Wyatt.

But aside from the lame jokes and the strange voice, the Tony Blackburn television viewers saw seemed a thoroughly pleasant man.

While several of his co-stars opted for a constant barrage of histrionics at each other and the unpleasant task ahead, Blackburn was a calm, almost serene presence in the jungle camp.

Whether he was telling people how to get rid of ticks or attempting to pour oil on troubled waters, Blackburn seemed almost like reality television's renaissance man.

Superficial perception

Dr Cynthia McVey, an expert on the psychology of reality TV including appearances on Castaway, said Blackburn's success was more down to his personal qualities than his entertainment value.

"The superficial perception was of someone who made awful jokes, but we didn't know much of his character before.

"He did try to negotiate and he did try to calm things down. He was a peacemaker.

Tony Blackburn
Blackburn kicked off Radio 1
"He came across as, almost in an old-fashioned way, honourable and honest."

To Blackburn, most things on the show were "unbelievable" and he could not hide his pleasure when informed by the hosts that people around the nation were adopting his attempt to stop the rain as a catchphrase: "Stop-a-doodle-do".

He was a restrained presence, while fellow finalist Tara Palmer-Tomkinson ruminated on her sexual frustration and fled squealing from creepy-crawlies.

Dr McVey said that faced with unpleasant tasks in an unpleasant environment it was unlikely Blackburn had been putting on a persona.

Immense self-control

"There is always the possibility someone has managed to put on a front but it becomes very difficult if you are in that setting with people fighting around you.

"You would have to have an immense amount of self-control to withstand it.

"He was a regular nice guy. If you are going to be stuck in the jungle, you would probably prefer to be stuck with Tony Blackburn."

Dr McVey said runner-up Palmer-Tomkinson had also performed well and with "almost painful honesty".

The psychologist said the show had introduced a new element of physical danger into celebrity reality TV, but had lacked the intense, psychological aspect of Celebrity Big Brother.

TV prospects?

And Blackburn's success raises questions about where he will go next.

Will he become a popular after-dinner speaker, or a familiar face on TV advertisements?

Despite the fact that the audience have taken to Tony Blackburn the person rather than the DJ personality, the obvious move would be back into television from his current berth in radio.

Blackburn certainly has a pedigree in radio, following up a job advert to get a job at the legendary pirate station Radio Caroline in 1964.

The BBC followed and in 1967 he played The Move's Flowers in the Rain to inaugurate the new BBC Radio 1.

Blackburn has hosted Top of the Pops - which sees its 2000th edition on Friday - had his own show and made cameo appearances on Noel's House Party.

But whatever his agent signs him up for, it is unlikely to be another stint in an Australian rainforest.


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