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My old mate “Nasty Nigel” is living the TV dream – Pete Price

 

I wonder how many of you used to daydream in school during boring lessons?

About what you would be when you grew up. I used to think I would become a famous chef on TV like Philip Harding (there’s a name from the past), or a hairdresser like Raymond “Mr Teasy-Weasy” Bessone – that’s a lifetime ago.

I also used to wonder how the rest of the class would finish up? I mention this as I was about to interview a mate of mine – Nigel Lythgoe, now OBE. While I was waiting, I wondered if he ever day-dreamed at school? He could never have imagined how successful he would become.

Born in 1949 on the Wirral, at the age of 10 he discovered tap-dancing and went to study at the Hylton Bromley School of Dance. In 1969, he performed with the BBC’s Young Generation Dance troupe, before becoming a choreographer, and has choreographed more than 500 shows.

His life changed forever when he became Nasty Nigel, the nickname given to him by the British press, on a show called Popstars. He would be ruthless with his comments. In fact, he told me most of his put-downs were old Morecambe and Wise lines.

Nigel Lythgoe after receiving an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to the Performing Arts, Education and Charity during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. Photo by Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Nigel Lythgoe after receiving an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to the Performing Arts, Education and Charity during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. Photo by Chris Radburn/PA Wire

He then got involved with Simon Fuller, who created Pop Idol. Nigel developed and produced this new show, which went on to be a global brand.

He took it to the USA and American Idol took the country by storm. In fact, he was telling me the programme was called the Death Star, as no show in American TV could go up against the ratings.

The programme’s first series discovered Kelly Clarkson, who went on to world stardom, and that cemented the programme.

Nigel always had dancing as his first love so with his knowledge, and what he knew about TV audiences, he went on to co-create So You Think You Can Dance?

He wasn’t convinced at the beginning that the American audiences would like it. Boy, was he wrong. He was a judge and the producer of yet another hit.

He has the Midas touch and works extremely hard, just like so many Brits who have conquered the American showbiz industry. I asked him how he coped with the pressure these days.

“He would be ruthless with his comments. In fact, he told me most of his put-downs were old Morecambe and Wise lines.”

He told me through dance, and incidentally he said: “I wasn’t that good a dancer, I have a titanium plate in the back of my neck, I have had two heart attacks and I have a pacemaker but I am holding up. I am starting to take it easier and want to spend more time with my family and grandchildren.

“When I came over recently to receive my OBE, which I was overwhelmed with, I popped up to the Wirral to see Hilda, my dance teacher, who is now 90. It was wonderful to see her.”

His new show is called Doubt. The concept is questions, true or false. The example he gave me made me laugh: “George Clooney shops in the closet – true or false.”

Nigel is dry, clever and totally switched on. He knows everything about the TV industry. Another Merseysider showing the world how it is done.

Have a listen to my interview with him tonight at 10pm.




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