Caroline's Simon Dee, talks publicly for the first time in 20 years

FORTY years ago he was the biggest star on TV, attracting audiences of 15 million. Simon Dee pioneered the chat show, compered Miss World, and appeared on Juke Box Jury and Top of the Pops. Then he disappeared from public view, his star waning as swiftly as it had risen. Now, for the first time in some 20 years, he has spoken publicly. Dee, 73, has made his home in Hampshire for the past 15 years.

During the Sixties the trailblazing DJ, who helped launch offshore Radio Caroline in 1964, was the hottest ticket in town. Simon Dee was not his real name however. “When we began Caroline, sitting out there in the middle of the North Sea putting on LP tracks in a force nine was a challenge we overcame – a chap named Henty-Dodd couldn’t exactly introduce The Stones!” he recalled. “So I adopted Simon Dee as a stage name, and so it remained.”He moved to BBC radio and in 1967, he was offered Dee Time, a twice-weekly TV chat show. “In the first week we had two million viewers, the next four million, and by the end of the first month, 12 million,” he said. Sammy Davis Jr, Lee Marvin, Bob Hope, Charlton Heston, John Lennon were among the interviewees. Dee commanded a reported £100,000 TV contract. But within a few short years he couldn’t pay his rates, and later ‘signed on’ at Fulham labour exchange — with the tabloid press there to record it. Today he lives in Hyde, Winchester, and cuts a more anonymous figure, far removed from the star who was mobbed on the streets. Speaking of those far-off days, he says: “I had at last found my vocation. Now I was scoring – people liked me. It was fame, and it lifted me up to a new level. “Sadly, honesty and intelligence have vanished from national TV. Truth, interesting stimulating conversation, and, above all, real ‘showbusiness’ has been replaced by juvenile ‘reality’ shows and endless audition programmes. We need to remember what original entertainers and entertainment is all about. “I’ve no regrets. If you change your past, you change your present. Bitterness destroys, but laughter lifts you, it’s all been enlightening, but as a girlfriend said the other day, ‘you’ve still got your hair!’ Of Winchester he says: “It’s a pleasant place to live. But the council needs a kick up the backside about the state of the pavements. And rather too many beggars, much as I feel sympathy with them.”