Graham Norton could happily retire from his TV show tomorrow -- just don't take the 'Eurovision' gig away from him, writes Gerard Gilbert
So, Graham Norton. Is he Graham Norton, camp chat-show ringmaster, Radio 2 DJ and Eurovision wit, or is he also still a bit Graham Walker, the failed actor from small-town Ireland who had to change his name under Equity rules?
I suspect there isn't much distance between the two -- with the important exception of success -- for Norton has made a glittering career out of simply being himself.
Certainly the tanned and relaxed-looking man I meet is reassuringly Graham Norton (perhaps Reassuringly Graham Norton can be the title of his next chat show), especially when he laughs his "hyuck, hyuck, hyuck".
And as we sit side by side, it's also easy to see how his guests might relax in his company. He's easy to talk to, he actively listens and he is warm -- a handy trait when your business is other human beings.
Norton recently sold his production company, So TV, to ITV for £17m -- does that mean he will follow Jonathan Ross to ITV?
"I really don't think that's true," he says. "As far as I know they've bought a business. Obviously I'm part of that business in that my show is our main product, but in business terms they're much better leaving me where I am than starting afresh. But you never know."
That Norton is not primarily motivated by money can be evinced by the fact that, long before he finally joined the BBC from Channel 4, he turned down a £5m-over-two-years offer from the Corporation.
Once he did sign for the Beeb in 2005, he hosted a succession of Saturday-night talent shows before finally seeing his late-night BBC2 chat show promoted to Jonathan Ross's old Friday slot in 2009. Which stars remain on his wish list?
"I always had Madonna as the answer to this question, but now we've had her," he says. "[Prince] Harry would be good now. We haven't had Brad or Angelina and we haven't had George Clooney."
He freely admits that his style of chat is a branch of comedy ("I doubt you will come away having learnt very much"), but he also believes that the old-style Michael Parkinson approach wouldn't work with the modern calibre of 'celebrity'.
"If you've got Orson Welles sitting there next to you," he says, "that's a very different ball-game to having someone on from Emmerdale."
Norton will be 50 next April. He lives in Wapping, east London, with his two dogs, Bailey and Madge, and his boyfriend for the past year and a half ("That's good for me"), Trevor, even if he's not quite sure what Trevor does for a living. "This is where he'll get upset . . . I know he's changing jobs . . . he was in a sort of software sales thing."
Norton has expressed a desire for a lover of the same age, instead of the younger ones who made him feel like "a gay Michael Winner".
As well as his house in Wapping, Norton owns homes in Manhattan, on the Sussex coast and in Co Cork, where he was born in 1963.
After school in Bandon, he dropped out of university and went travelling -- to San Francisco, sharing a house with a group of hippies, and nearly becoming a rent boy, which in early 1980s California, with AIDS devastating the gay community, could well have been a death sentence.
"It's one of the reasons I'm glad I'm not a parent," he says. "We all did such stupid things." He did, however, continue to experiment, taking one of the hippies as a boyfriend and having a long-ish term girlfriend, before moving to London.