RTÉ's new Cilla is a gay man
He's out and he's cute. Enda Storey enjoyed a hot date with Wanderlust presenter Brendan Courtney. LAST week at the launch of RTÉ's autumn schedule, independent TV producer Ger Philpot slammed the national broadcaster for not sufficiently representing the growing Irish gay community.
RTÉ, of course, disputed his claim and cited in its defence Wanderlust, Network 2's new dating show which features a gay couple. They neglected, however, to mention that it also features Ireland's first openly gay presenter, Brendan Courtney.
Wanderlust is a television hybrid, a mix of a travel show and a dating game. Contestants hook up with blind dates in cities all over the world via the Internet and are then spirited away for a (hopefully) dirty weekend with their new friends. Sounds like great television airports, hotels, romance and a dash of hedonism. How on earth did Brendan Courtney land a gig like that? Simple, it was his idea.
I take Brendan for dinner at the Mermaid Café on Dublin's Dame Street; the food is fantastic, the atmosphere's very relaxed and the waiters look delicious.
Mr Courtney was very well turned-out in an understated sports casual look, slightly tanned, slightly highlighted, great teeth very easy on the lens, I'm sure. We were given a discreet little table at the back of the restaurant, but I wasn't long getting us moved into the window I like to see and be scene.
So what's it like to be on the brink of celebrity status?
I don't think it's that big a deal. It's an interesting, fun show that a select audience will be very interested in. I think Irish people are very begrudging and tend to leave people alone that we recognise from television. But to have my face on the front of my idea is a great feeling. If Wanderlust is received well and if people like it, then I'll get taken a bit more seriously. At the launch people kept referring to me as a new face. What comes after new face, only old face? Which happens really fast in Irish television 'cause the country's so small. How do you feel about being RTÉ's first out gay presenter?
I think politically it's really important for me to be there. It's about time. Look at Graham Norton giving it large across the water. But as a person I'm a little bit nervous.
Are you afraid you're going to come in for some abuse ?
I hope that doesn't happen. Wouldn't that be horrible? If people started shouting faggot at me? But the programme's not about me being gay; I don't think people will really care.
So how did Wanderlust come about?
Like anybody else, I like pubs and clubs and I like hanging out with people. But there's a huge number of people who use the Internet to meet people. Especially in the gay world.
These days people meet for sex through chat rooms. Friends were doing it. I didn't believe it, then I realised how much sex they were getting. So I thought about it for a while and then thought, wow, that would be a great way to do a dating game.
I think this show destigmatises the chat room. People think you get a lot of weirdos but we haven't met one weirdo well, maybe just one. It's just about setting yourself up for a weekend abroad without leaving your desk. Book your flights on-line, check out hotels on-line, meet a local and find out where's good to go. In a few years the whole thing will be passé. I don't think it's a brilliant idea; I just think it's of the time. People who think it's weird just haven't tried it.
Have any of the punters you've taken away scored with their dates?
Yes, but not the younger ones so much people under 25 can be very idealistic. They don't realise that life can be tough and if you've got a bottle of wine in your hand and a reasonable-looking Charlie on your arm, enjoy tonight cause tomorrow could be hell. The older you get, the more up for it they are, the more they realise, ``I'm probably never gonna meet Mr Right so why not have a good time with Mr Wrong?''
It's great when they click. There's more television value in it for us, but also they get more out of the weekend. So do you practise what you preach, party on down with Mr Wrong in all of these glamorous locations you've been filming in?
No, I've been in a relationship for the past three years with my sweet boyfriend Les.
How does he feel about being a Hollywood wife?
He's really excited about it. He thinks it's funny. He thinks I'm gonna be like this big pop star-type person all of a sudden. We were walking into the movies the other night and he said, ``Soon when we walk in here people are gonna go, `There's your man off the telly'.''
WITH a couple of bottles of wine inside us and an espresso for the road we mince down to the Casting Couch at the Front Lounge so that Brendan can watch Miss Panti's show while I hunt single men. Nobody raises an eyebrow, never mind making a remark as we breeze through the bar; I'm not in drag and he's not famous yet. Time for us to enjoy our anonymity and pray it doesn't last.
* Meet Enda Storey, AKA Vada, at Space'n'Vada, Wednesdays at the George