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80th birthday bash or not, I'm not for the old-folks home yet

GAY Byrne has vowed there will be "no big party" to mark his 80th birthday this year.

The biggest star on Irish TV and radio for decades, his birthday bash would be the hottest ticket in town with a guest-list of top celebs.

But the former Late Late Show host has said he doesn't want "any fuss" to mark his milestone birthday on August 5.

He told the Herald: "There will be no marquee in the garden because I don't have a garden.

"And if there is a big party, it will be a surprise one, because I don't know anything about it."

Neither is there any sign of Uncle Gaybo retiring in 2014 with the 79-year-old revealing he is already lining up a series of big names to interview for The Meaning of Life.

In addition his one-man show is set to continue around the country in early 2014, visiting Dunboyne on January 23, Mullingar on February 6 and Dun Laoghaire on February 8.

He has also been heartened to hear of a reprieve over Christmas for his One Night Only specials which he thought had been axed due to cash shortages in RTE.

"It was great news in that there are so some tentative plans to bring back One Night Only if we can get the money together," he said.

"We've no problem getting the big names as they like the show. Instead of getting to sing one song, like the Late Late Show, they can sing four or five numbers and talk about themselves. What's not to like about that."

He also has a Sunday morning show on Lyric FM.

CONFIDENT

"So with all that, I won't be going into an old folks' home just yet. But I definitely won't take on as much work in 2014 and will probably consider my position as the big day approaches," he said making no comment about his role as chairman of the Road Safety Authority.

The show with which Gay is most closely associated, the Late Late Show, will also continue although he has not presented it since 1999.

There was plenty of Late Late show talk over Christmas when Gay met up with some of his former programme team in Kites Restaurant in Ballsbridge.

Despite controversies, and Pat Kenny and Ryan Tubridy following him into the chair, he remains confident that the RTE flagship will continue long after he's gone.

Gay said: "The biggest scourge that happened to the Late Late was becoming the No 1 most watched show on Irish TV.

"Then the moment it slipped down the ratings, the papers were saying it was finished. If I had a penny for every time a headline screamed the demise of the Late Late Show, I'd be living in Barbados now."

Speaking about his own decision to depart the Late Late aged 65 in 1999, he added: "I don't care whether you are in the media or a cabinet-maker or motor mechanic, or a solicitor – when you get to 65, you think how long more have I got.

"Do you want to continue doing what you're doing? In my case I didn't want to continue doing six-and–a-half days a week but I didn't want to retire from broadcasting.

CLIMBING

"I didn't want to turn my face to the wall and die, I decided to continue in bits and pieces for as long as I was asked, and here I am still doing it at nearly 80."

After a quiet family Christmas in Dublin, he quipped: "The best present he could get for his 80th birthday next August would be to stay upright".

"There are fellas half may age who look a great deal grimmer than me. So if I am still able to walk or ride a bike, I'll be happy with that. I've always been a walker since I lived in Howth. You didn't have to jogging up in Howth because you were always climbing the hill."

ADMIRER

But on the business of "staying upright" did the sudden passing and subsequent funeral of RTE personality Gerry Ryan give Gay an idea of what his own funeral would be like?

He said: "Nothing is ever going to match the drama of Gerry's passing. I can say only this, I was watching the funeral of Garret Fitzgerald.

"One of the mourners interviewed was an ordinary woman standing at the gates of Donnybrook church. She wasn't a politician or a party hack, she was simply an admirer of Garret who wanted to say goodbye.

"That would have applied to a great number of people at Gerry's funeral. Now there maybe two or three people like that at my funeral. I won't know since I won't be there at the time.

"Now could we please stop talking about funerals.".

ksweeney@herald.ie


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