I’m a Celeb Golden Years: heat chats to jungle kings Blackburn and Biggins

To celebrate the new series, we chatted to two of our favourite I'm a Celeb winners

I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Tony Blackburn Jungle Winner

by Charlotte Oliver |
Updated on

Tony Blackburn: “I’m a celeb changed me as a person”

All hail the OG King of the Jungle, who won the first- ever series back in 2002…

What made you sign up?

I remember my agent saying, “How would you like to be dropped in the Australian jungle for two weeks with a load of other celebs?” I thought he was joking. Then I went to an interview at ITV. They said to me, “Do you like the outdoor life?” I said, “Not really, I prefer a nice hotel!” But these opportunities only come along once, so I went for it.

Did you expect it to be so extreme?

I just thought we’d sit around the fire and talk – we didn’t know there’d be Bushtucker Trials! But we had the fear of God put in us when they warned us about the killer snakes. Thank goodness we had Christine Hamilton. She’d been a Girl Guide, so she put all the beds together. I remember at night, hearing scratching noises –I watched back later and it was rats running over us. I may be the King of the Jungle, but rats scare the blimmin’ daylights out of me.

You began collecting logs…

Yes! They told me I’d collected enough to keep the fire going for four weeks. Toward the end, they got us out of the camp for a bit and when we came back, all the logs I’d collected had been taken away and I had to start again – it broke my heart. I remember going to where they’d dumped them and recognising some of them.

I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Tony Blackburn Nell McAndrew

How did you find your fellow campmates?

I think we had the most argumentative people out of all the series – they were arguing before we even got into the jungle! I don’t know why, but they all came to me with their problems. I liked Rhona Cameron, but she was a wind-up merchant. Nigel Benn didn’t take the experience too well – he was tricky. And the guy that bends spoons [Uri Geller] got on people’s nerves – but they were all nice in their own way.

What was the most challenging bit?

It was more difficult emotionally than physically, but the loos were pretty revolting. At first, the loo didn’t have a cover. Eventually, they put up a curtain.

How does it feel knowing you won the first-ever series?

It’s lovely, I’m very proud. I found a terrific inner peace with it all. It changed me as a person – I left more tolerant and more appreciative of what I had.

I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Christopher Biggins

Biggins: “I ate a kangaroo’s penis and bollock”

The 2007 winner says the rats and bugs were no biggie compared to living with Janice Dickinson…

What was your most memorable challenge?

Sleeping with 200 rats was pretty grim. Anna Ryder Richardson and I were in this underground dungeon overnight. There’s this classic TV moment when I’m on the hammock and it’s pitch black. I know there’s something on my crotch, but I think it’s a water bottle, so I cover it with my sheets. It’s actually a rat. Then there were the eating challenges. I ate a kangaroo’s penis and a kangaroo’s bollock. I bit into that and all this liquid erupted in my mouth. And then I had to chew the sack and get rid of it. Then nine months later, I gave birth to a joey!


Thank you! He’s still very well. [Laughs.] In the final few days, you do the Celebrity Cyclone, which I absolutely adored – I laughed the whole way through. I was the first up and I was suddenly aware that Gollum was coming up behind me – that was Janice Dickinson.

I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Christopher Biggins Bushtucker Trial

You weren’t her biggest fan…

I just thought she was vile. When I first went in there, she seemed rather nice, quite fun and camp. But as soon as I started doing a trial with her, I realised she didn’t do anything. Not one iota. At the end, when we were the last two, she was convinced she’d won and I was convinced she’d won, then they said, “King of the Jungle…” I couldn’t believe it. She was furious – she left immediately to fly back to America.

What did you struggle with most?

I didn’t find anything too difficult. I slept the best I’ve ever slept in my life and I came out looking wonderful! I suppose the only negative thing is the boredom. You see only an hour of our 24 hours, and there is a lot of waiting around. And the dunny was unbelievable – you had to take turns to empty it. That was grim.

How did life change for you?

From a financial point of view, it was incredible. I suppose I’m still living off it now – it gives your profile a real boost. I’ve been in the business for 50 odd years and people ask me what’s the highlight of my career. They think I’ll say Porridge or I, Claudius or something, but I can safely say it’s I’m A Celeb. I’ve never had so much fun. And to win something like that, voted by the public, you can’t get any better. It’s extraordinary.

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