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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Brian Dowling on Kylie, Dynasty, and Graham Norton 

Brian Dowling, 45, grew up in Rathangan, Co Kildare. In 2001, he won the second edition of Big Brother on Channel 4, and in 2010 he won the Ultimate Big Brother series. 

He has presented shows on Irish and British television. In 2015, he married Arthur Gourounlian, the Dancing With The Stars judge, and last year they welcomed their daughter, Blake Maria Rose, born through surrogacy. 

  • Brian presents The Salvage Squad on Virgin Media One, 8pm, Sunday.

Soap operas

My mom was always obsessed with soap operas, drama-filled American soaps like Dynasty, The Colbys, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing. As a little gay boy in Rathangan, I was obsessed with the scenes they threw up: “You bitch!” Slap! People having affairs, and then people realising their sister is actually their mother. I lived for all of that drama – I was from a working-class family, my mum had seven kids, my dad worked all the time; it was great escapism.


The greatest soap opera of them all was Dynasty. It was so dramatic, so good, so opulent. They were so rich. It was also very sexy with the gay character, Steven Carrington, at a time when I was coming to terms with my sexuality. Our daughter is called Blake and you have Blake Carrington from Dynasty. The character of Crystal was so lovely and nice. Joan Collins’s character was a bitch, but she was also likeable. It was the fantasy and its storylines, and it was quite racy.

Charlie Hunnan, Aidan Gillen and Craig Kelly in Queer as Folk.
Charlie Hunnan, Aidan Gillen and Craig Kelly in Queer as Folk.

Queer as Folk

Growing up, I got into Queer as Folk. It was ground-breaking at the time. I was in secondary school when it came out. It was about gay guys living in Manchester, coming to terms with their sexuality, being “out and proud”, not having hang-ups about being gay, sleeping around and drinking. You saw their relationships with their family, and their friends. I thought, wow, is this what it’s like? It was also quite graphic. I’d never seen anything like that on television before.

The Morning Show

I’m really into The Morning Show. It stars Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. It’s about a morning television show where there are undertones of sexual abuse, and people being inappropriate. It’s fascinating as I work in television – how they have got aspects of the show bang on; the way people act; contract negotiations; and egos.

Kylie Minogue 

Anything by Kylie Minogue I love. I’m loving the new album, Tension. When I was young Santa gave me a Kylie cassette: ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, ‘The Loco-Motion’, ‘Got to Be Certain’. Seeing her in Neighbours playing Charlene. Basically, through all of my life, her music has meant something. When I won Ultimate Big Brother, the song they played for “this is your best bits” was Kylie’s ‘Get Outta My Way’.

Outrageous Fortune 

A film I keep harping back to is Outrageous Fortune, starring Bette Midler, an icon, and Shelley Long. It’s so good. I watched it back in the late ’90s and re-watched it recently. They’re both in a relationship with the same man and they don’t know it. It’s so stupid how they find out that each other exists. Then they go on this journey together, to follow him to find out who he loves. It leads to tomfoolery and cat fighting. It’s camp comedy. It’s very funny.

Jurassic Park

I’m obsessed with the Jurassic Park movies. When the first Jurassic Park movie came out we were all in awe of it – all the CGI and special effects, to see those dinosaurs recreated. I love anything prehistoric, and it’s probably the campiness, the drama, the jeopardy and suspense that is appealing. Those films you can go to the cinema, get your treats, watch them and be entertained. When you leave, you’re not heavy after it.

Rebecca de Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. 
Rebecca de Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. 

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle 

A film that stays with me is The Hand That Rocks the Cradle with Rebecca De Mornay. I watched that film when I was young. Being in the hospital a year ago with a new baby, I was, “OK, I’m keeping my hands on my daughter’s cradle just in case.” It’s about an American woman who goes for a check-up with her obstetrician, and he is inappropriate. She files a complaint. Lots of other women come forward. He ends up committing suicide and his wife is pregnant. She loses the baby. She blames this woman; this woman does not know who she is and she hires her as her nanny. Like all the shows I watch, this bitch wants revenge. I’ve six sisters so I’ve witnessed these kinds of scenes all my life.

Graham Norton

Graham Norton, I have been watching on television for years. I got to go on his show. He’s phenomenal as a presenter. What he does, the level he does it at, he does it with such ease, with such comfort and confidence. He sits down beside these incredibly accomplished, successful, famous people, and it’s as if he’s talking to his friends. He’s so charismatic. He can also be quite bitchy and shady, but he does it in such a funny way, and no one ever takes offence.

Lily Savage 

Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage was boundary-pushing – the fact he was a drag queen on primetime television in the 1990. To see Lily presenting Blankety Blank, a man as a woman, was ground-breaking, but it seemed like it was accepted. Nobody batted an eyelid. Now there’s just so much nonsense about drag. “What are you on about? Paul O’Grady was doing this years ago.” Maybe it was because people weren’t threatened by Paul. He was inclusive and so funny, so quick-witted.

Six musical

I went to see the musical Six about the six wives of Henry VIII on Broadway in New York. It was very funny. All six wives get together. It’s a send-up. Each of the wives interpret their relationship with him, and then with each other. It’s very interesting – it’s kind of a history lesson as well, and the music is very camp, very pop, very girl-power. It was really good.

Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed

The documentary on the actor Rock Hudson is fascinating. He was a Hollywood pin-up back, a sex symbol, in the era of Marilyn Monroe. He was gay, but he was not out. He married his agent’s assistant, who was female. He guest-starred on Dynasty. He had AIDS at the time. He kissed Linda Evans who played Crystal. When it came out he had AIDS there was complete panic. People were thinking would Linda Evans – whose character kissed him – get AIDS? He was a pioneer, but he also had to pretend, to play a role, for his survival and safety. He had to live a double life.

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