With Strictly Come Dancing up and running, we made the epic trip to BBC television centre to meet Pamela Stephenson and her partner James Jordan as they put the finishing touches to their rumba for Saturday night’s live show. As a famous sex columnist and a talented comic performer, we expect Mrs Billy Connolly to build on her strong performances in the competition so far, but anything can happen on live television…
How’s training been going this week?
Pamela – Umm, I’ve just been teased about my teeter and James won’t let me forget it. The pressure is on not to do it again, but I’m quite proud of my invented step and might well be inventing something new.
James – I don’t think you will.
Pamela – Well, you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
James – Well maybe not on live television, but the backlash when you got back to the studio would be horrendous.
Pamela – Yeah, he’s threatening to make me do twenty push-ups on live television.
James – That’s my aim.
How many can you get up to?
Pamela – I can do approaching thirty. Hello, look at these arms. They are arms by James. I mean, if James hadn’t been forcing me and I hadn’t made mistakes, and I have made many mistakes, then I wouldn’t be looking so buff! So I’m rather pleased. These legs are made by James too. The legs are out for the first time in twenty years. My husband is so happy that I’m losing weight because he likes the skinny rock and roll thing. So opposed to being jealous of James, James is now his best friend because James is responsible for making me the babe that Billy wants me to be. (laughs a lot)
James – She’s a different woman! (he says in a Scottish accent, trying to be Billy) We were in Starbucks and Pamela walked away and Billy said that to me.
Pamela – Bless him. Did he?
James – Yeah, he was checking you out.
Have you found you are a bit friskier in the bedroom because of Strictly and losing the weight…?
Pamela – Well, I have a bit. Because in my day job I just sit down all day so my bottom would be getting wider, as it does over the years. So I’m very grateful to James for slimming it down.
Would you say Strictly saved your sex life?
(Pamela and James both laugh….)
Pamela – Just remember, please, that I am a psychologist whose speciality is sex therapy and so naturally my sex life is pretty darn good!
Do you think that dancing does improve sex lives?
Pamela – There is the old notion that dancing leads to sex, although sometimes you could think that sex can lead to dancing. I mean, it’s quite well known that fitness can be key in improving a person’s sex life. Yes, I would say that it probably does. And releasing your hips. Learning to release your hips doing the Latin and the Rumba, because people need to be able to do that.
And do you think being a psychologist specialising in sex therapy helps your dancing because you know what makes for good chemistry?
Pamela – I don’t know. I mean, I’ve had to think about our power struggle. So I’ve had to have a few little sessions with myself. Because it’s not easy…
James – …To listen to me all the time!
Pamela – Well, the thing is that he is brilliant. I have to give him that, and he has proved that he is right about most things.
James – Everything.
Pamela – But as you see, I’m a bit headstrong and so I have had to say to myself ‘look, let go of your ego Pamela.’ So even if I don’t agree at the time, I try to go along with it.
James – Even down to her shoes. Pamela said that she was a size seven and a half shoe and I told her they were too big for her. She said no, but I said trust me you are a size six.
Pamela – You’d think I’d know my own shoe size!
James – So then she went down to a seven, and then a six and a half, and what size are you now? Six!
Pamela – He knows more about me then I know about myself. He has become my psychologist.
James – We do have little sessions, don’t we?
Pamela – You won’t see it on the screen because it’s too out there.
Have you had many arguments?
Pamela – Yeah, quite a lot.
Have you ever stormed off?
Pamela – No, nothing like that. Nothing serious.
James – What, me and you?
Pamela – Yes.
James – Have we?
Pamela – Not serious ones.
James – Oh, no. Just disagreements with what we want from the dance but there’s only one boss in my dance studio.
And that’s Pamela! (Pamela laughs, James not so much!)
Are there control issues?
Pamela – Hahaha. There are control issues.
James – At the beginning of the show Pamela said to me that she wanted to be pushed. She said that she didn’t want to come on the show and people think that because she is a slightly more mature lady that she isn’t going to be able to particular things. She said, ‘I want you to push me. I want you to challenge me.’
Pamela – Rash, rash words.
James – I am, but there are certain things where you could get it in the studio if we had a couple of weeks training…
Pamela – Don’t go there.
James – …but there are some things where I know what a person’s limitations are as a dancer.
Pamela – See, that word ‘limitations’ just drive me insane.
James – Yeah, because for you as a psychologist that means that you are not able to do it. But my theory is, it’s just not worth the effort! So I will find an alternative. When I show Pamela something and she goes ‘I love it, I love it,’ but then I try it with her and I go, ‘ooh, perhaps we will try something else’. I have to say we haven’t got time to make that work. For a psychologist that is very hard for her to get.
Pamela – No, it’s not just as a psychologist. It’s just that my love of challenge means that I don’t really like someone to say I can’t do it before I’ve even had a chance to really try. But, having said that, I understand that he has to be pragmatic.
James – We only have four days to put it together.
It seems Ann has a completely different attitude. Do you think she should be trying more things?
Pamela – I think she has every right to do that. I think that you have to come into the show with your own set of, in her case, ethics and values and I’m sure that was very clearly set out when she was asked to do it at the beginning. You know, she has Anton who is a wonderful, hilarious man and is choreographing things to make the most of her obvious strengths. She looks like she is enjoying herself
Can you see her being this years John Sergeant figure. Someone the public doesn’t want to get rid of, much to the annoyance of the judges?
Pamela – Sure. I want to see her stay in. She’s delightful.
James – I do as well. But I think with Ann, if that is the case where she is saying she doesn’t want to do things, that I understand with the whole religious background but if it’s just because of a difficulty factor then I think the professional teacher will know what she is able to do. She should maybe push herself a little harder week by week.
Pamela – Yeah, Anton will know what to do with her.
James – That’s what I’m saying. Anton will know, as a professional teacher, his partners limitations and you try and push them right to the edge with that. And with Pamela, I try and push her just over.
You said you are an older lady, but you are this year’s surprise contestant and you both have brilliant chemistry. Are you surprised?
Pamela – Totally. I mean, especially the marks that we have been getting but I think that James had more confidence in that than I did. I had no benchmark for it whatsoever. And I just kind of thought we were doing a nice romantic waltz. I had no idea we would get those kind of marks or those kind of comments. It was a complete surprise.
How far do you think you can go? Do you think you can win it?
Pamela – One thing I’ve learnt with my psychology training is that if you start with that number, and you start going ‘well, we’ve got to stay top of the leader board,’ then the fun goes out of it. And it’s just a competition. I don’t want that because I’m having too much fun. It’s just brilliant. I mean, at my age, I’m a dying celebrity. I’m a fake celebrity and I’m out there. James is more famous than I am. Wait! James is the celebrity here.
James – Hi there ladies and gentlemen. You might better know me to be married to Ola.
Pamela – So yeah, we can only do what we do.
James – Take each week as it comes.
Pamela – Because we have these gods and goddesses sort of sorting us out, and if you are not enjoying it then it’s not going to be good for the audience because they are just going to be worried.
James – And that’s the thing, there’s more emphasis on the public because there’s no dance off anymore so if you do end up in the bottom two then it’s down to the public vote, rather than before where you had the chance to be saved by the judges. So this year, more than ever, we’re relying on the getting the public support.
Pamela – Yeah.
James – I mean, it’s just a shame I didn’t get someone funny and witty. You know.
Pamela – Or someone that could stay perpendicular.
James – Yeah, not inventing new dance steps.
Pamela – Shut up!
As a psychologist you are someone who looks at people’s body language, and so in your opinion are Kara and Artem shagging?
Pamela – I would say no. Um, it’s just a feeling. I could be completely wrong. I tell you what, give me your number and when I think they are I’ll give you a call.
James – You know what, if they are then they are both single and they are both extremely good looking.
Pamela – I mean the fact is, look at our Rumba this week. Our faces are so close to each other. You see, dancers are used to that, but we are not used to that. To be that close to a near stranger is really, really… well, you’ve got to get used to it. Especially again, for a woman at my age, that sort of attention from a man this age is odd.
James – You’ve known me six weeks now.
Pamela – I know.
James – Some people sleep together on their first date.
Pamela – I mean you do have to think about these things. I’ve been telling my girlfriend about it, and she’s sixty. She’s also a psychologist, and she said to me ‘darling you better get out the tweezers, these young men have got twenty-twenty vision. They can spot a chin hair at sixty metres.’ Oh my god, I’ve got to think about things that I never would have thought about. My husband, of course, is as blind as I am.
Paul Daniels has been moaning quite a lot about Strictly on Twitter, and he doesn’t seem to be natural. Do you see him lasting?
Pamela – Well I think that he is doing great, and I think that Ola is choreographing him brilliantly. And I’m pretty jealous of the fact that they are bringing out his wonderful skill of magic. He’s able to incorporate his magic. So, you know, he should do very well.
James – I actually think that he is more natural than he thinks, cos if you watch his Cha Cha or his Foxtrot he was on time, and especially for the Cha Cha I thought he was actually undermarked. I know Ola’s my wife, so I’m going to be slightly biased, but I genuinely think he did an amazing job. I mean, how old is he? Seventy two? He’s fabulous.
So do you and Ola go home and compare notes?
James – Yeah, I go home and say that bloody woman! She’s doing my head in! No, I mean, we help each other out. We do talk to each other and we do help each other over things that maybe our celebrities are struggling with. It’s a bonus for both of us. Not everyone has that.
Do you think you would still work like that if it was a showdown between you and Ola?
James – One hundred percent. Last year I was dancing with Zoe Lucker and we were doing quite well, and we went out eighth. And Chris Hollins… who would have known that he was going to win the show? But I supported her from the beginning to the end and I was very proud of her. If someone had said to me last year who would I prefer to win, me or Ola, I would have said Ola. Now she has won, I’m going to tread all over anybody to beat Ola so I win.
Pamela – No pressure on me, then!
James – Cos I am, unlike Pamela, very competitive. Every week I’m going ‘come on, we’ve got to work harder!’ She just want to enjoy it, but I’m like screw enjoying it, I want to win! Otherwise I’ll have to put up with my wife for the rest of my life asking whether I ever won strictly!
Pamela – Sorry James if you’re manhood is being threatened. I try my best.
Pamela, what was the initial appeal to Strictly?
Pamela – It was really a no-brainer. It was kind of like, well, what’s the down side? Some of my work has very dark sides, and I had had two big occasions in the past year where I had been councelling people so I recently seen a lot of the dark side of human nature. My kids have now left. I’ve raised five kids and now they have all gone. It came up, and I thought wait a minute, I love dancing. I have loved it since I was five years old, it’s joyful. It would just be fun. I can’t see that it will hurt, and I could be wrong, because there are a lot of things that go along with Strictly. Being catapulted into this exposure is very, very new for me. I didn’t give it much thought. I knew that Billy wasn’t behind it one hundred percent, to say the least. But he’s come round, and what is true is that I get to have people design these fabulous clothes for me and go out each week and feel like a princess. It’s actually interesting to see a reclaiming of deeply buried performance instincts, because I did enjoy performing years and years ago. I ended it because I was burnt out, and I really wanted to do family things and study something else, but now I’ve remembered it it’s sort of all coming back to me. How long it’s going to last I’m not really sure, and I don’t really care. It’s just great for now.
You said Billy didn’t want you to do this?
Pamela – He didn’t try talking me out of it, but he said some disparaging things that got me thinking, you know. He was like, why would you do that? But the point is that for me, I think I’m in a very lucky position for this because it’s not a career move or anything. It’s purely fun. I mean, I’m not relying on it to get me in anywhere or anything like that. I’m having a piece of madness, and why not?