Arise, Dame Babs! Eastenders and Carry On star Barbara Windsor was recently given this great honour, and she told me: “I am honestly in shock, to me it’s odd as to get an award for something you love doing is amazing.
"I also have to say I am totally British and adore our Royal Family. Plus we do have the same surname, don’t we Ann?!” Ah Windsor, of course...
Les Dennis is leaving Coronation Street - and he’s not the only cast member making an exit. Les, who plays reformed burglar Michael Rodwell, will depart the cobbles to appear in a theatre production of Alan Bleasdale’s ‘Down The Dock Road’ at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre. A source tells me: “Lots of actors’ contracts are up for renewal in the soap, and many are very worried.”
The smash hit musical Footloose will burst back on to the stage this year with Gareth Gates playing the role of Willard, from January 29. The show will be premiering at the Spa, Bridlington – book now for a great night.
Former Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates tells me that he has spurned the chance to represent us at the Eurovision Song Contest many times. “It’s not for me thanks,” he said. “I mean I enjoy the show and all that, but I think in reality we have zero chance of ever winning a show like that again.”
The actor who plays Emmerdale’s Zak Dingle is stunned to be involved in such a steamy affair storyline. Steve Halliwell tells me: “I was stunned when they told us all about it, but it’s been so well received and we are having fun. All the fans are taking the side of Lisa naturally, but it could all turn in Zak’s favour soon.”
James Norton reveals a strange connection between his ground-breaking role in Happy Valley and his other TV shows. He said: “Ah you found out, well my dad is an extra and he often comes in to the shows I am working on, and appears in the background. He loves it of course that we are together, but I hope one day he gets elevated to a bigger part.”
Heartbeat’s Tricia Penrose knows all about the fame game. She tells me: “In 1996 I got my big break with Simon Cowell. I had to sing Where Did Our Love Go in an episode of Heartbeat and the producer suggested releasing it as a single. It got to number 42, so Simon dropped me – I was mortified, now though I can look back and laugh, I mean at least it got into the charts...”
Birds of a Feather actress Lesley Joseph tells me she has a famous fan. “It’s Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, who asked to meet us when she toured the ITV studios last autumn,” she said. “It was an honour. She was asked who she would like to see, and Birds was at the top of her list. It’s her favourite programme. How amazing.”
Katherine Kelly, best known for playing Becky McDonald in Coronation Street, looked almost unrecognisable as Baroness Schrader in the recent TV version of The Sound Of Music, but she tells me: “When I started out I wanted to be a pop star, I really did, but musical theatre was my calling, and then came the creation of Becky in the Street, so it’s all worked out in the end.”
Katie Price is officially joining the Loose Women panel. But she tells me: “I am more mature now and I won’t want to upset anyone, but yes I will have some strong opinions on almost everything, so I think I will become a great fit for the show.”
Did you know that Downton Abbey actress Dame Maggie Smith was once a hostess on a Hughie Green game show? She tells me: “I started out doing that to get my equity card, and so it’s remained a secret for years ... how did you find out?”
Adrian Chiles has made a return to The One Show more than five years after controversially quitting to join ITV in a big-money deal. Adrian admits: “I enjoyed going back, and no they would not want me back full time, but we all move on and I have learned from my mistakes and know how to enjoy the better moments now.”
Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli tells me he thinks that the show’s bosses will find it hard to top last year’s line-up of stars. “We did ever so well ratings-wise and had some great people,” he said. “I know it’s tough every year to ponder just how they will do it, but they always seem to find just the right mix.”
Pam St Clement, the 73-year-old actress who quit EastEnders in 2012 after more than 25 years of playing Pat Butcher, tells me she thinks it was a huge mistake to kill off the character. “Plain daft really, but as an actor you don’t have a say and that is the truth. Soap bosses decide for you.”
Jennie McAlpine has revealed that she considered giving up her job on Coronation Street earlier this year. The actress explained that she pondered putting her career on hold to become a full-time mother while on her recent maternity leave. “I think when you get a break you do think ... do I want to go back? I am glad I did, but it was really tempting to stay at home,” she said.
A fresh batch of celebrities are heading to the baking tent for next Great Sport Relief Bake Off. One surprise guest will be none other than the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron. She reveals: “I love the show and wanted to get involved, although I am worried what people may think about my baking.”