After 18 years of interviewing almost every pop star, TV favourite and household name in the world of showbiz, I've come to the conclusion that female celebrities scare the bejesus out of me.
Why? Bruce Forsythe's cavernous laughter lines and greying temples won't stop him bumbling through Strictly Come Dancing until he reaches the funeral parlour. But will Tess Daly remain standing by his side on prime time TV once the hot flushes begin? I doubt it.
Because when it comes to showbiz, many women have a shelf life that men don't. And because of this sexism and misogyny, their fame-clock is ticking louder and quicker than a man's, making her more ambitious, more determined and more awkward to interview.
Of course I'm generalising, and I maybe guilty of sexism myself, but based on my experience, many female celebs can be categorised under the heading the Seven Deadly D's.
With fresh talent nipping at her heels, one Spice Girl was determined I should buy into her self-created hype by proving how 'deep' she was, with insights like "My music is going to wash over you like a warm soapy bath" and "The more I use my heart, the tenderer it becomes. It's like a filet mignon." Then she stared into my eyes and sang tunelessly at me across the table in an empty restaurant for a toe-curling three minutes. Regretfully, the polite 'wow' I mustered up was misconstrued as praise and she launched into song number two.
One Katie Price wannabe was so eager to prove what an extrovert she was, she readily went into anatomical detail about how petite her genitalia was, how many lovers she'd had and what her favourite sexual positions were. Very revealing considering I'd only asked about her culinary - not bedroom - skills. And by the time she excitedly dragged out a bin liner crammed with adult toys from her bedroom to prove her prowess, this reporter made his excuses and left. There's not much left to say after you've been punched in the stomach by a life-sized latex sex fist.
Every diva has her day, and it's going to be a long one when she's in front of a photographer. I watched as one diminutive Australian diva dragged an all-male entourage of 18 stylists, masseuses and nail technicians into the studio. When she ordered a spruce of mousse, it took the assistant to the assistant to the hair stylist to squirt some into his hands, pass it to an assistant, then the stylist, then the diva herself. But this was less about great hair and more about reminding everyone she was in charge through a game of cat and mousse. Five hours of primping and preening later, she left after just one outfit change, citing 'exhaustion.'
Before another shoot, a member of a cheesy boy/girl band informed me she was a size eight. But on the day, it was blatantly she was at least a 14. So after a frantic warning from her PA of the possible repercussions if I let the fat out of the bag, our make-up artist kept her highness occupied while the stylist dashed out to get larger fitting clothes. Then with scissors, I snipped out every potentially offensive label from the outfits leaving her none the wiser.
All celebrities lie, but because more women are papped than men, they get caught out the most. I was moved by one British supermodel with a druggy past when she tearfully told me she'd turned over a new leaf (not a cannabis one) which I fell for, hook, line and sinker. That soon became hooker, line of cocaine and a sinking feeling when a month later, she was exposed as a £10,000 a night drug-pushing call girl.
Lying about your age is acceptable, but only if you do it properly. A British boxer's model girlfriend must have been punch drunk when she told me she was 26 - she looked a decade older. "Any brothers or sisters?" I asked. "A younger brother - he's 30," she replied.
The first time I met a now deceased tabloid favourite, she was a candid, intelligent ex-stage school brat. Three years and global fame later, we arranged an 11.30am interview at a bar where she was already worse for wear and incoherent. After her umpteenth Malibu and Coke, she slumped over the table blowing spit bubbles and mumbling something about Tupperware.
Of course it's unfair of me to tar all female stars with the same temperamental brush. But until they, their fans and viewers demand longevity equal to their male peers, my road to a smooth interview will remain bumpy. So for now, I'll stick with Sir Bruce.Suggest a correction