With Danny Baker you never know. He's an odd character and I think that part of the current furore is because he doesn't act how people expect him to. He looks the epitome of laddism so Lads don't like him not being laddish. Then modern-thinking Metropolitan Elitists don't like his uncouth ways. And so on.
I also think he's been caught in the crossfire between the Ukip freedom of speech bigots and the permanently offended. At which point I lose my temporary Mailite mentality and return to normal.
Exactly. On many occasions he has quite freely admitted that he doesn't know what's going on in the wider world, even referring to himself as “Johnny Head-In-The-Air” .Unless something has changed in the last few years, he doesn't even own a mobile.
The problem always is that to 95% of the population, he's the loud mouthed opinionated cockney bloke who sold Daz and Mars, and went out on the piss with Evans and Gazza all the time (I'm actually surprised I haven't seen that twenty year old picture of them out together everywhere in a Brand-And-Ross stylee)
And when they listen to him, they end up listening to someone who opens a fair few of their shows by quoting from Sir Henry At Rawlinson End, and with a love of music, film, old school variety and music hall, television, and P G Wodehouse. They'll listen to ridiculous stories from his youth, a fair few of which have been dramatised in Cradle To Grave a couple of years ago. He involves his audience arguably better than any one on the radio has, save probably the late Wogan and Peel.
Where else are you going to get people clamouring to phone up to lay claim to a theme tune, a character from The Godfather, a London borough, an album, a US state or a host of other things. It's always been inclusive. He's had his running stories through the various radio stations he's been at over the years, from how his father broke the news of the death of Marc Bolan to him (“Who's that fella you like? The one with the sparkles? Dead! Gorn! Planted!”) to, yes, Monkeys Dressed As Famous People With Fairground Music.
He's shown before that he won't suffer fools lightly, or indeed put up with any sort of intolerance, once throwing Rory McGrath off his BBC London show because he was making snide remarks about his co-host Amy Lamé because she is a lesbian. And certainly his shows have, by and large, been an escape for people, with not a hint of any racial, sexist or xenophobic overtones. They've mostly been an outlet for people to come and tell stupid stories.
Basically, it's not what you expect when you listen to him, and that's what makes him, in my opinion, one of the greatest broadcasters we have today. He brings something different to the table, and people don't like that. Like Wogan had his Togs, Baker has the Treehouse. I've been a member of that Treehouse for many years, and a member of the Internet Treehouse messageboard. Having met several people from there, I can advise that there is a lot of similarities with the outlook here in these hallowed pages. Liberal-minded, tolerant, and a love of the absurd. Rest assured, that if any of us had thought for one nanosecond that racism was a part of Baker's psyche, the Treehouse would have been deserted years ago. I for one, would have certainly been off like a shot.
But, on the other hand, he has a habit being a hot-headed idiot, and we saw that yesterday. He's always been reactive rather than proactive. From the footage of him berating some unsuspecting soul at Waterloo during his days with LWT, to the referee rant on Radio 5 in 1997, to his spectacular rage filled final show at BBC London. He has unbelievable confidence in himself, having got through life with a fair bit of luck, and if anything this has become more prevalent since he had his bout of cancer of the head
a few years ago. And that sometimes can come over as nothing more than arrogance on his part.
And this is where he went badly badly wrong in the last 48 hours. He should have made the connection with the tweet he published and how it would be perceived. Problem is, one of his biggest faults is acting before thinking, always has been. He seems to lack that “Hang on, do I really want to do this?” safety mechanism that most of us have, it's more a case of “Wahey, this'll be a lark!” followed by “Oh, bollocks”.
The mea culpa tweet that's gone out today should have been done 24 hours ago. But stupidly, he thought that he can give it his usual swagger and bravado and people would realise that it was preposterous to think that he could be racist. He forgot one thing, what the public image is of him for 95% of people. He only made a bad thing worse.
People have compared this to the Clarkson punching incident, and I think there are several similarities. It may not be a popular opinion around here, but I do genuinely like Clarkson, and when he's not being the TV version of himself, he does come over as a thoughtful, intelligent chap. I think what went wrong is that the lines between the public and private personas became blurred and he became too much like the TV version. And I think that's what has happened to Dan in the last couple of days. He thought all he had to do afterwards was say “What ho! Bit of a faux pas there, wasn't it?” and that would be fine. Clearly, anyone could see that wasn't going to be the case here.
Of course, you could argue that I'm biased here, and if say, Littlejohn, or even YaxLen or someone I didn't have any time for had tweeted something like that, I'd be part of the mob demanding retribution. But the difference there is that the two above have got form for racist comments. Baker, in all the hundreds of hours I've listened to him over the best part of three decades, has not. And if he even did have those sort of tendencies, which have laid dormant for over sixty years, why on earth would he suddenly announce them to the world by applying them to probably the most talked about child on the planet in the white-hot glare of Twitter?
I'm disappointed in the man, believe me. He's been a stupid, idiotic, unthinking imbecile with an inflated sense of his own importance that made a bad situation worse, and now he's got to live with the consequences. Humble pie needs to be eaten, and a lot of it. I'll wager, as I said before, cold drinks had been taken before the top-hatted chimp was unleashed on the world, and someone close to him needs to take the bottle away from him before he logs on. His tweets during the World Cup last year were not exactly his finest moment.
However, we all make mistakes in life, albeit not often with such far-raching consequences as what has happened here. And he has now offered a full and frank apology. Careless, ignorant, foolish, most certainly, yes. Purposefully racist? No, and I think he is mortified beyond belief that people think that way about him. But he's made his bed, and now he has to lie in it.
"He's the leader of the gang. He's the top, he's the tip, he's the championship. He's Top Cat. And he's scum!"