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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Jason Gardiner insists Dancing On Ice froze him out with Louie Spence audition

JASON Gardiner has quit Dancing On Ice.

The Aussie judge walked out after ITV bosses secretly auditioned Louie Spence for a place on the panel.

After being dropped, furious Jason last night told pals: “I’ve been stitched up.”

The acid-tongued judge’s shock exit comes after he was slammed last year for “bullying” former judge Karen Barber, telling her live on air: “If your opinion still mattered, you’d be on the panel.”

The Aussie choreographer, 40 – who had a hair transplant last series – was outraged that Louie Spence had secretly been auditioned and told a pal: “They were just trying to get rid of me, so I walked.”

A source close to Jason denied that ITV had dumped him – insisting he quit after discovering a planned shake-up.

The friend said: “Negotiations were ongoing. They did initially try to reach agreement, but there were stumbling blocks on pay and the producers’ lack of commitment to him.

“Jason was annoyed they didn’t immediately give him their backing for another series, after courting possible replacements, so he pulled the plug. He didn’t need the grief.

“But he’s worried that viewers will think he’s been dropped over the row with Karen last year – that’s absolutely not the case.”

Eccentric dance arranger Louie, 42, will now provide the “light relief” on the panel.

Former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, 35, will also be leaving in a major re-shuffle.

Her spot will be filled by German figure skating world champion Katarina Witt, 45, a double Olympic gold medallist and one of the best female skaters in history.

The clear-out leaves ex-Olympian Robin Cousins, 54, as the only original panellist to survive.

An insider said: “There have been criticisms that Jason had got too harsh, with many viewers questioning whether he was qualified to criticise ice skating, but nobody will be able to say that about Katarina.

“She is an international superstar in the skating world, and the producers have approached her several times over the years so it’s great to finally get her. Viewers don’t mind fair criticism, but there is a real feeling that last year things went too far. It’s likely to leave Jason feeling a bit red-faced after what he said to Karen last year.”

Apart from his row with Karen, Jason was also involved in an ugly on-air confrontation with actor Tim Healy after blasting his wife Denise Welch’s skating routine.

Jason’s departure is part of a shake-up, with axed Daybreak host Christine Bleakley joining Phillip Schofield to front the show.

Coaches Karen Barber, Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean all remain, while former host Holly Willoughby is off to the BBC.

New judge Katarina said: “I can’t wait to join the panel. As well as offering constructive advice to this year’s celebrity skaters, I’m also looking forward to working alongside my friends Torvill and Dean.”

ITV entertainment boss Layla Smith added: “We are thrilled to welcome Louie and Katarina.

“The pair have a wealth of experience which they will be bringing to the series. Their flare and passion for their professions will make for some interesting debates.

“We’d like to thank Emma and Jason for their valued contribution and wish them all the best.”

Jazz musician Al Vega dies aged 90

A long-time US musician who played with some of the country's finest jazz talents during a 70-year career has died at the age of 90.

Hospital spokeswoman Kory Dodd said Al Vega died at Massachusetts General Hospital. No cause of death was given.

Boston radio personality Ron Della Chiesa said Vega, born Aram Vagramian, was the house pianist at the Hi-Hat jazz club in the late 1930s, 40s and 50s, and played with jazz greats including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

He later led his own trio.

Della Chiesa called Vega a legendary musician and teacher. He said Vega was also a Second World War veteran.

Jeff Hordley, who plays Emmerdale bad-boy Cain Dingle, on his perfect weekend..

What does your typical Saturday involve?

Family time is really precious to me so I like spending the day with my wife Zoe (who plays Emmerdale vet Rhona Goskirk) and my children Violet, six, and Stan, three.

We usually do something related to the outdoors then eat a nice meal together.

We’ve got an allotment so we might spend some time down there or give our dog Rita – a five-month-old ­spaniel-poodle mix – a good walk in the countryside, then all come home and watch a film together.

Are you an early bird or the king of ­lie-ins? What are lie-ins?! I’ve got two children so lie-ins are out of the question. Remember the times when you used to stay in bed late and sleep off a hangover? Well, those are long gone for me.

To be honest, I’m not really one for sleeping late. I enjoy getting up and making the most of the day.

What’s been your best party weekend?

Graeme Hawley, who played Corrie murderer John Snape, had a great stag weekend. It was a brilliant laugh and one of those great times where everything comes together. A group of us went to the Green Man Festival, so we were in a great place with good company.

There were only 13,000 people there so it had a really nice feel and the music was really good.

There were loads of like-minded people there and lots of things to do. ­Unlike a lot of festivals, there wasn’t loads of mess. I sound like a right old man by saying this, don’t I? But I am these days!

At my age, you want a festival with good food and where people clear up after themselves.

Saturday night – out on the tiles or cosy evening in? I don’t do many big nights out these days. I’ve done my share of partying and I’m more of a homebody now. I’m nothing like Cain, put it that way!

If I do go out, I like going to gigs to see live music. My favourite venues are smaller places, such as The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds or The Deaf Institute in Manchester.

Where’s your favourite place to nip for a pint? I don’t have a local as such but I do know some nice pubs near where we live in North Yorkshire. I’ve started to get into real ale as I’ve got older so I’m always searching for places where they serve good beer.

What would be your ideal weekend away?

If it was a weekend away without children, I’d love to take my wife back to Italy, where we’ve had a really special time in the past, on the Amalfi coast.

It’s extremely beautiful and the food is out of this world. There are places built into the hills and it’s very cool, it’s got a real 1950s/1960s feel.

Who does the cooking at the weekend? We tend to take it in turns at the weekend. We both love big roasts that everyone can share and cooking for the family is a real pleasure.

What’s your idea of weekend hell?

Shopping. I don’t hate it but let’s say I’d rather not spend my free time standing about in shops. Isn’t that what the internet was invented for?

Jeremy Clarkson was ordered to apologise by BBC chief to avoid Jonathan Ross-style fiasco

BBC boss Mark Thompson personally ordered Jeremy Clarkson to apologise for his vile TV rant about executing strikers – or face the boot.

The director general feared another Sachsgate-style fiasco as 21,335 complaints flooded in about the Top Gear presenter’s tirade on The One Show.

Despite earlier bragging that he had no intention of saying sorry for his crass comments about public sector workers striking over pension cuts, Clarkson caved in after Mr Thompson’s intervention.

A BBC insider revealed: “Chats were had and Jeremy was persuaded that it was the right thing to do. Now that he has apologised, that is the end of it. There will be no ­disciplinary action and he will not be fired.

“You can’t force Jeremy to do anything he doesn’t want to do so he must have agreed that this was the best way forward.”

Clarkson, who once went on strike himself, told one reporter that One Show producers knew in advance the jokes he would make on air.

But the BBC dismissed the claim. A spokeswoman said: “There was a briefing meeting with producers beforehand to discuss the options of what he might say. They came away from that thinking that Jeremy had an understanding of where the line was. Clearly, he didn’t.”

Clarkson’s tough line on strikers is clearly a far cry from when he was a cub reporter. It emerged yesterday he went on a strike as an 18-year-old on his first day with the Rotherham Advertiser in 1978.

He said: “I didn’t really know why. I still don’t actually.”

The 51-year-old, now in China with Top Gear, sparked outcry on Wednesday when he told One Show hosts Matt Baker and Alex Jones those who walked out this week should be “executed in front of their families”.

Clarkson initially refused to apologise and insisted he had been poking fun at the BBC’s impartiality rather than the strikers.

But there were calls for him to be axed and Unison threatened legal action against him.

Mr Thompson moved to avoid a repeat of the furore sparked by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand who, in 2008, left a string of foul-mouthed messages on actor Andrew Sachs’ answer machine during a BBC 6 Music radio show. More than 27,000 listeners complained.

Katherine Jenkins "doesn't regret" taking class-A drugs

OPERA singer Katherine Jenkins has admitted she “doesn’t regret” a thing about her drug-taking wild past.

Previously, the 31-year-old mezzo soprano has always spoken of her regret about experimenting with class-A drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy.

But now the singer has changed her mind.

She said: “I experimented with cocaine and ecstasy when I was young and silly but it’s been exaggerated.

“All people do something stupid at some point. That was my stupid time. It’s so not my life now.

“I’ve never said I’m a saint or I’ve never made a mistake in life. I don’t regret going partying because I feel I’ve done that.

“The singing is more important now.”

Katherine Jenkins is one of the celebrities supporting our Christmas appeal to help Age UK Spread The Warmth. You can bid for Katherine's coat in our eBay auction to raise funds -

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