Carson on up the jungle

 

A young Willie Carson and family

A young Willie Carson and family

Willie Carson is no stranger to game shows. He was an excellent captain for a couple of years in A Question Of Sport, where he was a comic foil to straight man Bill Beaumont. This morning's news that he will be one of the contestants in I'm A Celebrity…… Get Me Out Of Here, which starts on Sunday evening, will mean that for the next few weeks we’ll be in for a daily dose of the Carson cackle.

The former five times champion jockey is not the only participant to have a racing connection, as he'll be joined by comedian Freddie Starr, owner of the 1994 Grand National winner Miinnehoma. There won't be hamsters on the menu but one of the trials lined up will test even the strongest stomach. A Bushtucker "bush buffet" is reported to have emu liver, rat brains, crocodile foreskin, deer penis, rotting duck egg and camel blood on the menu.

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Carson told the Sun newspaper, "I'm not ready for the camping aspect and I'm really going to miss my bed. But I’ve spent my whole life with animals, so the jungle creatures will be no problem. I hope I'm going to be a natural in there."

Fellow BBC racing presenter Clare Balding said, "It is funny because years ago we both got asked to do Strictly, and I said no. Willie got very cross with me because he thought we both should have done it, and I remember saying to him at the time that the jungle would be the one for him. I think it's fantastic. He's not scared of anything, he'll eat anything, he’ll work hard, he can survive on little food and little sleep, and he is a wise old devil – he'll see through people damn quick. He'll wind people up because he'll say inappropriate things and be deliberately controversial, but I think he will get on brilliantly in there. I can't wait. It is really exciting."

Carson was not the first jockey to be approached to take part in the show. Last night Frankie Dettori explained that he had twice turned down an invitation to appear on I'm A Celebrity. He said, "I'm claustrophobic and I don't like snakes. I don't have problems eating anything else, but they are the two reasons I don't want to do it. I enjoy the show and look forward to seeing it. I'm sure Willie will be good value and it might well do him a bit of good; he might lose a bit of his belly."

No doubt there will be a special cake made next week for the contestants to share, as Carson celebrates his 69th birthday on Wednesday. The early market for the show suggests that he may not last much longer than that, as he is a 20/1 shot with those bookmakers who have already priced up.

But however well he does, the contest could provide prog rock band It Bites another opportunity to immortalise Willie in one of their songs. Their 1987 classic Once Around The World included the line, "Willie Carson, done for arson, for burning up the track". He's already in Australia, halfway round the world again.

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