Whoever wins The X Factor next weekend, St Annes entertainer Gary Lovini wishes them well.
The popular violinist has been there, done it and 25 years after winning the public’s telephone vote on New Faces is back to tell the tale on a special one hour BBC2 documentary next Monday .
I Had The X Factor... 25 Years Ago: A Wonderland Special looks at the lives of six finalists from the 1986 final of New Faces – The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent of its day.
Lenny Henry and Victoria Wood won heats in previous series, Jim Davidson and Showaddywaddy won finals. It was a showcase for professional entertainers and a launching pad or career ending experience
Currently on back to back cruises in Miami Gary says: “Life changed for me the day after the New Faces. I’d been a professional in the business for about a year before getting on the show but it still changed everything. There were only four channels to choose from then so millions of people saw you and recognised you from the show.
“As soon as I’d won my heat I was instantly well known.”
Much the same can be said for his fellow finalists featured in the TV special – comedians Vinny Cadman and Blackpool favourite Billy Pearce, and vocalists Wayne Denton, Julia A. Scott and James Stone.
While Gary romped home with the viewers’ vote, comedian Duggie Small won the judges’ one – but has refused to co-operate with the documentary.
“I think we’ve all had all manners of ups and downs,” says Gary. “But I think compared to most of them I come out as a bit boring really - still married to the same person I’ve always been married to and living a normal life.”
Others’ “ups and down” include tangled love lives, a squandered fortune, homelessness, a prison sentence and even a surprise re-appearance on Britain’s Got Talent.
“I can’t wait to see the show,” says Gary. “We don’t keep in touch. I see Billy Pearce occasionally because of his Blackpool shows but he’s the only one.”
Having scooped the viewers’ vote he says he was hardly off television for the next three years.
“There were lots of variety shows then and I did the lot - at least once,” he says,
Summer shows and even pantomimes all kept him in work and these days he’s a popular cruise ship and corporate entertainer.
Originally from Tamworth he has lived in St Annes for eight years – to be near his wife Emma’s family.
“It made sense to be near her family because of all my travelling and I was also doing quite a bit of work up here - a couple of Danny la Rue seasons for instance,” he says.
It also meant they could bring up their own family – son Louis aged seven and daughter Ali, five
“They’re in the programme too – it’s all very cosy!” he says.
Despite the potential millions earned by TV talent discoveries these days he says he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It would have been good if I could have had someone like Simon Cowell to sign me up and groom me though,” he says. “We had journalist Nina Miskow being rude to us all and we were terrified of her – even though we were all already in the business.
“There wasn’t even any prize money back then – not even a vase!
“ I was lucky enough to have top managements queuing up but I had no idea who was the best. I ended up with Mike Hughes and because he handled a lot of the top comedians I got a lot of support slots.
“Looking back perhaps I should have gone with someone who specialised in music but I don’t really have any regrets. There was a time when I had to be escorted out of theatres because so many people were waiting to mob me.
“It all suddenly happened - then I woke up three years later and the real work started!”
n I Had The X Factor 25 Years Ago: A Wonderland Special, BBC2, Monday December 12 at 9pm.