STRAIGHT-LACED broadcaster Jeremy Vine has revealed how his love affair with one of Scotland’s most-famous paintings led to him dabbling in a “hot” sex session.
The Channel 5 and Radio 2 stalwart has written a novel based around Salvador Dali’s masterpiece Christ of Saint John of the Cross, which has been on display at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum since the early 1950s.
And Jeremy decided to blow his headmasterly image by including a racy nookie scene in his novel The Diver And The Lover.
He says: “It is fundamentally a love story but, yes, there is a hot moment.
“I just thought, ‘Sod it — we’re all grown-ups, we can handle it’ and went for it.”
However Jeremy fears he’s now destined to follow fellow BBC presenter and novelist Kirsty Wark onto the shortlist for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Kirsty’s 2014 book The Legacy Of Elizabeth Pringle was nominated for the toe-curling line, “It was as if a dam within me had burst and we made love that day and night like two people starved”.
But Jeremy laughs: “I want to nominate myself for that award. If I could get on the same list as Kirsty for anything I would be chuffed.”
The 55-year-old became obsessed with the Dali painting — considered by art experts to be one of the Spanish surrealist’s finest works — in 2017 while presenting the TV quiz show Eggheads at the BBC’s Glasgow HQ.
He explains: “I was doing Eggheads and Salvador Dali came up in one of the questions. I didn’t know the answer, the contestant didn’t, so the Eggheads then started giving us a lecture, as they always do, and said that one of Dali’s greatest works was just around the corner.
“So the painting and Kelvingrove became very special, as I must have filmed about 700 editions of Eggheads at the BBC studios in Glasgow.
“My one day off would be incredibly precious. But I got into the habit of going to Kelvingrove and just got so into the painting. I’ve been at least 20 times now.”
He adds: “When I stood in front of it for the first time I suddenly remembered seeing it before when I was 15. I had a very good English teacher called Mr Laing who suggested I sketch something for his wall.
“I went round to his house where his wife Mrs Laing pointed at a print and said ‘Do you know who that’s by?’. It was a very big version of Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross.
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So when I stood before it in the Kelvingrove I said ‘S**t, I know where I’ve seen this before’ – that would have been 40 years earlier.”
But it was the plaque beside the painting by married Dali – who was rumoured to be bisexual – that got Jeremy’s creative juices flowing.
He explains: “It mentioned that it was the movie stuntman Russell Saunders, who was a strikingly handsome man, who had posed for Dali for the painting.
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Every morning Jeremy trails his lunchtime call-in programme on the 69-year-old Scot’s show – the most popular in the UK with an audience of 8.27million.
And in pre-Covid times Ken had the world’s top stars, from Kylie Minogue to Beyonce, in the studio for his Tracks of my Years section.
Jeremy says: “I would walk in past Van Morrison, pictured, or Carole King.
“And I had to do my trail one time sitting right next to Gladys Knight when I’m saying ‘Coming up next – the Budget’.”
“He’d also been a Canadian national diving champion and had an incredible physique. I guess Dali would have looked at him in quite a lustful manner, because Dali’s sexual tastes are well-known.”
The controversial painting was purchased for the city of Glasgow in 1952 for £8,200 but even that was deemed too expensive for post-war times with art students staging protests.
Then in 1961 a visitor suffering from mental-health issues ripped a huge gash in the artwork.
He says: “It was very controversial because of the slightly blasphemous element and the fact that it was seen to be very expensive – incredible when you think that it would now cost more than £100million.”
Although the famous painter, who died in 1989 aged 84, had no imitators, Jeremy has three – including Scots mimic Lewis Macleod who sends him up on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show.
He smiles: “A few people were doing impressions of me. Greg James was one and Jon Culshaw too.
“Then Lewis came along with this perfect take on me where I speed up my words at the end of sentences.
“Now I think I sound like him impersonating me.”
Away from radio, Jeremy’s other day job is his self-titled Channel 5 discussion show which he co-hosts with 33-year-old Scot Storm Huntley.
The dad-of-two, who is married to news presenter Rachel Schofield, says: “Storm’s is brilliant, funny and clever, but she’s been off on holiday recently so my wife has ended up standing in for her.
“My biggest worry was at some point I would say ‘Now over to Storm’ and call my wife by the wrong name.”
While visitors to Glasgow’s museums now need to book tickets in advance in these Covid times, Jeremy is still urging people to go and see Dali’s masterpiece for themselves.
He says: “This is a really unique moment – because the museum is ticketed you haven’t got the crowds so have the space to really take in this very powerful painting that’s had such a profound effect on me.”
The Diver and the Lover by Jeremy Vine is out now, published by Coronet, priced £20.
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