He is one of TV’s most eccentric stars, with a meticulous mane and perfectly trimmed beard – and he’ll pocket a record £600,000 to rough it on I’m A Celebrity.
But as long as he can cope without his regular primping, Noel Edmonds will be worth every penny of it, says his former girlfriend Marjan Simmons.
During their passionate year-long relationship, Marjan had a unique insight in to the wacky world of Mr Blobby creator Noel, 69.
“Everything has to be in order,” says Marjan. “I’d be ready in 10 minutes and he’d take 45 minutes.
“He’d blowdry his hair, style his beard. In my head I thought – how long is he going to be?
Marjan wishes the best for Noel, despite saying he broke her heart
(Image: John Gladwin/Sunday Mirror)
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“For a man to be so meticulous about his hair and grooming I found a little odd. But that’s his character.
“He’ll have to do a spit and polish with his hair Down Under.
“I never once saw him unshaven – his beard was always immaculate. With no razor who knows what he’ll look like? I wonder if he’ll shave it all off before he goes?”
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror, Marjan, 57, says Noel’s biggest challenge in the jungle will be coping with his greatest fear – water.
“He hates it,” she reveals, “so I am not sure how he’ll cope during some of the trials.
“We once went snorkelling in the Maldives on a romantic break.
“We’d been in the water five minutes and he started to freak and wanted to get out. Maybe that’s what will be his downfall on I’m A Celeb. But he’s someone who doesn’t give up.
Noel and Marjan met in France
(Image: Murray Sanders/ANL/REX/Shutterstock)
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“He’ll push through to the brink. He won’t say ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here’. I’d put money on it.
“And he’ll eat anything. He normally likes exquisite food but I reckon he’d eat kangaroo balls.”
Marjan, an artist manager who lives in the south of France, met Noel in 2005 when she worked for an estate agent and showed him properties there.
The mum of two had recently split from her husband, while Radio One DJ turned TV star and entrepreneur Noel had just divorced his second wife Helen.
Marjan says she was immediately dazzled by dad-of-four Noel’s charm, humour and intellect. “He always had this twinkle in his eyes,” she recalls. “That was the draw for me.
“He was cheeky, which was lovely. It wasn’t anything he said – it was a look. He’d get you to stare back.
“He hooked you in with a look.”
The Swap Shop gang
(Image: Unique Television)
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Marjan didn’t recognise Noel when he started to woo her, after first asking her boss if she was single.
“Because I’d lived in the States for a long time, it didn’t click immediately. Then I realised it was Noel from Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. When I was a kid I watched that.
“He liked to kiss me in public. That was what was so reassuring about him,” she says. “When I hadn’t seen him for a while he’d always give me the most neat smile and a tender kiss.
“He was always so excited to see me and made me feel so special.”
Marjan would go on to play a pivotal role in one of the most crucial decisions of Noel’s life.
He was in the wilderness at the time after BBC’s Noel’s House Party ended.
But while they were together he was offered two new roles on Channel 4 – presenting Countdown or a then unknown show, Deal or No Deal.
Marjan got first dibs on playing Deal or No Deal with Noel
(Image: Channel 4)
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The latter was a huge risk. Even though it was known in Europe, it had not yet reached the UK. But Noel brought miniature boxes of the game home to test it out – and Marjan knew where his fate lay.
“We sat down and played a mock-up version of Deal or No Deal,” she recalls. “Noel brought boxes in and we opened them one by one. I thought it was really cool.
“I was convinced it was the right choice. I told him he’d be crossing all age groups, while if he went to Countdown he was going to be an old man.
“He went for it and look what happened – it’s what brought him back into the limelight.”
Marjan admits she was so in love with Noel that she wanted to marry him. But, in the end, she says his fascination with cosmic ordering – a system of positive thinking – drove a wedge between them.
Working on his book Positively Happy: Cosmic Ways To Change Your Life he became friends with his ghostwriter, who Marjan says boosted his ego and opened his mind to more wacky theories.
“We were four or five months into the relationship – the more she came into his life, the more I got pushed out.
Noel and Mr Blobby back in 1994
(Image: News Group/REX/Shutterstock)
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“There was jealousy on my part and I kept feeling ousted. They were by the pool playing games and there was no room for me. I kept getting excluded.
“Noel’s obsession with the cosmic order developed. At that point he was rediscovering who he was. He wanted to try to go to another level.
"I know he’s quite religious in his upbringing. But he was looking for the other side – the spiritual side.”
Marjan decided to end their relationship.
“Once the fame came from the return of Deal or No Deal, things changed. At the beginning we were really close but by the end he would just became distant and we grew apart.”
Marjan says she will watch I’m A Celeb – and she tips him to do well, although basic living conditions in camp may push him to the brink.
“Noel was always so specific how he wanted things,” she says.
“The bed had to be made in a certain way. He’d spend half an hour making it some days – and even then it wasn’t always to his liking.
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“His favourite place to sit was his chaise longue in the lounge. I’d look at him on there and think he looked a Royal Highness.”
Friends believe Noel will use his stint in the jungle to highlight the banking scandal he says cost him and others their fortunes – and almost drove him to the brink of suicide.
The source told how Noel’s focus is to fight his case and recoup £60million lost when he lost his TV and radio company Unique Group.
But Marjan expects him to get on with his fellow celebs as he’s a good laugh – though she wonders if the jungle heat will tip him over the edge.
“He’s a friendly person so he’ll get on with the celebrities. I’m wondering if in the heat he’ll get a temper.
“He might have a few outbursts – not at people, but at the situation. I wish him every success on the show and think he will do brilliantly.
“He broke my heart but he’s not a player and I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope he is happy and does well Down Under.”
I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! comes to ITV at 9pm on Sunday 18 November.
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